Complexity Engineering

The Complexity Chip – Early-Warning System for Complex Products

Computer motherboard with CPU. Circuit board system chip with co

For applications requiring ultra-fast and safe monitoring of the complexity of critical components, products or infrastructures, Ontonix offers a specific Complexity Chip.

The chip is based on FPGA technology and has been developed jointly by Ontonix and SAIC in the framework of a project funded by the US Department of Defense Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Board and Interconnect Technology and the NSWC (Naval Surface Warfare Center).

With our complexity technology now available on a chip, QCM (Quantitative COmplexity Management) enters into a new era. In fact, it now becomes possible to monitor complexity in real time and to identify and anticipate problems in all those products which depend on or are governed by large and intricate software systems:

  • automobiles
  • aircraft
  • trains
  • turbines, compressors
  • military equipment
  • critical infrastructures

Our complexity chip can also be integrated into mobile and hand-held devices for civilian as well as military applications.


 ZEDBoard with qcm chip.

ZEDBoard with QCM Chip.


When integrated with a software/electronics system of an automobile or an aircraft, the QCM Chip becomes a modern early-warning box which detects both ‘local’ as well as ‘systemic’ problems. Conventional black boxes only store data. Our system is able to process it and extract additional value from it in the form of pre-alarms.

Military and civilian infrastructures, systems and products, such as cars, aircraft, or networks, have become increasingly complex and dependant on large amounts of software. As a consequence, their complexity has grown to huge proportions and must be monitored and managed. Because excessive complexity is a fenomenal source of problems, it must be considered as a new attribute and KPI (Key Performance Indicator) of modern products and infrastructures. Monitoring complexity helps to identify where its concentrations occur and, therefore, where it is most likely to expect problems or increased fragility. If you don’t want to drown in complexity, the least you can do is monitor it.

Suppose you have a system of N components, or data channels. If you feed sampled data into the QCM Chip you get in output a real-time chart that looks something like this:


This is a ranking of the said components/channels based on how much each contributes to the total complexity of your system at a given time. Suppose also that at a given moment your system experiences a problem and that the above chart. Where do you look if you wish to determine the cause? You go right to the top of the above chart. If a component appears frequently at the top of the ranking while you experience systemic problems that are hard to identify, that’s where to look for possible causes and solutions.

Our technology has outgrown our ability to manage it. Manage complexity before it’s too late.

Read article on complexity of car electronics.

Established originally in 2005 in the USA, Ontonix is a technology company headquartered in Como, Italy. The unusual technology and solutions developed by Ontonix focus on countering what most threatens safety, advanced products, critical infrastructures, or IT network security - the rapid growth of complexity. In 2007 the company received recognition by being selected as Gartner's Cool Vendor. What makes Ontonix different from all those companies and research centers who claim to manage complexity is that we have a complexity metric. This means that we MEASURE complexity. We detect anomalies in complex defense systems without using Machine Learning for one very good reason: our clients don’t have the luxury of multiple examples of failures necessary to teach software to recognize them. We identify anomalies without having seen them before. Sometimes, you must get it right the first and only time!

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