The Integration Company
Automotive Industries interviewed Prof. Gert Bikker, President of EXTESSY
Increasingly complex vehicle electronic systems, along with different components being developed worldwide has created a need for integration systems.
EXTESSY AG was one of the highlights at the Embedded World exhibition and conference held in Nuremberg in February this year. The exhibition is the world's biggest of its kind and the meeting place for the international embedded technology market. EXTESSY, which boasts a client list that includes names like BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, Daimler and Airbus/EADS, is establishing itself as a formidable tool and service provider for embedded system developers, around the world.
EXTESSY, which has an almost 50-strong employee base, was originally a spin-off of the Technical University of Braunschweig's Institute for Traffic Safety and Automation. During the start-up phase, product development was on focus, ongoing with consulting projects, acquisition of first customers and cooperation with first partners.
EXTESSY´s next step was the portfolio expansion leading to an intensive growth with new and existing customers and an international outlook. The current growth phase is driven by new and extended business partnerships, and growing international business in existing and additional vertical markets.
As Prof. Gert Bikker, EXTESSY´s President states: "Our business plan is developing faster than expected. Actually we're in the situation, that numerous new clients out of the horizontal market contact us with their requirements and interests." As EXTESSY sees itself as "EXperts for TESt and SYstem development", their product range includes tools to develop, test and (co-)simulate the integration of multi-domain components.
EXTESSY feels that its uniqueness lies in the fact that it regards itself as partner to clients. "These partnerships are the key to our success. We are proud of this situation and are determined to strengthen this foundation with tools which save our customers time and money. We see our customers as a mirror reflecting both our quality and performance, while also providing impulses and new ideas, and accompanying us in a highly complex sector of industry," says a statement on the EXTESSY website.
"Our direct and indirect engineering partners strengthen the potential of EXTESSY AG. As an independent company we are in a position to subject the services offered to our customers to constant and impartial review and improvement. The consolidated expertise of our staff is the backbone of our progress – now and in the future. Our staff is our real asset in our relations with customers, and we regard it as an obligation to maintain and develop this asset," continues the statement.
Its flagship tool is EXITE ACE which stands for EXtessy Inter Tool Exchange, Advanced Component Engineering. ACE is a platform for the virtual integration of technical functions and software components. The efficiency gains of co-simulation enabled by ACE are analogous to virtual CAD assemblies. It supports the AUTOSAR standard and brings together the simulations and functions that bring to life a car’s embedded software and technical component dynamics.
Beside the logical and mathematical models to integrate the components into the functional mock-up, ACE facilitates simulation all along the system development process, incorporating high-level mathematical models as well as embedded micro-controllers.
A major strength of EXITE ACE is its integration philosophy, i.e. to enable the integration of standard COTS tools used by industrial customers. It is an open platform that enables use of its functionality with any simulation tool – introduced by using the open interfaces of the ACE platform.
EXTESSY's other products such as EXERPT (EXtessy Engineering Requirements exchange PlaTform) and EXACT (EXtessy Automated Conformance Test), are also aimed at its automotive clients and other developers of embedded systems. EXACT, in fact, was developed in collaboration with Audi Electronics Venture GmbH.
Automotive Industries spoke to Bikker, and asked him about EXTESSY's latest software tools that are aimed at embedded design technology.
Bikker: The greatest need in embedded systems is integration. EXTESSY gives efficient solutions with its portfolio of integration tools and services, to support processes and methods. As an agile, customer-oriented solution provider EXTESSY is continuing its developments in joint working-groups with the OEM’s. This proximity ensures to-the-point solutions. Our software tools are closely developed with the lead customers. The development and deployment of EXITE ACE is an example of how we can help our customers achieve their efficiency goals.
AI: Taking that example, what are some of the technological breakthroughs we can expect from your association with these automotive companies?
Bikker: EXITE ACE offers a Virtual Function Bus (VFB) which allows X-in-the-Loop (XiL) systems development. That means developers can integrate models, hardware, processors and software (MiL, HiL, PiL, SiL) in any combination, at any stage in the development process. This allows OEM’s and suppliers to better manage the complex integration of, e.g. the entire vehicle’s systems, or new concepts like hybrid power trains. The developers work with the tools they are accustomed to – UML, CASE, CAE and test tools – in the EXITE ACE environment. The components they develop can be integrated, tested and validated at various stages in the development process.
AI: That sounds like a tool which can help those with more advanced embedded systems development tools and methods. Does that limit the number of potential customers?
Bikker: The flexibility of the XiL approach allows essentially every developer the chance to increase their efficiency. More advanced modelers can integrate in MiL. Those same developers, or others modeling less, can integrate generated and/or manually written code and/or their hardware. They can use AUTOSAR standards, or not. They have interfaces to LIN, CAN, MOST, Flexray and HiL stations. They can co-simulate in real time. Any combination, any time.
Bringing a process change to a development organization is a great challenge. EXITE ACE does not force a revolutionary change, it facilitates an evolution, allowing developers to successively integrate and co-simulate more, at their pace. When you are ready to move to a higher level of modeling or integration, EXITE ACE is ready to move with you.
AI: Embedded system developers must realize efficiency gains with a tool like this. Can you quantify a potential return?
Bikker: The ability to verify and validate systems at earlier development stages brings tangible results – time and cost savings, as well as better quality. A 2007 analysis by one of our automotive OEM customers and a leading IT services firm, as well as our own analyses, show savings potential for an OEM of $20 million to $150 million per vehicle development project, over the lifecycle of a vehicle, by deploying ACE in product development. With several development projects per year, an OEM can save on the order of $250 million per year. And ACE is already being used in series development projects at OEM’s, so some are on their way to realizing this potential, today.
AI: You talk about deploying ACE. What does that involve, and how does EXTESSY help?
Bikker: Transitioning to any new tool entails a learning process. There are analogies – over the past 25 years, we have all learned to work with word processing software. Someone beginning to work with, e.g. MS Word, today, will not have immediate mastery of all that tool’s features. That may not provide justification for not using such a tool, or one of ours.
We provide, and recommend, services around our product. We train users and provide application engineering at the client site. Of course the tool comes with a thorough user’s manual and all of our customers enjoy our multi-level phone/e-mail/on-site support.
One of EXTESSY´s key features is being close to the customers. Our understanding of partner management is the right way to integrate customers’ processes and methods with various software solutions into a successful package. We see ourselves as the Integration Company.