NI Week was last week, and for only the second time in 20 years, I didn’t go. NI, formerly National Instruments, has been focusing more on test and measurement lately. Not so much automation. My interest is mostly on its IoT efforts especially TSN. I figure I can get an interview with Todd Walter or whomever without the expense of a conference.
NI’s core competency lies as the provider of a software-defined platform that helps accelerate the development and performance of automated test and automated measurement systems. At NI Week it announced the release of LabVIEW 2018.
Applications that impact our daily lives are increasing in complexity due to the rapid innovation brought on by industry trends such as 5G, the Industrial Internet of Things, and autonomous vehicles. Consequently, the challenge of testing these devices to ensure reliability, quality and safety introduce new demands and test configurations, with decreased time and budget. Engineers need better tools to organize, develop and integrate systems so they can accomplish their goals within the acceptable boundaries.
Engineers can use LabVIEW 2018 to address a multitude of these challenges. They can integrate more third-party IP from tools like Python to make the most of the strengths of each package or existing IP from their stakeholders. Test engineers can use new functionality in LabVIEW 2018 to strengthen code reliability by automating the building and execution of software through integration with open interface tools like Jenkins for continuous delivery. Capabilities like this empower test engineers to focus on system integration and development where they can offer unique differentiation, rather than get bogged down in the semantics of how to use software tools or move IP from one to another. For test engineers using FPGAs for high-performance processing, new deep learning functions and improved floating-point operations can reduce time to market.
“NI’s continued commitment to its software-centric platform accelerates my productivity so I can focus on the challenges that yield the highest ROIs,” says Chris Cilino, LabVIEW framework architect at Cirrus Logic. “LabVIEW continues to minimize the effort of adding tests and code modifications to our validation framework, delivering a consistent process to maintain our software and incorporate the reuse of valuable IP without rewrites.”
To meet demands like testing higher complexity DUTs and shorter timeframes, engineers need tools tailored to their needs that they can efficiently use through their workflow, helping them to meet their exact application requirements. LabVIEW 2018 is the latest addition to NI’s software-centric platform that features products tailored to needs within distinct stages of their workflow – products that have been adopted in whole or in part by more than 300,000 active users.
With InstrumentStudio software providing an interactive multi-instrument experience, TestStand test management software handling overall execution and reporting and SystemLink software managing assets and software deployments, this workflow improves the productivity of test and validation labs across many industries. Each piece of the workflow is also interoperable with third-party software to maximize code and IP reuse and draws on the LabVIEW Tools Network ecosystem of add-ons and tools for more application-specific requirements.
Engineers can access both LabVIEW 2018 and LabVIEW NXG with a single purchase of LabVIEW.
Quick, when you think of self-driving cars and trucks and other news of autonomous vehicles, what comes to mind? OK, maybe an unfair question today given the Waymo v Uber lawsuit trial that began yesterday. But most of us think in terms of passenger cars rather than industrial uses.
PwC worked on a study and Bobby Bono (pictured), Carolyn Lee, and Todd Benigni all of PwC wrote a blog post, Can you be a first mover in industrial mobility? discussing the investment in manufacturing outdistancing the investment in passenger vehicles.
PwC Bobby Bono
When it comes to self-driving vehicles, passenger cars may grab most of the headlines, but they aren’t capturing most of the investment in the space. According to a PwC analysis, of the $6.8 billion raised by autonomous-transport startups since 2012, about 62% has gone to companies working on technology for vehicles ranging from drones to unmanned forklifts and tractor-trailers, all pieces of the larger ecosystem of industrial mobility.
Significantly, these investments in the pioneers of industrial mobility have been accelerating in recent years. From 2012 to 2014, companies working on automobiles received about as much investment ($660 million) as those building non-auto solutions ($702 million). But from 2015 to 2017, non-auto investment increased five-fold to $3.5 billion, while investment in companies working on tech for passenger cars rose a comparatively modest 188% to $1.9 billion.
Why does this matter? The rapid growth in capital pouring into startups working on industrial mobility reveals that hefty bets are being placed on the prospect that the impact of autonomous vehicles may well first made more forcibly upon industrial applications – even as self-driving passenger cars continue to capture consumers’ imagination.
Attitudes toward self-driving trucks are a good example of this cautious approach. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the survey said they’ll wait and see how the technology evolves before adopting it. That’s especially interesting, given that most all survey respondents estimated that autonomous trucks could slash transportation costs by up to 25%. In a nutshell: they see the potential, but aren’t quite ready to jump in.
Cost is arguably the most important factor keeping manufacturers on the sidelines. The high cost of autonomous technology was the most frequently cited barrier to adoption in our survey, with nearly six in 10 respondents identifying it as a hurdle. At the same time, 86% said advanced industrial mobility’s ability to deliver a cost advantage was among the factors most likely to prompt them to embrace the technology.
