Simplifying Digital Engineering
Digital engineering requires virtual workspace resource which can be used for engineering using software tools. The key requirement of this workspace is to provide the resources for supporting the software tools. Another important requirement of this workspace is that these tools and apps can interface and communicate with one another. The entire workspace of Digital Engineering is formed out of work spaces first specific to geographical limits then to industry which itself consists of specific workspace belonging to various engineering areas. See the diagram below. Fig 1 – Workspaces of DE An effective Digital Engineering environment unites the workspaces through what can be referred as metadata. The metadata linking the work spaces needs to be structured so that they can be managed using software tools which can work in the allocated work spaces. To understand the challenges of Digital Engineering we should first define the requirements of these workspace. The main requirements of the workspace can be listed as below
Every Workspace has to have hardware which can be used by the workspace to support the tools and apps.
Every Workspace has to have hardware which can be used by the workspace to hold long term information.
Every Workspace has to have hardware which can be used by the workspace to hold short term information.
The workspace should be able to provide a suitable hardware specific software to allow tools and apps to access and use the hardware efficiently and in the way the tools and apps require.
The workspace should be able to provide a suitable software controlled environment which can support exchange of information between tools and apps.
The workspace should have well defined protocol which can be readily used by the tools and apps to communicate with each other.
All this in practical terms allows us to create a typical Digital Engineering environment using the following hardware and software
Server - Can be linux, Microsoft Exchange, Unix based.
The server and its operating system need to support commonly used online resourcces as creating apps and tools like php, ASP, net etc.
Support database which can be accessed and manipulated using commonly used database query and manipulation techniquse like database supporting SQL queries
Information and data access features over TCP/IP networks using common tools and apps. Jscript and Jquery supported browsers typically.
Once suitable hardware and software resourcs are defined for a workspace a digital image of the project is needed. One way of doing this is to create database with the required information. In the traditional classical environment every tool and app uses a database structure which is particular to the app and tools. There has been noor very little effort to use harmonized structure for the database. Digital Engineering initiatives are attempting to address this as this creates a huge duplication of resource
One of the ways of doing this could be the following.
All databases can be used to create a set of metadata using a metadata creating tool in the workspace. A workspace can have several databases and each can be associated with a metadata creation tool.
The metadata structure can be imagined to belong a interface workspace which is accessible to all workspaces of the various stake holders..
To understand what all this Signal Estimation Tool
This tool is however not a true digital engineering enabled tool but can explain the concept very well. This tool provides a ability to upload an image of a signalling plan. Once the image file is uploaded this tool uses a manual method of creating a database of the signalling functions included in the image by superimposing a symbol. Each of these symbols are treated like an object and for each object there are several parameters and the parameters have their valuesa. Then the estimating tool uses this database of the objects created to create reports which is of use for other stake holders. The ability to create and add symbol using pattern recognition techniques would have been a better example of digital engineering. But this is yet to be done in the tool I have used as example.