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December 9, 2019 | Tendermint blockchain consensus under the microscope

blockchain 250The Tendermint blockchain consensus was recently validated—a noteworthy occurrence in the world of blockchain, where proof of the validity of protocols is only rarely provided.

A blockchain is a series, or "chain", of distributed data records where each participant possesses a local copy. There are a number of methods that can be employed to ensure that the chain is coherent. However, some of them are more energy efficient than others. A team of researchers that included scientists from CEA Tech institute List set out to prove that the Tendermint consensus algorithm—which offers the advantage of being energy efficient—has been implemented correctly.

In blockchain, consensus-making requires all participants to agree on an item (such as a transaction) before it can be added to the chain. The researchers identified several vulnerabilities that were then corrected by the developers. The corrected consensus algorithm was then validated and its implementation in the Tendermint blockchain was tested. The research also confirmed optimal tolerance of the so-called Byzantine Generals Problem—the biggest threat to blockchain systems. Here, the blockchain can tolerate up to one-third of participants being untrustworthy (either they no longer respond, or they send false information to trick the system).

This first-ever demonstration of a consensus-based blockchain is yet another example of List's (that earned the Carnot seal in 2006) leadership in this field, coming after the recent appointment of List researcher Sara Tucci to the French government's Blockchain Taskforce announced in July by France's Economy and Finance Minister with the goal of developing a national blockchain strategy and promoting communication between the blockchain community and the government.

*Tendermint consensus is used in the Cosmos blockchain network

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November 28, 2019 | New human-machine interfaces make driving tractors easier

List pilotage tracteursA haptic interface was developed by researchers at List, a CEA Tech institute, to make operating farm machinery easier. An initial prototype centralizes the control of two major functions: the gearbox and draft.

Today's farm machinery is more powerful than ever and packs in an increasing number of features. Leading global agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO turned to List, a CEA Tech institute, for help developing simpler control interfaces. The goal was to come up with a control wheel that could be used to move intuitively through the tractor's tools and functions. The wheel also had to have a programmable haptic feedback feature.

The researchers developed a rotating knob integrating a motor and magnetorheological fluid whose viscosity varies depending on the amount of resistance needed. The hybrid system delivers quality haptic feedback characterized by fast response times and high force dynamics. Combining a visual display with the tactile sensations provided by the new interface improves the operator's perception of the machine's status.

For example, hard stops can be programmed depending on a tool's characteristics, increasing resistance can be configured depending on the level of stress the tractor is subjected to, and vibrating alerts can be set up.

A proof of concept prototype was built and tested in actual operating conditions with a tractor gear box and draft. The CEA will present a modified version of the technology (a joystick) at CES 2020 in Las Vegas in January 2020.

Learn more: Matiss flyer

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November 14, 2019 | ExpressIF platform now offers constraint satisfaction reasoning capabilities

ExpressIF List 250Solving combinatorial problems requires special artificial intelligence software. This type of software was recently added to the ExpressIF platform, which can now solve even more complex problems.

Unlike neural networks, symbolic artificial intelligence algorithms simulate human reasoning by exploring a set of solutions to a given problem. The ExpressIF software platform developed by CEA Tech institute List, which uses deductive reasoning, was recently updated with a new type of reasoning known as "constraint satisfaction" reasoning, so that it can tackle even more complex problems.

Constraint satisfaction solvers are algorithms that effectively solve combinatorial problems. With fuzzy constraint satisfaction solvers, for example, priorities can be set and requirements and preferences introduced so that only certain constraints must be satisfied only partially. This is the kind of algorithm that was integrated into ExpressIF to give the platform greater flexibility in terms of how a problem must be stated (in natural language at that!) and to allow it to find more complex solutions.

This new reasoning component will position ExpressIF to address problems like scheduling, task allocation, positioning, and the annotation of items in images. It will be used on concrete tasks for EU research projects Micado (to analyze spectra and recognize isotopes using mass spectrometry) and Deephealth (to annotate medical images).

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November 8, 2019 | To combine agility and competitivity in manufacturing industry? The EU DIMOFAC project takes up the challenge!

dimofac logoMass customization is a major challenge for the manufacturing industry. To stay ahead, factories must be able to constantly reconfigure their production lines while maintaining profitable yields. The solution is to combine a more agile organization with digital simulation to increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes. The EU DIMOFAC project, which was officially launched on November 6, 2019 at the CEA, France, will develop technologies to enable efficient mass customization.

