Interfaces can be used to share data between a DPsim simulation and other, external services, for example an MQTT-broker. For the purpose of this guide, all services receiving and transmitting data besides the running DPsim instance are grouped in the term environment. Therefore, interfaces provide a way for a DPsim simulation to exchange data with the environment. This data is stored in the form of Attributes and can be imported or exported in every simulation time step. Exporting an attribute means that on every time step, the current value of that attribute is read and written out to the environment. Importing an attribute means that on every time step, a new value is read from the environment and the attribute in the simulation is updated to match this value.

Configuring an Interface

On the configuration level, an interface is an instance of the Interface class. Because the base Interface class requires an instance of an InterfaceWorker to construct, it is recommended to not use this base class directly, but instead construct a subclass derived from Interface which internally handles the construction of the InterfaceWorker. Currently, there exists only one such subclass in DPsim which is the InterfaceVillas.

Configuring the InterfaceVillas

This feature requires the compilation of DPsim with the WITH_VILLAS feature flag. For use of the InterfaceVillas in python, the dpsimpyvillas target has to built in addition to the normal dpsimpy package.

The InterfaceVillas is an interface designed to make use of the various node types and protocols supported by the VILLASframework. By utilizing the nodes provided by VILLASnode, the InterfaceVillas can be configured to import and export attributes from and to a wide range of external services. To create and configure an InterfaceVillas instance, create a new shared pointer of type InterfaceVillas and supply it with a configuration string in the first constructor argument. This configuration must be a valid JSON object containing the settings for the VILLASnode node that should be used for data import and export. This means that the JSON contains a type key describing what node type to use, as well as any additional configuration options required for this node type. The valid configuration keys can be found in the VILLASnode documentation.

After the InterfaceVillas object is created, the exportAttribute and importAttribute methods can be used to set up the data exchange between the DPsim simulation and the configured node. For an explanation of the various parameters, see the code documentation in InterfaceVillas.h. The attributes given as the first parameter to these methods are attributes belonging to components in the simulation which should be read or updated by the interface. As an example, for exporting and importing attributes via the MQTT protocol, the InterfaceVillas can be configured as follows:

Using C++:

// JSON configuration adhering to the VILLASnode documentation
std::string mqttConfig = R"STRING({
    "type": "mqtt",
    "format": "json",
    "host": "mqtt",
    "in": {
        "subscribe": "/mqtt-dpsim"
    "out": {
        "publish": "/dpsim-mqtt"

// Creating a new InterfaceVillas object
std::shared_ptr<InterfaceVillas> intf = std::make_shared<InterfaceVillas>(mqttConfig);

// Configuring the InterfaceVillas to import and export attributes
intf->importAttribute(evs->mVoltageRef, 0, true, true);
intf->exportAttribute(r12->mIntfCurrent->deriveCoeff<Complex>(0, 0), 1, true, "v_load");

Using Python:

# JSON configuration adhering to the VILLASnode documentation
mqtt_config = '''{
        "type": "mqtt",
        "format": "json",
        "host": "mqtt",
        "in": {
            "subscribe": "/mqtt-dpsim"
        "out": {
            "publish": "/dpsim-mqtt"

# Creating a new InterfaceVillas object
intf = dpsimpyvillas.InterfaceVillas(name='dpsim-mqtt', config=mqtt_config)

# Configuring the InterfaceVillas to import and export attributes
intf.import_attribute(evs.attr('V_ref'), 0, True)
intf.export_attribute(r12.attr('i_intf').derive_coeff(0, 0), 0)

Adding an Interface to the Simulation

After a new interface has been created and configured, it can be added to a simulation using the Simulation::addInterface method:

// Create and configure simulation
RealTimeSimulation sim(simName);

// Create and configure interface
auto intf = //...

// Add interface to simulation

This method will add two new Tasks to the simulation. The interface’s PreStep task is set to modify all attributes that are imported from the environment and is therefore scheduled to execute before any other simulation tasks that depend on these attributes. The interface’s PostStep task is set to depend on all attributes that are exported to the environment and is therefore scheduled to execute after any other simulation tasks that might modify these attributes. To prevent the scheduler from just dropping the PostStep task since it does not modify any attributes and is therefore not seen as relevant to the simulation, the task is set to modify the Scheduler::external attribute. Note that the execution of these tasks might not necessarily coincide with the point in time at which the values are actually written out to or read from the environment. This is because the interface internally spawns two new threads for exchanging data with the environment and then uses a lock-free queue for communication between these reader and writer threads, and the simulation. Because of this, time-intensive import or export operations will not block the main simulation thread unless this is explicitly configured in the interface’s importAttribute and exportAttribute methods.

Synchronizing the Simulation with the Environment

To allow for synchronizing the DPsim simulation with external services, the Interface class provides some additional configuration options in the importAttribute and exportAttribute methods. For imports, setting the blockOnRead parameter will completely halt the simulation at the start of every time step until a new value for this attribute was read from the environment. Additionally, the syncOnSimulationStart parameter can be set for every import to indicate that this attribute is used to synchronize the start of the simulation. When a simulation contains any interfaces importing attributes which have syncOnSimulationStart set, the Simulation::sync will be called before the first time step. This method will:

  • write out all attributes configured for export to the environment
  • block until all attributes with syncOnSimulationStart set have been read from the environment at least once
  • write out all exported attributes again

Note that this setting operates independently of the blockOnRead flag. This means that with both flags set, the simulation will block again after the synchronization at the start of the first time step until another value is received for the attribute in question.