NIWeek presenters assess and implement the Internet of things

Austin, TX. National Instruments vice president Ray Almgren kicked off day 2 of NIWeek by citing five key drivers of the Internet of things: Moore's law is yielding small, low-power, yet high-performance processors; Metcalfe's law is driving an information explosion; chemists are extending battery life; wire-line communication is moving to wireless, and sensor and processor technology are combining to allow us to monitor and control the world around us.

The IoT, he said, divides into industrial and consumer segments. NI can test all IoT applications, he added, ranging from a home smart thermostat to macro-scale industrial machine monitoring systems. But he zeroed in on the industrial segment, saying that an effective industrial IoT requires a platform-based approach, and testing becomes ever more critical. And, he said, we need more bandwidth—in critical machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, latency is not acceptable.

Products highlighted today included the previously introduced NI SOM as well as the CompactRIO performance controller. This software-designed controller integrates the latest embedded technologies from Intel and Xilinx to deliver performance and flexibility while being supported by LabVIEW 2014 and NI Linux Real-Time. It is suitable for advanced control and applications in harsh, industrial environments and provides high-performance processing, custom timing and triggering, and data transfer from modular C Series I/O.

NI cofounder Jeff Kodosky concluded today's keynote session with commentary on software. The phrase “graphical system design,” he said, embraces the broad scope of systems that NI customers are building, and graphical software tools combined with standard hardware platforms can speed the development of cyberphysical systems.

Visualization, he said, is a necessary part of the design process. He used a ballpoint pen as an example—it has two states: one in which the point is retracted, and one in which it is extended. You need a way to change the states—pushing a button, perhaps, or twisting the barrel. Trial and error might help you choose the optimal method, but it's not efficient, as you go through revisions of orthogonal drawings. And orthogonal drawings make it difficult to determine how changes in one dimension affect another.

Video offers the quickest means of visualization, he said. A video interactive design environment in which you can rotate your model at will is invaluable when you move from designing ballpoint pens to cyberphysical systems—you can easily move from an abstract idea to a complex implementation. And with LabVIEW, he said, visualization is the implementation, enabling rapid prototyping and incremental development.

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