07 August 2012
National Instruments takes aim at rack-and-stack ‘tyranny’
National Instruments has, at its annual user conference in its home town of Austin, launched the first of a series of hardware modules that it believes will redefine the way in which test and measurement instruments are packaged and sold.
The company has used a combination of microprocessors and fpgas, coupled to a set of analogue I/O functions, to build an rf signal generator and analyser that can be almost entirely reprogrammed by customers using the latest version of the LabVIEW software environment.
Jeff Kodosky, pictured, cofounder of National Instruments and the 'father' of LabVIEW, said the architecture meant instrumentation users would no longer be 'at the mercy of vendors for firmware updates' to get their equipment to tackle different jobs. The internal operation of this new class of 'software designed instrument', down to the level of individual I/O registers, would be 'open, accessible and understandable', he claimed. "We are not just introducing a new piece of hardware today, but also a fundamental paradigm shift in the way instrumentation is used by allowing software to free engineers from the tyranny of vendor imposed choices."
Charles Schroeder, NI's director of marketing for test, said: "Wireless devices have taken all of the advantages of Moore's Law, but instrumentation has not. As we began to rethink instrumentation, we decided we needed a new approach."
Schroeder believes the use of software modules to design custom instruments could open up a market in instrumentation akin to the app stores that have sprung up around smartphones. "We are going to build an ecosystem," he claimed. "It is a wonderful mechanism for our partners to share IP around the world."
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