The ability to customize mass-produced consumer products is vital to the growth of today's manufacturing companies. However, modifying existing manufacturing processes to produce custom output is a major challenge. One solution is to create a digital twin of the factory and model manufacturing processes to enable virtual production management. When combined with a modular organization of the factory floor, this digital twin can be used to reconfigure production lines, making them faster and more agile and rendering processes more efficient. A digital twin can reduce the time it takes to reconfigure a production line by for example up to 75% for interactive displays, up to 50% for cosmetic packaging, aeronautics components, and 3D printing, and by up to 30% for razors and industrial modules.

The EU DIMOFAC project will bring manufacturing companies digital modelling and reconfiguration solutions, a network of pilot production lines, "flagship" factories, and Digital Innovation Hubs offering R&D and tech-transfer services to support the validation and testing of the processes developed. A total of six industrial demonstrators will be implemented on project partners' (Philips, Sculpteo, Albéa, VDL, Schaltag, and Eire Composites) production lines. The demonstrators will integrate in particular tools developed by the CEA, including CIVA for in-line quality control using automated non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques and, mostly, Papyrus for the functional digital twin of manufacturing production lines.

A number of CEA technology platforms are involved in the project, including the Additive Factory Hub (AFH), FFLOR, PICTIC, SMART FACTORY KL, and MANUHUB@WG.

The DIMOFAC project brings together a consortium of 30 partners from across Europe, and is coordinated by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). The official project launch took place on November 6 and 7, 2019 at the CEA campus in Grenoble, France.

dimofac illustration

The DIMOFAC project

+ Budget: >19 million
+ Duration: 4 years
+ Partners: The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA, coordinator), Siemens Industry Software SAS, Philips Consumer Lifestyle BV, Albéa Services SAS, VDL Industrial Modules, Schaltag AG, ESI Software Germany GmbH, Intrasoft Intl. S.A., Comau S.p.A., Sculpteo Fill Gesellschaft mbH, Eire Composites Teoranta, New Infrared Technologies SL, TTS Technology Transfer Systems SRL, Electronic and Optomechanic Engineering EXOM SL, FundingBox Research APS, TopSolid, Innovalia, Brainport Industries Cooperatie UA, Technologie Initiative SmartFactory KL e.V., European Association of the Machine Tool Industries, Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne AG, University of Patras (LMS), Centre Technique Industriel de la Plasturgie et des Composites, Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwet. Onderzoek (TNO), Deutsches Forschungszentrum für künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, Association de Investigacion Metalurgica del Noroeste, Politecnico di Milano, and Datapixel.

DIMOFAC will receive €14 million in funding from the European Commission under contract no. 870092.




October 14, 2019 | Complex computations on encrypted data now possible

CEA List calculs complexes donnees chiffrees 250In e-healthcare, keeping personal data confidential is crucial. But when you store and analyze data on servers that are connected to the internet, that data becomes vulnerable to hackers, especially during transmission. A brand new homomorphic encryption system has made complex computations on encrypted data possible.

Cingulata was developed by List, a CEA Tech institute, to create applications capable of performing computations on encrypted data. This single software compilation chain previously supported only the Brakerski/Fan-Vercauteren (BFV) homomorphic encryption scheme, the most commonly used within the community. It now has a new, more powerful cryptosystem library, TFHE (Fast Fully Homomorphic Encryption over the Torus), designed by List (that earned the Carnot seal in 2006) and academic research labs.

TFHE's fast bootstrapping reduces the time it takes to complete a multiplication operation so that time is constant—it does not depend on the number of operations that precede it. This means that for the same application, using TFHE in Cingulata can speed up computation times by a factor of at least ten compared to BFV. Ultimately, Cingulata will integrate other cryptosystems and serve as a single interface.

The new version of Cingulata has already been used in the EU Horizon 2020 project KONFIDO, for example, where it is helping to develop solutions to allow doctors located in different European countries to read patients' medical files online without putting confidentiality at risk. And companies like Orange and Thales are looking at how Cingulata can help them respond to the needs of their respective markets.

An open source version of Cingulata with TFHE is available on GitHub:

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