More Scalable LTL Model Checking via Discovering Design-Space Dependencies (\(D^{3}\))

Open Access
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10805)


Modern system design often requires comparing several models over a large design space. Different models arise out of a need to weigh different design choices, to check core capabilities of versions with varying features, or to analyze a future version against previous ones. Model checking can compare different models; however, applying model checking off-the-shelf may not scale due to the large size of the design space for today’s complex systems. We exploit relationships between different models of the same (or related) systems to optimize the model-checking search. Our algorithm, \(D^{3}\), preprocesses the design space and checks fewer model-checking instances, e.g., using nuXmv. It automatically prunes the search space by reducing both the number of models to check, and the number of LTL properties that need to be checked for each model in order to provide the complete model-checking verdict for every individual model-property pair. We formalize heuristics that improve the performance of \(D^{3}\). We demonstrate the scalability of \(D^{3}\) by extensive experimental evaluation, e.g., by checking 1,620 real-life models for NASA’s NextGen air traffic control system. Compared to checking each model-property pair individually, \(D^{3}\) is up to 9.4\(\times \) faster.

1 Introduction

In the early phases of design, there are frequently many different models of the system under development [2, 23, 29] constituting a design space. We may need to evaluate different design choices, to check core capabilities of system versions with varying feature-levels, or to analyze a future version against previous ones in the product line. The models may differ in their assumptions, implementations, and configurations. We can use model checking to aid system development via a thorough comparison of the set of system models against a set of properties representing requirements. Model checking, in combination with related techniques like fault-tree analysis, can provide an effective comparative analysis [23, 29]. The classical approach checks each model one-by-one, as a set of independent model-checking runs. For large and complex design spaces, performance can be inefficient or even fail to scale to handle the combinatorial size of the design space. Nevertheless, the classical approach remains the most widely used method in industry [3, 23, 25, 29, 30]. Algorithms for family-based model checking [11, 13] mitigate this problem but their efficiency and applicability still depends on the use of custom model checkers to deal with model families.

We assume that each model in the design space can be parameterized over a finite set of parametric inputs that enable/disable individual assumptions, implementations, or behaviors. It might be the case that for any pair of models the assumptions are dependent, their implementations contradict each other, or they have the same behavior. Since the different models of the same system are related, it is possible to exploit the known relationships between them, if they exist, to optimize the model checking search. These relationships can exist in two ways: relationships between the models, and relationships between the properties checked for each model.

We present an algorithm that automatically prunes and dynamically orders the model-checking search space by exploiting inter-model relationships. The algorithm, Discover Design-Space Dependencies (\(D^{3}\)), reduces both the number of models to check, and the number of LTL properties that need to be checked for each model. Rather than using a custom model checker, \(D^{3}\) works with any off-the-shelf checker. This allows practitioners to use state-of-the-art, optimized model-checking algorithms, and to choose their preferred model checker, which enables adoption of our method by practitioners who already use model checking with minimum change in their verification workflow. We reason about a set of system models by introducing the notion of a Combinatorial Transition System (CTS). Each individual model, or instance, can be derived from the CTS by configuring it with a set of parameters. Each transition in the CTS is enabled/disabled by the parameters. We model check each instance of the CTS against sets of properties. We assume the properties are in Linear Temporal Logic (LTL) and are independent of the choice of parameters, though not all properties may apply to all instances. \(D^{3}\) preprocesses the CTS to find relationships between parameters and minimizes the number of instances that need to be checked to produce results for the whole set. It uses LTL satisfiability checking [33] to determine the dependencies between pairs of LTL properties, then reduces the number of properties that are checked for each instance. \(D^{3}\) returns results for every model-property pair in the design space, aiming to compose these results from a reduced series of model-checking runs compared to the classical approach of checking every model-property pair. We demonstrate the industrial scalability of \(D^{3}\) using a set of 1,620 real-life, publicly-available SMV-language benchmark models with LTL specifications; these model NASA’s NextGen air traffic control system [8, 23, 29]. We also evaluate the property-dependence analysis separately on real-life models of Boeing AIR 6110 Wheel Braking System [3] to evaluate \(D^{3}\) in multi-property verification workflows.

Related Work. One striking contrast between \(D^{3}\) and related work is that \(D^{3}\) is a preprocessing algorithm, does not require custom modeling, and works with any off-the-shelf LTL model checker. Parameter synthesis [9] can generate the many models in a design space that can be analyzed by \(D^{3}\); however existing parameter synthesis techniques require custom modeling of a system. We take the easier path of reasoning over an already-restricted set of models of interest to system designers. \(D^{3}\) efficiently compares any set of models rather than finding all models that meet the requirements. Several parameter synthesis approaches designed for parametric Markov models [15, 16, 24, 31] use PRISM and compute the region of parameters for which the model satisfies a given probabilistic property (PCTL or PLTL); \(D^{3}\) is an LTL-based algorithm. Parameter synthesis of a parametric Markov model with non-probabilistic transitions can generate the many models that \(D^{3}\) can analyze. In multi-objective model checking [1, 21, 22, 28], given a Markov decision process and a set of LTL properties, the algorithms find a controller strategy such that the Markov process satisfies all properties with some set probability. Differently from multi-objective model checking, which generates “trade-off” Pareto curves, \(D^{3}\) gives a boolean result. The parameterized model checking problem (PCMP) [20] deals with infinite families of homogeneous processes in a system; in our case, the models are finite and heterogeneous. Specialized model-set checking algorithms [18] can check the reduced set of \(D^{3}\) processed models.