With investment in industrial mobility surging, it’s a fair bet that businesses may see autonomous technology’s value proposition start to seem more attractive (and proven) sooner rather than later. And, it only stands to reason that some early adopters – and the early-stage companies developing the technology they implement – will score a competitive edge while their peers loiter on the sidelines.
Let the debates begin! Jim Pinto has published his 2015 prognostications in the latest JimPintoBlog.
Check out his entire list and enter your thoughts on his blog. I’ll highlight some of his thoughts and add some of my own.
Automation Industry Trends
New inflection points will change the leadership lineup.
GM—I do not expect big changes in the automation leadership lineup. Mitsubishi, Rockwell Automation and Siemens are dominant in their home areas and fighting it out in China and India. Siemens has a bit of an edge having been international for a longer period of time. But as automation commoditizes, perhaps some new entrants will grab some share. If Bedrock Automation can market well, watch out for it. On the process side, Invensys is gone, absorbed by Schneider Electric. So the process automation business becomes even more of a minor part of the overall businesses, like ABB, Emerson Process Management, and Yokogawa. The only interesting situation in that market area is Honeywell Process Solutions. But I don’t really expect any change there.
I think 3D printing (additive manufacturing) is a game changer and one of the most important things from last week’s CES. It’s not strictly automation, though.
- Internet of Things (IoT): The Industrial Internet will transform the next decade. Intelligent sensors and networks will take measurement and control to the next level, dramatically improving productivity and efficiencies in production. Growth in 2015 will be bottom-up, not top-down.
- Smaller, Cheaper Sensors: Everyone is looking for or working on smaller, cheaper sensors for widespread use in IoT. Expect fast growth for sensors this year.
- Cloud Computing: Cloud computing technology reduces capital expenditures and IT labor costs by transferring responsibility to cloud computing providers, allowing secure and fast access for data-driven decisions. The significant gains in efficiency, cost and capability will generate continuing rapid growth in 2015.
- 3D Printing in Manufacturing: Today, do-it-yourself manufacturing is possible without tooling, large assembly lines or multiple supply chains. 3D printing is reshaping product development and manufacturing.
- Mobile Devices in Automation: The use of WiFi-connected tablets, smartphones and mobile devices is spreading quickly. Handheld devices reduce costs, improve operating efficiency, boost productivity and increases throughput. More and more employers are allowing BYOD (bring your own device).
- Robotics: Millions of small and medium-sized businesses that will benefit from cheaper robots that can economically produce a wide variety of products in small numbers. The next generation of robots will be cheaper and easier to set up, and will work with people rather than replace them.
- Control Systems Security: In spite of apprehensions over consumer security breach events, industrial cyber security has mostly been ignored due to lack of understanding of solution costs. Many companies struggle to justify what is seen as added cost to secure their operation. Major security breaches will change this attitude.
Business Technology Trends
Gartner’s top trends for 2015 (3) cover three themes: the merging of the real and virtual worlds, the advent of intelligence everywhere, and the technology impact of the digital business shift. There is a high potential for disruption to the business with the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.
Here are the top Gartner trends:
- Computing Everywhere: As mobile devices continue to proliferate, there will be increased emphasis on the needs of the mobile users. Increasingly, the overall environment will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user
- 3D Printing: Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 98 percent in 2015, followed by a doubling of unit shipments in 2016, reaching a tipping point over the next three years.
- Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics: The volume of data generated by embedded systems generates vast pools of structured and unstructured data inside and outside the enterprise. Organizations need to deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time, so analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere.
- Smart Machines: Advanced algorithms will allow systems to understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously.
- Cloud Computing: The convergence of cloud and mobile computing will continue to promote the growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device. Applications will evolve to support simultaneous use of multiple devices.
- Risk-Based Security and Self-Protection: All roads to the digital future lead through security. Organizations will increasingly recognize that it is not possible to provide a 100 percent secured environment. They will apply more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools. Every app needs to be self-aware and self-protecting.
GM—My take is that the biggest thing in this area is analytics combined with improved visualizations and dashboards that take advantage of smartphones and tablets. Cloud is here. IoT is here. Security will forever be an important part of business.
2015 Consumer Electronics Show
- Wearable Devices: The time is right for wearable devices.
- Practical green tech.
- Sustainability and transportation: Tesla Model X all-electric SUV with the doors that open like a Delorean. Electric-assisted bike technology; electric scooter with swappable batteries and dashboard analytics.
- Kid-Tech: Apps to help teach children science, math, and tech. Fun little robots that teach kids computer programming concepts. Drawing, design, and color patterns to help kids learn about robotics and computer programming.
