In episode 29 we learn what’s new in Connext DDS Micro. RTI Product Manager Niheer Patel walks us through the new features and explains the challenges faced in the market that will be addressed with the release of Connext 6.

In Episode 29 of The Connext Podcast:

  • [1:33] Connext DDS Micro overview
  • [3:05] What’s new in Connext DDS Micro
  • [6:05] Integrating Connext DDS Micro into a distributed data system
  • [9:11] Applying Connext DDS Micro to autonomous systems

Related Content:

  • [Blog] Connext DDS Micro is Huge for Developing Autonomous Vehicles
  • [Datasheet] Connext DDS Micro
  • [Datasheet] RTI Connext 6
  • [eBook] The Rise of the Robot Overlords: Clarifying the Industrial IoT
  • [Press Release] RTI Announces the First Software for Highly Autonomous Systems

Podcast Transcription:

Steven Onzo: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of The Connext Podcast. Last week we announced the release of Connext 6, and this week, we continue this discussion by addressing what's new in Connext DDS Micro. We'll cover market challenges and how autonomous systems will benefit from this release. Thanks for joining us, Niheer.

Cameron Emery: Hi, and welcome to episode 29 of the Connext podcast. This is Cameron Emery, senior PR manager at RTI. I'm here today with a familiar voice, Niheer Patel, product manager at RTI. How are you, Niheer?

Niheer Patel: Doing great. It's kind of weird sitting on this side of the table, I'll admit, but I guess for viewers it's the same side of the table.

Cameron Emery: Excellent. Well, we are here today to talk about Connext 6. This is RTI's newest product, which we're calling the first connectivity software for highly autonomous systems.

Niheer Patel: Yes, absolutely. This is one of the biggest launches we've done. It really takes on autonomous systems by storm, addressing really difficult problems that just aren't solved yet, so I'm really excited to talk about it.

Cameron Emery: Yes me too, really excited, and because it's such a big launch for RTI, there are a lot of components to the product. So we're breaking it down into bite-sized pieces for everybody, and today, we're going to talk about Micro, which I know is-

Niheer Patel: It's about the smallest bite-sized piece you could get.

Cameron Emery: And it's right in your wheelhouse.

Niheer Patel: Yeah.

[1:33] Connext DDS Micro overview

Cameron Emery: So why don't you give us a description? I mean, what is Micro? Give us the background.

Niheer Patel: Okay, sure. So just talking about the product itself, and we could talk about some of the other stuff as we go, but Connext DDS Micro is another implementation of the DDS specification. It is architected to be small footprint and modular so you don't get all the bells and whistles, but that's by design so you can fit into resource-constrained devices, you can port to any number of platforms, and we actually deliver it in a different way than we do our flagship product, Connext DDS Professional. We deliver it as source, buildable source, for our customers. So they can take it, they can run with it, and we will help them along the way.

Cameron Emery: What's an example of a resource-constrained environment? What's a typical audience or application where the product would be used?

Niheer Patel: Yeah, so just from a hardware perspective, the easy way is to say microcontroller, but in applications, we see them in cars and ECUs. A lot of the AUTOSAR classic stacks run on, these really resource-constrained devices with hundreds of kilobytes at max of available memory. They're in the hundreds of megahertz as opposed to your laptop, which is running gigahertz or servers that are running teraflops. So resource-constrained from space and performance.

[3:05] What’s new in Connext DDS Micro

Cameron Emery: Awesome. So that's what Micro is now in the background, but what's new? So it's a big part of the Connext 6 launch, so can you talk about what have we addressed, what have we added to the new version?

Niheer Patel: Yeah, and so in the last podcast, Bob Leigh talked quite a bit about the use cases, the market itself. If we hone in on the autonomous vehicles as a focal point, although these discussions can easily extend to autonomous systems of any sort. You have on one side a development paradigm where there's a lot of research and prototyping, developing algorithms for autonomy, and on the other side, you have this production, which requires a different type of platform, so we're talking hardware type of tool chain. We start talking about safety, and I'll get into that in a little bit, but that's where we want to really push a product out and get an autonomous vehicle out on the road. So you need a particular type of platform and development paradigm for that.

What we've done with Micro is put in the capabilities so that you can start developing those algorithms and get it on to a platform for safety out on the road. So there's a lot more that goes into that, but at a high level, that's what we accomplish, and if we did get a little bit into the feature sets and capabilities, we start talking about, well, what does an autonomous system mean? What does it do? Well, you're going to be gathering data from your environment, so autonomous vehicles. I know we've had so many meetups here that you've been involved with that they talk about LiDAR, they talk about cameras, and then they talk about data processing and really fusing all that data together to make this digital image of the world around the vehicle.

So where we come in is, with Connext on a whole, we manage all that data flow. But with Micro in particular, we can support those safety examples. And I'll be clear, Micro itself is not safety certified, but it has a variant, Connext DDS Cert, that takes it down that path. Now, again, functionally, you got all this data, and moving LiDAR data around is difficult. It's large, camera data included. So we have capabilities like support for large data, so that's for distributed use cases, and then on top of that, we have flat data, which allows you to remove copies during the serialization, deserialization parts of transmitting data. So that's a little bit more technical, and maybe in another episode we could talk about that in more depth.

