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Executive Summary Introduction Advances in the capabilities of technologies applicable to distributed networking, telecommunications, multi-user computer applications, and interactive virtual reality are creating opportunities for users in the same or separate locations to engage in interdependent, cooperative activities using a common computer-based environment. These capabilities have given rise to relatively new interdisciplinary efforts to unite the interests of mission-oriented communities with those of the computer and social science communities to create integrated, tool-oriented computation and communication systems. These systems can enable teams in widespread locations to collaborate using the newest instruments and computing resources. The benefits are many. For example, a new paradigm for intimate collaboration between scientists and engineers is emerging. This collaboration has the potential to accelerate the development and dissemination of knowledge and optimize the use of instruments and facilities, while minimizing the time between the discovery and application of new technologies. This report describes the benefits and feasibility of ongoing efforts to develop and apply advanced engineering environments (AEEs), which are defined in this report as particular implementations of computational and communications systems that create integrated virtual and/or distributed environments linking researchers, technologists, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and customers. Table ES-1 lists AEE system components and their characteristics, as defined by the authoring committee. This study was sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and was conducted by a committee appointed by the National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. The Statement of Task directed the committee to pay particular attention to NASA and the aerospace industry. In most cases, however, the committee determined that issues relevant to NASA and the aerospace industry were also relevant to other organizations involved in the development and/or use of AEE technologies or systems. Therefore, the report is written with a broad audience in mind. Most of the findings and recommendations, although they apply to NASA, are not limited to NASA, and so are applicable to all organizations involved in the development or use of AEE technologies or systems. A Historic Opportunity The committee believes that a historic opportunity exists for maturating AEE technologies and integrating them into comprehensive, robust AEE systems. As the capabilities of computational systems and the sophistication of engineering models and simulations advance, AEE technologies will become more common in both the private and public sectors. However, it remains to be seen how quickly AEE systems will be developed and what capabilities they will Table ES-1 AEE System Components and Characteristics Computation, Modeling, and Software • multidisciplinary analysis and optimization • interoperability of tools, data, and models • system analysis and synthesis • collaborative, distributed systems • software structures that can be easily reconfigured • deterministic and nondeterministic simulation methods Human-Centered Computing • human-adaptive interfaces • virtual environments • immersive systems • telepresence • intelligence augmentation Hardware and Networks • ultrafast computing systems • large high-speed storage devices • high-speed and intelligent networks
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demonstrate, particularly in the critical area of interoperability. Within the federal government, the Department of Defense, NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have much at stake in terms of their ability to accomplish complex, technically challenging missions and/or to maximize the return on their investments in the development of AEE technologies and systems for use by other organizations. In the 1960s, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, the predecessor of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) began work on a decentralized computer network. That effort produced the ARPANET, which served both as a test bed for networking technologies and as the precursor to the Internet. ARPA took advantage of a historic opportunity created by new technological capabilities to initiate a revolution in communications. A similar opportunity exists today. The technological challenges with AEEs, however, are more complex than those involved in developing the ARPANET and the Internet. In addition, the barriers to successful deployment are more varied and substantial. As a result, the current opportunity is too big for any one organization to achieve. To take full advantage of the opportunity represented by AEEs, a government-industry-academia partnership should be formed to foster the development of AEE technologies and systems in the following ways: Develop open architectures and functional allocations for AEEs to guide the development of broadly applicable, interoperable tools. Create specific plans for transitioning the results of government research and development to the commercial software industry and/or software users (e.g., the aerospace or automotive industries), as appropriate. Develop an approach for resolving information management issues. AEEs can reach their full potential only if many organizations are willing to use them. Involving a broad partnership in the development of AEE technologies and systems would create equally broad benefits. For example, cooperation from other government agencies and industry is essential for NASA to achieve the objectives of its AEE-related research and development. However, it is not necessary for individual agencies such as NASA to await the formation of a broad partnership before involving outside organizations. In fact, NASA's actions could stimulate broad interest and demonstrate the mutual benefits of forming partnerships. The committee recommends that NASA draft a plan for creating a broad government-industry-academia partnership. In addition, to demonstrate the utility of partnerships on a small scale, NASA should charter a joint industry-academia-government advisory panel that focuses on interactions between NASA and outside organizations. Vision An ideal AEE would encompass concept definition, design, manufacturing, production, and analyses of reliability and cost over the entire life cycle of a product or mission in a seamless blend of disciplinary functions and activities. The ideal AEE would ease the