GM—as I’ve already written, autonomous vehicles could be a game changer and 3D printing was huge. The outlier is drones. Who knows where that might go?
Future Prognostications 2015-2025
Here are ten prognostications for the next decade, picked from the World Future Society (7) forecasts, plus other readings and discussions with Futurists.
- – Education: A major shift to on-line education and certification is already happening, and will continue steadily.
- – Jobs: Advances in artificial intelligence will eliminate human workers.
- – Robot Work Force
- – Middle Class Impasse: delaying retirement, income stagnating
- – Driverless cars
- – Speak to Computers.
- – Robotic Augmentation (exoskeletons)
- – Health & Well-being: sensors everywhere
- – Brain scanning will replace juries
- -Energy: Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years while costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings (less than 14 years) away from meeting 100% percent of energy needs.
GM-There are going to be some disruptions and huge benefits from a number of these. Autonomous vehicles and health advances are fantastic. I wish education would change more quickly that it does. Even those who wish to disrupt education mainly only have the political agenda of “teachers’ unions” and driving down salaries. (Why is it a political agenda to drive down salaries. Shouldn’t we be trying to improve everyone’s lot in life?)
I’m not a fan of Kurzweil. 100% is not realistic—maybe residential, but not everything. Don’t think there’s enough volts there!
I think we are going to need those labor-saving, productivity-enhancing advancements because we’re actually facing a labor shortage in 10 years. Time to start thinking farther ahead.
Humans have a way of adapting to thrive. I am optimistic about the future!
Yes, Jim, I’m with you there!
Manufacturing output and manufacturing employment are important factors in our economy. They are also sources of endless speculation and angst.
Last week I ran across this graph from “FRED”, the St. Louis Fed. The graph combines year-over-year change in manufacturing production and employment curves.
Notice that usually employment tracks production although not varying as much as production. I also noticed that whereas most months from October 1998 to November 2010 showed growing production, employment lost every one of those months.
The blog writer from the Fed wrote, “The role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy is often discussed. As shown in the FRED graph above, as a year-over-year percent change, the level of manufacturing has generally grown. (One striking exception is during the recent recession.) The number of employees working in manufacturing is a different story, however. It has sometimes grown, but it has nearly always grown less than the growth in manufacturing. This suggests that growth in manufacturing does not equal growth in manufacturing jobs. What’s the explanation? A prime candidate is productivity growth. Another is that the sectoral mix has shifted toward industries with higher value added, such as computers and electronics.”
I think they are on the right track. Could we also add process industries (refining and chemicals fall into the manufacturing NAICS, but upstream does not)? I couldn’t find the numbers quickly, but I think those industries require fewer employees than, say, automobile and machinery manufacturing. There were huge shifts in the technology and market fundamentals in those subsectors.
I’ve been listening to reports from last week’s edition of the International CES (formerly Consumer Electronics Show). I draw your attention, for example to this video/podcast roundup from This Week in Tech (TWiT), a popular technology industry round table.
During the first 45 minutes or so there was a discussion of autonomous vehicles. Whereas the usual fare at the show includes TVs, mobile phones, electronic gadgets, this year’s news—even outstripping Internet of Things—was dominated by car manufacturers. This was to the extent that the Detroit Auto Show was pushed back one week so that the manufacturers could focus effort on CES.
Car designers have increasingly incorporated electronics into vehicles. First was control systems, then HVAC, then entertainment systems. Now we are seeing a rapid uptake of taking control to the next level—controlling not only the engine and transmission, but driving itself. Autonomous vehicles were front and center. And these are not only concept cars.
Let’s consider the economic impact of autonomous vehicles. There is every potential that widespread adoption of these vehicles could reduce vehicle demand. I live in a rural area where cars are pretty much a necessity for getting anywhere.
Even so, what if there were a model where I could click an app on my iPhone and summon a car to pick me up and take me down to Dayton (40 miles of rural interstate) for a meeting. On my way to the meeting, I could be preparing for the meeting. Or, perhaps just reading. Either way, I don’t have to concentrate on driving.
In my grandfather’s day, that would have been called the Trolley. There was a passenger light rail system that went from Sidney to Dayton (and through Piqua, Troy, Tipp City and Vandalia). We haven’t had that since before WWII.
Especially in cities. It could really cut down on need for cars in suburbs where cabs are infrequent and expensive. But if you don’t need a car full time, you could have an on-demand car.
If electric cars get added to this mix, many more jobs would be eliminated by eliminating engines, complex transmissions, and the like.
Yes, I can see where manufacturing production could continue to increase, but the need for employees would drop.
However, in that same time frame, we will be faced with a declining labor force. This could be something fortuitous for our grandkids.
Other CES news
Check out this article about Toyota’s hydrogen automobile.
I also wrote about this cool little gadget that gives early warning of driver fatigue.