So I've been using National Instruments hardware now for 15 years and programming in LabVIEW for 10. First, that makes me feel pretty old. Second, why is it that this is the first year I have gone to NI week? I don't know. But I finally understand why everyone else makes such a big deal about attending.
It is a great time. You get to network with a bunch of great people. And you can quickly get up to speed on new hardware, software features, and the overall future direction of NI.
With that, here is a short list of what I consider to be my highlights from NI Week 2010:
- NI announcing and providing a demo of the Web UI Builder. With this tool, you can create web browser-based interfaces to your LabVIEW real-time hardware. It is basically a skin for Microsoft Silverlight. The tool creates a 'thin client' application which will run in most common web browsers. The browser-based application pulls data from a web service running on your real-time target, and presto... live data displayed in a custom UI you designed using your LabVIEW skills... without the need for remote panels.
- NI also had several new hardware modules of interest to Test Automation folks on display. The NI PXIe-4154, is a new battery simulator module. While optimized for mobile device testing, I hope it is a stepping-stone toward something capable of simulating a large battery stack. NI also announced a new line of high-density matrix relay modules for the PXI platform. Look for them on NI.com soon.
- FPGA programming will soon get a bit faster, since the next implementation of LabVIEW will let your FPGA code compile on your own server farm, or better yet on someone else's up on the cloud. To top it all off, after a recompile to add FPGA features, the FPGA reference in your realtime code will no longer automatically break your calling VI.
- Getting up close with the new PXI based RF instruments. Conventional wisdom just a few years ago was that RF signal generators and vector network analyzers (VNAs) would never appear in a PXI form factor. But there they were, running at 6.6 GHz.
- The biggest one for me was listening to Jeff Kodosky ponder the next big leap for Graphical Design... while most everyone else dozed off, I was captured by one one question... how is timing information captured on a LabVIEW block diagram? As we move toward distributed real-time systems, it is a bit troubling to realize that valuable timing information and synchronization of tasks between elements is nowhere to be found on a VIs block diagram. Something tells me it soon will be.