In multi-property model checking, multiple properties are checked on the same system. Existing approaches simplify the task by algorithm modifications [4, 7], SAT-solver modifications [26, 27], and property grouping [5, 6]. The inter-property dependence analysis of \(D^{3}\) can be used in multi-property checking. We compare \(D^{3}\) against the affinity [6] based approach to property grouping.

Product line verification techniques, e.g., with Software Product Lines (SPL), also verify parametric models describing large design spaces. We borrow the notion of an instance, from SPL literature [32, 34]. An extension to NuSMV in [13] performs symbolic model checking of feature-oriented CTL. The symbolic analysis is extended to the explicit case and support for feature-oriented LTL in [11, 12]. The work most closely related to ours is [17] where product line verification is done without a family-based model checker. \(D^{3}\) outputs model-checking results for every model-property pair in the design space (e.g. all parameter configurations) without dependence on any feature whereas in SPL verification using an off-the-shelf checker, if a property fails then it isn’t possible to know which models do satisfy the property [14, 17].

Contributions. The preprocessing algorithm presented is an important stepping stone to smarter algorithms for checking large design spaces. Our contributions are summarized as follows:
  1. 1.

    A fully automated, general, and scalable algorithm for checking design spaces; it can be applied to LTL model checking problems without major modifications to the system designers’ verification workflow.

  2. 2.

    Modification to the general model-checking procedure of sequentially checking properties against a model to a dynamic procedure; the next property to check is chosen to maximize the number of yet-to-be-checked properties for which the result can be determined from inter-property dependencies.

  3. 3.

    Comparison of our novel inter-property dependence analysis to existing work in multi-property verification workflows [6].

  4. 4.

    Extensive experimental analysis using real-life benchmarks; all reproducibility artifacts and source code are publicly available.


2 Preliminaries

Definition 1

A labeled transition system (LTS) is a system model of the form \(M = ({ \Sigma }, S, s_0, L, \delta )\) where,
  1. 1.

    \({ \Sigma }\) is a finite alphabet, or set of atomic propositions,

  2. 2.

    S is a finite set of states,

  3. 3.

    \(s_0 \in S\) is an initial state,

  4. 4.

    \(L : S \rightarrow 2^{ \Sigma }\) is a labeling function that maps each state to the set of atomic propositions that hold in it, and

  5. 5.

    \(\delta : S \rightarrow S\) is the transition function.


A computation path, or run of LTS M is a sequence of states \(\pi = s_0 {\rightarrow } s_1 {\rightarrow } \ldots {\rightarrow } s_n\) over the word \(w = L(s_0), L(s_1), \ldots , L(s_n)\) such that \(s_i \in S\) for \(0 \le i \le n\), and \((s_i, s_{i+1}) \in \delta \) for \(0 \le i < n\). Given a LTL property \(\varphi \) and a LTS M, M models \(\varphi \), denoted \(M \models \varphi \), iff \(\varphi \) holds in all possible computation paths of M.

Definition 2

A parameter \(P_i\) is a variable with the following properties.

  1. 1.

    The domain of \(P_i\), denoted \(\llbracket P_i \rrbracket \), is a finite set of possible assignments to \(P_i\).

  2. 2.

    Parameter \(P_i\) is set by assigning a single value from \(\llbracket P_i \rrbracket \), i.e. \(P_i = d_{P_i} \in \llbracket P_i \rrbracket \). A non-assigned parameter is considered unset.

  3. 3.

    Parameter setting is static, i.e., it does not change during a run of the system.


Let P be a finite set of parameters. |P| denotes the number of parameters. For each \(P_i \in P\), \(|P_i|\) denotes the size of the domain of \(P_i\). Let Form(P) denote the set of all Boolean formulas over P generated using the BNF grammar \({\varphi }\, {:}{:=}~\top \mid P_i {\text { { == }}} \text {D} \) and \( \text {D}\, {:}{:=}~P_{i_1} \mid P_{i_2} \mid \ldots \mid P_{i_n};\) for each \(P_i \in P\), \(n = |P_i|\), and \(\llbracket P_i \rrbracket ~{=}~\{P_{i_1}, P_{i_2}, \ldots , P_{i_n}\}\). Therefore, Form(P) contains \(\top \) and equality constraints over parameters in P.

Definition 3

A combinatorial transition system (CTS) is a combinatorial system model \(M_P = ({ \Sigma }, S, s_0, L, \) \(\delta , P, L_P)\), such that \(({ \Sigma }, S, s_0, L, \delta )\) is a LTS and
  1. 1.

    P is a finite set of parameters to the system, and

  2. 2.

    \(L_P : \delta \rightarrow Form(P)\) is function labeling transitions with a guard condition.


