Turing Award for fathers of software/hardware model checking

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has named Joseph Sifakis, Edmund Clarke and Allen Emerson winners of its A.M. Turing Award 2007 for their original and continuing research into software and hardware ‘model checking’. Their groundbreaking work transformed a theoretical technique into an effective verification technology making it easier for computer engineers to find errors in complex system designs.

“Without the conceptual breakthrough pioneered by these researchers, we might still be stuck with chips that have many errors and would lack the power and speed of today’s equipment,” commented ACM President Stuart Feldman on the announcement.

The real winners

When you take your new PC out of the box, you expect to be able to plug it in and tap into the power of modern computing immediately. But the quality of the hardware and software running your PC relies heavily on model checking. Critical functions in hospitals, nuclear power plants, in vehicles and aircraft, and even e-commerce all owe a debt to these Turing laureates.

Working together in the 1980s, Americans Clarke of Carnegie Mellon University and Allen of Texas University laid the groundwork for what has become a critical field, while Sifakis of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) developed with colleagues a “real-time”, fully automated approach that is now the most widely used verification method in the hardware and software industries.

Sifakis has been with France’s national scientific research centre since 1974 and received the CNRS Silver Medal for his contributions to this field. Among other high-level appointments, he is scientific coordinator of two major EU-funded networks of excellence on embedded software designs; one called Artist2, which ends this year, another called ArtistDesign, which carries on until 2011. These networks assemble the best European teams of researchers and industrial partners, such as Airbus, Ericsson and STMicroelectronics, to develop more secure, reliable and cost-effective embedded systems. These follow a long history of European projects in embedded systems and future and emerging technologies.

The Turing Award, widely considered the most prestigious award in computing, honours British mathematician Alan Turing who is seen as one of the fathers of modern computing. The 2007 laureates will be presented the $250,000 prize at the annual ACM Awards Banquet on 21 June this year in San Francisco, USA. The award is sponsored by Intel and Google.

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