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Pushing back the boundaries of electronic integration, processing capability and real-time limitations

23 April 2013 by Hicham El Merini, Bull Security Solutions

Executive Opinion by Hicham El Merini, Director of the Critical Systems unit, Bull Security Solutions

Part of Bull’s Security Solutions Business Line, our Critical Systems unit has built up a business that complements the Group’s expertise. As an end-to-end integrator of high level technologies, Critical Systems designs and develops advanced solutions for the aerospace, defense, maritime, transport, healthcare, energy and industry sectors. A manufacturer of critical systems, we can deliver strong added value even when faced with ambitious and complex requirements. We are involved at the very highest level, technologically speaking, where the demands for performance, security and robustness of both hardware and software are pushing electronic integration, processing capacity and real-time capabilities to their very limits.

To develop critical systems and fulfill our commitments to our customers, we cover the entire development lifecycle. The Critical Systems unit is organized by areas of expertise such as micro-electronics; scientific, industrial and embedded software; networks and telecoms… and crossed-fertilized with sector-specific know-how which is essential to fully master not only the challenges and constraints but also the specific methodological and regulatory factors in each industry. We also invest massively in research and development, sponsoring many researchers and PhD students. We have set up specific research departments in several key, complementary areas including mechanics, hardware and software.

These solutions are also characterized by exacting standards that must be respected during development. This is one of the strengths of Critical Systems, which covers the whole life cycle of critical systems – design, integration, implementation – and industrializes its technical and methodological expertise at each stage. This allows us to cater to sectors that may be different, but share strong regulatory and operational requirements.

The aviation sector is a good example. At every stage of the development life cycle of the system, embedded critical systems must be validated in the extreme conditions of stress they will endure, from the feasibility study to qualification. It is to address these methodological requirements (DO-254 and DO-178B standards) that we have developed for a large aerospace company the tools and methods of a new test bench concept. The result is a fully virtualized aircraft in a single hybrid environment – each of its components is simulated and modeled for tests that would be costly or even impossible in real conditions. In the military aviation sector, Critical Systems develops embedded data concentrators that are “hardened” to DO-160E and GAM EG13 standards, ensuring a continuous flow of information to onboard instruments.

The healthcare sector has methodological requirement levels that are similar to those of aviation. Our teams have created extremely reliable medical devices, on which will depend the lives of the seriously ill. Again, the requirements are strict: ISO and IEC standards for implantable devices. The expertise of Critical Systems also covers analysis tools for 2D and 3D medical imaging – but also infotainment solutions that reduce stress for patients.

In the transportation industry, Critical Systems develops offers that include robust technology, and meet the Safety Integrity Level (SIL) level 1-4 standards. Our e-ticketing and infotainment solutions are used by many public transport systems in the world. And in the energy sector, Critical Systems’ flow control solutions incorporate real-time data from secure hardened sensors to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants.

To meet extraordinary demands, and go above and beyond what traditional solutions can offer, you need to new ideas, new ways of optimizing your products, novel interrelationships, unexpected ways of doing things… So, capitalizing on its wide range of expertise, Bull’s Critical Systems unit has made a unique specialism of bringing together people with different skills to give birth to these kinds of innovative, composite solutions

Today, Bull’s Critical Systems unit is a unique player in the technology integration market, as we provide not only the solidity and depth of a major group, but also the flexibility and insight of a niche player. As an established specialist in critical systems, Bull can deliver to major prime contractors a rare combination of leading-edge expertise, close local proximity and a culture of excellence.

A critical system is one where any failure is likely to result in serious consequences for the integrity of people (the flight calculator on a plane), the economy (the encryption of banking transactions) or the environment (the control system for a nuclear reactor). Whether in civil or military aerospace, rail transport, land-sea defense systems, biomedicine, nuclear or satellite installations, critical systems are governed by extremely strict requirements in terms of reliability, resilience and/or security, so they must be designed, tested and validated with these constraints in mind. Designing and implementing such systems requires highly specific know-how, because not only do you need in-depth understanding of all the available hardware and software technologies to create ruggedized components, but you also need a complete grasp of the requirements, methods and rules relating to the systems themselves. For over three decades now, the Critical Systems unit has offered its customers comprehensive, made-to-measure and competitive solutions – for everything from land-based to on-board equipment, in harsh or secure environments – thanks to its tight integration of leading-edge skills and close attention to detail when it comes to reaching the limits of what is technically possible.

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