Will National Instruments Lead In The Next Generation Of IoT Tools?

One would have to have been living under a rock to not realize how the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the world around us. But what you may not consider is how the growing need for devices to be both connected and intelligent impacts the way technology providers design, test and measure each product they bring to market. Traditional tools and programming languages for test, measurement, and embedded system design from companies like Microsoft, Siemens and Mathworks along with hardware-defined programming languages like VHDL and Verilog are not currently well positioned to meet these evolving user requirements. A number of vendors, including National Instruments Corporation are taking a different approach to the problem with new products and design methodologies that are “software designed”. For a deep dive on the requirements for next generation test, measurement, and embedded system design, download our paper here.

Historically, communications systems such as telephone lines could transmit information, but offered little to no intelligence to augment the data they collected. Also, intelligent devices such as thermostats and early generations of exercise tracking devices could not connect to other systems to share and analyze information. This is all changing in today’s IoT world, which is driving a vast increase in the number of devices and systems that are both connected AND intelligent. In order to keep up with the proliferation of connectedness, a significant amount of infrastructure is required to complete the value chain beyond the “things” themselves: the networks, servers, and services that interact with and connect them all together.

The IoT Value Chain

iot chain

All of the components—from the sensor to the datacenter—need to be fine-tuned to work with the rest of the value chain to drive insight. If one element is not optimized to communicate with the rest of the system, it limits the entire value chain’s ability to convert data into useful information. This requirement for seamless integration creates significant challenges in the world of test, measurement, and embedded system design. Not only does every component need to be evaluated individually, but they all must be tested together as an efficient and cohesive ecosystem. In addition to the added complexity, the next generation of users of these test and design tools expect more: connectivity from anywhere, intuitive user experience (UX), industry specific capabilities, and the ability to deal with Big Data challenges such as data ingress, data health management, and Big Data analytics.

Traditional test, measurement, and embedded design tools are not well positioned to meet these evolving user requirements. Many embedded programming languages are either too generic (Microsoft C, C++, .NET, Mathworks MATLAB) or too specific (VHDL, Verilog, Apple Objective C). Some can’t provide enough intimate information about hardware platforms to differentiate or optimize for specialized hardware features, whereas others are hardware-defined languages designed for a single platform and can only offer a single deployment option. Furthermore, benchtop instruments designed for generic tasks and test requirements from companies like Keithley, Litepoint, and Siemens do not provide user visibility into software, nor can benchtop instruments integrate easily with other systems or automation software.

Designers of new technology products already face major challenges enabling the IoT ecosystem as we understand it today. Future IoT ecosystems cause new challenges that we can’t yet foresee. Future platforms for test, measurement, and embedded system design must be developed to solve the problems of things not yet understood, technologies not yet finalized, and communication protocols not yet approved. I believe the right test, measurement and embedded design systems to solve these problems will use a “software designed” approach: an intuitive software experience that can scale across different hardware platforms with the same architecture, so that users can choose the instance of the platform that best fits their specific needs. Next-generation solutions that appear to be aligned to meet these requirements include National Instruments LabVIEW, Beckhoff and Apple Swift-based tools. I believe National Instruments’ (NI’s) 40 year history, broad product portfolio, and significant investments in their platform-centric approach position them well to remain a leader in this space.

To learn more about how the Internet of Things is driving the need for “software designed” Measurement and Control solutions, download our research paper here.