Prashant Rao, Technical Manager, MathWorks India.
What are the functional and operational utilities of MATLAB-Simulink?
We have two main platforms - MATLAB is an environment for technical computing, and Simulink is an environment for simulation and model-based design. These two platforms go hand in hand. Whoever uses Simulink, uses or will have access to MATLAB as well. MATLAB is a kind of foundation for MathWorks' products. Today, we have 90-plus products catering to different capabilities or enhancing these platforms in various ways, taking users deeper in their workflows, plus giving them access to other application areas. Some of the add-ons enhance the core platform for the usage in a specific application area or enhancement to the tool chain for the workflow.
MATLAB enables users to access data in different ways. This also enables analysis of data, modelling it, developing an algorithm and develop an application as well incorporating various parameters. And finally, various customised reports are prepared automatically and shared through different means.
Simulink is an environment for modelling, simulating and implementing dynamic and embedded systems. Whether the systems are linear, non-linear, distinct time, continuous time, hybrid, multi-range etc., they can be modelled on Simulink, and the designer can run simulations to understand the behaviour of the system very early on in the design process. Before even having developed the system they can run, review, refine the model sufficiently so as to bring in more real-world effect, run it across multiple domains, do real-time testing, and they can generate code automatically, and run it then on the final embedded system integrated into their actual environment.
How these systems can be used in a manufacturing scenario?
There are several applications for Simulink in the power sector. Engineers developing power generation or power transmission equipment use it extensively. Optimising a certain parameter - let's say optimising the angle of a turbine blade, it can be used for that purpose as well. Every kind of system that is developed today has a controller to control it through software. All such control software can be developed using Simulink. We can generate the C-code that goes actually into that micro controller, automatically from the software. And these tools having engineering realms also certify the workflow as required under various certification standards. Thus, it can be used in automation of any manufacturing system.
To what extent these tools can be used in power sector? Please explain the associated benefits.
I will provide a brief a case study here. Alstom developed a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission control system using model-based design. HVDC system offer several advantages over AC transmission system. But it calls for conversion of voltage from AC into DC, which requires a complex converter station. Traditional line-commutated converters (LCC) requires multiple filter bags, which are very expensive and quite large, making it a challenge for their installation at offshore or onshore environment or wind farms, where space is limited. In this scenario, voltage source converter (VSC) will be a better solution. In VSC, the control system monitors numerous inputs. For example, voltage capacity has to be monitored for every 100 micro seconds, and provide the right control signal for the system. Under the traditional method it would have required one to build a prototype, run it, simulate various faults and verify it across different conditions. At times some of these conditions can also be detrimental to the equipment. But Simulink could help in creating a model and running simulations and verify those designs for errors early. With Simulink, the time taken for the demonstrator process can be crunched to 3 months from 12 months under the traditional process. And often you need design iterations, the cycle time of which can be brought down from two months to less than two weeks. And documentation updates, which would usually take companies two weeks, can be done in a matter of minutes. Further benefits come from integration of developed systems into user's overall power system simulation software. Thus, users derive huge benefits from MATLAB-Simulink in terms of Return on Investment (RoI).
Regulators are pushing for smarter T&D systems. How these tools can help in that area?
MATLAB can be used in areas like load forecasting and energy demand forecasting. Using the live data coming from network stations, one can study results. There are cases where power companies used our tools to address planned demand by allocating supply schedules to various power plants, and based on various parameters as well like season, weather, weather forecasts etc, which can be used for load planning and demand/price optimisation by power utilities.
Is it in an open environment or ...
It is a very open environment. It is programmable. Even if there are things we don't ship, there is a huge ecosystem of third party providers as well, who may have built something and providing it. We also have a community, what is known as MATLAB Central, in which people can upload the algorithm of their own developed on MATLAB and provided to the rest of the users.
What kinds of skill sets are necessary for operating these tools to realise upmost benefit?
It is an important area for us. We offer a whole host of training programmes, whether it is fundamentals of MATLAB or Simulink, and taking the user to MATLAB for machine learning training course. Practically everybody going through engineering today has touched MATLAB-Simulink and usage patterns of their tools. We have a group of professionals and specialists for training engineers who work with customers, in developing competency in their user tools. We also have a couple of online offerings, besides webinars, videos, moocs, books etc., for this purpose.
How the tools have evolved ...
The product has been developed over last 33 years around what are the key technology areas that are evolving at a certain point in time. The core of MATLAB-Simulink has remained the same, but there was a constant evolution in how they do it, and how they have helped customer develop different systems. Today, we have a host of over 90 products. We have two major releases in a year - in March and September, where we introduce new tools, new capabilities with the tools or products.
Please throw some light on MathWorks and its operations?
MathWorks is a privately held global MNC founded in 1984, with headquarters at Natick in Boston, US. Majority of the development work takes place out of Natick. We have about 2 million users globally spread across over 125 countries. In India, we have started operations directly in 2009 with head office located in Bengaluru (erstwhile Bangalore), where we also have two development centres today. We have two regional sales offices in Pune and Delhi. Total employee strength in India is approx. 220 and growing. Worldwide, we have approx. 3,500 employees.
We cater to industries like aerospace, defence, automotive, energy production, industrial automation and machinery, communications, electronics, semiconductors, medical devices, financial services, software and internet, railway systems etc., across the base. We are deeply rooted in education. In India also it is as diverse as it is anywhere else in the world.
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