Cyber-physical integration, saving children, 5G

Think Again: Automation, controls, and instrumentation are used for cyber-physical integration, saving children, and developing technologies for 5G wireless communications. Get inspired at an engineering conference and share what inspires you. See photo gallery, video link, and extra insights.

By Mark T. Hoske September 15, 2015

It’s hard not to be inspired about engineering after viewing demonstrations of the cyber-physical worlds that could help manufacturers and machine designers to be more efficient, a heart pump that’s saved more than 800 children since U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, and 5G wireless data transfer technologies under development shown to move 10 GB per second. These were among on-stage keynote demonstrations at the NIWeek conference in August 2015 in Austin, Texas.

With data collection, "More channels and faster sampling are the trend driving more data. More data provides more opportunity to drive improvements and business results, but we cannot just connect sensors to the cloud and use the information. Innovation is required in-between. Edge analytics are needed to put control right next to measurement," explained Eric Starkloff, executive vice president of global sales and marketing, National Instruments (NI).

Ride the technology wave

"Moore’s Law wasn’t a law, it was a self-fulfilling goal." Companies need to take advantage of the next incredible wave of technology, Starkloff suggested. It turns out that many are.

  • An Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) demonstration used a mountain bike fitted with sensors and instrumentation. Software from ThingWorx, a PTC business, showed how an operator might see an industrial machine’s metrics in real time by looking through a mobile human-machine interface (HMI) or wearable HMI, such as a head-mounted, hands-free display.
  • Berlin Heart Inc. created a heart assist device for children, which can assist heart pumping until the child can get a transplant or heal. Before use, testing simulates a heart to verify electrical and pressure settings for proper calibration.
  • An automated sod-harvesting machine from Firefly Equipment, the ProSlab 155, has an advanced design and control system for 40 hydraulic control valves, 5 axes of high-performance motion control and more than 150 channels of analog and digital I/O to increase accuracy and decrease maintenance, securely.
  • A security enhanced Linux kernel (being applied in the Airbus factory of the future with more robotics, smart tools, and coordinated interfaces), in cooperation with system integrator Leccionne, requires specific calls to the kernel to ensure that certain operations are from a secured source.
  • Big data: Noting that companies only analyze 5% of data collected, Jaguar increased the amount of data it examines from less than 10% to more than 95%, to decrease time to market and maintain quality.
  • Nokia, in testing for 5G cellular service under development, proved millimeter wave spectrum as viable for use, in a 2×2 multiple input multiple output (MIMO) link at 10 Gbps, more than four times better than last year.
  • Samsung is working on full-dimension MIMO (FD MIMO) to increase capacity 3x to 5x, with 3-D waving forming to point the signal where needed. Using NI technology, Samsung achieved its research goals in half the time, compared to other solutions, presenters said. 
  • A vector signal transceiver was used by Noffz and Harmon to speed up testing and decrease emergency response time to an automobile wireless notification system by 40%, saving hundreds of lives.

Big analog data and predictive analytics: NI co-founders offer engineering inspiration

The amounts of big analog data (BAD) for engineering are increasing accompanied by greater integration of computation, communication, and sensing tools. This creates analytical challenges for engineers, explained Dr. James Truchard, president, CEO, and co-founder of National Instruments (NI). Cyber-physical systems (control systems) can help with analysis, especially as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) increases connectedness. Engineering tools, such as those offered by NI, help engineers interact, compute, connect, and analyze data into information, eventually enabling companies to cater to a mass market of one, Truchard suggested.

BAD examples at NIWeek 2015 include a petroleum pipeline looking for leaks, Smart Grid control, and monitoring of electricity generation, flow, use, and price, and in flexible semiconductor test systems. 

Data tsunami

The tsunami of BAD can be used for good economic benefit, suggested Jeff Kodosky, co-founder and fellow, National Instruments, especially as engineers seek higher sampling rates, wider bandwidth, and finer resolution to generate more understanding. Engineers always are under pressure to sample faster and at higher resolution.

Closer to the point of measurement, engineering systems need to analyze and filter data, like human systems do, Kodosky suggested, observing how human eyes filter less-relevant data to prevent the brain from being paralyzed with data.

"Sensors and actuators are moving closer to the edge of measurement and embedding algorithms, to help the IT infrastructure with data analysis," Kodosky said.

By smarter analysis of voltage in track circuits, the London Underground-Victoria Line is shifting to predictive analytics to fix before failure. With 45 km of track, 385 track circuits, 128 channels at 14 monitoring stations, lost customer hours fell by 39,000 per year, with an estimated savings of 350,000 pounds per year savings. Tools used include LabVIEW FPGA, Realtime, Data Dashboard, NI InsightCM Enterprise, and DIAdem, Kodosky noted.

Too busy to travel? Think again: Conferences deliver inspiration as well as information. 

– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, 

DongJin Hyun, Hyundai Motor Group, discusses use of NI tools to create a scalable robotic exoskeleton, depending on patient needs. Learn more from NI about the Hyundai robotic exoskeleton:

– See related NI Week coverage below.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.