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Bob Leigh, Market Development for Autonomous Systems, Real-Time Innovations (RTI) – Interview Series

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Bob Leigh, is the Senior Market Development Director of Autonomous Systems at Real-Time Innovations (RTI).

RTI is the largest software framework provider for smart machines and real-world systems. The company’s RTI Connext® product enables intelligent architecture by sharing information in real time, making large applications work together as one.

With over 1,500 deployments, RTI software runs the largest power plants in North America, connects perception to control in vehicles, coordinates combat management on US Navy ships, drives a new generation of medical robotics, controls hyperloop and flying cars, and provides 24/7 medical intelligence for hospital patients and emergency victims.

Could you define what IIoT refers to, and which types of devices it is applicable to?

We define the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as a network of devices, machines and computers. These components are connected into highly intelligent systems that combine Industrial operations with advanced data analytics to transform business outcomes. Unlike connecting consumer devices, the IIoT involves large, complex, mission-critical systems. It is ushering in new infrastructure for the most critical societal systems such as the smart grid, public transportation, connected healthcare and autonomous vehicles.

With the IIoT, a standard hospital bed transforms into an intelligent, connected medical system that provides real-time patient data to medical providers, allowing them to draw insights and deliver a higher level of care. These systems must also scale to encompass many thousands or millions of interconnected points, distributed across many different networks and locations. The complexity of these systems and lack of connectivity is often a key obstacle for companies working in these markets. To address these challenges, RTI delivers the software framework that can be used to accelerate development, reduce risk and costs and deliver the resilience, security, performance and scalability necessary to build intelligent architecture, smart machines and real-world systems.

 

What was it that attracted you to working with IIoT?

I was drawn to work in the IIoT space because there is an opportunity to solve complex technology challenges and to facilitate innovation that will truly help people. From energy to healthcare, from automotive to defense, RTI’s technology enables the sharing of mission critical information in real time, making large applications work together as one. We’ve found that data-centric connectivity, like that provided by RTI, is critical to the success of these high performance, intelligent systems.

 

How would you describe what Real-Time Innovations (RTI) does in as few words as possible?

Real-Time Innovations (RTI) is the largest software framework provider for smart machines and real-world systems. The company’s RTI Connext® product enables intelligent architecture by sharing information in real time, making large applications work together as one, integrated system. The connecting intelligent, distributed systems that RTI powers help improve medical care, make our roads safer, improve energy use, and protect our freedom. With over 1,500 deployments, RTI software runs the largest power plants in North America, connects perception to control in vehicles, coordinates combat management on US Navy ships, drives a new generation of medical robotics, controls hyperloop and flying cars, and provides 24/7 medical intelligence for hospital patients and emergency victims.

RTI is the leading vendor of products compliant with the Object Management Group® (OMG) Data Distribution Service™ (DDS) standard. RTI is privately held and headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with regional headquarters in Spain and Singapore.

 

RTI Connext Drive is the first complete connectivity solution for autonomous vehicle development. Could you share some details regarding this technology?

RTI Connext Drive is the first standards-based connectivity framework to handle the complex integration and data distribution challenges of sensor fusion applications in autonomous systems. From research to production, Connext Drive offers automakers and developers the software they need to operate in diverse real-time environments, interoperate with other systems within the vehicle, connect to off-vehicle systems and build in automotive-grade security. From edge to cloud and across remote environments, it distributes and manages real-time data to keep critical systems running. Connext Drive uses DDS, a standard I detail below, and delivers:

