The National Instruments LabVIEW Platform
The National Instruments LabVIEW Platform is a tightly integrated suite of industry-standard hardware components and software tools for building measurement and automation applications. It is widely recognized as one of the strongest and most flexible platforms available for developing Mixed Signal I/O Systems.
Hardware to Suit Any Requirement
The Platform includes hardware components that can address the full spectrum of measurement and automation applications:
- PC-Based Data Acqusition via plugin interfaces for USB, PCI, PCIe and other Buses;
- High precision Modular Instrumentation (PXI product line);
- Programmable Automation Controllers for robust embedded applications (CompactRIO and PXI-RT product lines);
- Data Acquisition over distributed wireless networks (WSN and other product lines); plus
- Specialist interfaces for Motion Control, Image Acquisition, Communications Protocols, Optical Sensing and other niche areas
Tightly Integrated Software Development Tools and Software Drivers
These hardware components are combined with a tightly integrated and consistent family of software drivers, application development tools, and configurable software interfaces. All components of the Platform are supported through a single vendor via a world wide network of National Instruments (NI) sales and engineering offices.
A major strength of the NI LabVIEW Platform vs any other Measurement and Automation toolset is the quality of the software drivers for the various hardware components, and the consistent interface to those software drivers from the different application development environments.
Reliable, Consistent Performance
The quality of the software drivers means that you are guaranteed that all hardware interfaces will perform reliably at their highest specification level, and that integrating a new hardware interface into your system will be a straightforward and predictable task. The consistency of the software driver interface means that skills developed with one form of I/O (say high speed analog voltage input) can be transferred in large part to other forms of I/O (such as serial or TCP/IP communications). This reduces the risk and cost of working with mixed signals, since you do not have to learn a complete new skillset for each signal type.
Scalable and Maintainable Systems
The quality and consistency of software is also a major factor in ensuring that that systems can be properley maintained over their projected commercial life. Newer hardware technologies can be smoothly integrated into a system as required, and old legacy hardware will still be supported in a consistent fashion under new versions of driver and application software.
The Strengths of LabVIEW as an Application Development Environment
The LabVIEW Application Development Environment is the core software component of the NI LabVIEW Platform. LabVIEW is a graphical dataflow programming language that is specifically optimised for developing interactive measurement and automation applications. It supports all open industry standards for data communications and hardware interfacing. The LabVIEW programming language targets every National Instruments hardware product and all open industry-standard operating systems and hardware interfaces, including:
- Win/Mac/Linux for PC-based server applications and client interfaces;
- Embedded Controllers with industry standard Real-Time operating systems such as ETS/Pharlap and VXWorks;
- Embedded FPGA devices; and
- Industry-standard web interfaces.
This means that you can develop software for any mix of these targets that is consistent in behaviour and "look-and-feel" across all applications, using a single development tool and skillset. And LabVIEW code is portable across all targets with zero or minimal change. So code developed on a desktop PC during the system development phase can be re-used when the system is deployed to a real-time controller for use on the factory floor, or in the field.
Powerful Parallel Processing
LabVIEW is arguably one of the most powerful integrated development environments available for building engineering applications because its dataflow framework can take full advantage of modern parallel computer architectures in both hardware and software. The LabVIEW parallel coding architecture maps directly into the real-world of measurement and automation applications that often contain multiple I/O processes executing in parallel.
"Best-Practice" Software Engineering
The LabVIEW Development Environment also maps perfectly into modern "agile" approaches to software engineering. "Agile" software engineering practices recognise that in the real world neither users nor software developers will start a development where all parts of the application are perfectly specified and invariant. All software developments take place in an environment where the user's and the developer's knowledge evolves during the development, and where time, budget, and market constraints are continually changing. Measurement and Automation applications are particularly exposed to these issues.
Agile software engineering practices emphasize a tight development cycle between the user and the developer, so that changing conditions or constraints can be recognised and addressed as they occur. They also emphasize flexibility so that functional specifications can be re-prioritised in response to unforseen changes in the time or dollar budgets or the external commercial environment. Well structured LabVIEW code is highly modular, with each module capable of being tested in isolation from the overall code framework. This modular structure is critical to the successful implementation of Agile software engineering practices.
The Tool of Choice for Developing Measurement and Automation Applications
The inherent parallism of LabVIEW, combined with its modular architecture, and the quality and consistency of the software drivers for NI hardware, make it a clear tool of choice for developing measurement and automation application software. It has the power to handle complex systems with multiple parallel I/O feeds. It is a flexible tool that allows developers to manage unforseen changes in external constraints or market conditions with minimum imapct on time and dollar budgets. And it is part of an integrated, internally consistent platform that minimises overall time to market, and ensures maintainability over the commercial life of the system.
For More Details
For more details of the National Instruments LabVIEW Platform go to the National Instruments website.