implementation of innovative concepts and solutions while effortlessly drawing on legacy data, tools, and capabilities. Interoperability between data sets and tools would be routine and would not require burdensome development of new software to provide customized interfaces. The AEE would accommodate a diverse user group and facilitate their collaboration in a manner that would obviate cultural barriers among different organizations, disciplines, and geographic regions. It would be marked by functional flexibility so its capabilities could be reoriented and reorganized rapidly at little or no cost. The AEE would include a high-speed communications network for the rapid evaluation of concepts and approaches across engineering, manufacturing, production, reliability, and cost parameters with high fidelity. It would be amenable to hardware and software enhancements in a transparent way. The committee summarized the ideal AEE in the following vision: AEEs should create an environment that allows organizations to introduce innovation and manage complexity with unprecedented effectiveness in terms of time, cost, and labor throughout the life cycle of products and missions. A road map for realizing this vision appears in Figure ES-1 and is discussed below. Current Situation After contacting representatives of many government, industry, and academic organizations involved in the development and use of AEE technologies, the committee noted that many of these organizations face the same top-level challenges in terms of competitive pressure to reduce costs, increasing complexity in tools and systems, and the other items listed in the top box of Table ES-1. Although government agencies do not face the same competitive market forces as industry, technology-intensive agencies, such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA are all charged with developing new systems to maximize organizational effectiveness and accomplish ambitious agency missions. In response to these challenges, the affordability of products and processes is being given much higher priority by government agencies and industrial organizations. Industry and government have already made significant progress in using computer-aided tools to improve processes for design, analysis, and manufacturing. This is especially true in the electronics industry where rule-based design and automated manufacturing are now commonplace. In the mechanical design area, progress has been made in the solid geometry portion of the process, but no equivalent capability has been
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Figure ES-1 Road map for achieving the AEE vision. developed for modeling, analyzing, and integrating the performance parameters of systems, subsystems, and components. The committee does not believe this capability can be achieved by simply updating existing tools. For many organizations, a fundamental change in the engineering culture will be necessary to take advantage of breakthroughs in advanced computing, human-machine interactions, virtual reality, computational intelligence, and knowledge-based engineering as advances move from the laboratory to the factory and other operational settings. Making this change in a timely fashion and supporting the widespread use of AEE technologies and systems by government and industry will
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only be possible if AEE research and development are integrated into a coherent vision and supported by concerted efforts in both the near term (the next 5 years) and the far term (5 to 15 years). Objectives and Benefits To achieve the AEE vision, the committee defined a set of key objectives to guide AEE research, development, and implementation. The top-level benefits that AEEs can provide and the top-level requirements AEEs should satisfy are closely linked to and inherent in these key objectives, which are listed in the second box of Figure ES-1 and discussed below. Enable Complex New Systems, Products, and Missions Using traditional processes to design, develop, procure, and operate the systems needed to satisfy the complex missions of industry and government is becoming increasingly impractical in terms of cost, schedule, and personnel. The complexity of products and processes has rapidly increased, and the amount of data required to define, manufacture, and maintain these products has grown dramatically in size and heterogeneity. Design, manufacture, and maintenance often occur internationally, so this large mass of data must be accessible and movable over long distances and at high speed. AEEs offer the potential to improve the accuracy and efficiency of engineering processes throughout the life cycle. For example, AEE systems would enable industry to develop advanced systems more quickly with fewer personnel and at lower cost. AEEs would enable government agencies and industry to accomplish missions and develop products that are not feasible using current processes. Greatly Reduce Product Development Cycle Time and Costs Using traditional methods for development of complex new systems or products, the bulk of a program's life-cycle costs are set by decisions made very early in the development cycle (the definition phase). Errors made during this phase can result in costly and time-consuming design changes later in the process. These changes may ripple throughout a number of subsystems and require extensive rework. Even if the individual changes are small, the net effect can be substantial. In the commercial world, a reduction in product development cycle time helps manufacturers increase market share by enabling them to create new and better products more quickly than their competition. In the government sector, reducing product development time helps agencies complete projects sooner, thereby reducing costs and improving services or achieving mission objectives more quickly and freeing personnel and other resources to move on to the next task. One way to reduce product development cycle time and costs is to develop AEEs that enable designers to determine quickly and accurately how proposed designs will affect the performance of new systems and subsystems and how the change in performance will affect the prospects for mission success. High-fidelity models and simulations that integrate tools from all aspects of the mission life cycle would enable mission planners and system designers to perform trade-off study sensitivity analyses early in the design process that encompass the total life cycle. High-fidelity simulations would also reduce the need for physical test models of new designs. Lower