TALENT Features

Technical Features of TALENT™

TALENT™ has been designed to be a Open Architecture integration platform for implementation of automation systems, as opposed to a custom application. All public interfaces are documented for users to develop additional components (controllers, Add-ins, etc.).

Some of the important technical features that are visible to the users are:

Distributed Component Object Model Architecture and Add-in
VBA Integrated Design Environment (IDE)
Interoperability
Data sharing
Separation of Facility and Experiment Functions


Distributed Component Object Model Architecture and Add-in

Distributed Component Object Model Architecture and Add-in
TALENT™ V4 is designed using the Windows Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) architecture. It is designed according to the n-tier paradigm. The TALENT™ platform is not a single application, but a number of ActiveX executables and components.

The ActiveX executables can be configured to run in specified computers, allowing scaleability, and under the specified security only. Some executables are applications that provide interactive functions, e.g. Operator interface, others are non-interactive servers that coordinate the run-time environment, e.g. process manager, or act as information servers, e.g. test information server.

The ActiveX components are shared by run-time applications as well as preparation-time applications. For example, the same component is used for creating new tests (preparation time), defining / ordering tests, executing tests (run-time) and extracting test properties for test reports (post-run). These ActiveX components can be directly used by user created applications, e.g. using Excel to extract test properties through TALENT™ components.

The system is designed with Add-in technology, so that components can be added to the system to customize a specific facility or subsystem. For example, new specialized displays and new data system architecture can be added to the TALENT™ system using Add-ins. The users can develop their own Add-ins, according to the documented interfaces.

VBA Integrated Design Environment (IDE) [ top ]

TALENT™ supports automated testing with the Test Automation Language (TAL) which is an extension of the Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). TAL provides much more flexibility than a "recipe" or a "fill in the blanks test matrix" system.

TAL VBA extensions are for run-time data access, rule based exception handling classes, timers, facility control objects, and access to TALENT™ ActiveX components.

The Integrated Design Environment is part of VBA, which shows the user the expected "arguments" for commands as they are being entered.

Interoperability [ top ]

The generic data displays in TALENT™ can be copied to Microsoft Word, Wordpad, Excel, etc., to produce quick ah-hoc reports.

Data I/O configurations can be exported to Excel, sensor calibration information can be imported from Excel (some customization may be required dependent on the format).

Data Sharing [ top ]

To provide a scaleable architecture, TALENT™ supports real-time data sharing among all computers. The data sharing is layered, independent of the physical connections.

For a slow (10 Hz) system, such as a typical climatic wind tunnel, the data sharing can be implemented using Ethernet LAN. For a faster system, such as a Blow Down Wind Tunnel, the data sharing is implemented through networked memory (e.g. Scramnet). In some implementations, the data sharing mechanisms can be mixed, e.g. high bandwidth sharing between data acquisition systems and control systems, low bandwidth to the operator for display only.

Each data acquisition process can determine how to sample its own sourced data to be shared with other systems. The layered approach allows each data acquisition process to record timely data from its own source as well as from other sources if required.

Separation of Facility and Experiment Functions [ top ]

The difference between a test facility and an industrial plant is that a test facility usually has a static facility configuration and a variable experiment data configuration; while an industrial plant do not have dynamic data configurations.

Some users, who have in-house programmers, go as far as writing a new data acquisition application for each experiment configuration!

TALENT™ differentiates between the facility and the experiment.

TALENT™ uses the term "facility" to describe those aspects of the test facility that are relatively permanent and common to all experiments, or that may pose a safety concern to either operating personnel or expensive equipment. As a result, safety and security are primary design considerations for facility software.

On the other hand, "experiment" activities are typically more transient, and flexibility is often as important as security. In some cases, the limit allowed on a test object is much lower than the capability of the facility, e.g. the maximum load on a test vehicle may be lower than that of the facility balance. In other cases a test engineer might wish to push a test object to failure to test its limits, e.g. in a heat damage test. Decisions made in a test procedure are often depend on data that is not from the facility equipment, e.g. waiting for stabilization of the test object temperature. As a result, flexibility and separation from the facility are primary design considerations for experiment software.

TALENT™ protects the investment in the fixed facility from accidental damage that can be caused by the experimenter by differentiating between the users (e.g. operator vs. test engineers), and between the facility and the experiment processes. The user / group is identified by the Windows logon identity, the associated access privilege is administered by the Domain Controller. The facility manager can decide what should be facility functions that can be accessed by the operators only. By making suitable choices, the facility manager can tailor the safety protection, as well as TALENT™ flexibility, to the precise needs of the research team. Conversely, the test engineer can also decide what should be the test condition limit in a test, separate from the facility equipment limit.
 

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