The Italian software firm INTECS S.p.A has positioned itself as an AUTOSAR-facilitator for automotive companies. The company’s focus on the automotive market includes the design and validation of embedded applications for all major car electronics functions from infotainment to safety-critical applications. The software components that INTECS develops, are designed according to the requirements of its automotive customers. Since 1974 Intecs designs and develops advanced electronic systems for defense, avionics, space, railway and of course, the automotive markets.
The privately held company employs around 400 professionals – more than 80 per cent are engineering, computer science and other technical graduates. In 1994, INTECS became one of the first Italian software firm to be awarded the ISO-9001 certification. In 2005, its defense division was awarded CMM® (Capability Maturity Model®) Maturity Level 3, awarded by the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI).
The Rome-headquartered company prides itself on having operated at the forefront of the software industry for over three decades. It has pitched itself as a company that assures customers of safety, reliability, innovation and quality. For the automotive sector, INTECS has been consolidating its experience in the development and third-party validation of body computers, dashboards, engine control equipment, alarm systems and electronic braking systems. The company’s automotive services and products are compliant with international standards such as AutomotiveSPICE and AUTOSAR, and of course, customer-specific requirements.
AutomotiveSPICE launched an inititative to work with major auto manufacturers to develop a common framework for the assessment of suppliers in the automotive industry. The result was the Automotive SPICE(TM) Process Assessment Model. AUTOSAR is a partnership of automotive OEMs, suppliers and tool vendors whose objective is to create and establish open standards for automotive E/E architectures that will provide a basic infrastructure for all application domains. This includes the standardization of basic systems functions, scalability to different vehicle and platform variants, transferability throughout the network, integration from multiple suppliers, maintainability throughout the entire product lifecycle and software updates and upgrades over the vehicles lifetime as some of the key goals.
“The automotive industry is dramatically changing and it is no more the sole kingdom of mechanical engineers – 50 per cent of breakdowns and 70 per cent of differentiating features are coming from software. New process (AutomotiveSPICE) and product (AUTOSAR) standards are changing the rules of the game to OEMs and Suppliers. INTECS is watching closely all trends and focusing its offer on ECU SW Development, ECU Validation and Process & Safety Consulting,” says the company.
INTECS delivers its services to many auto OEMS and Tier1 suppliers. Some of its excellencies for the automotive industry include its mastering of real-time operating systems throughout all major platforms: VxWorks®, QNX®, Linux Real Time, Windows CE® just to mention a few. INTECS has also entirely developed MicrOsek, a hard real-time and networked operating system, running critical railway and space applications as well as automotive components. INTECS services move then up to Basic Software and Driver development till Application development using both traditional (C, C++, Java, etc.) and model-based technologies (Simulink®, Stateflow®, Real-Time Workshop®; TargetLink®, etc.). INTECS multi-markets presence allows the company wide and early access to cross-markets technologies like CAN, LIN, MOST, FlexRay, Bluetooth, WiFi/WiMax, UMTS/LTE, GPS and Cartography. INTECS products include also SOFTREC, a Galileo-based positioning system developed with advanced Software Defined Radio technology, and OBLUE, a SIG-certified Bluetooth stack.
The company also capitalizes on its unique embedded systems know-how to provide consultancy services and process improvement support to its customers. This includes CMMI process improvement, SPICE and Automotive SPICE process improvement, integrated safety processes, quality management, configuration management, software engineering concepts and tools and component and system assessment.
INTECS says that one of its major strengths is its competence in software engineering.
INTECS has expertise related to the definition of methods and tools for critical software system development and validation processes, such as object-oriented and hard real-time domain design and test. INTECS participates to the ECSS E40 & Q80 Working Group, and in particular is contributing to the ECSS E40-01 guidelines for Flight Software Engineering.
The HRT-UML development methodology, for example, was developed by INTECS and its support toolset, based on UML profiling, is aimed at providing a comprehensive solution to the modeling of hard real-time and dependable systems. It defines a customized version of UML to apply and improve the HRT-HOOD methodology, supported by the European Space Agency. HRT-UML allows static scheduling analysis of the system and also caters for automated generation of consistent code. It integrates design activities with formal verification of system behavioural properties by model-checking, modeling of dependability aspects and quantitative assessment of system dependability attributes. Plus it offers automatic translation from the design to the mathematical models and analysis tools like the SPIN model-checker and the Mobius behaviour modeling tool. HRT-UML’s analysis and co-simulation features care also for the development of systems with control aspects, by integrating major lifecycle activities such as functional control design (eg Simulink®), with software/hardware architecture design and validation.
Automotive Industries spoke to Massimo Mannori, director – strategy and operations, at INTECS S.p.A.
AI: Who are some of your automotive clients and what kind of work have you done for them?
We work for all major Italian OEMs and Tier1 suppliers and we are discussing potential projects with some of the most innovative players in Europe. Unfortunately we always deal with IP-sensitive issues and our job needs to be performed behind the scenes. We certainly can tell that we are supporting our automotive clients throughout the whole software and system lifecycle, both on Applications and on Basic Software. However our flexibility allows us to intervene just on one phase either it be design, implementation, integration, verification or validation, depending on our clients needs and maturity level. Our experts also help our clients in setting up innovative processes, coaching their people and working side by side to meet their shorter and shorter time-to-market goals.
AI: How much of your business comes from the automotive industry?
Our roots are in AeroSpace&Defence and Automotive is the last market we entered, however in the last 8 years it has been the fastest growing one and currently it accounts for more than 15% of our total business, with more ambitious goals for the near future. More importantly the quality of the activities you can carry out in this market has been increasing dramatically, moving from old-style implementation techniques to radical innovation. I know automotive industry very well since my management consulting years with The Boston Consulting Group in Detroit and Boston and I see now for the first time that the industry has put electronics at the top of its agenda. AUTOSAR is now a reality and it will soon deliver all its revolutionary power by deconstructing the automotive industry value chain, modifying incumbents strategies, creating new business models and space for new entrants, as much as Windows did to the Computer Industry.
