Virtually Simulating IoT Scenarios
Alexander Blickle is client executive of the division Construction, City & Territory (CC&T) at Dassault Systèmes. In his interview with Gerhard Auer, he explains how virtual 3-D simulations help in the planning of IoT scenarios and why Dassault Systèmes and Detecon are a good match as cooperation partners.
Question: In the IoT age, networks comprising information and partners will become very important. What is the view of Dassault Systèmes, and what is it doing to become a part of these new ecosystems?
Alexander Blickle: IoT will not realize its full potential until ecosystems are actually expanded to be cross-industry. Smart cities, for instance, cannot function without collaboration across corporate boundaries. We regard the merger of various technologies, data streams, and information flows to be highly necessary. We want to utilize the most realistic 3-D visualization and simulation possible to help everyone involved to gain better understanding and new insights into innovative scenarios. Our 3DEXPERIENCE platform (3DX) offers a cloud-based common data environment that integrates different data models at the granularity levels required in each case. This opens the door to the common use of geometric data, for instance, so that the design and development of equipment, buildings, or vehicles can be driven forward in close collaboration. It is equally possible to analyze real-time data from machines in a production line or movement and traffic streams in a smart city, generating important data needed for urban planning.
What more extensive simulation scenarios are possible?
Blickle: The use of geometric or physical data along with all-inclusive data models steered by parameters makes a tremendous number of 3-D simulations possible; even fluid simulations for gases and liquids are possible. In the 5G environment, electromagnetic radiation simulations are very important. During the reachability analysis for autonomous driving, for example, the transfer points between cells and the resulting latencies must be examined. But it is also important to simulate whether the data transport runs just as fast if suddenly hundreds of people are standing alongside a road. Or another example: In road or underground construction, digitalized construction machines can be steered in real time with 3-D and process data so that they return a digital twin with all as-built process data from roads or railways. And what impact do certain groundwater conditions have on a substratum and its load-bearing capacity beyond the planning, construction, and utilization period? Ultimately, the result is a holistic, virtual 3-D simulation environment that takes into account all aspects across all boundaries of industry, company and project. It is possible to imagine that the chassis and flow simulations for a railroad vehicle are carried out in a virtual tunnel planned using building experience modeling (BEM).
Why are all-inclusive data models in particular so important?
Blickle: Because different users require different perspectives. This requires a transformation of existing, generally heterogeneous data records, perhaps enriched by the integration of freely available external data records such as weather data, into a uniform metadata format with a dedicated data language. This is what makes it possible for me to combine entire streams of geometry data, process information, product information, and material data with one another, not just individual files, into holistic data models, many of which must be newly developed. Even when the objects are the same, the specific motives and required information can differ. From the viewpoint of a calculator, it is important to know how much wall and floor space a building requires while the hygrothermal engineer needs other details such as material properties and their moisture behavior. Similarly, a designer needs a different perspective than a production engineer or a facility manager who is planning spare part maintenance. A mobile network planner must have yet other data such as shielding and the flows of people and goods. If all these people can access complete data streams, the identification of relationships becomes far more feasible. Such as why certain sensors that have already been installed fail especially frequently when there are certain influencing factors such as unusual weather conditions.
Everyone is currently talking about the digitalization concept of the digital twin. What potential and challenges do you see here?
Blickle: Digital twins should virtually simulate reality as completely as possible. To achieve this, they must consider an enormous range of completely different influencing factors on the basis of collected data and on this basis simulate possible changes, ideally over the entire lifecycle of a product. Our 3DX platform offers an excellent foundation for precisely this task. The aim is to test certain properties virtually in advance without first having to spend a lot of effort to build and test them in reality. In the future, this will lead above all to efficiency gains in many areas, but it will also be possible to come up with innovative products such as modular and standardized production. As far as challenges are concerned: Operationally, it will certainly be a complex task to integrate various digital twins with their differing perspectives at the cloud level. But that will be unavoidable for projects of a larger scale.
You and Jörg Borowski (Detecon Partner and expert for 5G networks) gave a joint presentation at the Hanover Trade Fair 2019 (VIDEO here) describing how digital twins, building experience modeling/management, and 5G campus networks interact. What do you regard to be distinctive about the cooperation between Detecon and Dassault Systèmes?
Blickle: Well, both are specialists for technology concepts that drive digitalization forward. I would say we are an outstanding match because Detecon has great expertise in 5G and campus networks, but also because it can contribute plenty of competence for architecture management of ecosystems; Uwe Weber, Head of the Detecon IIoT Center, comes to mind as one of the top figures. Dassault Systèmes for its part is an expert for building experience modeling. Many of the simulations described above relating to smart cities, i.e., cities, streets, buildings, and campus networks, generate an even higher potential for completely new application worlds through real-time analyses and low latency times. Detecon is able to interconnect and orchestrate the necessary IoT devices and sensors with all their communications requirements in outstanding fashion so that faultless prerequisites for optimized flows of goods or modular island productions are laid. As we demonstrated at the HMI, it is rather obvious that Dassault Systèmes can provide effective support through 3-D simulations during the planning of high-performance mobile networks such as for the placement and alignment of antennas. On this basis, experts and users can optimally plan their networks even for mobile, autonomous use scenarios and the greatest variations in building and infrastructure topographies, orchestrated on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
So simulations based on visualization promise outstanding benefits in many areas. What do many corporate customers still lack, and what do you recommend for them?
Blickle: Naturally, the selected technologies and systems are always important aspects requiring carefully weighed decisions. Quite often, however, the substantial changes in culture, processes, and organizational structures are ignored. When many different systems that currently run separately from one another are brought together on one common (real-time) platform, this must also be reflected in the communications behavior of everyone involved. Moreover, devices make access around the clock possible. There is absolutely no doubt that many digital innovations are essential for the existence of companies. Still, there are always the questions of whether it is really necessary to carry every employee along and to what extent some units as well as systems should deliberately be excluded.