Ansys Has Its Eye on RTI Connext

New partnership will bring Ansys tools under RTI Distribution Services.

In early 2023, Ansys and Real Time Innovations (RTI) announced a partnership to integrate a few of the companies’ software tools for simulation engineers. RTI Connext and the Ansys SCADE Suite are the products specifically mentioned in the press release. Both of these tools are built to “[accelerate] the development, testing and deployment of high-performance and high-reliability distributed systems by allowing them to be simulated without their underlying hardware, which may have limited availability or be cost prohibitive.”

RTI Connext Drive helps vehicles manage data from several sources. (Image courtesy of RTI.)

RTI Connext Drive helps vehicles manage data from several sources. (Image courtesy of RTI.)

This is one of the themes of simulation that we see pop up more often these days: creating better simulation data earlier in the development process so that fewer physical prototypes are needed. Data movement, processing, communication and presentation are all becoming more important as simulation becomes a bigger part of engineering and data sets grow larger.

To me this announcement is based in the realm of autonomous vehicles, but the press release also talks about other applications, including medical robots, defense systems and deterministic AI platforms in avionics.

Ansys has a history of making smart partnership and acquisition moves with its fellow simulation companies. This is usually due to the other company offering features or capabilities that Ansys does not currently have, but occasionally the collaboration can go beyond the tools. What about with RTI?

What Does RTI Have That Ansys Might Want?

RTI was founded in 1991 by Stanford robotics engineers. The Sunnyvale, California software framework company now employs over one hundred and fifty development, research and field engineers, but its footprint on the simulation world feels like that of a much larger organization.

Connext is the flagship product for RTI, and it is more of a tool for data harmonization and integration than it is a tool for performing simulations. Connext takes intelligent distributed systems and provides a way for these systems to share data and make better data presentations for its users. This is all built around the Data Distribution Service (DDS) standard that “enables secure real-time information exchange, modular application development and rapid integration in industrial IoT systems.”

The DDS standard is controlled by the Object Management Group (OMG), an open international middleware standard that addresses publish-subscribe communications for real-time and embedded systems. In simplified terms, this standard is a framework for how applications can share information with each other. RTI says that its products are compliant OMG DDS standard.

Ansys’ SCADE Suite, on the other hand, is a model-based development environment for embedded systems. In the development process, decisions about how systems connect to each other can be made earlier in the cycle and then validated virtually and sometimes in parallel to physical validation work. In the production of autonomous vehicles, connected aircraft and smart factories the tool can intake and process data sets from multiple sources, including both real and virtual assets to help users make smart systems engineering decisions. It can also be used to generate certified code to run on the real-world assets that the SCADE model represents.

What Can Ansys Do for RTI?

This isn’t a case of Ansys finding a partner company and absorbing it into the Ansys machine. For a company that touts 150 engineers on its staff, it is larger than it seems. Beyond this partnership with Ansys, RTI already has a long list of collaborations that includes Simulink, Labview, Wireshark and Weather Gage. As far back as 2016, we talked about the capabilities of RTI in its partnership with Mentor Graphics. The nature of the Connext platform means that its utility doesn’t require large amounts of simulation data and any data from IoT applications can benefit from this intelligent ordering.

The question of why any simulation, AI or data company would want to work with Ansys is easy: it’s Ansys, it’s massive and it sits as one of the leaders in the current simulation landscape. Ansys has specific tools that simulate almost every type of engineering application that you can imagine, and the opportunity to pull data from those applications and gain new understanding of a system is huge. Autonomous vehicles look to be the largest beneficiary of this new venture. Data sets can now be pulled from vision systems on the vehicle, weather patterns from current and future environments, traffic data and vehicle information systems. For RTI, the partnership means access to SCADE as well as access to a wide array of Ansys tools that can create new data sets and possible applications.

Just like we couldn’t have guessed ten years ago how all of our products today are connected and smart, we can’t understand all the ways that autonomous vehicles might connect with their environments in the next decade. A vehicle system might do predictive datasets on when a vehicle needs fuel or service, and then send that data a grid. Taking this internal vehicle data and integrating it with the external data from the environment will require a strong degree of data management. And this is what RTI and Ansys partnership aims to tackle.

Another benefit of this partnership, and of both companies working so tightly with the Indy Autonomous Challenge, might be access to the next generation of engineers. Since I graduated college way back in 1995, there’s been a consistent rumbling that the baby boomers would soon be retiring, and the collective experience of engineering and manufacturing engineers would be lost for good. I’ve heard engineers at the owner and hiring levels of companies repeat this sentiment multiple times per decade. It never felt to me like all that many engineers were retiring versus being hired, but companies are hiring engineers now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 140,000 new engineering jobs will be created between 2016 and 2026. And the Indy Autonomous Challenge, with the help of Ansys and RTI, is bringing a collection of the finest collegiate autonomous minds right to the companies.

For me, one of the biggest goals of simulation is gaining insight into the design early in the design process. Knowing how a product or process works upstream saves money and time on tooling, prototypes and changes. Now that wider system engineering problems like the adoption of autonomous vehicles are here, engineers will need to be smarter about how data is handled. Ansys and RTI partnering to bring Connext and SCADE together will benefit both companies and their customers.