February 5, 2016By Lance Baily

Simulation Modeling – From SimNET to the Internet of Simulations

From time to time we share stories from other industries that utilize simulation. There are plenty of lessons healthcare simulation can learn from the military, and today’s blog post provides a peak into the history and current status of simulation modeling. Here are some excerpts from Jose-Maria Lopez of Spanish operated Simware touching highlighting the history from “SimNET” to the Internet of Simulations. Such modeling tools enable programs to simulate future events and better plan for unforeseen scenarios. Imagine the applications for healthcare if we could simulate an entire hospital in real time and change just one wall placement at a time.

The Internet of Simulations Excerpt:

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I read first about the origin of LVC simulation: the DARPA’s SIMNET program. The origin of LVC simulation for training as it is demanded now, based on high fidelity simulations, very inmersive 3D graphics and connected simulators in a network, was this SIMNET project. SIMNET was a DARPA sponsored and funded project and it is origin and importance for the readiness of the military forces is explained in the book : “The Pentagon’s Brain. An uncensored history of DARPA, …” by Annie Jacobsen. In her book, Ms Jacobsen explained how Capt (later Col) Thorpe, in 1978, got a very radical idea in that time : to link two flight simulators in order to allow a pilot and its wingman to train together in a common virtual world. Based on this first experiment made at Williams Air Force in Arizona, Capt Thorpe proposed the development of a network of flight simulators that would allow for ” real time dress rehearsals”. This idea was very radical in that time because the Internet’s predecessor, ARPANET, was only an small experiment in the late 70s. Capt Thorpe was able to go back to his idea in the early 80s when he was assigned to DARPA as a program manager.

In that moment he was aware of the classified work in ARPANET and was able to transform its idea in a new program in 1983 using the new technologies for networking developed at ARPANET; this project was named SIMNET and was focused on the main military priority in the early 80s: how to train and rehearse tanks battles as could be performed on Europe against the soviet armor forces. Now, 30 years later, SIMNET has evolved to LVC simulation and it is demanded  worldwide as a a basic tool to keep the operational readiness of the military and security forces. This reading has made me to compare how different has been the evolution of Arpanet and Simnet since they were created as DoD funded programs under the umbrella of DARPA:

  • Arpanet has evolved to Internet and has expanded its presence  everywhere, Internet has been able to offer an open platform to communicate people and machines located anywhere. Internet has been a big success, being able to position itself as the main platform to do any kind of business between companies and consumers (B2B, B2C, C2C, etc.) 
  • Meanwhile, SIMNET was the origin of many new technologies, not only for networking simulators but also to create impressive 3D virtual worlds. 3D has been able to go to the mainstream and now everyone has more 3D power in its smartphone than SIMNET had in its tank simulators in the 80s. But networking simulators is still a big issue even now in the 21th century, requesting large budgets and a lot of work performed by many skillful engineers, especially for high-fidelity simulators in the military or aerospace markets. The only market niche in which networked simulation has been able to go to the mainstream has been with the massive online multi-player games, but in this case each game is a propietary platform itself, closed to any external application.

About Simware:

Update 2020: The company appears to have gone out of longer in business.

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Simware was a leading the introduction of Open platforms into the Simulation & Training markets. Their platform Simware leveraged the new Layered Simulation Architecture or LSA to fulfill the requirements of the lead users of the industry, which are demanding open architectures, better interoperability and increasing economical returns for their investments in simulation and training solutions.

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