1

Introduction

As interactive communication technologies improve, more people will collaborate on projects via distributed networking, telecommunications, multiuser computer software, and interactive virtual reality. These collaborations face many barriers to success, such as incompatibilities between emerging technologies and the existing technology infrastructure and organizational cultures.

In the Phase 1 report, the Committee on Advanced Engineering Environments (AEEs) identified many barriers to the widespread use of AEEs, including incompatibility of software and hardware; information management systems incapable of dealing effectively with vast amounts of data; the lack of definable metrics to justify expenditures on AEEs; and the need to integrate AEE education and training into academic programs (NRC, 1999).1 In this Phase 2 report, the committee focuses on long-term issues and approaches that industry, government, and academia could use to achieve the AEE vision.

DEFINING AN ADVANCED ENGINEERING ENVIRONMENT

As defined in the Phase 1 report, AEEs are specific implementations of computational and communications systems that create integrated virtual and/or distributed environments2 linking researchers, technologists, designers, manufacturers, supplies, customers, and other users involved in mission-oriented, leading-edge engineering teams in industry, government, and academia. AEEs should be designed to accomplish two key objectives:

  • Enable complex new systems, products, and missions.

  • Greatly reduce product development cycle time and costs.

In addition, the implementation process should achieve the following objectives:

  • Lower technical, cultural, and educational barriers.

  • Apply AEEs broadly across U.S. government, industry, and academia.

Vision

The committee anticipates that AEEs will create environments that enable organizations to introduce innovations and manage complexity with unprecedented effectiveness in terms of time, cost, and labor throughout the life cycle of products and missions. AEEs may be perceived simply as conglomerations of hardware and software, but they cannot be used to their full potential unless they are immersed in compatible organizational environments. AEE developers, therefore, must consider cultural factors, and the first step in implementing an AEE should be to identify organizational and process problems.

Many organizations are already implementing AEE technologies as they are developed and validated. As more AEE technologies become available for integration, they are beginning to take on the characteristics of an AEE system. An ideal AEE system would encompass the entire mission or product life cycle, from the initial analysis of mission requirements to system disposal at end of life. Throughout the process, the AEE would constantly seek to optimize reliability, performance, and cost. These activities would take place in a seamless blend of interdisciplinary work functions

1  

A complete list of the barriers identified in the Phase 1 report appears in Appendix B of this report (see Table B-1 ). The Phase 1 report is also available on line at http://books.nap.edu/html/adv_eng_env/

2  

A virtual environment is defined as “an appropriately programmed computer that generates or synthesizes virtual worlds with which the operator can interact” (NRC 1995). A distributed environment is a nonvirtual, collaborative computing system.



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Design in the New Millennium: ADVANCED ENGINEERING ENVIRONMENTS 1 Introduction As interactive communication technologies improve, more people will collaborate on projects via distributed networking, telecommunications, multiuser computer software, and interactive virtual reality. These collaborations face many barriers to success, such as incompatibilities between emerging technologies and the existing technology infrastructure and organizational cultures. In the Phase 1 report, the Committee on Advanced Engineering Environments (AEEs) identified many barriers to the widespread use of AEEs, including incompatibility of software and hardware; information management systems incapable of dealing effectively with vast amounts of data; the lack of definable metrics to justify expenditures on AEEs; and the need to integrate AEE education and training into academic programs (NRC, 1999).1 In this Phase 2 report, the committee focuses on long-term issues and approaches that industry, government, and academia could use to achieve the AEE vision. DEFINING AN ADVANCED ENGINEERING ENVIRONMENT As defined in the Phase 1 report, AEEs are specific implementations of computational and communications systems that create integrated virtual and/or distributed environments2 linking researchers, technologists, designers, manufacturers, supplies, customers, and other users involved in mission-oriented, leading-edge engineering teams in industry, government, and academia. AEEs should be designed to accomplish two key objectives: Enable complex new systems, products, and missions. Greatly reduce product development cycle time and costs. In addition, the implementation process should achieve the following objectives: Lower technical, cultural, and educational barriers. Apply AEEs broadly across U.S. government, industry, and academia. Vision The committee anticipates that AEEs will create environments that enable organizations to introduce innovations and manage complexity with unprecedented effectiveness in terms of time, cost, and labor throughout the life cycle of products and missions. AEEs may be perceived simply as conglomerations of hardware and software, but they cannot be used to their full potential unless they are immersed in compatible organizational environments. AEE developers, therefore, must consider cultural factors, and the first step in implementing an AEE should be to identify organizational and process problems. Many organizations are already implementing AEE technologies as they are developed and validated. As more AEE technologies become available for integration, they are beginning to take on the characteristics of an AEE system. An ideal AEE system would encompass the entire mission or product life cycle, from the initial analysis of mission requirements to system disposal at end of life. Throughout the process, the AEE would constantly seek to optimize reliability, performance, and cost. These activities would take place in a seamless blend of interdisciplinary work functions 1   A complete list of the barriers identified in the Phase 1 report appears in Appendix B of this report (see Table B-1 ). The Phase 1 report is also available on line at http://books.nap.edu/html/adv_eng_env/ 2   A virtual environment is defined as “an appropriately programmed computer that generates or synthesizes virtual worlds with which the operator can interact” (NRC 1995). A distributed environment is a nonvirtual, collaborative computing system.

