Published 30 October 2013
Updated 26 February 2015

Modern equipment (cars, airplanes, wafer steppers, automatic baggage handling) is nowadays highly computerized. While designing these, one needs deep knowledge of computer programming and how the machine itself behaves, i.e. the physical behaviour. These two sources of knowledge are quite different, and it is not easy to bring them together. This is a big obstacle in development of trustworthy systems.

The DESTECS project (funded by the European Commission FP7-ICT Programme in the domain of Embedded Systems design) has developed design methods and tools to bring together these two different kinds of engineering. Mono-disciplinary models are coupled such that they can be analysed early in design, both independently and coupled, using co-simulation. The advantage of this approach is that designers keep the full arsenal of domain-specific analysis capabilities at their disposal but in addition, they now have the capability to communicate the impact of their design choices in a very convenient way to their peers in another engineering domain, typically using advanced visualisation. The movie we have prepared as an introduction to the project, can give a hand to understand what’s behind it.

The embedding of these tools in an industrial environment is an important aspect of DESTECS. A handbook has been produced to place DESTECS into typical industrial design approaches, providing concrete examples and recommendations how these tools and techniques can best be used. Especially, on inspecting fault resilience (a focal point of DESTECS), and on quickly exploring design possibilities via semi-automated experimenting.

The DESTECS tools and methodology were developed by continuous interaction between the academic (University of Twente, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Aarhus University) and industrial partners (CHESS Embedded Technology International (ETI), CHESS Information Technology International B.V , Controllab Products B.V. , Neopost Technologies B.V., Verhaert New Products and Services NV) in the project. The industrial partners developed industrial-sized case studies (personal transporter, dredging excavator, high-speed envelope filling system) to both test the methods and tools and to formulate precise requirements. Analysis of fault resilience was the prime focus point for all these case studies. DESTECS results were also tested on three challenging case studies from the DESTECS Industrial Follow Group, being large companies, critically following the DESTECS project.

These case studies have shown that co-simulation is a valuable and powerful tool to support multi-disciplinary design, starting right from the initial (conceptual) stages of product development. Models produced are both abstract and competent, giving the ability to play “what-if” scenarios at relatively low cost. Insight gained by these experiments raises confidence in the models quickly, because design decisions are continuously validated. Implicit choices and hidden assumptions are exposed, which replaces “gut feeling” by credible, objective and quantitative information that now can be assessed by all designers involved.

The project has also demonstrated that significant productivity improvements are feasible by adopting the DESTECS approach. The DESTECS tool and methodology in industrial-driven real-case scenarios proved that they are capable for addressing existing needs in the market. In particular, the ability of the approach developed in DESTECS project to investigate failures and to do system verification in the early stages of design, can significantly reduce the test and integration effort of a product that is currently under development, even before first hardware is available. This results to reduced costs during the product cycle and less time to market, providing a competitive advantage to the European high-tech companies. This typically gives direction, depth and momentum to the design effort because the potential of certain designs and the likelihood and impact of potential risks can be determined very fast and without large upfront investments.

I invite you to visit the DESTECS website, where you can watch explanatory  movies and download DESTECS tools.