Technical, Cultural, and Educational Barriers To realize the potential benefits of AEEs, the development of AEE technologies and systems must be coordinated with the development of a comprehensive, multifaceted implementation process tailored to the varying characteristics and issues associated with different AEE technologies and system components. A key objective of the implementation process should be lowering the barriers to change and innovation that keep old systems and processes in place long after more effective alternatives are available. As discussed in more detail below, these barriers may involve technical, cultural, economic, and/or educational factors. Apply AEEs Broadly across U.S. Government, Industry, and Academia AEE development should also be consistent with the broader objective of applying AEEs throughout government, industry, and academia. The widespread use of AEEs is also important to maximizing their value to a particular organization. Complex products and missions typically are implemented by partnerships comprised of many different organizations, and the AEEs adopted by one organization will have the greatest utility if its partners use compatible AEEs. This implies that developers must avoid approaches that would restrict the applicability of AEEs to a small number of settings. Barriers History is littered with plans, both strategic and tactical, that were conceptually and technically brilliant but failed because the barriers to success were not carefully considered. AEEs that can realize the vision and meet the objectives are not presently feasible, and there are many barriers to success. Common problems observed in the industry and government organizations surveyed by the committee are listed below:
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The challenge of tool and system integration is ubiquitous. The proliferation and management of information, which is intrinsic to AEE technologies, introduces difficulties in both the near and far term. Cultural, management, and economic issues often impede the implementation of AEE technologies. Education and training are significant factors in terms of the time and cost required to realize the benefits of AEE technologies. A detailed list of barriers identified by the committee appears in Table ES-2. Although overcoming many barriers will be difficult, barriers can often be transformed into opportunities if creative minds are brought to bear on the problem. For example, current engineering systems have shortcomings in the interoperability of tools and data sets that hinder the effective, widespread use of AEE technologies. Resolving interoperability issues will require cooperation among the developers and users of AEE technologies and systems, and the mutual understanding that results from such cooperative efforts could have benefits that extend far beyond the development of AEEs. Action The committee is firmly convinced that practical AEE systems that have most of the capabilities of the ideal system can be developed. Some AEE technologies are already available and are being deployed, even as efforts to develop comprehensive, broadly applicable AEE systems continue. Define Requirements AEE research and development should be consistent with the system objectives, components, and characteristics described in Figure ES-1 and Table ES-1. Overcome Barriers It is essential to develop a practical approach for improving the interoperability of new product and process models, tools, and systems and linking them with legacy tools, systems, and data. Because a universal solution is not likely to be found in the near term, efforts to overcome interoperability issues will remain a significant ''cost of doing business." These issues should be prioritized and met head on to reduce this cost as quickly as possible. To help achieve long-term success, government agencies and other organizations with a large stake in the successful development of AEEs should interact more effectively with standards groups to facilitate the development of interoperable product and process models, tools, and systems, along with open system architectures. Specific, high-priority inter-operating capabilities should be defined along with action plans and schedules Table ES-2 Barriers to Achieving the AEE Vision Integration of Tools, Systems, and Data 1. Lack of tool interoperability 2. Continued proliferation of tools, which aggravates interoperability issues 3. Existing investments in legacy systems and the difficulty of integrating legacy systems with advanced tools that support AEE capabilities 4. Little effort by most software vendors to address interoperability or data-exchange issues outside of their own suite of tools 5. Multiple hardware platform issues—computers, hardware, databases, and operating systems 6. Lack of formal or informal standards for interfaces, files, and data terminology 7. Increasing complexity of the tools that would support AEE capabilities 8. Difficulty of inserting emerging and advanced technologies, tools, and processes into current product and service environments 9. Supplier integration issues 10. Difficulty of integrating AEE technologies and systems with other industry-wide initiatives, such as product data management, enterprise resource management, design for manufacturability/assembly, and supply-chain management Information Management 1. Proliferation of all types of information, which makes it difficult to identify and separate important information from the flood of available information 2. Difficulty of maintaining configuration management for product designs, processes, and resources 3. Need to provide system "agility" so that different types of users can easily input, extract, understand, move, change, and store data using familiar formats and terminology 4. Difficulty of upgrading internal infrastructures to support large bandwidths associated with sharing of data and information 5. Need to provide system security and to protect proprietary data without degrading system efficiency Culture, Management, and Economics 1. Difficulty of justifying a strong corporate commitment to implementing AEE technologies or systems because of their complexity and uncertainties regarding costs, metrics, and benefits 2. Lack of practical metrics for determining the effectiveness of AEE technologies that have been implemented 3. Unknowns concerning the total costs of implementing AEE technologies and systems and the return on investment 4. Difficulty of securing funding to cover the often high initial and maintenance costs of new AEE technologies and systems in a cost-constrained environment 5. Risk—and someone to assume the risk (management, system providers, or customers) 6. Planning and timing issues—when to bring in the new and retire the old 7. Difficulty of managing constant change as vendors continually upgrade AEE tools and other technologies 8. Diversity of cultures among different units of the same company Education and Training 1. Need to upgrade labor force skills along with technology and tools to support an AEE capability 2. Difficulty of incorporating AEE technologies into university design curricula
