By Anthony J. Lockwood
Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
Long ago in a life far away, a grown-up awed me listing words that described me: brother, New Yorker, red-headed devil, etc. It’s time to add another: Digital Index Operator. Yes, George Jetson’s job title. No, I’m not referring to road rage, albeit cars apply. I finger-operate embedded computers all day long: smartphone, microwave, treadmill, channel clicker, and so on. And we don’t even consider our relationship with embedded devices that control and monitor the power grid, the HVAC, and the communications of the card swipe at the store. Our daily activities so revolved around an axis of increasingly complex embedded devices that we’re lost and cranky without them. So, why is it that the software tools, hardware, and standards for embedded device design make it difficult for engineers to develop new ideas quickly?
That challenge is precisely what National Instruments and its partners are out to vanquish. How? By converging technologies toward a standard yet fully flexible hardware and software platform for embedded device design. Recently, NI introduced four new single-board RIO devices that are intended to make it easier for you to design and develop the customized parts of your embedded system applications. How? By providing all the foundation stuff like real-time processor, memory, analog and digital I/O lines, and networking, then combining all that with an FPGA (field-programmable gate array) that you can program with LabVIEW. In other words, the boards eliminate whole steps you’d have to take if you were starting an embedded system design process from scratch.
And this means a lot of scratch saved for companies since design cycles are shortened and design teams can be smaller, giving you more time and more design teams to create more products. The three tricks to all this among the many are NI’s reconfigurable I/O — which is where the acronym RIO comes from — NI LabVIEW system design software, and the FPGAs. RIO provides the standard hardware platform. NI LabVIEW provides the development and prototyping system for control, signal processing, and monitoring. FPGA, which can run several algorithms in parallel, provides the circuitry that handles your specialized I/O. Since FPGAs are reprogrammable, you can tweak code and upgrade your embedded device’s logic throughout development and as needed in the field.
As engineers, you are more aware than most that your daily activities are enabled and enriched by embedded devices. Whether you’re like George working at Spacely’s Space Sprockets poking buttons to make a machine operate, or like George screaming for his wife to rescue him from some crazy thing, you know embedded devices are really where it’s at. You can learn more about the new NI Single-Board RIO platform for embedded devices from today’s Pick of the Week write-up. Make sure to watch the video for a great intro to it all.
Thanks, pal. — Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering
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