We limit the guard condition over a transition to \(\top \) or an equality constraint over a single parameter for simpler expressiveness and formalization. However, there can be multiple transitions between any two states with different guards. A transition is enabled if its guard condition evaluates to true, otherwise, it is disabled. A label of \(\top \) implies the transition is always enabled. A possible run of a CTS is a sequence of states \(\pi _P = s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _1}}} s_1 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _2}}} \ldots {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _n}}} s_n\) over the word \(w = L(s_0), L(s_1), \ldots , L(s_n)\) such that \(s_i \in S\) for \(0 \le i \le n\), \(\nu _i \in Form(P)\) for \(0 < i \le n\), and \((s_i, s_{i+1}) \in \delta \) and \((s_i, s_{i+1}, \nu _{i+1}) \in L_P\) for \(0 \le i < n\), i.e., there is transition from \(s_i\) to \(s_{i+1}\) with guard condition \(\nu _{i+1}\). A prefix \(\alpha \) of a possible run \(\pi _P = \alpha {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _i}}} \ldots {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _n}}}s_n\) is also a possible run.

Example 1. A Boolean parameter has domain \(\{true,\) \(false\}\). Figure 1 shows a CTS with Boolean parameters \(P = \{P_1, P_2, P_3\}\). For brevity, guard condition \(P_i == true\) is written as \(P_i\), while \(P_i == false\) is written as \(\lnot P_i\). A transition with label \(P_1\) is enabled if \(P_1\) is set to true. Similarly, a label of \(\lnot P_3\) implies the transition is enabled if \(P_3\) is set to false.

Example 1

A Boolean parameter has domain \(\{true,\) \(false\}\). Figure 1 shows a CTS with Boolean parameters \(P = \{P_1, P_2, P_3\}\). For brevity, guard condition \(P_i == true\) is written as \(P_i\), while \(P_i == false\) is written as \(\lnot P_i\). A transition with label \(P_1\) is enabled if \(P_1\) is set to true. Similarly, a label of \(\lnot P_3\) implies the transition is enabled if \(P_3\) is set to false.

Fig. 1.

An example of a combinatorial transition system \(M_P\) with parameters \(P = \{P_1, P_2, P_3\}\).

Definition 4

A parameter configuration c for a set of parameters P is a k-tuple \((d_{P_1},\) \(d_{P_2}, \ldots , d_{P_k})\), for \(k = |P|\), that sets each parameter in P, i.e., for every \(1 \le i \le k\), \(P_i = d_{P_i}\) and \(d_{P_i} \in \llbracket P_i \rrbracket \) is a setting. The set of all possible configurations \(\mathbb {C}\) over P is equal to \(P_1 \times P_2 \times \ldots \times P_k\) where \(\times \) denotes the cross product. The setting for \(P_i\) in configuration c is denoted by \(c(P_i)\).

A configured run of a CTS \(M_P\) over a configuration c, or c-run, is a sequence of states \(\pi _{P(c)} = s_0 \xrightarrow {\nu _1} s_1 \xrightarrow {\nu _2} \ldots \xrightarrow {\nu _n} s_n\) such that \(\pi _{P(c)}\) is a possible run, and \(c \vdash \nu _i\) for \(0 < i \le n\), where \(\vdash \) denotes propositional logic satisfaction of the guard condition \(\nu _i\) under parameter configuration c. Given a CTS \(M_P\) and a parameter configuration c, a state t is reachable iff there exists a c-run such that \(s_n = t\), denoted \(s_0 \xrightarrow [c]{*} t\), i.e., t can be reached in zero or more transitions. A transition with guard \(\nu \) is reachable iff \((s_j, s_{j+1}, \nu ) \in L_P\), \((s_j, s_{j+1}) \in \delta \), and \(s_0 \xrightarrow [c]{*} s_j\).

Definition 5

An instance of a CTS \(M_P = (\Sigma , S, s_0, L, \delta , P, L_P)\) for parameter configuration c is a LTS \(M_{P(c)} = (\Sigma , S, s_0, L, \delta ')\) where \(\delta ' = \{t \in \delta \mid c \vdash L_P(t)\}\).

Given a LTL property \(\varphi \) and a CTS \(M_P = (\Sigma , S, s_0, L, \delta , P, L_P)\), the model checking problem for \(M_P\) is to find all parameter configurations \(c \in \mathbb {C}\) over P such that \(\varphi \) holds in all c-runs of \(M_P\), or all computation paths of LTS \(M_{P(c)}\).

Definition 6

Given a CTS \(M_P\) with parameters \(P_i, P_j\), and a parameter configuration c, \(P_j\) is dependent on \(P_i\), denoted \(P_j \leadsto _c P_i\), iff
  • In all possible runs with a transition guard over \(P_j\), a transition with guard over \(P_i\) appears before a transition with guard over \(P_j\), and

  • In all configured runs, the setting for \(P_i\) in c makes transitions with guard conditions over \(P_j\) unreachable.

Example 2 In Fig. 1, if \(P_1\) is set to false, execution never reaches the transition labeled \(\lnot P_3\). Therefore, if configuration \(c = (false, true, true)\) then \(P_3 \leadsto _c P_1\).

Definition 7

A universal model U is a LTS that generates all possible computations paths over its atomic propositions.

Theorem 1 (LTL Satisfiability)

[33] Given a LTL property \(\varphi \) and a universal model U, \(\varphi \) is satisfiable if and only if Open image in new window .

