A large gathering, hinted at around 6,000, crowded the ballrooms to hear the first two days of keynotes. This is always an eclectic gathering of engineers and scientists and academics from a variety of industries, specialties, and interests. Contrary to the emphasis of many trade journal pieces you read about age and gender of engineers, there was an amazing number of females in attendance. They were engineers and scientists, not PR and admins. The age range of attendees was gratifying. And the geographical diversity was apparent–although they were all introduced to Texas food.

The keystone of the first day’s general session is always Dr. T’s talk (James Truchard, president, CEO and co-founder). He didn’t sound as evangelical about virtual instruments and the like this year, but he introduced an interesting idea about timing (in programming). Later I heard a talk on cellular data communications where the speaker noted that the issue was becoming less bandwidth and more about 1 msec response. Timing issue. Interesting.

NI Week (this is my 17th) is always a great conference filled with much energy, passionate (for engineers) hallway conversations about technologies and applications and sessions full of curious attendees. And, Texas BBQ.

IoT, Cyber-physical Systems, Bid Analog Data

The foundation idea of The Manufacturing Connection is the idea of a connected manufacturing enterprise. Note the latest posts about the Internet of Things and its application to manufacturing. So imagine my delight about the conference theme of (Industrial) Internet of Things, Cyber-Physical Systems and Big (Analog) Data.

I have been trying to get my mind around integrating the ideas from Industry 4.0 in Germany, the US Smart Manufacturing Coalition, and now what NI is talking about–especially relating to cyber-physical systems.

Unlike what I’m hearing from Germany, NI’s emphasis this year on cyber-physical systems involved the relationship of physical devices, computation and communication. Wireless as the foundation communication platform was evident everywhere. (I noted that the ballroom where the keynotes were held was ringed by WiFi access points. Thank you very much, NI.) Most of the talk was cellular, especially what will define 5G systems. One major NI interest is improving speed and lowering cost of test for the semiconductor manufacturers in the wireless space.

NI’s emphasis on Big Data, which it calls Big Analog Data, is in the process. Although the process can be geographically dispersed, such as an application by CIH (Case International Harvester to us old farming people) who instrument Case combines (the machines that harvest corn and wheat and soy beans), send the data to the cloud and then analyze that data to help farmers and their own product development.

Another interesting application story was that of Airbus where engineers are researching some far out ways to integrate technology and humans in the building of aircraft. Hopefully I can get a deeper dive on that. They are using video feedback from instrumented tools and looking at virtual reality tools for better control of robots that extend the work of humans into areas difficult for human reach.

My prejudice coming in about Big Data relate to integrating into the MES/MOM Layer 3 and the enterprise layer. Not much talk of that–yet–at NI Week. But I bet in the future we start to see more of this.

I am not going to list all the new products. LabView has been upgraded, there is a CompactRIO with an Intel Atom processor, reconfigurable oscilloscope, faster data acquisition (naturally). You can read the press releases online here.

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