Testing and validation are an important factor in the development of products and technologies. Test equipment also plays a critical role in Automotive Ethernet. Spirent Communications enables innovations in communications technologies, whether it is service provider, data centres, enterprise IT networks, mobile communications, connected cars vehicles or IoT. We met Thomas Schulze, Business Development Director, Automotive, Spirent Communications, and Bhaskar HS, Director, Spirent Communications (India) to learn more about it.
Thomas Schulze has over 15 years of experience in Telecom/ IT testing, with extensive knowledge of leading a providers' test & measurement group. In 2008, he decided to move into a Sales Engineer position for a leading vendor of network performance management solutions. Schulze joined Spirent Communications Business Development Team in 2011 and for the past three years has been part of the automotive strategy team. In 2014, Spirent launched the new Automotive Business Group, for which Schulze leads Business Development, working on the introduction of test and measurement equipment for in-vehicle networks, car2x communication, telematics, security and infotainment. Meanwhile, Bhaskar has been working in the test and measurement industry for the past two decades in India, carrying technical, sales and management roles. Prior to Spirent, he was the Sales Manager at Acterna (now JDSU) consulting test solution for service providers and equipment manufacturers.
ATR _ Could you tell us about what's new from Spirent with regards to the automotive sector?
Thomas Schulze (TS) _ Automotive Ethernet is being strongly integrated into next-generation vehicles and there is a need for new test equipment in OEM plants, as well as their R&D centres. Earlier, Tier I companies used to be the drivers of new technologies, but now OEMs are bringing in technologies to the Tier I suppliers. Automotive Ethernet is a big change in the industry, as the overall technology, architecture and test methodologies are all different. OEMs, Tier I suppliers, and standard organisations around them need to define new test methodologies in the area of automotive Ethernet.
The company is currently engaged in an early stage of development for Ethernet technologies with standard organisations, as well as OEMs and suppliers. An example of this is Spirent's collaboration with Daimler in Germany seven years ago to work on automotive Ethernet test methodologies. While the test tool at the time was adopted from the telecommunication and IT sector, currently specific tools are available and being developed for this technology.
Additionally, new standards for automotive Ethernet from IEEE are being applied to the physical layer, as well as adding new protocols in other layers. These will lead to solutions for technologies such as AVB and Time Sensitive Networks (TSN), covering all industries as a new protocol. Other standards such as AUTOSAR also dictate specific automotive Ethernet standards to have the interface to the software layout. Spirent is using all these protocols and standards and are implementing specific automotive Ethernet test methodologies into its equipment over the past couple of years.
How are the company's test methodologies divided?
TS _ The first methodology is that of conformance testing, which conforms to actual standards like AVB, AUTOSAR, or specific open alliance standards. This is the initial step of testing when an OEM or Tier I implements protocols into their software or hardware.
Performance testing forms the second step of the validation process, which now includes checking beyond just bits and bytes. This step checks to see if communication takes place properly in devices like ECU switch and cameras, for creating situations like creating real-world traffic on its simulators. It can be used to check the correct bandwidth speeds, as well as the communication interaction between systems on the Ethernet. We are able to simulate a large number of different streams that compete with each other, including infotainment, sensor data, ADAS and engine control communication. The solution from Spirent simulates priorities by supporting all Ethernet standards.
The next methodology covers security and robustness, which are important since Ethernet networks are common standards that are present vastly, and are highly-susceptible to attacks. This results in OEMs and Tier I suppliers needing to have a more robust system in place for their device or networks. In terms of security, Spirent is simulating these attacks and also bringing out the vulnerabilities in the software and device. The company provides negative testing solutions for the security of a manufacturer or supplier's device.
The final test methodology offered by Spirent is noise protection. A vehicle is a noisy environment, unlike a data centre that is shielded well, for which the company provides noise impairment solutions. We have captured a large number of specific noise issues from a real car and can provide them within its noise impairment generator. This noise is sent into the system, which is then checked to see if communication is carried out properly or the link is robust against the noise.
Bhaskar HS (BHS) _ Spirent has been providing solutions in all these methodologies for different applications and systems over the past many years. It is now converging all these solutions to address specific automotive requirements.