This theorem reduces LTL satisfiability checking to LTL model checking. Therefore, \(\varphi \) is satisfiable when the model checker finds a counterexample.1

Modeling a Combinatorial Transition System. Efficient modeling of a CTS requires language constructs to deal with parameters. Since our goal is to use an existing model checker, language extensions are outside the scope of this work. An alternative way to add parameters to any system description is by utilizing the C preprocessor (cpp). Given a set of parameters P, and a combinatorial model \(M_P\), each run of the preprocessor with a configuration \(c \in \mathbb {C}\) generates an instance \(M_{P(c)}\). Figure 2 demonstrates generating a CTS from two related SMV models. Model 1 and Model 2 differ in the initial configuration of the parameter. The corresponding CTS replaces the parameter initiation with the PARAMETER_CONF preprocessor directive. The cpp is run on the CTS model with #define PARAMETER_CONF 0, and #define PARAMETER_CONF 1 to generate the two models.
Fig. 2.

Model 1 and Model 2 written in the SMV language can be combined to form a CTS model with the use of PARAMETER_CONF preprocessor directive.

3 Discovering Design-Space Dependencies

In this section we describe \(D^{3}\). Our approach speeds up model checking of combinatorial transitions systems by preprocessing of the input instances; it therefore increases efficiency of both BDD-based and SAT-based model checkers. The problem reduction is along two dimensions: number of instances, and number of properties.

3.1 Reduction Along the Number of Instances

Given a set of parameters P, a combinatorial transition system \(M_P\), and a property \(\varphi \), \(M_P\) is model checked by sending, for all parameter configuration \(c \in \mathbb {C}\), instance \(M_{P(c)}\) to the LTS model checker, along with the property \(\varphi \). The output is aggregated for \(|\mathbb {C}|\) runs of the model checker, and all parameter configurations c, such that \(M_{P(c)} \models \varphi \) are returned. In principle, parameters can be encoded as state variables, and the parametric model can be posed as one big model-checking obligation, however there are caveats.

  1. 1.

    State space explosion before any useful results are obtained.

  2. 2.

    Counterexample generated from one run of the model checker gives a single undesirable configuration.


Our goal is to make the classical approach of individual-model checking more scalable as the design space grows by intelligently integrating possible dependencies between parameter configurations.

Lemma 1

Given a CTS \(M_P = (\Sigma , S, s_0, L, \delta , P, L_P)\) with parameters \(A, B \in P\), if \(B \leadsto _c A\) for some parameter configuration c, then there does not exist any possible run of \(M_P\) with prefix \(\alpha = s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _B}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _A}}} s_l\), where \(\nu _A\) and \(\nu _B\) are guards over A and B, resp., and \(s_i, s_j, s_k, s_l \in S\), i.e., a transition with guard over B does not appear before a transition with guard over A.

As a corollary to Lemma 1, there also do not exist possible runs with transition guards only over B (and no other \(P_i \in P\)). Therefore, given a CTS \(M_P\) with states \(s_i, s_j, s_k, s_l \in S\) and parameters \(A, B \in P\), if \(B \leadsto _c A\) for some parameter configuration c, then all possible runs of \(M_P\) have one of the following prefixes:
  1. 1.

    \(s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _A}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _B}}} s_{l}\) (guard over A before guard over B)

  2. 2.

    \(s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _A}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _A}}} s_{l}\) (guards only over A)

  3. 3.

    \(s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_{l}\) (guards neither over A nor B)

Similarly, if \(A \leadsto _c B\) for some parameter configuration c, then all possible runs of \(M_P\) have one of the following prefixes:
  1. 1.

    \(s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _B}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _A}}} s_{l}\) (guard over B before guard over A)

  2. 2.

    \(s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _B}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{\nu _B}}} s_{l}\) (guards only over B)

  3. 3.

    \(s_0 {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_i {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_{j} {\mathrel {\mathop {\rightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_k {\mathrel {\mathop {\longrightarrow }\limits ^{*}}} s_{l}\) (guards neither over A nor B)


Therefore, when A and B are not dependent, there is no possible run with transition guards over both A and B. Note that for a CTS \(M_P\) with \(A, B \in P\), if A and B are dependent, then either \(A \leadsto _c B\) or \(B \leadsto _c A\) but not both for any configuration c. We only show formalization for \(B \leadsto _c A\); \(A \leadsto _c B\) follows directly.

Theorem 2 (Redundant Instance)

Given a CTS \(M_P = (\Sigma , S, s_0, L, \delta , P, L_P)\) with parameters \(A, B \in P\) such that \(B \leadsto _c A\) for some configuration c, and a LTL property \(\varphi \), there exist configurations \(c_1, c_2, \ldots c_k \in \mathbb {C}\) for \(k = |B|\) such that
  • \(c_i(A) = c(A)\) for \(0 < i \le k\), and

  • \(c_i(B) = d_{B_i} \in \llbracket B \rrbracket \) for \(0 < i \le k\) and \(\llbracket B \rrbracket = \{d_{B_1}, d_{B_2}, \ldots , d_{B_k}\}\)

For such configurations \(M_{P(c_1)} \models \varphi \equiv M_{P(c_2)} \models \varphi \equiv \ldots \equiv M_{P(c_k)} \models \varphi \).

