Research & Development

Cistel is committed to advancing various technologies by investing a portion of its revenue in research and development (R&D). The research strengths are organized around different sectors such as Power Engineering, Voice and Multimedia Services over IP, and Wireless. Cistel’s R&D team has experienced researchers and engineers who collaborate with various industries and universities in developing technologies and bridging the gaps between academic research and industrial applications. The Cistel R&D team has published numerous papers for conferences and international journals. Currently, Cistel is conducting research and development in the following areas:

Power Engineering

Cistel has been actively conducting research in power engineering, more specifically in power electronics areas since the inception of the company in 1995. The company has had long-lasting and strong research collaborations with Queen’s University and more recently with York University. The power engineering research focuses on modern technology development in power converters for various Information and Communication Technology (ICT) applications and in renewable energy systems. Power converters are extensively used these days in medium to high-power-level applications. For most of these applications, the most desirable features of the converter are high efficiency, high power density, high reliability, and low Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). Our power engineering research is focused on these aspects for practical applications.

Research in renewable energy has been growing at a fast rate in recent years due to economic and environmental concerns. The rapid growth of electricity consumption by ICT is also alarming. In the USA and Europe, electricity consumption is increasing at an extremely high rate. Therefore, many companies are now looking into green ICT solutions, especially for data centers and server rooms. Many mobile companies are also considering, and some have already started deploying, new green Base Trans-receiver Stations (BTS) while accommodating new subscribers.

Cistel has started projects which seek to significantly reduce energy consumption due to information technology (IT) while increasing the energy generation capability of wind- and solar-based, clean, environmental-friendly, green technologies. This will be accomplished by research and development of new power electronic technologies tailored to telecom and IT Data Centres, and electric vehicles.

Within a time horizon of 3 to 5 years, this project aims at developing the following technologies:

  • new, ultra-reliable, wind- and solar-based systems to generate cost-effective green power for both large and small data and telecom centers;
  • new frameworks through which power generated by these new systems will be distributed to the centers;
  • new advanced system models that will allow for the design of state-of-the-art control, safety, and protection systems that ensure optimal energy generation and distribution; and
  • new power conversion systems, which serve as the interface between energy storage devices, energy sources, and electrical equipment, that have dedicated software and intelligent integrated frameworks for information equipment.

Information and Communications Technology

Cistel has taken the challenge of embracing and conducting scientific research in various innovative networking areas and has been working closely with best-in-class Canadian researchers from Dalhousie University, Carleton University, University of Ottawa, and Concordia University, to advance modern technologies in these areas.

As a technology and management services company, Cistel not only provides managed IT services for government, public and private organizations but also manages IT infrastructure for several medium and large organizations in the cloud computing environment. Thus, the ability to provide consulting and support on information security management in the cloud computing environment is one of the main goals of Cistel. To this end, Cistel is involved in the research and development of a cloud-hosted system for network security monitoring and anomaly detection. The R&D project aims to investigate the best practices for security monitoring systems based on machine learning and deep learning anomaly detection for such environments. Also, Cistel is working in collaboration with researchers from Dalhousie University and the University of Waterloo on R&D projects aiming at developing end-to-end security models for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and IoT-based monitoring and control systems.

In this research project, the aim is to develop multiple NLP-based machine-learning models that would allow information retrieval from given documents and databases. Word embeddings, such as Word2Vec, GloVe, ELMo, and BERT-based models, are being evaluated with fine-tuning for a smart office assistant which is a query-response application for the documents. For database query applications, question processing and SQL query formation for a pre-defined database with known schema will be performed using the NLP (Natural Language Processing) technique. A prototype smart office assistant will be eventually developed that will demonstrate the effectiveness of machine learning techniques, more specifically the effectiveness of natural language models for a smart office application for information retrieval from corporate document repository (e.g., Share Point) and database. This is a collaborative R&D project between Carleton University and Cistel.

Cistel has conducted research into methodologies and knowledge-based tools which can be used to develop, test, and manage Voice Over IP (VoIP) gateway products. The vision and design of a knowledge-based software tool are for testing VoIP gateway applications. The rapid technological advancement in many telecommunication areas such as in voice-over IP creates an enormous challenge for the tester. Effective and efficient testing depends on the knowledge of the testers on the technology to a great extent and it is extremely challenging to keep up with the modern technology with the time-to-market pressure and tight delivery schedule. Uniquely, the tool acts as a subject matter expert in VoIP and as an experienced tester helping junior testers and/or testers new to this field develop excellent test plans with suites of test cases to test various functionalities of the VoIP gateway products.

Cistel has also been looking into methodologies to test voice/video quality in a simulation test bed. This would enable research in voice and video over IP quality. Extensive research has been also done towards providing cost-effective VoIP PBX solutions to Small to Medium size Businesses (SMBs).

Bridge Infrastructure Management using advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure is extremely important. Currently, the bridge infrastructure problem is addressed in a compartmentalized fashion. Solutions are researched in isolated areas of design, maintenance and repair, monitoring, asset management, policy, and planning. But the existing approach in bridge engineering practice neither facilitates the transfer of information and knowledge, nor does it encourage collaboration among bridge engineers and researchers, owners, or other stakeholders. Effective monitoring, management, and maintenance of these infrastructures are important for the safety of the public as well as for reducing the cost associated with the operation and maintenance.