[6:05] Integrating Connext DDS Micro into a distributed data system

Cameron Emery: Absolutely. It sounds like with Micro we help developers who are building autonomous systems integrate these large volumes of data, but how do they integrate that with other aspects or components of the system? Because this is just one part of the autonomous vehicle, right?

Niheer Patel: Yeah, and that's really a good question. So this goes back to that development side of things that I was referring to earlier. We have Connext DDS Professional, and that comes with an array of capabilities that really help scale the smaller version of the layered databus that we talk about, but within the vehicle and routing services is one example of a capability that can help bridge domains.

If you take the autonomous vehicle, there's three main components. There's the sense, there's perceive, and there's act. So sense is really capturing that data, but perceive is really where we'd probably focus this discussion and the immediate uses for the Connext product suite because that's where a lot of that autonomy, the data processing and the calculations are happening so you need to access data from all these sensors.

Now, building that part of the system is actually very difficult. We talked about prototyping algorithms for AI, and the downstream part of that is training those models. So that might happen in the research side and that might happen with a particular type of platform, but to make development easier, you try to add abstract out the amount of application code developers have to write, and you really try to push it into some sort of configurations.

With Connext DDS Micro, we're extending the concept of XML app creation that exists in Connext DDS Professional today on a path towards really unifying an XML configuration for the entire product suite, and this elevates the accessibility of Connext DDS Micro to incorporate it into a development cycle with what you're learning with Connext DDS Professional; and maybe you're doing some level of prototyping with Professional, but really, you know that there's this downstream safety aspect that Micro is the cleanest path towards.

And so you can do your configuration, do some quick prototyping. You can pop in onto a Micro-based system, do some more validation, and then, down the line, RTI will help you take it towards a safety system. It's really more about the development cycle of things as opposed to necessarily other ways of integrating it into the vehicle itself.

[9:11] Applying Connext DDS Micro to autonomous systems

Cameron Emery: Okay. Got it. I know we've talked a lot about autonomous vehicles today, but if I'm a listener and I'm building a different type of system, not an autonomous vehicle, does Micro still pertain to me? Are there other types of autonomous systems?

Niheer Patel: Absolutely. Autonomous systems are everywhere. Again, Bob Leigh talked a lot about autonomous systems and, in particular, autonomous vehicles, but autonomy's going to be extended into other forms of transportation. We're going to see it in medical. We're seeing it growing in energy. All of these different markets are leveraging the capabilities that are growing in the world of autonomy to take advantage of this proliferation of data to make the best real-time machine decisions as well as real-time business decisions.

So Micro is still ... it's really great for those small resource-constrained devices. It's great to get you on a path towards a connectivity framework for safety down the line, and it's nicely bundled with this Connext DDS suite that we've put together.

Cameron Emery: If there's one thing that you want our listeners to remember about what's new in Connext DDS Micro for Connext 6, what would it be?

Niheer Patel: Well, there is one thing that completely blew my mind or blew past me, and I didn't bring it up in this whole conversation, and I feel silly. With the next release of Connext DDS Micro, we will have implemented DDS security in Micro, and that will offer interoperability with Connext DDS Secure. And so you can start to build these scaled systems that we talk about all the time where we have, again, these edge devices talking to larger devices. We can now have that interoperability with security in Connext DDS Micro. And now I'm going to have to ask you to do another interview with me later just so we can talk about security for Micro and for Connext DDS Secure.

Cameron Emery: Can't fit it into this one?

Niheer Patel: Probably not. That one, we could easily take four hours on, so you'll have to set aside half a day for me.

Cameron Emery: Okay. Will do. Pencil that in. What's the bottom line? What should people take away from Connext DDS Micro?

Niheer Patel: The bottom line with Connext DDS Micro is that it really is the connectivity framework for building out autonomous systems, especially those that have requirements for safety down the line towards production. So you can get your prototyping in now. We can help you, and we'll work to get you on a production safety platform.

Cameron Emery: Where can our listeners learn more about either what's new in Connext 6 or Connext DDS Micro?

Niheer Patel: Yeah, so the RTI website is perfect, nicely refreshed by the lovely marketing team.

Cameron Emery: Brand new. Check it out.

Niheer Patel: And, of course, your local account teams, reach out to them. We have our community site, community.rti.com. And I think we have a podcast at RTI or info@rti.com. There's so many ways for you to get ahold of us. It's hard to list them all. So pick your favorite medium, and we'll find you and we'll get your questions answered.

Cameron Emery: Awesome. Anything else that they should know about Micro?

Niheer Patel: I'd really like to get everyone's feedback, so it's more what can I learn from you about Micro. So reach out to us, get your hands on Connext DDS Micro, and let me know what's missing, what's great. I want to build the right product for our customers. That's about it.

Cameron Emery: Great. Well, thanks for listening, and thanks for being here today, Niheer.

Niheer Patel: Yeah, thanks. I'll probably be back, but it's nice to be on this side for once.

Cameron Emery: Definitely. Thank you.

Niheer Patel: Thanks.

Steven Onzo: Thank you, Niheer, for stopping by and talking with us about Connext DDS Micro. Next week, we wrap up the Connext 6 podcast series as we talk to principal software engineer, Fernando Crespo, and principal solution architect, Rajive Joshi, on the topic of designing IIoT systems for scale. If you have suggestions or feedback on this or other episodes, please contact us at podcast@rti.com. Thanks, and have a great day.

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