RTMaps: Lightweight but Powerful Software for Data Logging

Published: June 18, 2021

Gwenael Dunand, Deputy CTO, Intempora S.A.

Data logging is one of the key stages in data-driven development in the ADAS/AD domain. Data must first be collected for training, and then data must be collected for validation and testing.

The data logging system, as a part of the in-vehicle measurement infrastructure, is composed of a hardware platform and application software. The hardware must be flexible and performant enough to process and store high-volume data streams from environmental sensors and external devices (see AUTERA, the data logging platform from dSPACE), while the software must be efficient and easy to use. 

Wishlist for Data Logging

The logging software can be tailored to a specific hardware or it can be stand-alone, allowing for an easier transition between data logging platforms. This can be especially beneficial when using a low-cost data logger for low-level automation projects and a high-performance data logger from a different supplier in AD applications. If the same software can be kept, significant time is saved on new knowledge acquisition.

What do users expect from the software? Apart from application-specific aspects, there are some basic requirements for in-vehicle data logging software that need to be fulfilled in order for it to work efficiently and reliably.

1. The hardware platform and operating system used need to be supported. This sounds trivial, but especially in the area of embedded platforms, there are many system variations, and often there is no guarantee that new software will be compatible with all relevant processor architectures. An embedded platform might also be changed between two projects, but the software still needs to be used.

2. The sensors, buses, and networks used in the vehicle have to be supported by the data logging software. There is an unbelievably large variety of these devices and protocols in the car, and all of them need to be taken into account by the software. In addition, agile development practices often introduce changes to the interface or to sensors during the project. To not affect the project timeline, the software must be highly flexible (without involving significant additional effort).

3. User action is required during a test drive, so purely laboratory-focused software would not be enough, and there should be easy and quick ways to access the software, especially for key functionality.

4. High efficiency and high data throughput has to be not only guaranteed by the hardware, but also managed and maintained by the software.

5. Parallel, time-correlated data collection across the different sensor streams is crucial. All captured data has to be time-stamped as otherwise it would be nearly impossible to quickly compile the data correctly after the test drive.

Additionally, seamless integration with the rest of the development environment would be beneficial. With all this in mind, is there an appropriate solution?

Tackling Data Logging Tasks Efficiently

RTMaps is a complete development and execution tool that is ideal for data logging.

You can put your mind at rest: Yes, these requirements can be met, and the following solution even solves many more challenges than those mentioned above. I am referring to RTMaps: a powerful yet resource-efficient software that can truly accelerate your real-time multi-sensor applications.

  • First, let’s have a look at the supported hardware and operating systems: RTMaps supports x86 64 bit and ARM-based architectures such as Raspberry Pi, NVIDIA® Jetson™, NVIDIA® Drive AGX, Renesas V3M, V3H, NXP Bluebox 2, and Bluebox 3.0. And RTMaps is available for Windows®, Linux (Ubuntu™ LTS), and QNX®. This is great news because it means more flexibility with regard to your data logging setup.
  • Additionally, RTMaps comes with a rich library of supported ADAS/AD sensors and automotive buses. With over 100 components dedicated to sensors, RTMaps offers one of the most comprehensive software stacks for acquiring, fusing, processing, and recording sensor data for autonomous vehicles. A good overview of all RTMaps-supported technologies can be found here.) 
  • To allow for easy access during test drives, Intempora has come up with something special: a simple interface for the driver, RTag, which is a remote control and tagging software for mobile devices. Just imagine it as your favorite tablet app that helps you monitor and annotate the recorded data.
  • You can rest assured that your hardware's fast processing speed does not stop there. The highly optimized RTMaps software lets you stream your data at the speed of light between components. With its pre-allocated fixed-size buffers, copyless and asynchronous data transfers, and multithreaded architecture, RTMaps is designed to make the most out of your multicore and multi-CPU architectures without adding any overheads.
  • Time coherency is a key asset of RTMaps because the RTMaps developers understood early on what would happen with a variety of different sensors and heterogenous data sources in your vehicle executing several processing channels in parallel with different latencies. The accurate time-stamping mechanism in RTMaps and the built-in features for data stream resynchronization maintain causality and time coherence in your complex real-time architecture with multiple tasks or ECUs.

Data Formats

RTMaps has an open-data format (.rec), which makes it possible to record data using multiple files. As a result, if you require only a subset of the original complete data streams, just take the appropriate files and replay them inside RTMaps. You can use only the needed data and are not required to use all recorded data every time. This is very useful for saving hard disk space and ethernet bandwidth when sharing data across development teams, partners, and customers.

Not only does RTMaps support its own fully open and documented data format, but it also uses many existing standards, such as MDF4, PCAP, BLF, etc. The table below contains a few of the compatible data logging standards:

Intempora - RTMaps .rec
CAN, CAN-FD .blf, .asc, binary
SOME/IP, Ethernet data Binary (.s8), .pcap
MDF4 .mf4
Video .avi, .mp4, …
Image .jpg, .png, .tiff, ...
Audio .wav
Text .csv, binary
GPS traces .kml, .nmea
IBEO .idc
LIN, FlexRay On demand
ROS 1 and 2 ROSbags with ROSBridge

A Comprehensive Solution

Our middleware RTMaps is not only a logging software, but also a complete development and execution tool, which can be used for innovative automotive applications such as autonomous driving developments, robotics, and much more. RTMaps integrates perfectly with the dSPACE product portfolio, including with the AUTERA hardware and the MicroAutoBox III Embedded PC. Despite the complexity of the tasks, RTMaps remains easy to use:  its unique graphical user interface allows engineering teams to work on the same application in a collaborative way, sharing several tasks and software functions. This ease of use enables both beginners and experts in software engineering to rapidly develop and control innovative applications that would normally take weeks to code. This is an outstanding advantage, especially in companies that want to boost their competitiveness in new developments in the field of mobility.

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