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Industry experts predict that by 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be digitally connected, representing $19 trillion in business opportunity. At the forefront of this growing trend is National Instruments (NI), which, for nearly 40 years, has been providing automated test equipment and virtual instrumentation software to engineers and scientists to help accelerate productivity, innovation, and discovery.
I caught up with NI Managing Director Matej Kranjc, to talk about the company, how their platforms are enabling the development of intelligent systems of systems that help users make smarter business decisions, and how big data analysis is enabling process innovation.
Stephen Las Marias: What continues to be the unique value proposition of NI and what are its key competitive differentiators in the global T&M industry?
Matej Kranjc: Our value proposition is that we offer reconfigurable hardware and customizable software for test, measurement and embedded control solutions, empower our customers to use the same development from designing, all the way through prototyping, deployment, and monitoring and control. Using our approach, users can then develop much more cost-effective solutions. Instead of having embedded intelligence that you cannot customize, we offer an open “canvas”, all the building blocks required for our customers’ unique requirements, and the ability to add your intelligence, IP and customization, and get solutions faster to the market at a much lower cost.
One of our key platforms is our PXI platform, a rugged PC-based platform which is highly modular with a large number of different I/O capabilities, so that modules that can handle signals from DC up to 26.5GHz signals. Many of these I/Os harness the power of our RIO architecture, which, using FPGAs, gives capabilities that can change the personality of the hardware. And that’s something unique on the market. These are supported by our LabVIEW graphical system design software environment, which abstracts all these complexities that are normally associated with FPGA technologies.
Las Marias: In our recent survey about improving process capabilities, one of the key issues pointed out by the respondents is the lack of data acquisition with appropriate sensors for data logging over periods of time in an electronics assembly line. What is NI’s view on this?
Kranjc: When it comes to manufacturing equipment and electronic assembly lines, and as products and applications become more sophisticated and complex, engineers are faced with the same challenges as many other industries, which is, an explosion in the amount of available data and the need to optimize based on their application and project needs.
The trend towards smart, connected devices is driving technology such as processors and FPGAs, wireless connectivity, low-cost sensing, and software. Our goal at NI is to build our platform on top of these technologies so that the quarter billion dollars we spend each year on R&D is heavily leveraged.
NI provides a common platform to add intelligence and control to these measurement systems, along with a rich set of I/O for interacting with the physical world, embedded computation, and open data connectivity, for any sensor or bus type. This allows these systems to be a lot more selective about what data to store, and where to store it, and makes retrieving and analyzing the specific data of interest easy so engineers can focus on the task at hand.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.