Publication Date

5-2017

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

3-13-2017

Type of Culminating Activity

Dissertation

Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Department

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Major Advisor

Nader Rafla, Ph.D.

Advisor

Elisa Barney Smith, Ph.D.

Advisor

Jennifer A. Smith, Ph.D.

Abstract

Evolvable hardware (EHW) is a powerful autonomous system for adapting and finding solutions within a changing environment. EHW consists of two main components: a reconfigurable hardware core and an evolutionary algorithm. The majority of prior research focuses on improving either the reconfigurable hardware or the evolutionary algorithm in place, but not both. Thus, current implementations suffer from being application oriented and having slow reconfiguration times, low efficiencies, and less routing flexibility. In this work, a novel evolvable hardware platform is proposed that combines a novel reconfigurable hardware core and a novel evolutionary algorithm.

The proposed reconfigurable hardware core is a systolic array, which is called HexArray. HexArray was constructed using processing elements with a redesigned architecture, called HexCells, which provide routing flexibility and support for hybrid reconfiguration schemes. The improved evolutionary algorithm is a genome-aware genetic algorithm (GAGA) that accelerates evolution. Guided by a fitness function the GAGA utilizes context-aware genetic operators to evolve solutions. The operators are genome-aware constrained (GAC) selection, genome-aware mutation (GAM), and genome-aware crossover (GAX). The GAC selection operator improves parallelism and reduces the redundant evaluations. The GAM operator restricts the mutation to the part of the genome that affects the selected output. The GAX operator cascades, interleaves, or parallel-recombines genomes at the cell level to generate better genomes. These operators improve evolution while not limiting the algorithm from exploring all areas of a solution space.

The system was implemented on a SoC that includes a programmable logic (i.e., field-programmable gate array) to realize the HexArray and a processing system to execute the GAGA. A computationally intensive application that evolves adaptive filters for image processing was chosen as a case study and used to conduct a set of experiments to prove the developed system robustness. Through an iterative process using the genetic operators and a fitness function, the EHW system configures and adapts itself to evolve fitter solutions. In a relatively short time (e.g., seconds), HexArray is able to evolve autonomously to the desired filter.

By exploiting the routing flexibility in the HexArray architecture, the EHW has a simple yet effective mechanism to detect and tolerate faulty cells, which improves system reliability. Finally, a mechanism that accelerates the evolution process by hiding the reconfiguration time in an “evolve-while-reconfigure” process is presented. In this process, the GAGA utilizes the array routing flexibility to bypass cells that are being configured and evaluates several genomes in parallel.