NI Week 2003: Software makes hardware ‘disappear’

Austin, TX—Good software makes hardware disappear, contends National Instruments’ CEO and co-founder Dr. James Truchard, in the Aug. 13 NI Week 2003 keynote presentation, amid demonstrations of current and future technologies.


Austin, TX— Good software makes hardware disappear, contends National Instruments ’ CEO and co-founder Dr. James Truchard, in the Aug. 13 NI Week 2003 keynote presentation, amid demonstrations of current and future technologies. Truchard explains that some hardware remains necessary, but users increasingly use instrumentation through software. A good software experience makes the connected hardware transparent. In addition, as demonstrations made apparent, the hardware is also decreasing in size.

“When LabView was introduced, the front panel of instruments disappeared,” Truchard says. “Each time we add a VI [a grouping of LabView code called a “virtual instrument”], we replace another instrument. Complex functionality is easier to use…. digital control will replace ladder logic. Wait until we have diagrams behind controls. I’m told it’s coming.”

Diverse demonstrations of new and emerging products at times drew cheers and applause. The keynote session incorporated more than a dozen NI staff, an air-powered 3-hp engine, vibration and load analysis, a PDA, wireless communications, and a model helicopter.

National Instruments bolstered its long-promoted “virtual instrumentation,” with large software, research and development investments, recently, along with an increased rate of product introductions. Nicole McGarry, NI LabView product manager, noted that the recent LabView 7 update involved more than 300 person-years of development, representing the biggest release in NI’s 17-year history. Jeff Kodosky, NI Fellow and co-founder, made it a point to say that significant LabView improvements came by “using LabView itself to develop scripting—we’re eating our own dog food. And it’s good.”

In addition, in the past three years, NI’s research and development staff headcount increased 40%; 2003 will include the largest number of NI new product introductions for several years, said John Graff, VP marketing, prior to the keynote session. Conference attendees increased slightly to around 1,500, and exhibitors increased to 142 from 85 last year. The event also includes more than 140 sessions.

In separate, but related news, recently NI increased donations to colleges, aiming to make engineering more fun, Truchard says, for younger engineering students. “Only a PhD in mathematics could have fun with the tools being used in most freshman and sophomore college engineering courses,” Truchard says. “I ask you to do your part to bring fun back to your favorite university.”

New product introductions at NI Week 2003 include:

  • NI-DAQ 7 is the next generation of NI’s data acquisition driver software. NI-DAQ 7 and LabView 7 Express, simultaneous operations can be performed 100 to 1,000 faster than with the previous version. Single-point analog acquisition performance is said to increase up to 20 times compared to previous versions. DAQ Assistant utility automatically generates code, easing measurements.

  • Spectral Measurements Tookit, the Order Analysis Toolkit, and the Sound and Vibration Toolkit give “engineers the freedom to analyze their acquired data and create custom measurements to meet their application requirements” for communication, sound and vibration, and machine condition-monitoring applications, NI says. More than 400 functions and 16 new Express VIs (software objects of functions) for analysis, signal processing, and mathematical functions in the LabView 7 Express graphical development environment.

  • A suite of 100 MS/s PXI instruments aims to increase flexibility and system performance for rapid prototyping and test of mixed-signal devices and systems. New are the 100 and 50 MHz digital waveform generator/analyzers (NI PXI-6552 and NI PXI-6551); 100 MS/s, 16-bit arbitrary waveform generator (NI PXI-5421); and 100 MS/s, 14-bit high-resolution digitizer (NI PXI-5122). Also in the family, the 100 MHz clock and frequency generator (NI PXI-5404 was introduced in February), a 500 MHz switching module (NI PXI-2593 was introduced in July), and a timing and synchronization module (NI PXI-6653) will be available in 4Q03.

  • NI TestStand 3.0 test management software helps engineers build and deploy automated prototype, validation, and manufacturing test systems 75% faster, the company says. It has more than 30 new features, including an enhanced LabView adapter interface, user interface controls for faster development of custom test system operator interfaces, and a new deployment utility, to more quickly deploy software locally or globally.

  • Measurement Studio 7.0 is a suite of native classes and controls for developing measurement and automation applications in Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003. The tools can be used to simplify I/O integration and user-interface creation, or to prototype control systems. The tool preserves existing drivers. Measurement Studio Instrument Driver Wizard can integrate existing VXIplug&play, IVI, or legacy instrument drivers with Visual Studio .NET 2003, without rewriting drivers.

  • NI LabWindows/CVI 7.0 is called the “most significant release” of NI’s ANSI C development environment for test and measurement. The release features an integrated workspace, code-generating hardware configuration assistants, and a redesigned data acquisition interface to speed development. It takes care of initial instrument communication and data parsing. A Web-integrated Example Finder helps access and sort more than 250 examples delivered with the product (thousands more on the Web). Function panel editor is enhanced, user-interface library expanded, debugging improved, search simplified, and graph controls improved. LabWindows/CVI 7.0 features NI-DAQ 7, a new NI data acquisition interface.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief

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