Systems Engineering (SE)

Understanding Systems through Graph Theory and Dynamic Visualization

by Troy Peterson


As today’s Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) become more and more complex they provide both incredible opportunity and risk. In fact, rapidly growing complexity is a significant impediment to the successful development, integration, and innovation of systems. Over the years, methods to manage system complexity have taken many forms. Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) provides organizations a timely opportunity to address the complexities of Cyber Physical Systems. MBSE tools, languages and methods are having a very positive impact but are still in a formative stage and continue to evolve. Moreover, the Systems Modeling Language (SysML) has proven to be a significant enabler to advance MBSE methods given its flexibility and expressiveness. While the strengths of SysML provide clarity and consistency, unfortunately the number of people who know SysML well is relatively small. To bring the full power of MBSE to the larger community, system models represented in SysML can be rendered in a more intuitive form. More specifically, Graph Theory has proven to be very effective in the design, analysis, management, and integration of complex systems. Network Analysis and Design Structure Matrix, both variants of Graph Theory, enable users to model, visualize, and analyze the interactions among the entities of any system. Use of MBSE and Graph Theory together to create dynamic visualization can help teams gain insights, build intuition and ultimately help speed the innovation process.