DMC had a great time at NI Week 2014, held in Austin, Texas. The convention was a chance for those working in the fields of engineering and science to come together and learn about new National Instruments hardware and LabVIEW technology, as well as plans for future developments. DMC sent engineers from our Chicago, Boston, and Denver offices to represent the work we do for our clients and to honor our affiliation with National Instruments.
This was my first NIWeek, and having heard great things from other friends and DMCers, I was excited to experience all that it had to offer. With such a fast-paced week, I decided to focus on three topics that I was interested in learning more about: Embedded Systems, designing better user interfaces (UI’s), and learning more about how NI and LabVIEW are utilized in the academic sphere.
I was able to attend several sessions focused on the Embedded Systems track and learn more about good RT and FPGA programming practices. In addition, I had the opportunity to play (hands-on) with some of NI’s latest hardware, including their new Linux-based cRIO. Dan Freve and I agreed that this was one of the highlights of the week: NI’s new offering is pretty sweet. In addition to the Linux based OS, it also provides a native video output to allow an embedded cRIO system to host its own UI (!!!). This is great news for developers and our clients and it will save a ton of time on debugging, development, and additional hardware costs. The new product will also allow us to take advantage of the RT front panel and eliminate the need to create a stand-along HMI for the host machine.
There were also a great series of sessions on designing better and more innovative UIs. Sometimes as controls engineers, we get lost in functionality and lose sight of the ‘form.’ The end result is functional, but the UI might need some cosmetic improvement. These sessions presented a few good ideas for balancing this equation. Some of the cooler parts were using HTML5 UI’s over the internet and some methods for employing Measurement Studio to move the UI development into Microsoft’s WPF programming model.
Other topics covered at the event spanned a wide array of engineering and science specific fields. DMC's own Darren Jones, Ken Brey, and Eric West gave a presentation in conjunction with Daniel McCarty, Sr. Software Development Manager at W.H. Leary Co., Inc. on high-speed vision inspection. Check out the entire presentation on SlideShare.
Another highlight of the week was talking with several college professors from universities around the country who are using NI hardware and software to train the next generation of programmers. I got a first-hand look at the myRIO and several cool examples and labs that are being used in undergraduate and graduate level courses at MIT. Now I want to buy my own! It also gave us an interesting look at ways we can better train our new employees as they get ramped up in LabVIEW.
In addition to the technical content, it was also a great time to do some team building and get to know our local NI reps a little better.
Other notable takeaways from the four-day event included:
- Learning about FPGA Vision tools that are making NI more competitive
- Keynote speeches and presentations on the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet
- Now that we've expanded to Denver, CO, NI Week was a great opportunity to meet potential clients, partners and techie residents of Colorado
- Taking a break at the Elephant Room to hear a six trombone jazz band called Jazzbones
- "Austin bats are pretty cool. We went to watch them come out from under the bridge one night, though I was hoping they would come out in a cloud in the shape of Batman's logo. Instead they just come out really unorganized as if they have no team spirit." - Otto
- Networking and teambuilding activities such as paddle boarding on the Colorado River