AI: Please tell us a little about what role INTECS plays in the AUTOSAR initiative.
INTECS is heavily investing on AUTOSAR as a Premium Member. We are contributing to the consortium on our areas of excellence, defining standards and procedures on Conformance Test Specification, Debugging and Functional Safety.
The AUTOSAR deconstructed applications value chain will need clear “rules of the game” to be consistently applied in order to guarantee integrity across all car functions. Conformance Tests will check whether a Basic Software module or a Software Component implemented by a product supplier complies with relevant AUTOSAR specifications. Conformance Tests are functional tests and intend to show the correct functionality of test objects in terms of their public input/output behaviour in typical automotive applications. INTECS is investing to become an important player in AUTOSAR Conformance testing tools and methods.
The AUTOSAR decentralized architecture will be more flexible and efficient but also harder to debug. INTECS is contributing to the definition of mechanisms to drive an analysis of the system if a problem has occurred or if the system doesn’t behave as expected. The focus is the definition of software modules able to collect and store significant data by which is possible to analyze the history of the system by using an external tool. INTECS objective is to become a focal point in AUTOSAR domain for developing debugging&diagnostic tools which can support technicians during development, production and post-production phases.
Last but not least INTECS is actively contributing to the finalisation and enhancement of the overall safety concept of AUTOSAR architecture by helping in developing guidelines on safety process and functional safety requirements and in mapping them on AUTOSAR components and terminology. INTECS will play the role it has been playing for decades in safety-critical domains like Avionics and Railway by directly coaching its clients or by conducting third-party safety assessments.
AI: Can you give us some examples of how your product development processes have changed to take into account the objectives of AUTOSAR?
We see that some of our clients are refocusing their strategy by investing heavily on the Basic Software side of the AUTOSAR equation while others are leveraging the power of focused Software Components applications. On the other hand all our clients are being forced into radically innovating their way of working by moving to state-of-the-art technologies or methodologies like model-based framework or formal testing or new diagnostics/communication protocols.
On our side we help our clients and also ourselves to define or overcome boundaries along the new deconstructed value chain in order to anticipate the threats and capture the new opportunities AUTOSAR will be bringing to the industry.
AI: How important has AutomotiveSPICE been to INTECS – how has INTECS helped in this initiative?
INTECS has been very active on ISO 15504, also known as SPICE – Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination, since its initial standardization efforts (1998). INTECS contributed to its tailoring to on-board space software, sponsored by ESA European Space Agency and known as Spice4Space (2002). This experience has been deployed to the benefit of the automotive industry through Automotive SPICE, officially launched in 2007 as the standard for automotive software.
Moreover INTECS co-founded in March 2007 the “Automotive SPIN Italia” (www.automotive-spin.it) Software Process Improvement Network (linked with the Automotive SPIN Germany) to foster awareness on automotive software quality and disseminate best software development and testing practices.
INTECS has led a number of software process improvement initiatives to raise the software maturity of a number of suppliers according to the Automotive SPICE requirements.
AI: What are some of the recent changes in the automotive electronics systems market?
In my opinion two are the major forces which are re-shaping this market: model-based and safety.
The model-based framework has been a reality for many years in Space and Avionics domain but is now widely adopted in Automotive. That is the only solution to meet the three-fold challenge: exploding software-intensive functions, shorter time-to-market and a globalized network of ECUs, Software Components and Suppliers. Model-based is also an opportunity for new entrants which, free from legacies on old-style implementation techniques, can rapidly start-up greenfield operations. However models and automatically generated code are items to be handled with extreme care and “collateral damage” is often under-estimated.
The other force at play is safety. Electronics have become so pervasive that cars are more like “computers on wheels”, as the Head of our Consulting Division, Paolo Panaroni, likes to say. But computers can be wrong and this is even worse when they have wheels. The industry is aware of that and it has been working on a new ISO standard (26262) on functional safety which should be made available as a Public Available Specifications (PAS) before summer 2008. The new standard will customize the generic standard IEC61508 to the automotive industry. Certainly safety analysis has always been accurately performed by OEMs and Tier1 suppliers on functions but the results of that analysis have not always had a direct and consistent impact on the software lifecycle. Well, the official introduction of ISO26262 in 2010 will certainly change that forever as much as happened with the introduction in the Railway domain of the Cenelec EN50129 family of standards.
AI: How has INTECS worked at meeting these new challenges?
INTECS has invested heavily in technology transfer and adaptation to automotive of its model-based expertise from Space and Avionics domains. This is because Automotive industry needs a deeper “industrialization” in order to reach more flexibility and faster “cycle-time”. Staged testing is key and we are bringing all our excellence in Verification&Validation either it be model-in-the-loop, software-in-the-loop or hardware-in-the-loop setting. We can add that we are also expanding our competence on more and more CASE tools in order to create a strong competitive advantage for us and for our clients.
On Safety we started years ago to move some of our best Railway and Avionics safety expert onto the automotive market in order to match and respond to its specific needs, technologies and terminology. They could effectively support our clients from day one. When Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 1 to 4 (61508 and Cenelec schemes) will be substituted by Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) A to D (26262 scheme) as the leit-motiv of the high-tech safety experts, INTECS will be ready to provide leading-edge services.
AI: What plans does INTECS have to break into markets outside Europe?
Our current target is to grow in INTECS natural playground which is Europe. We plan to do that by increasing the research project with innovative European players, funded by us or by European Union finalized programs like Artemis. Although we are looking with great interest also the new automotive players in India and China, which are extremely dynamic.