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It's all about 'Getting to Smart': Sameer Prabhu

Posted: 14 Jan 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Model-Based Design  embedded system development  processors  IP  Nano 

While engineers and scientists strive for 'Smart', they are often unsure how to achieve smart outcomes. In his talk 'Getting to Smart', Sameer Prabhu, director-industry marketing, MathWorks, talks to Arti Singh of EE Times-India, about how MathWorks' Technical Computing and Model-Based Design solutions help organisations and universities achieve desired outcomes that too in smarter ways.

 MathWorks' Sameer Prabhu

Prabhu: India for Mathworks is way ahead than some of the mature markets where technology is being used in heavy scale.

EE Times-India: What is "Getting to Smart" all about?

Prabhu: Smartphones, smart appliances, smart cars, and smart grids...there is lot of smart out there. And, in order to make smart meaningful, what we really need to do is get into some of the specifics of how exactly one goes about implementing smart so that one derives the benefits of smart. 'Getting to Smart', then is all about how one derives the benefits of smart in the context of their own applications, their own organisation, and so on.

As an example, it is a complicated task to design, develop and build systems. Rather than building all the parts and components, putting them together and then using a trial and error approach, to make it work one can take a systematic approach using models. The first step is to build simulation models of the systems and once it works in simulation, you can then go ahead and build the system and reuse the model and various artifacts to test the system. That's a smart way to develop a system.

EE Times-India: What are the trends and challenges in embedded system development?

Prabhu: One of the trends that we see out there is that the number of embedded processors is increasing at a very fast rate. In 2012, it is estimated that 12 billion embedded devices were shipped. We are all familiar with how the number of laptops, desktops, servers etc. is exploding. The number of processors that are on a laptop or a desktop or a server, represent only 2 per cent of the 12 billion embedded processors. That's how big the embedded processor revolution is.

As embedded processors are getting into all areas of life, the traditional way of developing the software that goes into the embedded processors is not keeping up with growing needs and complexities. In a traditional systems development process, the starting point usually is a paper document which captures the requirements. Engineers then design the different mechanical, electrical, software algorithms, and other components involved in that system. Typically these are designed by different groups and are tested in isolation, and the only time these components are tested together is when the hardware components get built and the system performance gets compared against the requirements captured at the beginning of the development process. Errors discovered at this stage are costlier to fix since it requires the hardware to be modified and further, the overall performance of the system is not optimised since design trade-offs cannot be made across the mechanical, electrical, and other components involved. Finally, the various hardware iterations lengthen the overall development process which results in products being shipped late with poor quality and increased costs. These are some of the challenges involved.

EE Times-India: Brief us about Model-Based Design?

Prabhu: With Model-Based Design, engineers create and use models in the early design stages instead of relying on paper specifications. The models serve as executable specifications of the system that enable engineers to validate and verify specifications against requirements early in the process. Engineers also use the models to communicate specifications in an unambiguous manner with their colleagues who may be working just down the hall or at another company across the globe. Further, these multi-domain models allow the machine designer to evaluate the complex interactions between mechanics, hydraulics, electronics, and other physical phenomena. Designers can perform rapid design iterations to make system level trade-offs between various design parameters and optimise overall system performance. This enables engineers to try innovative ideas and concepts for improving system performance without the significant investment in time and resources that hardware-focused development processes require. When the models are instrumented and linked to requirements, simulation results can be used to formally verify system behaviour against documented requirements. By enabling rapid evaluation of innovative concepts and designs, Model-Based Design helps teams find and fix errors early in the process, when the cost and effort needed to fix them is lowest.

Once the engineers have verified and validated the model specification, they can implement the design by automatically generating code in a range of languages including C, C++, HDL, or Structured Text for PLC implementation. The use of models makes it easy to separate the data and implementation attributes from the core algorithms. This is particularly helpful, when the implementation target changes. For an example, when switching from an embedded processor to a PLC, the software code can be quickly regenerated from the same model using the appropriate data and implementation attributes for the PLC.

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