Fig. 3.

Algorithms for reduction along the number of instances

Theorem 2 allows us to reduce the number of model checker runs by exploiting redundancy between instances. The question that needs to be answered is how to find dependent parameters? A partial parameter configuration, \(\hat{c}\), is a parameter configuration in which not all parameters have been set. Given a CTS \(M_P = (\Sigma , S, s_0, L, \delta , P, L_P)\), for a transition \(t \in \delta \), such that \(L_P(t) = \nu \), the guard \(\nu \) is
  • defined, if its corresponding parameter is set in \(\hat{c}\), and

  • undefined, otherwise.

A defined guard evaluates to true when \(\hat{c} \vdash L_P(t)\), or false when Open image in new window . Algorithm FindUP (Find Unset Parameters) in Fig. 3(a) solves the dual problem of finding independent parameters. It takes as input a CTS \(M_P\) and a partial parameter configuration \(\hat{c}\), and returns unset parameters for which guard conditions are undefined and their corresponding transitions are reachable. It traverses (depth-first) the CTS starting from a node for the initial state \(s_0\). During traversal, an edge (transition) \(t = (s_i, s_j)\) connects two nodes (states) \(s_i, s_j \in S\) if \(t \in \delta \) and \(\hat{c} \vdash L_P(t)\). The edge is disconnected if \(t \not \in \delta \) or Open image in new window . Since \(M_P\) is defined relationally in the annotated SMV language with preprocessor directives (Sect. 2), in the worst case, FindUP takes polynomial time in the number of symbolic states and transitions. From an implementation point of view, FindUP invokes the cpp for parameter settings in \(\hat{c}\) on the input model, and parses the output for unset parameters.

Lemma 2

FindUP returns unset parameters \(P_i \in P\) for all reachable transitions \(t \in \delta \) such that guard \(L_P(t)\) is a guard over \(P_i\), and is undefined.

Algorithm GenPC (Generate Parameter Configurations) in Fig. 3(b) uses FindUP as a subroutine to recursively find parameter configurations that need to be checked. It takes as input a CTS \(M_P\), queue of unset parameters \(P_u\), and a partial parameter configuration \(\hat{c}\). Initially, \(\hat{c}\) contains no set parameters and \(P_u = \) FindUP(\(M_P\), \(\hat{c}\)). Upon termination of GenPC, \(\hat{\mathbb {C}}\) contains the set of partial parameter configurations that need to be checked. On every iteration, GenPC picks a parameter p from \(P_u\), assigns it a value from its domain \(\llbracket p \rrbracket \) in \(\hat{c}\), and uses FindUP to find unset parameters in CTS \(M_{P}\). If the returned unset parameter queue is empty, \(\hat{c}\) added to \(\hat{\mathbb {C}}\). Otherwise, \(\textsc {GenPC}\) is called again with the new unset parameter queue.

Theorem 3 (GenPC is sound)

Given a CTS \(M_P\) with parameters \(A,B \in P\), if there exists a partial configuration \(\hat{c} \in \hat{\mathbb {C}}\) with \(\hat{c}(A) = d_{A_n} \in \llbracket A \rrbracket \) and B unset, then there exist configurations \(c_1, c_2, \ldots c_k \in \mathbb {C}\) for \(k = |B|\) such that
  • \(c_i(A) = \hat{c}(A)\) for \(0 < i \le k\), and

  • \(c_i(B) = d_{B_i} \in \llbracket B \rrbracket \) for \(0 < i \le k\) and \(\llbracket B \rrbracket = \{d_{B_1}, d_{B_2}, \ldots , d_{B_k}\}\)

for which \(B \leadsto _{c_i} A\).

Theorem 4 (GenPC is complete)

Given a CTS \(M_P\) with parameters \(A,B \in P\), if there exist configurations \(c_1, c_2, \ldots c_k \in \mathbb {C}\) for \(k = |B|\) such that
  • \(c_i(A) = d_{A_n}\) for \(0 < i \le k\) and \(d_{A_n} \in \llbracket A \rrbracket \), and

  • \(c_i(B) = d_{B_i} \in \llbracket B \rrbracket \) for \(0 < i \le k\) and \(\llbracket B \rrbracket = \{d_{B_1}, d_{B_2}, \ldots , d_{B_k}\}\)

for which \(B \leadsto _{c_i} A\), then there exists a partial configuration \(\hat{c} \in \hat{\mathbb {C}}\) with \(\hat{c}(A) = d_{A_n}\) and B unset.

GenPC returns partial configurations \(\hat{c} \in \hat{\mathbb {C}}\) over parameters. A partial configuration \(\hat{c}\) is converted to a parameter configuration c by setting the unset parameters in \(\hat{c}\) to an arbitrary value from their domain. Note that this operation is safe since the arbitrarily set parameters are not reachable in the instance \(M_{P(c)}\). As a result of this operation, \(\hat{\mathbb {C}}\) contains configurations c that have all parameters set to a value from their domain.

Theorem 5 (Minimality)

The minimal set of parameter configurations is \(\hat{\mathbb {C}}\).

