Issue: Sep 2008

Real time electronic simulations - CPU Tech

by Lenny Case

Engineers can now perform real-time, complete vehicle electronic simulations, using a high performance validation tool suite that helps developers of complex systems such as vehicles, airplanes, ships, and satellites, model entire platforms and execute actual software at real time speeds. 

According to the developers, California-based CPU Tech, the SystemLab PS program also offers visibility into every wire, memory, processor and line of software, resulting in dramatically reduced time to market.

CPU Tech develops and supplies high performance system-on-a-chip or SoC-based computing solutions. Its Acalis family of SoCs was developed with IBM and offers a unique combination of performance, configurability and scalability. The architecture and performance of Acalis, along with the mature simulation technology of SystemLab design and validation software have been combined to create the SystemLab PS. 

The SystemLab PS opens the door to complete vehicle electronics simulation at real time speeds. The visibility and control comes from CPU Tech’s patented Real-Time Non-intrusive Interface (RTNI) which lets engineers see inside the cores of the SoCs. The SystemLab PS product line includes hardware, enterprise software, model development, custom library elements, training and support.

“The SystemLab PS alters the world of electronic system design and integration in the same way that X-Ray imaging radically changed the practice of medicine. For the first time, engineers can see inside the electronics of an entire platform during actual real-time software execution,” says Ed King, CEO of CPU Tech.

SystemLab PS is a result of 15 years of work and dedication to solve, in part, CPU Tech’s own design challenges. The company has been architecting and designing complex systems for many years and has experienced the same challenges as its customers. The SystemLab software development began early and quickly proved itself as a multi-phase design environment. CPU Tech’s own engineers used it to perform high performance gate-level, schematic-level and system-level design entry and simulation. In 1993 they simulated a PC at the gate level, booting Windows.
Earlier this year, CPU Tech took part in the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Winter Symposium held between the 27th and 29th of February where it showcased the simulation of large scale, combat vehicle electronics with SystemLab PS. They demonstrated 15 of the Bradley Combat System ECUs running actual software in real-time with extraordinary visibility inside every system and processor.
"SystemLab PS can significantly accelerate the time to field for vehicle electronic systems. It allows our customers to simulate and validate all of the electronics of a large scale platform in real-time, including hardware and software, prior to any hardware integration. Because the high fidelity models run at real time speeds, we have been able to successfully interoperate the SystemLab PS with our customer's System Integration Lab," says Alan Smith, Chief Technical Officer at CPU Tech.
CPU Tech was founded in 1989 with its headquarters in California and business development offices in Reston, Virginia. The company, which is privately held, sells its products to the defense, automotive, aerospace, industrial controls, finance and high-end computing sectors.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Ed King how the SystemLab PS real-time simulation platform had been received.

King: We are excited about the reaction of BAE Systems, our first adopter of the SystemLab PS technology. They are using it to model the electronics of the Bradley Combat System. In doing so, they see tremendous value in the visibility it brings to their integration of new technology for the platform. They also see a way to ensure that any changes to one part of the Bradley electronics will not adversely affect the rest of it.

Other large-scale platform companies are also interested in applying the high fidelity, real-time performance of the simulation to their challenges. For some companies, SystemLab PS addresses software validation, hardware development or even life cycle management challenges. For others companies, it provides a working specification of what needs to be delivered by their suppliers, even to the point that SystemLab PS can validate the hardware functionality before it is delivered or integrated.

AI: What makes SystemLab PS different from the other simulation solutions?

The primary difference is performance and fidelity. Existing simulation solutions can simulate electronic systems, but they do it very slowly and only on small systems such as chips or boards. Other companies say they do it more quickly at high levels of abstraction, but rarely come close to real time speeds.

Automotive engineers have been simulating many aspects of the vehicle, from the suspension, to steering, to visual appearance and aerodynamics, just to name a few. However, the simulation of electronics has been lagging these areas with these older solutions. SystemLab PS not only allows you to simulate the electronics of the entire vehicle at real-time speeds, but its high fidelity lets you run the actual system code - operating systems, applications, diagnostics and test code - with visibility into every wire, every memory, every register and every line of code.

Because SystemLab PS runs at real-time speeds, it can interoperate with actual hardware, other simulation environments or test equipment. This opens the door to the virtual electronics working with the rest of the virtual automotive world. We know this because we have had the virtual Bradley interoperate with the BAE system integration lab (SIL).

SystemLab PS allows engineers to finally complete the concept of a real-time virtual vehicle.

AI: Have there been any takers in the automotive sector and if so, how have they implemented the solution?

We announced the SystemLab PS in May of last year and we introduced ourselves to the automotive sector at the recent SAE World Congress. We saw tremendous interest from many manufacturers and suppliers. Prior to the SAE show, we had some initial discussions with one of the leading automotive manufacturers with follow on discussion at the show. We believe that the interest and discussions we have had show great promise for our success in the automotive industry.

AI: How would you like to see CPU Tech’s automotive personality develop and what is your future vision for the auto sector?

We believe that the automobile sector is in a mode of rapid change. More and more technology in the vehicles is putting more and more stress on the schedule of delivering this technology. The traditional way of specifying the design, waiting for it to be built, and then integrating these various systems with hopes of making it work over the next several months or years is no longer viable. By providing a way to accurately model and specify the electronics of an entire vehicle and allowing the software to be developed and validated prior to any hardware development, we believe this is a very big step in the right direction.

AI: How big is CPU Tech and are you profitable?

CPU Tech is a profitable small sized company. It was founded in 1989 with an average of 20% annual growth since then. We provide technology, tools and services to customers who design and integrate complex systems while partnering with IBM for the secure and trusted fabrication of our custom System-On-Chip (SoC) devices. Our customers include IBM, AMD, TI, NCR, BAE Systems, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, U.S. Navy and many others, and we hope to announce several automotive industry clients later this year. The company was entirely self-financed until the Carlyle Group made its 25% investment. With several of our systems in production, several modeling contracts for our SystemLab PS, and the second generation of our Acalis family of Field Programmable Multi-Core (FPMC) chips this year, the future looks good.

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