In recent years, the progress in information and communication technology, which includes cost-effective ubiquitous network technology and the availability of various distributed system engineering techniques (e.g. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) tools), provides a tremendous opportunity to address these complex problems in a distributed and cost-effective manner. It is necessary to network, enable, and manage various resources such as sensors, computing and storage devices, databases of historic data regarding the state and maintenance of the infrastructure, and software tools so that these resources can be remotely accessed and shared through various user interfaces. The key to the solution to the infrastructure management problem is middleware that will provide connectivity and interoperability among diverse resources and effectively manage these resources.  Although the focus of the research is on a middleware that will integrate a variety of different geographically dispersed resources for improving the current practice in bridge management in a cost-effective manner, the middleware is envisioned to be generic in nature and can be adapted to other infrastructure management problems with a modest effort.

This research specifically aims at developing a suite of novel algorithms which can be used in sensor wireless networks for routing information about the nodes which are critical for wireless communications. On a broader scale, the research approach is also towards the development of an advanced position-based routing, allowing a user to make peer-to-peer multimedia communications without any infrastructure available. An on-demand network is to be established that is secure, robust, and reliable in realistic physical wireless media which is prone to limited channel capacity, dynamic and changing positions of nodes, signal degradation and fading, nodes going to sleep mode to preserve power and interference of the signal. The sophisticated position-based networking layer routing will allow the users of existing MAC layer and link layer nodes to establish and reliably forward multimedia traffic in this hostile and dynamic environment. The advanced features of the routing algorithm will be such that the various requirements are properly met including being:

  1. Reliable – there should be always reachability, the algorithm must be guaranteed to find a route if any exists;
  2. Fault-Tolerant – nodes in an ad-hoc network can come and go at any point in time or malfunction, but the routing algorithm must work;
  3. Energy Efficient – nodes cannot be computationally too intensive; need to ensure low energy consumption; and
  4. Secured – the algorithm must consider the security aspect as an ad–hoc network is more vulnerable to attacks.

Developing and characterizing a suite of novel algorithms would help in realizing the ad-hoc networks with sensors for different practical applications. These algorithms will be developed such that they can be easily applied in various applications given the requirements. The scientific and technological advancements in this research would lead to many practical applications where an optimum routing solution is necessary. Different case studies are also conducted to validate these algorithms against different practical applications.

Software Engineering

The first business model for Cistel was based on consulting services in various software engineering areas spanning from software design to software testing. Since the inception of the company, Cistel has been active in developing and following best-in-class practices for quality software development. Cistel’s research in various software engineering areas has resulted in the development of multiple computer-aided software engineering tools that are used in-house and for consulting services in large-scale software development projects.  Cistel has been collaborating with universities and other research organizations in developing new software engineering technologies and tools. The areas of Cistel’s research in software engineering are:

Most new software development projects depend heavily on object-oriented technology. While many benefits have been claimed for the object-oriented paradigm, it has proven a difficult challenge to manage the quality of large OO applications in practice. Cistel has done extensive research for both structural and object-oriented metrics for large software projects. The focus of R&D in this area is on the use of software metrics in decision-making and practical measurement frameworks.

Cistel has developed novel techniques and tools for software inspection that can help in making decisions as to whether a particular software is ready to be released based on the defect type and frequency of the defect identification. Advanced techniques such as Monte Carlo simulation and the Capture-Recapture method have been used in developing the core module of the in-house software inspection tool.

Software maintenance is one of the most challenging activities in developing large software. It has been reported that software maintenance and testing expenses can go as high as 60% of the total software lifecycle cost. Software maintainability highly depends on the modularity of the software.  Modular software is not always easy to achieve. Due to time to market pressures as well as frequent churn in product requirements, design erosion often happens which makes the overall system tightly coupled and hard to enhance and/or maintain. Sometimes, there is no choice but to restructure a software system partly or entirely. Restructuring software is by no means an easy task. It requires a strong understanding of legacy software. Cistel has done the research and experimental development to provide a systematic process to analyze a software system, cluster functionalities, and aid in the semi-automated restructuring of a software system.

How can we reduce the testing cost and still find all the faults before the software is released? One way of improving testing effectiveness is by automating the testing activity so that a single software program tests another program and collects the results. Another way is to wisely determine which tests should be run. This research project focuses on developing methods and techniques to support the generation of a minimal number of test patterns. A tool called SmartTC was developed based on a novel pair-wise combinatorial technique. Tools using similar technology have been developed and found extremely useful by others such as AETG by Telcordia and ACTS by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Clones are similar or near similar software pieces that are usually present in the code because of “cut & paste” activities while developing software. Large software systems are often more prone to code cloning as they have more chances of having similar functionalities in different segments of the code. Although it is easy for an experienced software engineer to identify clones by manually inspecting the code, it is not an efficient method as it is quite time-consuming. Detecting cloning using Computer Aided Software Engineering tools is also not always effective as it is difficult to assume and develop generic software to detect clones automatically. Cistel is working on a semi-automated clone-detection strategy based on our practical experience in manually detecting code for a large Web application. A software tool is envisioned which would use human-machine interaction in detecting cloning and provide recommendations by identifying areas for reusable pieces for the software system.

Cistel has been also actively working on an integrated framework which would allow for easy access to any of the software best practice tools for the software developer, tester, or manager. The framework would allow building applications with an intuitive graphical user interface and easy access to any in-house tools or other third-party software engineering tools. An easy-to-use application based on this framework would promote the software engineering best practices in the software industry.

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