NI Week roundup: software launches and the Internet of Things
Image credit: National Instruments
National Instruments has unveiled new software packages at its annual conference in Austin, Texas that it says can build into a platform for implementing the industrial internet of things.
Technologies like 5G communications, the Internet of Things, and automotive trends like electrification and ‘vehicle to everything’ communications are all making systems much more complex in the semiconductor, transport, aerospace and defence sectors, said National Instruments' marketing VP, Luke Schreier. While engineering teams are smaller, they are having to do more test in less time. This is leading more of them to platform-based open systems like those that NI produces. He said the company’s own survey showed 72 per cent of engineers and scientists want customisable test systems, either by themselves through an API or tailored by the vendor.
“LabView, for more than 30 years, can do all that,” said Schreier. At last year’s NI Week the company launched LabView NXG, the next-generation software based on totally new code, but it is maintaining both old and new LabView code bases for the time being. NI announced the 2.1 version of LabView NXG with many new features including the ability to compile code to run in a web browser, useful for monitoring remote systems. But it also continues to release updates in the previous generation software and at this year’s NI Week announced LabView 2018, which builds on that code base of 32 years for its 300,000 active users.
“We’re going to take some of the common requirements that we’ve seen people do many times and go a step further,” said Schreier. “This is something we’ve also done in the past but maybe not put it in that same context.”
“With InstrumentStudio software providing an interactive multi-instrument experience, TestStand test-management software handling overall execution, and reporting and SystemLink software managing assets and software deployments, this workflow improves the productivity of test and validation labs across many industries,” the company said. “Each piece of the workflow is also interoperable with third-party software to maximise code and IP reuse.”
NI describes Systemlink as application software for distributed systems management, designed to improve operational efficiency and decrease maintenance costs through a centralised interface for automating tasks such as software deployment, remote device configuration and system health-performance monitoring. SystemLink supports hardware from other suppliers as well as NI.
To start with, SystemLink could be used to monitor and help coordinate test setups in different locations, as it gives the manager an overall view of various facilities and their status in one place. “SystemLink substantially reduces the administration time necessary to deploy software and manage configurations on test systems,” said Daniel Huang, head of testing technology at Siemens AG.
Duncan Hudson, NI’s chief platform officer, said Systemlink is a higher-level software that could be developed with technologies like machine learning to make it much more powerful, moving in time for monitoring and software maintenance to using big data to provide insights and run large systems in much smarter ways.
“The architecture and the goal of these solutions are all very similar,” said Brett Berger, NI's principal marketing manager. “We’re trying to get the right data in front of the right people, whether that is maintenance data so a maintenance engineer could keep a pump running, or characterisation data of a battery pack for a design engineer. So whether we’re looking at the excavator, battery pack or pump, it’s a very similar theme and they use similar technologies. We’ve got applications like SystemLink, FlexLogger and InsightCM [for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance]; a lot of them are built on these IoT technologies for communication and storage and cloud technology and security. Even though they may have different names they are all connected, one big platform.”
“It’s about the right data to the right people but when you drop in analytics you’re helping those people make decisions,” said Burger. “We call it big analogue data. We could be streaming gigabytes of data per hour or per minute. No matter how experienced an engineer, when faced with terabytes of data having machine-learning analytics to go through and find patterns and correlations and focus your expertise on the parts that matter, that’s a big win.
“There’s the NI platform of technology that we’ve been fostering for decades and the more innovative technologies that we incorporate into that platform – and this goes back to storing the data, indexing the data, cloud, security, communication protocols - the more we can ingest that into our platform the more applicable our platform is to these IoT applications. And if you are already knowledgeable of our platform, then you get that immediate knowledge confidence because you don’t have to relearn the platform."
National Instruments launched four new pieces of software for industrial applications at NI Week. LabView 2018 allows engineers to integrate more third-party IP from tools like Python to make the most of the strengths of each package or existing IP. New functionality strengthens code reliability by automating the building and execution of software through integration with open interface tools like Jenkins for continuous delivery. For test engineers using FPGAs for high-performance processing, there are new deep-learning functions and improved floating-point operations.
FlexLogger acquires and logs synchronised, mixed measurements without programming. It’s designed to help automotive test departments quickly capture accurate, well documented data to verify system functionality in real-world conditions and comply with strict government regulations.
Technology innovations in areas like active safety, electrification and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication are changing how the automotive industry designs, tests and produces vehicles.
InstrumentStudio puts PXI modular instruments into a single view so engineers can capture screenshots and measurement results from their suite of instruments. It can also save project-level configurations for specific devices under test that can be repurposed later or shared with colleagues. They can export configuration files to programming environments that reproduce settings.
“For two decades, test and validation engineers have reduced their total cost of test and brought products to market faster using modular instruments on the PXI platform,” said Luke Schreier. “InstrumentStudio makes using NI PXI instruments even easier – from initial product discovery to system debugging – all with intuitive connections to programming environments and test sequencers. It’s a valuable tool in unlocking the full potential and usability of your bench or automated test rack.”
InstrumentStudio is included with the purchase of an NI PXI instrument. Engineers can also download the complimentary software from ni.com for use with existing NI products.