Design

Software framework designed for autonomous systems

12th May 2021
Alex Lynn

Real-Time Innovations (RTI) has announced the latest version of its software framework, RTI Connext. Connext 6.1 is the first software framework designed to address the development and deployment challenges faced by companies building remotely-operated autonomous systems.

Autonomous systems must operate in inaccessible, remote, or hazardous environments. Examples include underwater drones, remotely-accessible medical devices, space systems, and construction and mining robots. Since artificial intelligence cannot handle all situations, these applications must use remote operators to supervise and intervene in difficult scenarios.

Connectivity for distributed control is extremely challenging. Applications require high reliability and real-time performance even though connectivity in these inhospitable environments is often unreliable and low bandwidth. Depending on the operator’s proximity, communication may also span local, wide area, public and private networks.

Connext 6.1 introduces features to enable easy real-time remote operation over any network. For instance, if the network connection changes as the system moves, connectivity is seamless without reconnecting, secure without renegotiating, and reliable without losing information. Thus, remote operations can continue in real time without interruption.

Enterprise networking assumes reliable, stable connections and latency insensitivity. Connext 6.1 supports and optimises fast communications across highly variable local (LAN) and wide-area networks (WAN). Moreover, Connext 6.1 does not require software changes to support diverse network types. Its Application Programming Interfaces (API) abstracts the underlying networks, allowing developers to target any environment. Connext 6.1 offers the first practical design for control of remote autonomous systems.

Connect geographically-distributed systems

New capabilities in Connext 6.1 that ease the development and deployment of geographically distributed systems include:

  • Real-Time WAN Transport provides reliable, low latency and secure communication over lossy, low bandwidth, and public networks. It supports Network Address Translation (NAT) traversal and mobile applications with changing Internet addresses.
  • Cloud Discovery Service simplifies deployment of dynamic systems in which applications, assets, and their network addresses may not be known at configuration time. It provides a means for applications to discover each other and directly communicate, peer-to-peer. This minimises latency and maximises throughput. It is far superior to traditional centralised broker solutions.
  • Built-in data compression improves efficiency over bandwidth-constrained networks. Compression maximises bandwidth use, lowering overhead and latency while increasing throughput. A choice of compression algorithms and levels allows optimisation of processor versus network utilisation for different payload types.

Efficiently develop large-scale and heterogeneous systems

In addition to its support for complex networking environments, new features in Connext 6.1 facilitate the development of any large-scale and heterogeneous distributed system.

  • Support for .NET Core 5 lets developers use C# and run their applications on any platform that supports .NET Standard 2.0. In addition to Windows, this includes Linux, macOS and the Unity game engine.
  • A new System Designer tool provides a graphical way to easily and intuitively specify the configuration and interfaces in a Connext-based system. This helps ensure that applications adhere to a common architecture and can interoperate in a plug-and-play manner.
  • Administration Console includes enhanced graphical views to make it easier to visualise the components of live large-scale systems and their interconnectivity. This allows OEMs and systems integrators to better observe behavior during test and deployment, and to more quickly identify configuration or network problems.

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