Under a mild-sounding title, software safety expert Sean Beatty will be presenting a design teardown for a detonator at ESC Boston.
Would you trust the design of a detonator to your coding skills? How about the design of the controller running the code? Talk about safety-critical design!
Actually, talking about safety-critical design is exactly what Sean Beatty will be doing at the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. Sean is a principal consultant at High Impact Services, focusing on software and safety. In his rather modestly-named talk, "How Seemingly Insignificant Issues Can Cause Big Problems in Safety-Critical Systems," Sean will teardown and review a detonator design intended for use by Special Operations Forces.
Curious as to how he became involved with detonator designs, I spoke with Sean recently to discuss his upcoming presentation. His initial foray into military systems was a bit of a fluke. "I had a friend at the Navy base near where I am in Indiana (yes, the U.S. Navy has a base that far inland) and he needed help with a software-based system's safety verification review. Software is still not well understood by traditional safety systems engineers, but I've been working with embedded systems for 25 years, much of it in medical and automotive safety."
That friend's job led to others, including reviewing this design for the detonator. The U.S. military has, wisely, adopted the policy of having a safety review board examine and approve the design of any system controlling explosive devices before it can be adopted for production and deployment. And when there is software involved, the design must pass another, separate review board. (The memory of the USS Forrestal's fire, caused by an electronics glitch in a jet fighter's rocket, still burns bright in the Navy's memory.) Sean helped the designers conduct a preliminary review (and revision) of the detonator.
Aftermath of a glitch in the firing system of a jet fighter's missile aboard the USS Forrestal. (Source: Wikipedia)
Sean's presentation should make for a fascinating hour for anyone interested in safety-critical design, even those designs that don't involve explosives. Because sometimes the most innocent-seeming errors or oversights can have a profound impact on a design's potential to cause harm.
This presentation will show you why. "We'll be looking at the schematics and the code, pointing out why they won't work safely, and discussing the steps that can be taken to correct the errors," Sean told me. As time permits, he will also be discussing what makes for good safety-critical design technique.
The presentation is part of the ESC program restricted to paid conference attendees, so you'll need to register in order to attend and hear the full story. Advanced pricing will be available until May.
Join over 2,000 technical professionals and embedded systems hardware, software, and firmware developers at ESC Boston May 6-7, 2015 and learn about the latest techniques and tips for reducing time, cost, and complexity in the embedded development process.
Passes for the ESC Boston 2015 Technical Conference are available at the conference’s official site with discounted advance pricing until May 1, 2015. The Embedded Systems Conference and EDN are owned by UBM Canon.