Technology Library

Jun 2010
How to make Virtual Prototyping Better than Designing with Hardware
The virtual test bench is easily deployed to anywhere in the world and is easily modified as requirements change.
The virtual test bench is easily deployed to anywhere in the world and is easily modified as requirements change.

Engineers embrace model-based design in many different disciplines associated with product development, for example, finite element analysis in mechanical engineering and circuit simulation for electrical engineering.

Modeling enables development before physical prototypes are available. It enables development that is not possible, or is very difficult, with the physical or actual product. Virtual prototyping of embedded hardware brings the model-based design paradigm to embedded system development.

The use of virtual prototypes prior to hardware delivery has well-documented benefits for architectural exploration, early software development, golden reference specifications, reduced silicon turns, and software/hardware co-verification. This article focuses on the virtual prototype benefits after physical prototype availability. The Google Android Emulator is a well known example of how a VP delivers value even after silicon is available.

A successful virtual prototype (VP) of Electronic Control Units (ECU) has five key characteristics:

  1. Provides for simultaneous verification of hardware and software (co-verification)
  2. Consists of behavioral models of the CPU, peripherals and Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) that provide bench look and feel for the software programmer
  3. Loads and executes the same executable image as the physical ECU
  4. Executes target firmware no less than one order of magnitude slower than the physical hardware (20-200 million instructions per second), fast enough for software development
  5. May be aggregated into larger super-simulations of multiple ECUs and include sensor and actuator plant models