In its annual Trend Watch, National Instruments is highlighting five areas which engineers should bear in mind for the coming year – prototyping; big analogue data; networking for the industrial Internet of Things; smart device testing; and the consumerisation of software.

The industrial IoT (IIoT) is the modern incarnation of M2M communications, with machines being connected to boost efficiency. But, according to Aaron Edgecombe, Northern Europe marketing engineer with NI, the benefits will not accrue until a standardised approach is adopted down to the node. “Typically, this sector has used Ethernet,” he contended, “but this has limitations, including latency, bandwidth and prioritisation.”

NI believes the time is right for time sensitive networking (TSN) and points to its participation in the AVnu Alliance. The Alliance, which also counts companies like Cisco and Intel amongst its members, is planning to drive the creation of what it calls an interoperable ecosystem, with certification procedures similar to those used by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

According to NI, the benefits of TSN will include full duplex communication at standard Ethernet rates, a security framework, interoperability with existing networks and time critical communications.

“We’ll see standards being published within the next year,” Edgecombe noted. “TSN won’t replace other standard overnight, but I believe it will bring advantages to the IIoT.”

Meanwhile, NI also sees growing demand for rapid prototyping of 5G communications systems. “These have to be tested to see if they work,” Edgecombe pointed out.

Already, 5G pioneers are working with NI to try out their ideas. Amongst them are: Samsung, which is working on 3D beamforming; Nokia, developing millimetre wave technology; and Lund University, which is exploring a configurable MIMO system with 100 elements.