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Design in the New Millennium: ADVANCED ENGINEERING ENVIRONMENTS through flawlessly integrated data sets and tools that would not require burdensome software development. For example, the AEE described in the prologue allows engineers to look inside the engine they are designing and to visualize with ease the internal characteristics of a full-scale, integrated system using a simulation of the actual operating environment. In this engineering environment, physically separated members of the design team all view the same events. Even for relatively simple problems, the AEE approach described would be of great benefit because complex engineering systems often fail, not because of exotic, poorly understood problems, but because of simple flaws that could not be identified in isolation from the operation of the full systems. The prologue shows how even complex problems could be solved. In that scenario, a perfectly fine injector in terms of basic operation contributes to a catastrophic failure mode when combined with a rocket chamber and nozzle, both of which are perfectly satisfactory units in isolation from each other. AEE systems that could eliminate such failures would represent an immense step forward in engineering practice. An ideal AEE would also accommodate diverse user groups and facilitate their collaboration by helping to eliminate cultural barriers between groups from different parts of an organization, different organizations, or different areas of the world. The system would be marked by innovative solutions to difficult problems and functional flexibility that could rapidly reorient and restructure itself at little or no extra cost. Finally, the ideal AEE would be amenable to hardware and software upgrades in a transparent way. Table 1-1 lists the major components of an AEE and the most important characteristics for fulfilling the committee's AEE vision. TABLE 1-1 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 adaptive human-machine interfaces networked virtual environments immersive systems telepresence intelligence augmentationa Hardware and Networks ultrafast computing systems large high-speed storage devices high-speed and intelligent networks aIntelligence augmentation is the ability of computer systems to enhance human performance in terms of decision making, problem solving, and other task-critical capabilities. Intelligence augmentation includes monitoring and storing important data, creating filtered information, and suggesting alternative courses of action based on the situation and task at hand. Although developing a “perfect” AEE and integrating it with existing systems might seem far-fetched, the committee believes that independent advances in AEE technologies and the resolution of cultural issues will help achieve a comprehensive AEE system that incorporates the legacy systems currently used. With strong leadership and sustained commitment to innovation, organizations can establish the cultural and technological base necessary to take full advantage of AEE technologies and systems, now and at every stage of development. Internet-Related Technologies and Applications One theme of this report is the importance of coordinating the development of AEE technologies and systems with the development of Internet-related technologies and applications. These technologies and applications include software and hardware that provide the basic capabilities of the Internet to (1) transfer large amounts of data quickly and reliably among interconnected public and private networks and (2) enable shared, distributed applications and objects (such as e-mail, Web browsers, Internet-based video-conference systems, and simulations) that enhance the functionality of the Internet to the general public, including the science and engineering communities. Internet-related technologies and applications may be associated with (1) the current Internet, (2) the Internet of the future (in whatever form it takes), or (3) current or future private networks, which may be established to provide a guaranteed level of quality of service or to test advanced technologies. Unlike Internet-related technologies and applications, AEEs are intended for a special purpose and have a small market compared to the Internet as a whole. Thus, the development of Internet-related technologies and applications will proceed without regard to the needs of AEEs unless special efforts are made to integrate them. STUDY OVERVIEW AND REPORT ORGANIZATION The Statement of Task for this study (see Appendix A) required that the committee conduct a two-phase assessment of existing and planned methods, architectures, tools, and capabilities associated with the development of AEE technologies and systems and their transition into practice by the current and future workforce. The Phase 1 report, issued in June 1999, focused on AEE requirements and alternatives for meeting those requirements, barriers to the implementation of AEEs, and near-term steps that would further the development of AEE technologies and systems with broad application in industry, government, and academia. A complete list of the findings, recommendations, and barriers identified in the Phase 1 report appear in Appendix B of this report. Expanding on the results of Phase 1, this Phase 2 report focuses on the feasibility of developing AEE technologies

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Design in the New Millennium: ADVANCED ENGINEERING ENVIRONMENTS and systems over the long term (the next 5 to 15 years). Chapter 2 examines current product and mission design practices and goals for the future. Chapter 3 identifies AEE technologies that are available but underutilized, describes how AEE capabilities would improve specific aspects of the design process, describes future expectations based on the current state of AEE research and development, and identifies high-priority efforts that would improve the 15-year outlook. Chapter 4 expands on the barriers identified in the Phase 1 report and recommends ways to overcome them. Chapter 5 describes a general approach for making long-term improvements in AEE capabilities and corresponding roles of industry, government, and academia. Appendix C lists all of the findings and recommendations in this report. REFERENCES NRC (National Research Council) . 1995 . Virtual Reality: Scientific and Technical Challenges . Committee on Virtual Reality Research and Development . Washington, D.C. : National Academy Press . Available on line at: http://books.nap.edu/catalog/4761.html June 2, 2000 . NRC . 1999 . Advanced Engineering Environments: Achieving the Vision (Phase 1) . Committee on Advanced Engineering Environments . Washington, D.C. : National Academy Press . Available on line at: http://books.nap.edu/html/adv_eng_env/ April 5, 2000 .