NI’s Arun Veeramani talks trends in embedded control

Kevin Gomez caught up with Arun Veeramani when he visited Sydney to speak at the NI Technical Symposium.

Why is this a special year for CompactRIO?

This year we are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of CompactRIO. Back in 2004, we released the first CompactRIO and what we call now, the LabVIEW RIO architecture as well.

It's based on the RIO architecture, the three main components are processor, FPGA and IO – all working in harmony. This is what really makes the difference. The CompactRIO platform has been extremely popular with our customers for about ten years now and this architecture will continue to stand it in good stead over the next decade.

We ensure that CompactRIO continues to meet customer expectations and lets them continue to innovate, especially with features like advanced processing power. The newest CompactRIO has an Intel Dual Core Atom processor and that gives our customers an integrated GPU – they don't need a separate HMI sub-system.

They can put the HMI task in the real-time controller itself and all they need to do is get a monitor, plug it in directly to the CompactRIO and there you go. This minimises the development time.

We have added a Linux operating system as the backbone. Linux has the advantage of being open, so customers familiar with Linux can go in and modify elements if they wish.

Now we have augmented the community version with real-time capabilities so it stays true to the real-time nature of CompactRIO.

With the latest CompactRIO you no longer need LabVIEW on the real-time side. You can just use C or C++ and talk to the FPGA which is running LabVIEW and this is a big change.

We are continuing to open up our tools and our systems so customers can continue to use their existing expertise, existing skill set without having to learn something completely new.

The NI CompactRIO combines an open embedded architecture with small size, ruggedness, hot-swappable industrial I/O modules, and is powered by the NI LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture.

The NI CompactRIO combines an open embedded architecture with small size, ruggedness, hot-swappable industrial I/O modules, and is powered by the NI LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture. 

Is there still some resistance in the market towards FPGAs?

Once people understand the FPGAs more they are more open to it. Some think FPGAs are like the old smart phones where all they can do is talk. It's not true, it has a microprocessor, it has the DSP and of course it has the FPGA capabilities.

If did not know how to program an FPGA back then you could either go out and hire some extremely expensive resource, or you have to learn the FPGAs. But now with system loaded tools like LabVIEW FPGA we're truly democratising embedded system design where the user is able to program the FPGAs much easier.

The application and domain experts are not hardcore embedded designers. They are a medical life sciences experts or a mechanical engineers and they're able to quickly program an FPGA.

We've seen an increase in the uptake but by no means is the market saturated. There are enough people out there who we truly think will benefit from FPGAs and we will continue to educate them.

What is the USP for NI's System on Module?

System on module (SOM) is a class of products that exist in the industry, it's not something that NI defined. But on the other hand we have an SOM that we truly believe is differentiated.

When developing an embedded project you are going to choose a processor and the peripherals that go with it. You're not going to go out and design a processor, you'll go go to AMD, are Intel. What you are really designing is your secret sauce and the IO that goes on it.

We are basing the NI SOM on the LabVIEW RIO architecture which has been tried and tested in the market. Unlike other system on modules, it is supported by LabVIEW so you don't have to write to your own processor or get an operating system.

It comes with the NI Linux RT operating system and an FPGA that's supported by LabVIEW so users can quickly get up and running and really focus on the critical, differentiating aspects that allow them to get to market faster.

Send this to a friend