Professor Giovanni Beltrame of the Department of Computer and Software Engineering at Polytechnique is the co-author of an article on the programming of robot networks that has just appeared in one of the world’s leading publications in computing and information technology.
Polytechnique Montréal Associate Professor Giovanni Beltrame wrote the article, titled “Swarm-Oriented Programming of Distributed Robot Networks” jointly with Carlo Pinciroli, who is an assistant professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. The article is part of a special section on multidevice interaction featured on the cover of the December 2016 issue of Computer, the renowned publication of the IEEE Computer Society, which is part of the IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional association. The IEEE Computer Society, dedicated to advancing “the theory, practice, and application of computer and information processing science and technology”, has more than 60,000 members around the world.
In the article, Professor Beltrame and his colleague present their method for programming a large number of robots grouped together as a team and linked by a network so that they can perform complex tasks in a co-ordinated manner. To address the challenge involved in the definition of “suitable programming primitives that generate well-structured, reusable, and predictable team behaviors” for the robots, Professors Beltrame and Pinciroli developed a language construct that they refer to as “swarm-oriented.” This approach “allows developers to categorize robots with respect to certain conditions and assign tasks to robots that belong to a certain swarm”.
The approach proposed by the two professors is one of the innovative aspects of the Buzz programming language, created by the team of researchers at Polytechnique Montréal’s MIST Lab (“Making Innovative Space Technology”), which is sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Canadian autonomous robot manufacturer Pleiades. The language itself was the subject of an article titled “Buzz: A Programming Language for Robot Swarms,” which appeared in the July-August 2016 issue of IEEE Software, another publication of the IEEE Computer Society. Professor Pinciroli worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the MIST Lab in 2015 and 2016.
According to professors Beltrame and Pinciroli, robots grouped into swarms and interacting autonomously have potential applications in areas like security, surgery, surveillance, inspection and construction. The pair also believe that the swarm-oriented approach to programming distributed networks of robots could be applied to any autonomous system made up of multiple distributed devices — for example, networks of sensors or distributed apps for mobile devices.
Computer magazine, founded in 1968, is described by the IEEE Computer Society as its flagship publication, and “publishes peer-reviewed articles written by and for computer researchers and practitioners representing the full spectrum of computing and information technology.” The IEEE Computer Society is part of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), an association of technical professionals dedicated to advancing technology, with more than 420,000 members internationally.
Professors Giovanni Beltrame and Carlo Pinciroli (Photo credits: MIST Lab)
To learn more
Biography and expertise of Professeur Giovanni Beltrame
Page for the article “Swarm-Oriented Programming of Distributed Robot Networks” published in Computer magazine (subscription required)
MIST Lab website
Page for the article “Buzz: A Programming Language for Robot Swarms” published in IEEE Software magazine (subscription required)
Buzz programming language website
Computer magazine website