Modern products are complex configurations of mechanical hardware, electronics, and embedded software. If you wait to verify that they all work together at testing, you’re risking the chance of running into a major delay when you encounter a prototype failure. Instead, many companies are turning to system modeling and simulation as a way to digitally prototype their systems.

Note that this post is one in a series of reviews on Altair’s solutions. The overarching post is Altair’s Vision: Solution Breadth Surprises, which links to reviews of other Altair solutions. Furthermore, note that Altair Activate can work together with Altair Embed to support the Model-Based Development process. To learn more about Altair Embed, read our review in the post titled Altair Embed: Embedded Software Development Toolset.

Graphical Modeling

Altair Activate allows users to build a system model through a block-diagram graphical interface. The blocks in the diagram are components that are connected to one another via inputs and outputs, not unlike Altair Embed. Each block in the diagram captures the functional behavior of some component or sub-system in the product. Once all connected, this model can be run as a simulation of the entire system.

Libraries of Components

The Activate model is built by reusing components from a library or by creating a new one. These components come in a wide variety of functions, including:

  • Signal-Based Components: These components represent logical aspects of a system, such as an embedded system providing closed-loop control. This type of component can represent any software or electronic hardware.
  • Equation-Based Components: These components represent the behavior of physical items through formulas and equations, such as actuators, motors and even something complex like a transmission. These components are modeled with mathematical languages or reduced order analytical models
  • Co-Simulation Components: These components also represent the behavior of physical items. However, these components accomplish this by connecting to 3D analysis models that are co-simulated with this system model.
  • 3rd Party Components: These components represent a third way to represent the behavior of physical items, although this is done by connecting to models from other applications like Matlab, Modelica, other CAE solutions as well as other sources.

Model-Based Development

Note that the capabilities of Altair Activate can be combined with those of Altair Embed to support the Model-Based Development process. Altair Embed allows engineers to model embedded software logic and control. Altair Activate allows engineers to model behaviors of hardware. When coupled together, simulations such as model-in-the-loop can be run. To learn more about Altair Activate, read our review in the post titled Altair Activate: Systems Development Solution.

Democratization of System Modeling

At the end of the day, Activate allows engineers to build and run model simulations of a system early in the development process to identify potential problems. That, in turn, enables them to sidestep system prototype failures that often derail development projects. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.


This solution is an intriguing one. There is a lot of flexibility in terms of reusing existing models to cobble together a holistic picture of a system’s performance. Furthermore, it fits the model of democratizing system simulation for non-experts.