Core concept

European partners aim to streamline collaborative large-system developments

Long ago, when industries relied on hardware of the wood and metal variety to build development models, collaboration among organizations was limited. Business leaders and research bodies could share information, but logistics often stood in the way of real cooperation. In recent years, the Internet and advanced computing have brought down most of the logistical barriers. But as engineering systems grew in complexity, and collaborations spanned continents, new barriers have appeared.

The SPRINT consortium has brought together industry leaders and research partners in the European Union to address such challenges. The consortium, led by EADS Innovation Works UK includes Wolfram MathCore AB from Sweden, IBM Research - Haifa, Elvior OU from Estonia, ALES S.r.l. from Italy, Fraunhofer FOKUS from Germany and Israel Aerospace Industries, is using a multi-disciplinary approach to build an Internet-based system-engineering platform known as SPRINT.

SPRINT is short for Software PlatfoRm for Integration of eNgineering and Things. Participants expect the platform to reduce collaborative development time for complex, internationally-diverse systems by 30% and to cut the total overhead costs by half.

Today's collaborations

Collaboration is meant to lead to better developments. Different groups bring different talents, especially when those groups span the globe. Yet as systems become more complex, engineering departments work independently of one another and then spend a lot of time trying to understand who did what. Add to the mix logistical issues such as language and time zones, and all of these differences can feel like a hindrance. The SPRINT project aims to restore the advantage to this diversity.

The SPRINT approach

The SPRINT project will establish the Foundation for an Internet of Systems Engineering, a network based on the interaction of three facets of the design process - the model elements, the cooperation of designers, and the physical components themselves. The platform will include new verification methods based on mathematical models and state-of-the-art specification languages of the system components.

SPRINT will support the entire development life-cycle - from design to assembly and field tests, alleviating the problem of late error discovery. This smart solution will automatically link information and make the data for all system artifacts accessible - without requiring extra work from the engineers. The new Internet platform will bridge the different companies' tools, which are sometimes proprietary, as well as their diverse development methodologies, presenting a single unified view of the system being developed. The consortium will use Jazz technology from Rational to create an integration layer that will link not only the tools, but the teams, the models, and the methods.

The platform will be tested on TowBot, a demonstration project of Israel Aerospace Industries, involving 12 design teams in 5 different locations, with 12 models and 50 devices. The TowBot is based on the TaxiBot product, which is a semi-robotic aircraft tow tractor. Its development would normally take two years. The SPRINT consortium expects to reduce this time by seven months.

The consortium's vision

Consortium partners envision a world in which laboratories are virtual and double work is a thing of the past. Efforts spent shipping prototypes and travelling to multi-team meetings will be put to better use, resulting in systems designed and tested in less time and for less money.