3.2 Reduction Along the Number of Properties

In model checking, properties describe the intended behavior of the system. Usually, properties are iteratively refined to express the designer’s intentions. For small systems, it can be manually determined if two properties are dependent on one another. However, practically determining property dependence for large and complex systems requires automation. Given a set of properties \(\mathcal {P}\), and LTS M, an off-the-shelf model checker is called \(N = |\mathcal {P}|\) times.

In order to check all properties in \(\mathcal {P}\), a straightforward possibility is to generate a grouped property \(\varphi _g\) given by the conjunction of all properties \(\varphi _i \in \mathcal {P}\), i.e., \(\varphi _g = \bigwedge _i \varphi _i\). However, the straightforward approach may not scale [6] due to
  1. 1.

    State-space explosion due to orthogonal cone-of-influences of properties.

  2. 2.

    Need for additional analysis of individual properties one-by-one in order to discriminate failed ones and generate individual counterexamples.

  3. 3.

    Computational cost of verifying grouped properties in one run can be significantly higher than verifying individual properties in a series of runs.


Our goal is to minimize the number of properties checked by intelligently using dependencies between LTL properties. For two LTL properties \(\varphi _1\) and \(\varphi _2\) dependence can be characterized in four ways: \((\varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2)\), \((\varphi _1 \rightarrow \lnot \varphi _2)\), \((\lnot \varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2)\), and \((\lnot \varphi _1 \rightarrow \lnot \varphi _2)\). Theorem 6 allows us to find dependencies automatically.

Theorem 6 (Property Dependence)

For two LTL properties \(\varphi _1\) and \(\varphi _2\) dependence can be established by model checking with universal model U.

The dependencies learned as a result of Theorem 6 have implications on the verification workflow. For instance, if \(\varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2\) is valid, then for a model M, if \(M \models \varphi _1\) then \(M \models \varphi _2\). Of particular interest are \((\varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2)\), \((\lnot \varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2)\), and \((\lnot \varphi _1 \rightarrow \lnot \varphi _2)\) because they allow use of previous counterexamples (for \((\varphi _1 \rightarrow \lnot \varphi _2)\), even if \(\varphi _1\) is true, there is no counterexample to prove that \(\varphi _2\) is false).
Fig. 4.

Property table to store dependence between every LTL property pair in set \(\mathcal {P}\). Each row entry in the table is a (keyvalue) pair. Multiple entries with the same key have been merged in a single row. E.g., if \(\varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2\), the table contains a row \((\varphi _1:T, \varphi _2:T)\) implying that if \(\varphi _1\) holds for model M then \(\varphi _2\) also holds.

The pairwise property dependencies are stored in a property table as shown in Fig. 4(a). Each row in the table is a (keyvalue) pair. For LTL properties \(\varphi _1\), \(\varphi _2\), and \(\varphi _3\) in \(\mathcal {P}\), if \((\varphi _1 \rightarrow \varphi _2)\) is valid, then the table contains a row \((\varphi _1:T, \varphi _2:T)\) implying that if \(\varphi _1\) holds for a model M then \(\varphi _2\) also holds. Similarly, for \((\lnot \varphi _3 \rightarrow \lnot \varphi _2)\) the table entry \((\varphi _3:F, \varphi _2:F)\) implies that if \(\varphi _3\) doesn’t hold for M then \(\varphi _2\) doesn’t hold. Algorithm CheckRP (Check Reduced Properties) in Fig. 5 takes as input a LTS M, a set of LTL properties \(\mathcal {P}\), and a property table T over \(\mathcal {P}\). CheckRP selects an unchecked LTL property \(\varphi \), checks whether \(\varphi \) holds in M, and stores the outcome. Based on the outcome, it uses the property table to determine checking results for all dependent properties and stores them. For example, in Fig. 4(b), if Open image in new window , then Open image in new window , Open image in new window , and \(M \models \varphi _6\). The LTL property to check is selected using two heuristics.
Fig. 5.

CheckRP algorithm to check LTL properties against a model.

Fig. 6.

Discovering design-space dependencies (\(D^{3}\)) algorithm.

H1: Maximum Dependence. The tabular layout of property dependencies is used to calculate the number of dependencies for each property. The unchecked LTL property with the most right-hand side entries is selected. If  \(\mathcal {U} \subseteq \mathcal {P}\) are unchecked properties in table D, the next LTL property to check is then
$$\begin{aligned} \varphi \in \mathcal {U} : count(\varphi ) = max (\{ count(\psi ) \mid \forall \psi \in \mathcal {U} \}) \end{aligned}$$
where \(count(x) = |D[x:T] \cup D[x:F]|\) returns the number of dependencies for a LTL property in table D, and max(S) returns the largest element from S.
H2: Property Grouping. Most model-checking techniques are computationally sensitive to the cone-of-influence (COI) size. Grouping properties based on overlap between their COI can speed up checking. Property affinity [5, 6] based on Jaccard Index can compare the similarity between COI. For two LTL properties \(\varphi _i\) and \(\varphi _j\), let \(V_i\) and \(V_j\), respectively, denote the variables in their COI with respect to a model M. The affinity \(\alpha _{ij}\) for \(\varphi _i\) and \(\varphi _j\) is given by
$$\begin{aligned} \alpha _{ij} = \dfrac{|V_i \cap V_j|}{|V_i| + |V_j| - |V_i \cap V_j|} \end{aligned}$$
If \(\alpha _{ij}\) is larger than a given threshold, then properties \(\varphi _i\) and \(\varphi _j\) are grouped together. The model M is then checked against \(\varphi _i \wedge \varphi _j\). If verification fails, then \(\varphi _i\) and \(\varphi _j\) are checked individually against model M.