  • Efficient High-Bandwidth Data Distribution. Communicate rapidly with throughput of over millions of messages per second using a data-centric databus, which allows data to flow when and where it’s needed: securely, at scale and with ultra-low latency.
  • Enhanced Performance. With support for the latest Object Management Group® (OMG®) DDS Extensible Types standard, applications benefit from network bandwidth savings, enabling flexibility for multiple Quality of Service (QoS) strategies. An optimized Dynamic Data implementation delivers improved serialization performance.
  • Full Redundancy. Any sensor, data source, algorithm, compute platform or even network can be easily duplicated to provide higher reliability. The data-centric design allows the system to resolve this redundancy naturally. Connex Drive supports shared memory, LAN, WAN and Internet transports.
  • Broad support for embedded systems and platforms. Connext Drive is integrated with technology from many of the leading automotive technology providers. This interoperability provides automotive customers with the ability to use the software and platforms of choice.
  • Safety Certification Pathway. This feature option meets the stringent requirements of ISO 26262 ASIL-D, reducing risk, time and project costs.
  • Updated DDS Security. Connext Drive is compliant with the latest OMG DDS Security specification v1.1 and supports the latest OpenSSL v1.1.1. The latest updates to the RTI Security Plugins also support loading keys from an SSL engine to more easily integrate best practice key storage.
  • Integration with Standardized Frameworks and Platforms. Through its standards-based architecture, Connext Drive eases integration between OEMs and suppliers, from research through production. It provides Interoperability across programming languages, operating systems and CPU families, plus a Gateway Toolkit and adapters for integrating non-DDS components.

 

Could you share with our readers what DDS is exactly and what makes it so important?

Data Distribution Service™(DDS) is a standard that aims to enable dependable, high-performance, interoperable, real-time, and scalable data exchanges. DDS is the only open standard for messaging that supports the unique needs of both enterprise and real-time systems. Its open interfaces and advanced integration capabilities slash costs across a system’s life cycle, from initial development and integration through ongoing maintenance and upgrades.

DDS is composed of two primary specifications – one for the application layer interfaces, and another that assures wire-level interoperability between vendor implementations. These layers not only ensure that a different vendor’s DDS implementation can be swapped in without impacting application code, but also that systems built using different implementations of DDS will interoperate.

This standards-based approach delivers enhanced performance and massive scalability while lowering risk. Connext Drive is the first – and only – software that can integrate DDS, ROS 2, AUTOSAR Classic and AUTOSAR Adaptive. This allows automotive companies to work with the standard or standards that best meet their needs at different points in the development cycle.

 

Could you detail in what capacity Baidu uses RTI technology in autonomous vehicles?

Baidu is developing solutions for autonomous valet parking, fully autonomous mini-buses and more, based on Apollo, a leading global autonomous vehicle technology platform. Baidu uses RTI’s Connext Drive as the connectivity framework for superior reliability — a critical factor in the development of autonomous driving. With Connext Drive, Baidu can guarantee the utilization of bandwidth with TCP + UDP, ensure flexibility through multiple QoS strategies and apply standards-based security and safety.

 

Can you share with us why building autonomous vehicle connectivity software is so challenging?

Autonomous vehicles are some of the most complex systems ever conceived and hold the promise of profoundly changing daily life. These unmanned machines require real-time, human-level decision-making capabilities with fail proof protections for safety and security.  Auto manufacturers also need to ensure their systems can operate in diverse real-time environments, scale and interoperate.

Autonomous vehicle development is challenging and risky because AVs are built from many subsystems and require full interoperability between components. To provide consistently optimal performance, data must flow correctly, reliably and with extremely low latency. Barriers to enter this industry are high, with in-house connectivity solutions taking extensive time to develop and requiring technical expertise. More so, autonomous vehicle designs must last for years, requiring automakers to ensure that their systems not only address today’s connectivity challenges, but also anticipate future challenges. They must also track constantly evolving technology and security requirements.

Reliable connectivity is essential to enable the next generation of vehicles and to achieve higher levels of autonomy.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about RTI or autonomous vehicles?

In the past few years, we’ve seen radically different timelines about when autonomous vehicles will become part of our everyday life. Through the first half of 2020, we’ve seen auto manufacturers and companies increase their investments in the underlying technologies that will be the critical foundation for these autonomous systems – machine learning algorithms, sensors and the underlying connectivity software. However, 2020 likely won’t be the year cars will reach full Level 4 or 5 autonomy, as we still have major hurdles to overcome in terms of safety regulations, satisfying security concerns and weather constraints.

This has been a fantastic interview, thank you for taking the time to explain all of these technologies. Readers who wish to learn more should visit the RTI website.

Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital assets, digital securities and investing. He is a founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council.