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Generic Vehicle Architecture: an open solution

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Platform Integration

Stove pipe systems in military vehicles have been the norm for decades. Platform integrators have had little choice but to try and plug together sub-systems with closed interfaces and in many cases create overall platform architecture that itself is closed with respect to future (third party) integration.

Traditionally capability has evolved through the fielding of specific systems that have been procured independently of each other to meet specific military needs. Any cross-system functionality has generally been achieved by improvisation, typically involving voice and/or human interaction by the crew.

Like many other countries, the UK demands its equipment to be in service for several decades. Recognising the need to maintain operational effectiveness, technology insertions are now commonplace.

There has been no standardised approach to systems integration. The impact of this often results in sub-optimal installations, with operational challenges placed on the platform users, the maintainers and logistics chain. Training and through life support is also affected.

The cost involved in upgrading the platform, whether to cover obsolescence or to increase capability, is measured not just in monetary terms but also in time. Unfortunately, in the recent campaigns, this cost has also been measured in lives lost.

Driven by the need to integrate a multitude of rapid technology insertions and upgrades (so called Urgent Operational Requirements), quickly and efficiently, the Gulf War has perhaps been the catalyst to solidify the years of research work into Electronic Architecture. The UK army found itself owning a raft of new capabilities and indeed new vehicles. The new 'Force Protection' fleet, bought in from the U.S. and 'anglicised' had a range of Theatre Entry equipment fitted. A lack of common architecture slowed down not only the installation of the equipment, but also the training and subsequent re-training, as more and more rapid technology insertions and uplifts were carried out. The vehicles were harder to maintain, with different configurations proving a burden on the logistics chain. This resulted in additional expense, and not least frustration; something needed to change!

Throughout the following decade there was a huge push internationally on the adoption of open standards, to improve the way in which system integration takes place. The UK Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) standard (Def Stan 23-009) and NATO GVA (STANAG AEP4754), provide a common, open architecture by defining connectors, how the data should be exchanged between devices and even what the User Interface should look like. When applied to new platforms and sub systems, these standards make it easier to achieve commonality. However, numerous upgrade programs running throughout the world are adding new equipment to old legacy vehicles.

Physical connection issues can be solved by the addition of an adaptor or power interface. But the real difficulties exist trying to integrate equipment that uses different types of network protocols or message sets.

Ultra PCS has developed a Software Gateway: a core piece software that allows for the translation of these different protocols, either to communicate using a standard such as GVA, or to enable systems using different protocols to communicate with each other. Graphical User Interfaces and video codecs are also provided to give a common look and feel and compliance to standards.

The Ultra Platform Gateway Interface (UltraPGI) offers customers and equipment OEMs an open, modular, scalable implementation of the GVA and NATO GVA standards.

The core software provides a common backbone and complete implementation of the Land Data Model (LDM) alongside a DDS (Data Distribution Service) communications layer for information sharing.

UltraPGI offers an affordable solution for Vehicle Electronic Architectures especially on legacy platforms, where existing hardware can be integrated alongside the core software through the development of new software modules. This means that any platforms can be easily “GVA/NGVA enabled.”

Modular Software Approach

UltraPGI adopts a modular approach, allowing new capabilities to be added in a scalable manner, whilst an OpenAPI software interface enables system integrators to modify the implementation in house.

The modular approach and OpenAPI also afford equipment OEMs the ability to develop and offer their own GVA modules ahead of integration, retaining control of their equipment whilst accelerating integration.

Bespoke software modules allow for the translation of legacy protocols and equipment into the system maximising reuse and minimizing development time.

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