4 Experimental Analysis

Our revised model checking procedure \(D^{3}\) is shown in Fig. 6. \(D^{3}\) takes as input a CTS \(M_P\) and a set of LTL properties \(\mathcal {P}\). It uses GenPC to find the parameter configurations that need to be checked. It then generates a property table to store dependencies between LTL properties. Lastly, CheckRP checks each instance against properties in \(\mathcal {P}\). Results are collated for every model-property pair.

4.1 Benchmarks

We evaluated \(D^{3}\) on two benchmarks derived from real-world case studies.

  1. (1)

    Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Models: are a set of 1,620 real-world models representing different possible designs for NASA’s NextGen air traffic control (ATC) system. In previous work, this set of models were generated from a contract-based, parameterized nuXmv model; individual-model checking enabled their comparative analysis with respect to a set of requirements for the system [23]. In the formulation of [23], the checking problem for each model is split in to five phases.2 In each phase, all 1,620 models are checked. For our analysis and to gain better understanding of the experimental results, we categories the phases based on the property verification results (unsat if property holds for the model, and sat if it does not). Each of the 1,620 models can be seen as instances of a CTS with seven parameters. Each of the 1620 instances is checked against a total of 191 LTL properties. The original nuXmv code additionally uses OCRA [10] for compositional modeling, though we do not rely on its features when using the generated model-set.

  2. (2)

    Boeing Wheel Braking System (WBS) Models: are a set of seven real-world nuXmv models representing possible designs for the Boeing AIR 6110 wheel braking system [3]. Each model in the set is checked against \(\sim \)200 LTL properties. However, the seven models are not generated from a CTS. We evaluate \(D^{3}\) against this benchmark to evaluate performance on multi-property verification workflows, and compare with existing work on property grouping [6].


4.2 Experiment Setup

\(D^{3}\) is implemented as a preprocessing script in \(\sim \)2,000 lines of Python code. We model check using nuXmv 1.1.1 with the IC3-based back-end. All experiments were performed on Iowa State University’s Condo Cluster comprising of nodes having two 2.6Ghz 8-core Intel E5-2640 processors, 128 GB memory, and running Enterprise Linux 7.3. Each model checking run has dedicated access to a node, which guarantees that no resource conflict with other jobs will occur.
Table 1.

Timing results of 1,620 models for each phase using individual-model checking, and \(D^{3}\). For individual-model checking, Time indicates model checking time, whereas, for \(D^{3}\), Time indicates preprocessing time + model checking time.


Property mix


Model checking time (in hours)


Overall speedup

Total (median)





25 (24)



1.5\(\times \)

4.5\(\times \)



29 (19)



2.5\(\times \)



29 (1)



9.4\(\times \)



54 (43)



1.7\(\times \)

1.8\(\times \)



54 (44)



1.9\(\times \)





4.0\(\times \)


4.3 Experimental Results

(1) Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Models. All possible models are generated by running the C preprocessor (cpp) on the annotated composite SMV model representing the CTS. Table 1 summarizes the results for complete verification of the ATC design space: 191 LTL properties for each of 1,620 models.

Compared to individual model checking, wherein every model-property pair is checked one-by-one, verification of the ATC design space using \(D^{3}\) is 4.0\(\times \) faster. It reduces the 1,620 models in the design space to 1,028 models. \(D^{3}\) takes roughly three hours to find dependencies between LTL properties for all phases. Dependencies established are local to each model-checking phase and are computed only once per phase. The number of reduced LTL properties checked for each model in a phase vary; we use CheckRP with the Maximum Dependence heuristic (H1). Although the logical dependencies are global for each phase, the property verification results vary for different models. In phases containing unsat properties, speedup achieved by \(D^{3}\) varies between 1.5\(\times \) to 9.4\(\times \); since all properties are true for the model, only \((\varphi _1 : T \rightarrow \varphi _2 : T)\) dependencies in the property table are used. A median of one property is checked per model in phase III. For phases IV and V, \(D^{3}\)’s performance is consistent as shown in Fig. 7.

Interesting Observation. \(D^{3}\) requires a minimum number of models to be faster than individual-model checking. When the design space is small, individually checking the models is faster than verifying using \(D^{3}\). This is due to the fact that \(D^{3}\) requires an initial set-up time. The number of models after which \(D^{3}\) is faster is called the “crossover point”. For the benchmark, the crossover happens after \(\sim \)120 models. As the number of models, and the relationships between them increase, the time speedup due to \(D^{3}\) also increases.

Overall. From the initial problem of checking 1,620 models against 191 LTL properties, \(D^{3}\) checks 1,028 models with a median of 129 properties per model (45% reduction of design space). Once \(D^{3}\) terminates, the model-checking results for each model are compared using the data analysis technique of [23].
Fig. 7.

