NI senior executive team in panel discussion with media. (I also caught the Austin staple–Shiner Bock.)
NI Week is always a busy and exhausting time. But always very informative. The co-founders of National Instruments–James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky–are forward thinkers, always looking at trends, technologies. They set the tone for NI’s inquisitive culture. Truchard, or Dr. T as he’s known in Austin, is still diving deep into Google searches. He doesn’t settle for one or two or even 10 pages when he searches. And he still has a penchant for stopping by someone’s desk and asking if they had ever thought about something, and then asking them to do a little investigating. Likewise Kodosky is always at the forefront of computer science thinking about how to make LabView better.
They are also engineering intensive. During his remarks at a session with media, Dr. T. pondered the recent engineering crises from BP in the Gulf to Toyota and even to Apple’s “antennagate.” Although BP was a failure of engineering, he wondered if there were a management-created environment that allowed mistakes. As for Toyota, he wondered if perhaps management was worrying more about the bottom line than cars. Apple perhaps had too much of its own “religion,” that is, they are so good at design that they didn’t think about the engineering aspects of the antenna design. In his keynote, Kodosky pondered how to account for time within a programming language. OK, that sounds esoteric, but I appreciated his thoughts, and I’m sure most of the close to 3,000 attendees appreciated them, too. In the media session, Kodosky was asked if productivity tools would put engineers out of jobs. “Increased productivity means that engineers can do more,” he replied.
NI Week has expanded from product training and feedback to hosting a number of special forums. There was a “Big Physics” (think CERN) forum. I attended the closing panel discussion from the “Clean Energy Technology – the Ultimate Deployment Challenge – Industry Experts Panel.”
Panelists were:
Allan Schurr, VP Strategy, IBM Global Energy and Utilities Industry
Robert Metcalfe, inventor, founder of 3Com and now a venture capitalist investing in energy
Don Cortez, vp Distribution support, CenterPoint Energy
Karl Rabago, vp distributed energy services, Austin Energy
Owen Golden, vp energy, NI
The exchange was energetic with at times disparate views on how the energy crisis can be solved ranging from Metcalfe’s more “radical” capitalism stance from Rabago’s acceptance of government investing and regulation roles. A couple of highlights. Golden discussed data acquisition, analytics and algorithms that are helping electricity delivery companies find problems more quickly and even point to developing problems so that they can be fixed before they break. Metcalfe drew a parallel with drug discovery. In that industry, large companies know how to partner with smaller, innovative, venture-backed companies in order to bring new drugs to market. “Large energy companies need to learn this same partnering with small alternative energy or other small VC-backed companies,” he concluded.
Here is an interesting Web site to bookmark.
Here are some of the products NI announced.
An Ethernet-based NI CompactDAQ modular data acquisition system combines the ease of use and low cost of a data logger with the performance and flexibility of modular instrumentation. NI cDAQ-9188  chassis is designed to hold eight I/O modules for measuring up to 256 channels of electrical, physical, mechanical or acoustic signals in a small (25 by 9 by 9 cm), rugged form factor and offering more than 50 different I/O modules. It features a standard Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure. In addition, NI CompactDAQ  simplifies initial setup with zero configuration networking technology and a built-in, Web-based configuration and monitoring utility.
NI CompactDAQ uses patented NI Signal Streaming technology to deliver high-bandwidth data over Ethernet to a host computer. NI Signal Streaming provides the ability to maintain bidirectional analog and digital waveforms continuously over a TCP/IP connection. With NI-STC3 timing and synchronization technology, each chassis also can manage up to seven separate hardware-timed I/O tasks at different sample rates, including analog I/O, digital I/O and counter/timer operations. The chassis operate in a temperature range of -20 to 55 degrees Celsius and can withstand up to 30 g shock and 3 g vibration, making NI CompactDAQ ideal for demanding test applications on the benchtop, in the field or on the production line.
In addition to the Ethernet chassis, the NI CompactDAQ platform includes a four- and an eight-slot USB chassis and NI C Series I/O modules. NI offers more than 50 C Series modules to use interchangeably in NI CompactDAQ systems, each of which is hot-swappable and auto-detectable for simplified setup. C Series modules offer integrated signal conditioning and multiple connectivity options to create custom, mixed-measurement systems specific to the needs of an application. A single analog input module, for example, can acquire up to four channels of simultaneous 1 MS/s voltage inputs for measuring high-speed signals such as ballistic pressure or ultrasonic transducers.
NI-DAQmx driver software, which is included with NI CompactDAQ, goes beyond a basic device driver to deliver increased productivity and performance. With NI-DAQmx, engineers and scientists can log data for simple experiments or develop a complete test system in NI LabView, NI LabWindows/CVI, ANSI C/C++ or Microsoft Visual Studio .Net. Furthermore, a consistent API means that an application developed for an NI CompactDAQ USB chassis will work with an NI CompactDAQ Ethernet chassis without any changes to software.
The NI 9157 and NI 9159 MXI-Express RIO chassis and NI 9148 Ethernet RIO chassis, which in addition to the existing NI 9144 EtherCAT chassis, extend the company’s offering of high-channel-count expansion chassis on a variety of buses. Built on NI reconfigurable I/O (RIO) technology, these chassis deliver the benefits of field programmable gate array (FPGA)-based hardware and C Series I/O  to applications requiring hundreds, or even thousands, of channels. Each expansion chassis contains a Xilinx FPGA that is programmable with the NI LabView FPGA Module, giving engineers the flexibility of high-speed and customizable I/O timing, inline processing and control.
The new MXI-Express RIO 14-slot expansion chassis with onboard Virtex-5 FPGAs offer a high-end solution for large applications that require high channel counts, mixed I/O for a variety of measurements and custom signal processing and control algorithms. The MXI-Express link delivers high bandwidth for streaming data to and from multiple chassis from a single controller, offering hundreds of C Series module slots and thousands of channels of analog, digital and communication I/O including strain, acceleration, channel-to-channel isolated voltage input and simultaneous voltage. The new chassis are ideal for hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing, industrial machine monitoring and complex research applications.
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