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for establishing appropriate standards and achieving specified levels of interoperability. Product and process descriptions frequently differ within user organizations, across user organizations, and between users and suppliers. This lack of commonality often requires that users customize commercially available tools before they can be used, which greatly reduces the cost effectiveness of using AEE tools. Corporate and government leaders should seize the opportunity to develop robust and flexible AEE tools for creating, managing, and assessing computer-generated data; presenting relevant data to operators clearly and efficiently; maintaining configuration management records for products, processes, and resources; and storing appropriate data on a long-term basis. Historically, industry, government, and academia involved in the development of AEE-type technologies have not paid enough attention to the organizational, cultural, psychological, and social aspects of the user environment. To correct this oversight, organizations that decide to make a major investment in developing or implementing AEE technologies or systems should designate a "champion" with the responsibility, authority, and resources to achieve approved AEE objectives. The champion should be supported by a team of senior managers, technical experts, and other critical stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, subcontractors, and customers typically involved in major projects). For example, the committee was concerned about apparently inadequate coordination among AEE-related activities at NASA's operational and research Centers. The NASA-wide teams being used to direct the Intelligent Synthesis Environment functional initiative should be consolidated and strengthened to improve their ability to perform the following functions: Define distinct AEE requirements and goals for NASA operational and research Centers. Ensure that NASA's AEE activities take full advantage of commercially available tools and systems to avoid duplication of effort. Overcome cultural barriers in NASA so that new AEE technologies and systems will be accepted and used. Disseminate AEE plans, information, and tools at all levels within NASA. Provide centralized oversight of AEE research and development conducted by NASA. Government agencies involved in the acquisition of advanced aerospace products and other complex engineering systems could also support the spread of AEE technologies and systems by providing incentives for contractors to implement appropriate AEE technologies and systems and document lessons learned. These incentives should target both technical and nontechnical (i.e., cultural, psychological, and social) aspects of AEE development and implementation. In the area of education and training, universities should work with government and industry to identify and incorporate basic AEE principles into the undergraduate design experience. An advisory panel with representatives from industry, universities, the National Science Foundation, NASA Centers, and other government agencies and laboratories should be convened by NASA or some other federal agency involved in AEE research and development. The panel should define approaches for accelerating the incorporation of AEE technologies into the engineering curriculum, the basic elements of a suitable AEE experience for students, and specific resource needs. Define Organizational Roles and Plan Future Activities Accordingly In general, the development of application-specific tools should be left to industry. Government agencies should not develop customized tools that duplicate the capabilities of commercially available tools. Instead, government agencies should support the development of broadly applicable AEE technologies, systems, and practices in the following ways: Improve generic methodologies and automated tools for the more effective integration of existing tools and tools that will be developed in the future. Develop better models of specific physical processes that more accurately portray what happens in the real world and quantify uncertainties in model outputs. Identify gaps in the capabilities of currently available tools and support the development of tools that address those gaps, preferably by providing incentives for commercial software vendors to develop broadly applicable tools. Develop test beds that simulate user environments with high fidelity for validating the applicability and utility of new tools and systems. Develop methods to predict the future performance of AEE technologies and systems in specific applications and, once implemented, to measure their success in reaching specified goals. Explore the utility of engineering design theory as a tool for guiding the development of AEE technologies and systems. Use contracting requirements to encourage contractors to adopt available AEE technologies and systems, as appropriate. Address issues related to the organizational, cultural, psychological, and social aspects of the user environment. Provide incentives for the creation of government-industry-academia partnerships to foster the development of AEE technologies and systems. To demonstrate the utility of and build support for the formation of a broad partnership, a single government
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agency could initially charter a standing, joint industry-academia-government advisory panel to focus on interactions between that agency and outside organizations. For example, a NASA advisory panel could be established as a means of periodically identifying areas of overlap between high-payoff requirements of external users and NASA's research and development capabilities. This advisory panel could also identify areas of commonality between the capabilities of external organizations and NASA's own requirements. This would facilitate technology transfer and allow NASA to focus its AEE research and development on the areas of greatest need.
Representative terms from entire chapter: