From distributed coordination to field calculus and aggregate computing
Aggregate computing is an emerging approach to the engineering of complex coordination for distributed systems, based on viewing system interactions in terms of information propagating through collectives of devices, rather than in terms of individual devices and their interaction with their peers and environment. The foundation of this approach is the distillation of a number of prior approaches, both formal and pragmatic, proposed under the umbrella of field-based coordination, and culminating into the field calculus, a universal functional programming model for the specification and composition of collective behaviours with equivalent local and aggregate semantics. This foundation has been elaborated into a layered approach to engineering coordination of complex distributed systems, building up to pragmatic applications through intermediate layers encompassing reusable libraries of program components. Furthermore, some of these components are formally shown to satisfy formal properties like self-stabilisation, which transfer to whole application services by functional composition. In this survey, we trace the development and antecedents of field calculus, review the field calculus itself and the current state of aggregate computing theory and practice, and discuss a roadmap of current research directions with implications for the development of a broad range of distributed systems.