Product Review from our participation : solidThinking CAE conference : Compose, Activate and Embed
Technical Folks from Tenet Technetronics attended the recently held solidThinking Model based design for embedded systems conference held at Bangalore. solidThinking from what we understood serves like a brand under which Altair Engineering markets some new tools that Altair brings to the market but that is not the main aspect in any case of this post so i leave it for the readers to figure that out.
The session was headed by Peter Darnell a very senior person and also happens to be orignial authors of the tools that were being presented during the session. Amazing was that he was part of standardizing the “C” Language !! As against general sessions the speaker turned up on a very simple jean and a shirt was very different that other conferences (jokes apart) . The session started with the keynote, one thing to note was the session was totally general did not talk about any selling of tools or endorsement for his tool , was fair given the experience he had and also against competing tools. Session walked through why model based design, reduced development time , Hardware testing on the go on microcontroller..etc were the good parts.A good example of a airplane was analyzed and shown and was surprising that with so much in technology these days still we are not so guarded.
Bad parts were the session spent some time trying to showcase a real world project that involved a very complex problem but was not sure what was the message. They had a mechanical engineer do some big stuff within 4 days and was under NDA not to talk more in detail so was totally not a good use case to present (again personal opinion here since it became too boring beyond a point) !!
There were 3 tools Compose, Activate and Embed. Compose seemed to be a good clone/competing tool built to compete with scilab/octave/python/perl/matlab , from the presentation looked like they had pulled it off well. The look and feel was modern and looked like they copied the best of the worlds and put them all in one container. Some key takeaways was that they marketed well in the sense that they have no toolboxes and were well priced…etc. The demos were very simple but conveyed the message. Nevertheless they lacked most of the important features like graphics programming, instrument toolbox ..etc they seemed to have some good features as well like more integrations in future, built in toolboxes and M compatible code, file parsing ..etc and above all a trial version that could be available for download to try and then buy !
Activate was the block based tool and looked like a good one but nevertheless the presenter spent very little time on showcasing as the time was less. Again the recipe was free toolboxes for specific applications using modelica and then some integration into existing popular tools. Not so relevant to what we do at Tenet so you can imagine so were not quite getting to see what was in the field. There was a circuit simulation that was showcased which looked relevant and looked promising from demos.
Then there was the session of VisSim/EMBED. The presentation showcased all steps to go from graphical blocks to embedded kits quickly. There was also a motor control demo very well explained where in they talked about controlling speed of a motor without using sensors for a motor (very new technology called Sensorless FOC) . The speaker showed a true realtime demo where he was pretty much logging data,controlling as well as getting feedback as and when the motor was in operation at very high sampling rates (looked cool) . This was something interesting that we could may be in future look at how signals flow within chips in embedded designs. I was thinking now we could even learn how sensor data is coming in real time before even getting into too much of writing code ..etc. Unfortunately the whole session was totally based on Texas instruments demo. EMBED does not seem to have support for arduino,raspberry pi or arm tools. It was totally TI and good part is that it could target a Launchpad that we sell online.
Nevertheless they do not have a evaluation license that you could use for hobby but they said anyone could get a trial for 15 days for the full version. We also had a chance to interact with Peter and looked like they would investigate the hobbyists and DIY communities (I hope they do ). Here is a video i found almost relevant to what they showcased during the session.
As a conclusion a time well spent, learnt a new tool that seems to be promising (against dominant/very expensive tools) but having said that nothing for the hobbyist community right now (a little sad) ! A broader message was also that MBD is very beneficial not only to big problems like aerospace/automotive but is slowly coming onto every other areas like motor control/heating systems/home aut which seemed to be the reflection of trend.
As always we have seen this in past and Tenet Technetronics has been able to get some tools to consider hobbyists we hope to see how to get one for all these tools as well. We have also started to see if we could do a hackathon/workshop for MBD from our varisty and please look at all upcoming workshops at the Tenet Technetronics main webpage as well.
I hope the tool vendors take these reviews positively and rather not take us wrong for the capture of feedback (:) !!