Cumulative time for checking each model for all properties one-by-one (individual), checking reduced instances for all properties (GenPC), checking all models for reduced properties (CheckRP + H1), and checking reduced instances for reduced properties (\(D^{3}\) + H1). \(D^{3}\) outperforms individual-model checking in all phases.

(2) Boeing Wheel Braking System (WBS) Models. LTL Properties for each of the seven models are checked using four algorithms:
  1. i.

    Single: properties are checked one-by-one against the model,

  2. ii.

    CheckRP: properties are checked using inter-property dependencies,

  3. iii.

    CheckRP + Maximum Dependence (H1): unchecked property with the maximum dependent properties as per inter-property dependencies is checked,

  4. iv.

    CheckRP + Property Affinity (H2): properties are pairwise grouped and the unchecked pair with the maximum dependent properties is checked.


Figure 8 summarizes the results. On every call to the model checker, a single or grouped LTL property is checked. CheckRP is successful in reducing the number of checker runs by using inter-property dependencies. The Maximal Dependences (H1) and Property Grouping (H2) heuristics improve the performance of CheckRP, the former more than the latter. The timing results for each algorithm is shown in Table 2.

Analysis. For H2, we limited our experiments to pairwise groupings, however, larger groupings may be possible (trade-off required between property inter-dependencies and groupings). It took \(\sim \)50 min to establish dependence between properties for a model, which is much higher than checking them one-by-one without using CheckRP. This brings us back to the question of estimating a crossover point. However, as the number of models increase for the same set of properties, CheckRP will start reaping benefits. Nevertheless, CheckRP is suited for multi-property verification in large design spaces.
Fig. 8.

Number of calls made to the model checker to verify all properties in the set for a model. Every call to the checker verifies one property: single or grouped. For CheckRP, multiple property results are determined (based on inter-property dependencies) on every checker run. Heuristics H1 and H2 improve performance of CheckRP.

Table 2.

Timing results (in seconds) for performance of \(D^{3}\)’s inter-property dependence analysis. A property: single or grouped, is verified on each checker run. Overall time indicates the total time to verify all properties for a model.






Overall time


Overall time

Checker runs

Overall time

Checker runs

Overall time

Checker runs
































































5 Conclusions and Future Work

We present an algorithm, \(D^{3}\), to increase the efficiency of LTL model checking for large design spaces. It is successful in reducing the number of models that need to be verified, and also the properties verified for each model. In contrast to software product line model checking techniques using an off-the-shelf checker, \(D^{3}\) returns the model-checking results for all models, and for all properties. \(D^{3}\) is general and extensible; it can be combined with optimized checking algorithms implemented in off-the-shelf model checkers. We demonstrate the practical scalability of \(D^{3}\) on a real-life benchmark models. We calculate a crossover point as a crucial measure of when \(D^{3}\) can be used to speed up checking. \(D^{3}\) is fully automated and requires no special input-language modifications; it can easily be introduced in a verification work-flow with minimal effort. Heuristics for predicting the cross-over point for other model sets are a promising topic for future work. We plan to examine extending \(D^{3}\) to other logics besides LTL, and its applicability to other types of transition systems, like families of Markov processes. We also plan to investigate further reduction in the search space by extending \(D^{3}\) to re-use intermediate model checking results across several models. In a nutshell, \(D^{3}\) is a front-end preprocessing algorithm, and future work involves tying in an improved model checking back-end and utilizing available information to reduce the overall amortized performance. Finally, since checking families of models is becoming commonplace, we plan to develop more industrial-sized SMV model sets and make them publicly available as research benchmarks.

6 Supporting Artifact

The artifact for reproducibility of our experiments [19] is publicly available under the MIT License, and supports all reported results of Sect. 4. It includes
  1. 1.

    Benchmarks: NASA’s NextGen Air Traffic Control System [23] and Boeing’s Wheel Braking System [3] (Sect. 4.1).

  2. 2.

    Scripts: Python scripts to run \(D^3\) on the two benchmarks (Fig. 6).

  3. 3.

    Datasets: Ready-to-use datasets generated during our analysis (Sect. 4.3)


The artifact supports the following usage scenarios.

  1. 1.

    Verify the benchmarks using both individual-model checking and model checking with \(D^3\), or run the complete experimental analysis to reproduce the results reported in Tables 1 and 2.

  2. 2.

    Study and evaluate the benchmarks and source code for \(D^3\), sub-algorithms (GenPC and CheckRP), and heuristics (H1 and H2).

  3. 3.

    Introduce extensions to \(D^3\) and experiment with new heuristics.


Please refer to the README files in the artifact for further information. Every README inside a directory details the directory structure, usage of contained files with respect to the evaluation, and step-by-step instructions on how to the use the contained scripts to regenerate the experimental analysis.


  1. 1.

    This is why we do not consider CTL; CTL satisfiability is EXPTIME-complete and cannot be accomplished via linear time CTL model checking.

  2. 2.

    For a detailed explanation we refer the reader to [23].


Data Availability Statement

The benchmarks evaluated, source code, and data-sets generated during our experimental analysis are available in the Springer/ Figshare repository: Theorem proofs and extended results are available on the paper’s accompanying website:


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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