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Compute Scotland - ParaPhrase for RGU & St Andrews

Researchers at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen and at the University of St Andrews have been awarded €1.25m as part of a European Commission-funded project to research improved programmability and performance of parallel computing technologies.


The €3.5m ParaPhrase Project, supported by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Technological Development, brings together five countries' expertise with the University of Stuttgart, Germany, Queens’ University Belfast,  and Universities of Torino and Pisa, Italy. Industrial partner experts include Erlang Solutions Ltd in the UK, Mellanox Technologies Ltd in Israel and the Austrian Software Competence Centre (SSCH) .

Starting in October and running for 3 years, the project allocate over €600,000 each to Robert Gordon University’s Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability Research (IDEAS) and St. Andrews’ School of Computer Science, which will co-ordinate the project. It will be led by academics, researchers and PhD students of parallel computing and computational science.

In the last 30 years computer microprocessor speeds have increased almost 4000 times. Today, users are starting to hit long-predicted physical limits on the speed of a single processor. With emergence and development of mobile technology,  computing experts are increasingly battling to provide a low energy viable solution to match speeds demanded of computer processors.

The ParaPhrase project will exploit high performance computers effectively to support modern demands for computing power in business, industry, research and entertainment, and optimise the coordination of processors working together ‘in parallel’ to obtain peak performance.

“All contemporary devices and computers furnish one or more multi-core processors. While it’s greatthat you have a fast, multi-core processor in your iPad or smartphone, unless the applications on these technologies are able to take full advantage of the processors capabilities, users will not see any real improvement. Multiply this by the millions of devices in the world, and you will appreciate the overwhelming size of the challenge at hand,” explains (right) Dr Horacio González-Vélez, lecturer and principal investigator at RGU’s School of Computing.

“To programme future computer systems to maximise their functionality, we must produce software now that is easy to write and still allows any current and future hardware to be used effectively.”

As well as benefits to mobile technology and multi-core pads or PCs, the research has substantial implications for computing servers, enabling more efficient renewable energy production, faster video streaming, nimbler 3D-image modelling and improved industrial production systems.

Professor Kevin Hammond (left) from the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews, adds: “Traditional computer design has hit a dead-end. Future computers will need to have thousands or even millions of cores and this represents an unprecedented challenge. The ParaPhrase Project will address this challenge, developing new ways of ‘thinking in parallel’ that will make it practical for normal software developers to harness the capabilities of new, advanced designs.

“The benefit to society is potentially enormous as computers become an essential part of modern-day infrastructure. New designs will not only allow uses we can only imagine at the moment,  as household robots helping with daily chores, driverless vehicles which improve road safety or provide low-cost rural transport, and household automation to improve the quality of life of the elderly, but will also dramatically reduce the cost and energy usage of computer devices.”