Research in Asynchronous Computing Earns Top Paper Awards at Two IEEE Conferences

Ten years ago, the National Science Foundation issued a call to action to seed, nurture, and cultivate new ideas in computing and to re-energize educators and students through the magic and beauty of computer science. Inspired by this call, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers launched its Rebooting Computing initiative. It engages engineers, scientists and mathematicians who seek cures for intractable diseases, breach computational barriers with quantum computing, secure communications with quantum cryptography, compute with world-scale networks and manage our natural resources wisely.

Joining this effort, Patricia Gonzalez, who is a 2019 Ph.D. graduate of the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with her then-advisor and co-author Virginia Microelectronics Consortium Professor Mircea Stan, earned a coveted invitation to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ 2018 annual summit on rebooting computing. Their working ideas around asynchronous computing—an approach that mimics neural networks to continually parse and transmit bytes of information—gained traction with visionary leaders from all sectors touched by computing.

The current standard for information processing is synchronous. The computer processor relies on an internal mechanism that emits a periodic signal, like clockwork, to synchronize the encoding, transmitting and decoding of information and govern its digital representation. Just like a metronome needs energy to maintain its movement, this clockwork uses and expends energy. Asynchronous computing eliminates the clockwork allowing sensors to process information while using very low power.

Gonzalez and Stan detailed a signal processing algorithm for asynchronous computing in a paper they presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Latin American Symposium on Circuits and Systems, convened in February 2019. Gonzalez earned a top student paper award for the submission.

Buttressed by this validation from their peers, Gonzalez and Stan gave their novel paradigm explanatory force, addressing the theoretical foundations of asynchronous computing in a paper delivered at the November 2019 Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems and Computers, also sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Stan and Gonzalez earned a best paper award for their submission.

Stan encourages his students to continue Gonzalez’s line of research to test the asynchronous computing paradigm against real-world applications such as agriculture, to design circuits that work within the asynchronous computing paradigm, and to put everything together in miniaturized “smart dust” sensor systems that are inexpensive and non-intrusive.