In 2005, QNX issued a press release that described 25 ways in which people encounter QNX technology every day. I'm on a personal mission to expand the list and, in January, suggested Item 26: taking your medicine. Now let me suggest Item 27: washing your boxer shorts.
Every year, Diehl Controls, a multinational headquartered in Germany, builds more than one million control panels for stoves, refrigerators, cooking hoods, washing machines, and other appliances. Diehl sells these control panels to appliance manufacturers, who then integrate the panels into their end products.
On the face of it, the control panels on most washing machines look pretty much the same. Look closer, however, and you'll find that their functions and control sequences vary from one model of machine to another. As a result, a one-size-fits-all approach to programming and testing washing-machine panels simply doesn’t wash.
Enter VIP-CAT, a QNX-based system that helps Diehl speed up the process of configuring control panels for multiple customers and product models. When an operator plugs a control panel into VIP-CAT, the system’s software configures the panel for a specific model of washing machine and then tests the panel to ensure that it functions correctly.
4D Engineering, a company headquartered in Wessling, Germany, developed the software for VIP-CAT. The software takes advantage of several QNX technologies, including the QNX Photon microGUI and QNX distributed processing. For instance, the system is controlled by four QNX-based machines: a master controller and three station controllers. When the master controller receives configuration files and other data from a corporate back-end system, it uses QNX distributed processing to share the information with the station controllers.
The system also takes advantage of QNX’s modular architecture, which allows software tasks to run as user-space processes that can be developed, tested, and validated individually. This modular approach not only makes the system more reliable, but also allowed engineers at 4D and Diehl to divvy up the work and develop the system’s various software tasks in parallel.
For more details, check out 4D’s overview of the VIP-CAT project.