How important are test and measurement tools for information and telecommunication technologies in the automotive sector in India?
TS _ Ethernet is a new communication architecture for the world, and most R&D centres lack the experience, as well as the test tools needed for validation of these systems. The focus on traditional CAN and BUS systems testing was limited to the first layer, along with data logging. However, with Ethernet, the richness of functionalities is much higher, which results in newer problems. There are competing communication streams on one shared network, therefore testing becomes more important than in the past, especially because it is new. There is a need for more active testing, and to simulate more traffic peaks and more specific internet behaviour like corruptive packets.
What are the solutions that Spirent is providing in terms of connected vehicles?
TS _ While Ethernet is the new backbone technology in the car, connected vehicles are closer to cellular networks. Meanwhile, vehicle to everything (V2X) communication may not work on cellular networks today, but rather on the automotive Ethernet Wi-Fi standard (80211P). There is a need to have specific applications running on the internet or the OEM's data centre, which will use cellular networks to connect the vehicle to these data centres in order to exchange information. For example, the initial features of connected cars could be in using a smartphone to unlock a car.
But as we go forward, connected vehicle applications will provide seamless integration of applications like vehicle maintenance, information and infotainment through an internet connection. Therefore, the advent of connected cars is actually starting only now, as there are applications using such connectivity at present. Spirent provides connected car technologies with simulation solutions for various networks to test in-vehicle components, with network emulators to simulate network providers across the world. It provides solutions of connectivity testing for data centres as well.
Could you please tell us about the role of IoT and Big Data in Spirent's scheme of transportation solutions?
TS _ Automotive is just one part of IoT, as it refers to lower cost modules with low bandwidth needs to connect systems to the internet, with more use in smart cities and connectivity of cheaper devices. Automotive is limited with IoT as the industry has huge requirements of quality and bandwidth for their applications. When Spirent started off with IoT, it expected automotive to be the main driver of this technology, but this has changed. However, using specific technologies for IoT within the automotive industry is correct, in terms like embedded SIM (E-SIM). Spirent is one of the leaders in providing test and implementation tools for these IoT and E-SIM methodologies.
Please elaborate on Spirent's R&D set-up in India, as well as globally.
TS _ Spirent is a company that carries out R&D work across the globe, with specific competency centres for various technologies. California and Bangalore carry out R&D specific to Ethernet software, with hardware development taking place in Hawaii. Likewise, the R&D for wireless technologies is carried out across the US East Coast, India and China. A new part of the company's R&D takes place in Germany, after it acquired a company called Testing Technologies, which designs test software for test automation and conformance testing for the automotive industry.
BHS _ Spirent is an R&D-driven organisation and covers three main segregations, namely development; system integration, customisation, automation; and sales. System engineering, automation and customisation are an important part of the business in India, which addresses both local and global requirements. Core R&D for the company in India takes place in Bangalore, which amounts to about 15-20 % of the company's total global R&D. Spirent globally invests back between 17 and 19 % of its profits into engineering.
What is the reach of Spirent's business in India? What is the future roadmap?
BHS _ Spirent has been hugely successful in providing GNSS test solutions, which for automotive offers navigation simulators in the laboratory, both on the application and sensor development sides. The next big thing is going to be automotive Ethernet and AVB, whose timing will be very important, as we are expecting much of this development, testing and deployment to take place in India. We are currently seeing prototypes from system integrators and OEMs within India, for which technologies like accurate navigation become import.
TS _ The roadmap for Spirent in India, as well as that of global operations is in being the top test tool supplier within new technologies in the automotive industry. This is very important for India, as a lot of test and development, especially for Tier I suppliers for software, will be done in India. All technologies including Ethernet, cellular, positioning, V2X, or even integration of existing systems like CAN or LIN can be tested with Spirent, which makes it unique against competition. Additionally, electric vehicles (EV) are relatively new developments in the industry, which use newer technologies that allow EV manufacturers to make use of Spirent's solutions.
Interview: Naveen Arul
Photo: Spirent Communications