Synopsys Acquires PikeTec Software Engineering, Enhancing Electronics Digital Twins Platform

Synopsys Editorial Staff

Aug 28, 2023 / 5 min read

With 500 million lines of code inside modern vehicles—and the 1 billion mark not too far off—the age of software-driven vehicles is very much here. As challenging as hardware development is, software development can be even more difficult and time-consuming. Thankfully, digital twins—virtual models or representations of systems under development—have emerged to dramatically reduce the soaring cost of verifying and validating software-defined products.

Valued at $12.9 billion in 2022, the digital twins market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 35% to 40% through 2030, according to industry analysts. Increasing adoption of enabling technologies such as AI, enterprise internet of things (IoT) platforms, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are driving the market growth. In addition, advancements in technologies such as modeling, simulation, and visualization software integrated with digital twins capabilities are anticipated to further spur growth in this area.

A small but rapidly growing segment of this market is electronics digital twins, consisting of digital replicas of an electronics system: hardware, software, and its environment. Used throughout the product lifecycle, electronics digital twins accelerate software and system development, verification, and test through a broad range of uses cases. Example use cases include software bring-up; hardware/software validation; power and performance analysis; functional safety; software, security, and system validation and testing; and functional safety and security testing. To address the needs of the automotive industry’s move towards software-defined vehicles, Synopsys has developed its electronics digital twin solution for this sector. To this end, Synopsys has acquired PikeTec Software Engineering, a Berlin, Germany-based company that develops solutions for the automated testing and integration of automotive software. For more details about the newest member of the Synopsys family, we chatted with Tom De Schutter, vice president of product management and system solutions in the Synopsys Systems Design Group. 

automotive digital twins technology

Q: Why are electronics digital twins playing such a key role in verification these days?
A: Products are now so much driven by the end application. And the fact that the workloads define what the product needs to be optimized for is driving customization on the software and the hardware side. Software is playing a greater role in delivering new features and functionality for the end application. This enables new capabilities to be introduced after product launch via software updates throughout the product’s lifecycle. The software requires customized hardware to achieve power and performance targets to run the workload well. Rather than having SoCs that used to support all these different applications, now we’re seeing more customized hardware for each of these applications.

As a result, we need to develop software and hardware together and test it in the context of the SoC. How we verify hardware, what constitutes the system, and how we test software and hardware in the context of the end application is where electronics digital twins come into play. They provide the infrastructure that mimics how the product can be used, allowing design teams to run software on a digital representation of the hardware. In the automotive space, electronics digital twins can scale from an SoC or MCU to a full ECU and a network of ECUs.

Q: What are some primary use cases for electronics digital twins?

A: From our customers, we’re seeing three main use cases:

  • Software development and regression testing in the context of hardware
  • Performance validation, for an understanding of whether the system being built will perform as intended in the end application
  • Power analysis, to determine whether, when running heavy workloads, the system delivers the right performance in an optimal power envelope for the end application

Q: What are PikeTec’s key strengths and how will they enhance what Synopsys brings to the table?

A: PikeTec simplifies and automates testing for automotive OEMs and Tier 1s, providing flexible, intuitive solutions for them to test electronic control unit (ECU) software and embedded control systems across all development phases, including model-in-the-loop, software-in-the-loop, processor-in-the-loop, hardware-in-the-loop, and vehicle-in-the-loop. PikeTec’s test automation technology essentially complements our electronics digital twins engines—Synopsys Silver (software-in-the-loop), Synopsys Virtualizer™ (virtual hardware/virtual hardware-in-the-loop), Synopsys ZeBu® emulation system, and Synopsys HAPS® prototyping system. As such, the tests can be reused across the different simulation technologies, providing an efficient and simplified testing environment.

Q: As software-defined vehicles transform the landscape of the automotive industry, what do automakers need to know to deliver to customers’ expectations?

A: Automakers that lack sufficient software development and testing capabilities will face major risks, including delays in starting production and budget overruns. They may also lag behind competitors and new entrants who are able to more quickly bring more innovative products to market. In addition, software issues can lead to massive recalls or leave companies vulnerable to hackers who can cause customer safety issues. In this environment, rigorous testing of vehicle components and software is essential, and this is where test automation solutions provide great value.

In test automation, tests are defined before coding begins and are automatically run after code integration. The goal is to achieve sufficient coverage to validate and certify the proper behavior—functional, safety, and security—of a vehicle and its functions faster and with lower costs. Adoption of automated testing practices has been relatively slow in the automotive industry. Yet, a McKinsey study indicates that companies that are using these technologies have increased their productivity by more than 40% while reducing residual defect density by more than 60%.

Q: With PikeTec technologies in the fold, how can Synopsys help automotive OEMs and Tier 1s meet quality, time-to-market, and budget goals?

A: Each product, whether originally from Synopsys or from PikeTec, will stand on its own and can be used as is in the customer’s development cycle. However, together, they provide a comprehensive electronics digital twins platform that we hope will revolutionize product development, enabling our customers to dramatically reduce costs and time-to-market. In the automotive space, PikeTec’s test automation technologies are ideally suited for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), body, chassis, powertrain, and charging systems. With native support for tests prescribed by the ISO 26262 automotive functional safety standard, customers can address functional, safety, and security issues with confidence.

Q: What can customers expect as the acquisition closes?

A: As we integrate PikeTec’s products and engineering teams into the mix, we’re essentially putting together all the engines needed to ensure that software is fully functional and ready to deliver the performance intended along with the hardware. For example, when a pedestrian crosses the road and the driver doesn’t react quickly enough, will the car detect and prevent a possible collision? PikeTec’s test scenarios assess the impact of input on control systems (such as those for ADAS), while our simulation and virtual prototyping technologies enable higher quality and faster system bring-up.

We will continue to support and enhance PikeTec’s products, while taking advantage of opportunities to create value links across products. The potential to integrate AI into functions such as test case generation is exciting, and so is the possibility of leveraging the flexibility, elasticity, and scalability of the cloud for testing. As more products in various industries are driven by software, we anticipate electronics digital twins will become an increasingly integral part of the electronic product development cycle. 

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