Supermarkets, organic food shops, pharmacies and opticians – these are the shops that every toddler in the town of Garching, near Munich, would know. However, the Garching Research Campus with its more than 6,000 employees and around 14,500 university students, one of the largest centres for science, research and teaching in Germany, is “terra incognita”, unknown territory, for many of Garching’s citizens.
In one small spot of this unknown territory you can find the German company CQSE GmbH. CQSE stands for Continuous Quality in Software Engineering and what this company does is at least as important for the citizens of Garching’s everyday lives as the supermarkets, organic food shops, pharmacies and opticians. “We make sure that the software our clients work with remains comprehensible and maintainable,” says Dr. Martin Feilkas, one of CQSE GmbH’s five partners. This is actually very spectacular, even though it may not sound like it. To give a concrete example: “Nowadays a digital signal is sent from the brake pedal to the engine control unit in your car to make it slow down. If the software responsible for this process is defective, then, in a worst case scenario, the brakes could fail“, adds Dr. Feilkas.
This may be the case in a brand new software system but such errors often also creep into systems that have proven to be reliable. “Systems are not newly developed when the requirements change. Instead, they are continuously adapted and expanded. This evolution takes place over the course of several decades,” explains managing partner Dr. Florian Deissenböck. The risk: a decrease in quality over time. “To give an example: you can imagine a program with 3 million lines of code as a book with around 50,000 pages, spread out over more than 10,000 chapters”, says Dr. Deissenböck. “If you want to make certain changes to a system, a software engineer needs to locate the right spot for the planned changes in this book as quickly as possible whilst, at the same time, taking into account that other areas in the book might also need to be adapted. The more the interdependencies between the individual chapters, the more laborious the work, the greater the risk that necessary follow-up changes may be overlooked”.
In order to avoid this scenario, clients such as BMW, Audi, Munich Re, Stadtwerke München and Versicherungskammer Bayern have hired CQSE GmbH. “The systems we analyse range from corporate information systems to embedded software in cars, airplanes or cash dispensers,” states CQSE GmbH partner Dr. Benjamin Hummel. Developing “Teamscale”, their quality analysis tool, the young Garching-based entrepreneurs have created the first code quality analysis tool to provide individual feedback to the developers in real time. In the next few days, Dr. Hummel and his colleagues will be presenting their company, which was founded in 2009 as a spin-off from the chair of Software and Systems Engineering at the Technical University Munich (TUM) at the “Embedded World” trade fair in Nuremberg.