SimPy: Real-time simulations

This is another guide to SimPy simulations. SimPy ususally runs simulations as fast as possible, but sometimes, you might want your simulation to run synchronized with the wall-clock time. This kind of simulation is also called real-time simulation.

Real-time simulations may be necessary

  • if you have hardware-in-the-loop,
  • if there is human interaction with your simulation, or
  • if you want to analyze the real-time behavior of an algorithm.

To convert a simulation into a real-time simulation, you only need to replace SimPy’s default Environment with a simpy.rt.RealtimeEnvironment. Apart from the initial_time argument, there are two additional parameters: factor and strict: RealtimeEnvironment(initial_time=0, factor=1.0, strict=True).

The factor defines how much real time passes with each step of simulation time. By default, this is one second. If you set factor=0.1, a unit of simulation time will only take a tenth of a second; if you set factor=60, it will take a minute.

Here is a simple example for converting a normal simulation to a real-time simulation with a duration of one tenth of a second per simulation time unit:

>>> import time
>>> import simpy
>>>
>>> def example(env):
...     start = time.perf_counter()
...     yield env.timeout(1)
...     end = time.perf_counter()
...     print('Duration of one simulation time unit: %.2fs' % (end - start))
>>>
>>> env = simpy.Environment()
>>> proc = env.process(example(env))
>>> env.run(until=proc)
Duration of one simulation time unit: 0.00s
>>>
>>> import simpy.rt
>>> env = simpy.rt.RealtimeEnvironment(factor=0.1)
>>> proc = env.process(example(env))
>>> env.run(until=proc)
Duration of one simulation time unit: 0.10s

If the strict parameter is set to True (the default), the step() and run() methods will raise a RuntimeError if the computation within a simulation time step take more time than the real-time factor allows. In the following example, a process will perform a task that takes 0.02 seconds within a real-time environment with a time factor of 0.01 seconds:

>>> import time
>>> import simpy.rt
>>>
>>> def slow_proc(env):
...     time.sleep(0.02)  # Heavy computation :-)
...     yield env.timeout(1)
>>>
>>> env = simpy.rt.RealtimeEnvironment(factor=0.01)
>>> proc = env.process(slow_proc(env))
>>> try:
...     env.run(until=proc)
...     print('Everything alright')
... except RuntimeError:
...     print('Simulation is too slow')
Simulation is too slow

To suppress the error, simply set strict=False:

>>> env = simpy.rt.RealtimeEnvironment(factor=0.01, strict=False)
>>> proc = env.process(slow_proc(env))
>>> try:
...     env.run(until=proc)
...     print('Everything alright')
... except RuntimeError:
...     print('Simulation is too slow')
Everything alright

That’s it. Real-time simulations are that simple with SimPy! This guide is now also part of the official SimPy documentation.