Today’s post is part of a series exploring areas of focus and innovation for NI software.
Time: a precious commodity. It’s even more precious when talking about your own time.
Wikipedia, as usual, provides an enlightening perspective: “Time has long been a major subject of study in religion, philosophy, and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity has consistently eluded scholars. Nevertheless, diverse fields such as business, industry, sports, the sciences, and the performing arts all incorporate some notion of time into their respective measuring systems.” NI is no different than this generic definition. We heavily incorporate time into our respective measurement and control systems.
A Brief History of Time is a favorite among the NI team in part due to our intimate history with time—both in our own engineering and within our products for other engineers. We were among the first in test and measurement to effectively implement time into products. For decades, LabVIEW has incorporated time in native G programming concepts. We first introduced real-time system integration (RTSI) for measurement timing and synchronization in our PCI DAQ products wherein LabVIEW and the NI-DAQmx driver rout the RTSI automatically. Additionally, we are one of the only major test and measurement vendors to offer a PXI timing and synchronization product line (for PXI, RTSI is built into the backplane). Through shared timing and synchronization, you can vastly improve the accuracy of measurements, apply advanced triggering schemes, or synchronize multiple devices to act as one for extremely high-channel-count applications.
Internally, we refer to “time” as a “first-class citizen” of our platform. Engineers benefit from this “first class-ness” every day. You see this elevated status in applications like the world’s first real-time optical coherent tomography (OCT) imaging system to enable early cancer detection. This application uses LabVIEW and PXI for OCT and combines 320 simultaneous channels at 10 MS/s while LabVIEW performs >700,000 FFT/sec. Time is also a major player in controlling the world’s largest telescope. With 1.87 teraflops of data, 64 compute notes at 512 cores, and 14,000 samples every 2 ms; time matters. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is also taking full advantage of NI’s complex timing capability. The LHC is a complex of interconnected circular and linear accelerators. All devices that serve the accelerators (magnets, kickers, and more) must be precisely synchronized and controlled by a central control system. CERN adopted LabVIEW FPGA to serve as the timekeeper for more than 100 collimators. Inside the collimators, LabVIEW performs collimator control for approximately 600 stepper motors with millisecond synchronization over the 27 km of the LHC.
However, this blog series as I hope you know by now, is about where we are investing in our products. With new technologies, we know we can significantly improve your ‘first time to measurement’ AND complex mastery of time for highly distributed, synchronized, heterogeneous systems.
Time to First Measurement
Our insatiable need for instant gratification translates directly to our measurement and control systems. When you plug in your DAQ device or myRIO, you want to see data immediately to not only know that everything is working properly, but to gather information and insights as quickly as possible. We are currently exploring a scalable use-model of “interactive panels” to ensure you have instant access to measurements, as well as approachable and interactive analysis in a manner that integrates seamlessly into your G experience when you need to automate.
Figure 1. Interactive panels will provide instant data access, visualization, and options for exploration.
Building on our leadership in measurement and control, we are participating within the IEEE 802 standards group and the AVnu Alliance to help define the Time Sensitive Networks (TSN) standard. TSN will be part of the next revision to standard Ethernet technology and will provide a standard mechanism for network-based clock synchronization, high reliability using bandwidth reservation and path redundancy, and bounded latency enabling network-based, closed-loop control. This evolution of the Ethernet standard is essential for LabVIEW-based system design tools and will enable creation of distributed, coordinated measurement and control systems that will be heart of the industrial internet of things.
Figure 2 - Distributed control system paradigm shift 1974 to 2016 and beyond.
You—the engineers and scientists of the world—are solving the grand challenges, and you need time. You need time so that your measurements and control algorithms are correct and synched. You need time so that you have an accurate reference for analytics, insights, and correlations. Most importantly, though, you just plain need time. You need YOUR time to tackle those grand challenges in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Oh, and getting some of your time back means you can enjoy a little more of that thing called life; but that’s in another blog.
Until next time…
Today’s Featured Author
Shelley Gretlein is a self-proclaimed software geek and robot aficionado. As NI’s director of software marketing, you can find Shelley championing LabVIEW from keynote stages to user forums to elevator conversations. You can follow her on Twitter at @LadyLabVIEW.