Naval ships today not only are highly capable vessels‚ they also are multi-faceted and immensely complicated information systems. Recognizing this‚ Navantia‚ a leading military shipbuilder based in Spain‚ has effectively differentiated itself in its industry by developing and deploying the next generation of ship management systems – what Navantia calls its Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS).

The key to Navantia’s advanced IPMS is a breakthrough software application‚ called COMPLEX‚ that the company and its development partner‚ Arisnova‚ built using InterSystems’ Caché object database. COMPLEX enables integration of standard functions like ship control and supervision with other advanced functions such as damage control‚ maintenance‚ on-board training and more‚ in part by extracting information from the shipyard’s design and construction data (drawings‚ specs and spreadsheets) to enhance the onboard operational systems. Currently Navantia has IPMS projects under way for the Spanish‚ Norwegian‚ Venezuelan and Australian navies.

Key Benefits

  • Adaptable
  • Rich data model to represent objects
  • High performance for event processing

“We have been able to develop a better system than anybody else in the world‚” says Juan Luis Muñoz‚ Technical Director at Navantia’s Control Systems Department. “It differentiates us from all competitors. In some cases Navantia has been able to sell ships thanks specifically to our integrated ship information system; sometimes it has been more important than the ship itself.”

IPMS is a distributed real-time digital control system. It comprises multifunction control consoles and a set of PLCs (programmable logic controllers) used for data acquisition and control. The consoles provide human-machine interfaces (HMIs) for system operators at various shipboard locations. System-wide connectivity is provided by redundant networking. IPMS has an open architecture that readily accommodates integration of all types of additional sub-systems (and their respective software) so that all can operate under the same information framework. The resulting functionality yields significant savings in installation‚ purchasing and maintenance costs.

Navantia began looking at alternatives to traditional relational databases and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems because of limitations that make those approaches inadequate for a high-performance IPMS. Their data models are too simplistic‚ their architectures too inflexible‚ and their performance too limited for an IPMS that must accommodate multiple sensors‚ various types of shipboard equipment‚ systems relationships‚ process workflow‚ and diverse types of information: static‚ dynamic‚ real-time‚ active and historical.

After reviewing their options‚ Navantia chose InterSystems Caché as the software foundation for COMPLEX for several reasons. “Caché’s data synchronization and replication capabilities are keys to deploying distributed control applications‚” Muñoz says. “Also‚ COMPLEX is a multi-platform solution capable of running both Windows and Linux applications‚ so we needed a database engine that offered the same. Caché’s excellent access speed allows queries in real time for generation of contextual menus or reports on-the-fly. And Caché’s access speed and massive storage capacity allow real-time data to be incorporated into the historical database without degrading application performance.”

In addition‚ Caché enables one of the most dramatic and visual features of COMPLEX: an integrated display environment that presents information to ship operators in three different complementary views:

  • A two-dimensional schematic‚ offering a simplified functional overview of systems;
  • A three-dimensional detailed view‚ providing the exact geographical location of elements inside ship compartments‚ with zoom‚ pan and rotation capability; and
  • A “data exploring” view‚ displaying data sheets about shipboard equipment and systems along with powerful tools for filtering and searching any kind of information

Other attributes of COMPLEX that derive from its Caché core include high system throughput‚ which now extends to 65‚000 signals. Also‚ COMPLEX provides linear expansion so that the user base can grow easily as needs change‚ with no additional development. Also‚ the reusability of COMPLEX reduces by 80 percent the number of development hours required to implement new IPMS projects.

Caché’s access speed and massive storage capacity allow real-time data to be incorporated into the historical database without degrading application performance

Juan Luis Muñoz, Technical Director‚ Control Systems Department

While COMPLEX already is a leadership IPMS‚ Navantia has ambitious plans. “Going forward‚ we plan to compile ship operations data in a big Caché database and let equipment maintenance experts access it so they can improve equipment design and maintenance regimens‚” Muñoz says. “Also we plan to create a simulated ship training system for educating equipment maintenance personnel.”

“Caché is by far the most significant enabling core technology in COMPLEX to achieve all our present and future requirements‚” Muñoz concludes.