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Testing and deploying the next generation of technology

18 December 2017

NIDays 2017 brought together like-minded engineers and scientists from a variety of industries at a brand-new venue, Sandown Park Racecourse, Esther.

Delivering technical, networking and interactive sessions throughout the day, NI experts and customers were on hand to help visitors learn about the latest technology accelerating productivity for software-defined systems in test, measurement and control. DPA and Connectivity4IR editor, Paige West, and EPDT editor, Mark Gradwell report on the event.

The NI Expo Area gave visitors the chance to see application specific demonstrations leveraging some of the latest products and technology in automated test, embedded control, monitoring and automotive. Hands-on sessions gave them the opportunity to try the technology for themselves and NI engineers were available to answer questions and discuss challenges.

Morning keynote

The event began with a keynote presentation anchored by NI Field Marketing Engineer, Gavin Hill, and featuring a range of NI engineers talking through how new technology additions to the NI platform are helping engineers designing, testing and deploying the next generation of technology in areas as diverse as transportation safety, wireless communication, space travel and the Internet of Things. 

For wireless communications and automated test, Sacha Emery, Joris Donders and Nic O’Leary introduced Python API support for NI DAQ devices, and, in this 20th anniversary year for PXI, a new 1095 18-slot, high power PXI chassis, and NI ATE Core Configurations, a range of power and rack mount systems for PXI. Chris Jones and Erik Van Hilten then talked time sensitive networks and how sensor fusion is enabling autonomous vehicles. Harith Rothi talked about how LabVIEW was being used in hyperloop technology. And finally we were introduced to LabVIEW NXG by an imperial Stormtrooper with a NERF gun! 

Preparing for the IIoT

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was a hot topic of conversation throughout the day. The proliferation of smart and connected “things” in the IIoT provides tremendous opportunities for increased performance and lower costs, but managing these distributed systems is often an overlooked challenge. DPA spoke to Gavin Hill, Field Marketing Engineer, National Instruments (NI) who focus is around new technology in the transition to Industry 4.0/IIoT and asked him to give a brief overview of how NI is driving the IIoT and what that means for its customers. 

Gavin spoke of three key areas where he sees NI having the biggest impact:

1. Predictive maintenance/condition monitoring 

With new technologies for online monitoring, companies have the capability to prevent equipment failures, detecting them before they impact safety and business productivity, in turn improving uptime and operation. The NI approach gives customers full access to all data required with the ability to connect any asset and measure any type of sensor or signal with NI modular hardware.

2. Translation

For IIoT to be a success, machines need to be able to communicate effectively and in the same language. The problem is, there are so many machines all talking different languages. The openness and flexibility of LabVIEW allows it to speak most languages 99.9 percent of the times, giving users the ability to set up a communication network between multiple devices.

3. Intelligence 

We’ve all heard ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ – a lot of systems out there at the moment are effectively doing what they are designed to do. But if you want, for example, control loops that are significantly faster, more complex edge processing or to communicate with something else then you need intelligent solutions. The NI platform has the capability to take your systems beyond the realms of what they are capable of. 

There are an increasing number of companies who already have IIoT solutions in place but aren’t utilising the technology to its full potential. NI is helping customer’s progress to the next stage; increasing uptime with predictive maintenance, boosting performance with connected control at the edge and improving product design and manufacturing with connected, real-time data analysis. 

Afternoon keynote

The next innovation in engineering software was the topic of conversation in the afternoon keynote, hosted by Richard Robert, Academic Marketing Engineer at NI. 

Software has been at the heart of the NI platform for over 30 years and this year marked a significant evolution of NI’s LabVIEW legacy with the introduction of LabVIEW NXG. LabVIEW NXG 1.0 is the next generation of LabVIEW, capable of simplifying complex pin-to-analysis workflows to creating an architecture that will facilitate massive codebases and distributed systems. 

The 1.0 release of LabVIEW NXG helps engineers performing benchtop measurements drastically increase their productivity with new nonprogramming workflows to acquire and iteratively analyse measurement data. These nonprogramming workflows simplify automation by building the necessary code behind the scenes. For instance, engineers can drag and drop a section of code equivalent to 50 lines of text-based code. LabVIEW NXG also introduces a re-engineered editor with functionality that experienced LabVIEW users often request, but it still offers a user experience similar to complementary software in the market. The refreshed editor further extends the openness of LabVIEW to integrate with a broader set of languages. The modernised editor improves programming productivity by streamlining the editor micro-interactions, user interface objects based on vector graphics and zooming capabilities.

Whether you are buying LabVIEW for the first time or have been on an active service contract for years, you have access to both LabVIEW NXG 1.0 and LabVIEW 2017 - two versions for just one price.

Guest speaker

The afternoon keynote also played host to Stuart Dawson, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which enables manufacturers of any size to become better, faster, cheaper and greener through the introduction of advanced manufacturing techniques. Stuart discussed how super-trends like Industry 4.0, energy and electrification of transportation are changing the way we live and work.

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