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The Best Engineering Tools Get Out of Your Way

NI Employee

Software tools play a critical role in today’s system design and development. In the past, many embedded designs were dictated by the capabilities of the hardware and your ability to map their design to system requirements. Thanks to a reduction in the power, cost, and size of embedded hardware over the last decade, the hardware no longer has to dictate your embedded design choices. Productivity does.

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From the Q2 Intrumentation Newsletter

Stand on the Shoulders of Technology Giants

We live in a time when the cutting-edge technology and science we rely on are built on the knowledge of generations of engineers, researchers, and scientists. Many of history’s great discoveries happened as a result of learning and perfecting the underlying technologies, not as miraculous occurrences. It would be impossible to create the telephone before understanding electricity and magnetism. It took more than 80 years to progress from the invention of the first telephone to the introduction of touch-tone dialing. In the 50 years since touch-tone, we have seen phones move to wireless, cellular, and Internet technologies. Today, the smartphone encompasses the functionality of a range of devices from email to web browsing.


For technology and innovation to continue developing, engineers and scientists must use state-of-the-art tools and methods. Too often, I have seen projects delayed because a design team used outdated design methods or old tools—all in the name of maintaining low-level control of a design. As an engineering tools provider, National Instruments is committed to saving tomorrow’s projects from unnecessary delays by delivering the most productive technologies to the engineering and scientific community.

Take it Off the Shelf and Define it With Software


Returning to the smartphone observation, you could argue that the smartphone is not the ideal implementation of a mobile email device. For example, the small keyboards on smartphones are much less effective  for typing emails than full-size keyboards.


Despite these shortcomings, the smartphone is extremely popular for email. One of the key principles that drive such broad adoption of today’s smartphones is that smartphones use a software-defined platform. For the first time in history, cellphone developers opened up their working space to a world of app developers. It would be extremely difficult for a small company to build a handheld consumer gaming device or email client. The engineering complexity and the per-unit cost to build would price this device well above a casual consumer’s budget. Because of software-enabled platforms like Android and iOS, hundreds of app developers can build games and utilities and sell them for less than $1 USD each on smartphone platforms.


The NI LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture provides similar benefits for teams building embedded control and monitoring systems. NI CompactRIO and NI PXI provide an off-the-shelf, flexible hardware platform, and LabVIEW system design software is the single, common development language that you can use to customize the functionality of your embedded systems. Embedded design productivity is driven by tightly integrated software tools that expose the capabilities of off-the-shelf hardware with a software environment that is so intuitive, nearly all engineers and scientists can use it, not just those trained in embedded software, firmware development, or hardware description languages. In addition to the electronics design and software infrastructure of the LabVIEW RIO architecture, mechanical design is also greatly simplified. Designers that use off-the-shelf, software-defined platforms avoid most of the mechanical design process.


...Want to know more about how RIO and PXI can help you reduce your team's size and overall development time? Read the full article from the latest issue of Instrumentation Newsletter here.