“Every engineering challenge starts with a measurement,” said Eric Starkloff, senior vice president, marketing, at National Instruments. “So we’ve been putting a lot of effort into integrating measurement seamlessly into the design process and design tools.” As an example of that, he said, NI presented the integration of NI LabVIEW algorithms into NI subsidiary AWR’s design flow at the recent 2013 International Microwave Symposium. The approach supports correlation of measurements from design through validation and even production.
Starkloff spoke to EE-Evaluation Engineering in the run-up to NIWeek 2013, scheduled Aug. 6-8 in Austin. His comment about design and test integration referred to a question regarding NIWeek 2012, at which CEO Dr. James Truchard presented a “V” diagram, with one leg representing test and the other design. A key point, Starkloff said, is the use of a single platform, such as the LabVIEW RIO architecture, for design, prototyping, deployment, and measurement. NI has showcased the approach as related to application areas including energy, life sciences, and transportation, and Starkloff said additional examples will be presented at NIWeek 2013.
In addition to design and test integration, platform-based design represents a key trend. “Our belief—and it continues to be reinforced—is that users doing platform-based design have a tremendous productivity advantage over starting with full-custom design,” Starkloff said. “And we are seeing in industry after industry that if you are not building on standard platforms, it’s very difficult to be competitive.”
Starkloff cited an example. Nowadays, he said, successful engineers in the mobile consumer space are either building a platform (for example, engineers at Apple, Google, or Samsung) or building on a platform (for instance, app developers). “It’s very difficult to have the position in between,” he said. “For example, it’s hard to be a GPS hardware vendor.” A more tenable position would be as a GPS app developer, he said, adding, “We see the same thing playing out in our markets where we are trying to put our energy into building the best platform for embedded design and test. Our users are building on top of that platform.”
Earlier this year, NI issued its Automated Test Outlook 20131 and Data Acquisition Technology Outlook 2013.2 Both reports prominently cite Big Analog Data, which, Starkloff said, “has become a very big issue for our customers.” It’s particularly prevalent, he said, for customers deploying distributed systems that, by their very nature, acquire high volumes of data. “Increasingly, our customers are asking for our help in their goal of getting business value out of these huge reams of data,” he said. “I’ll just say now that we have a very compelling and prominent example that we are going to be showing at NIWeek, and you’ll have to stay tuned to see that one.”
Moore’s law also figured prominently in this year’s automated-test and data-acquisition outlooks, and Starkloff explained the relevance to NI. “NI’s focus is to provide software continuity on top of Moore’s law. We take advantage of the underlying processor, bus, and memory technologies that are following Moore’s law, and we deliver a common software platform that lets our customers take advantage of the improvements in processing and data transfer while they maintain compatibility over time with the unified software environment.”
A key product introduction at NIWeek 2012 was the vector signal transceiver, the world’s first software-designed instrument. When asked how this product has fared over the year, Starkloff said, “The reception of this product has really been incredible. It’s been one of the most successful products that NI has ever launched, from a couple of perspectives—in sales volume for one. And the second, which I find personally exciting, is the spectrum—no pun intended—of applications that our customers have addressed with this instrument. We are seeing it used from the early prototyping and design of radar systems all the way through to end-of-line chip testing in factories—and everything in between. And our customers have been delighted.”
Starkloff promised many more product introductions for NIWeek 2013, but when asked for reasons to attend this year’s event, he said, “For me, the number-one reason is you’ll be surrounded by approximately 4,000 of your colleagues—brilliant engineers and scientists from all different domains from wireless design through scientific research. You may have a particle physicist to your right, and you may have someone designing a next-generation wireless standard to your left. The ability to share and learn from these colleagues is really the greatest benefit of NIWeek.”
Automated Test Outlook 2013, National Instruments.
Data Acquisition Technology Outlook 2013, National Instruments.