Midlands LabVIEW User Group: Malleables, Pragmatic Test Rigs and Code Reviews

On Monday, I was at the latest meeting of the Midlands LabVIEW User Group at the MTC in Coventry (across the road from the AMRC for the IIoT event a few months ago).

Lovely day to learn LabVIEW!

I was presenting on Malleable VIs but also up on the projector alongside me was Ian Billingsley from CCS presenting on their pragmatic approach to test rig design using LabVIEW/TestStand and Peter Horn from NI with ‘Code Reviews for Teams that don’t have time for Code Reviews’.

Ian Billingsley – CCS

First up was Ian – his presentation was very interesting as it is always good to see how others are customising TestStand. It looks like they have found a robust and adaptable architecture that allows continuous monitoring of the test rig along with controlling it from TestStand. There were also some interesting discussions about when/why you should use TestStand and the benefits of building a simulation interface into your software. If you didn’t make it to the MLUG meeting, he will be giving a revised version of the presentation at GDevCon in September.

Peter Horn – National Instruments

Second up was Peter talking about how Code Reviews are a Good Idea™ and that if you don’t currently do code reviews, you probably should. You don’t have to implement some huge process where you sit down for 3 hours and get grilled on every wire bend. I believe in the benefits of having someone else look at your code – both to improve software quality and as a learning exercise for the reviewee/reviewer. The key message of the presentation was that you have to find a process that works for you/your team (whether that’s formal/informal/tool-driven code reviews) and to nurture the appropriate culture for them within the team (it’s not to pick faults).

Me!

Finally, I gave my presentation on Malleable VIs – an introduction to Malleables and some practical examples of how I have used them in my code. I demonstrated some examples from my previous blog posts but also some fresh examples with the Type Specialisation Structure introduced in LabVIEW 2018. Whilst preparing the presentation, I discovered an obvious workaround to the property node limitation of Malleable VIs – just wrap the property node calls into a SubVI!

Here’s a sneak peak from the presentation of a Malleable VI that can set the enable/disable state of a scalar/array of controls – using a scalar/array of ‘Enabled/Disabled/Disabled and Greyed Out’ enums or booleans:

Set Enabled State.vim – Various supported use cases of the Malleable VI for enabling/disabling controls.

You find find the full slides from my presentation as a PDF here: Malleables in the Wild – MLUG 2018

In Summary

LabVIEW User Group meetings are a great way to network with and learn from fellow LabVIEW developers. Thanks to Argenta for organising another successful MLUG.

Just don’t ask us to take the CLAD exam any time soon! (We had some CLAD practice questions to work through as the coding challenge this time around – I’m blaming our poor performance on the lighting / projector!)

NI Event: Implementing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

On Wednesday 28th March I attended the ‘Implementing the Industrial Internet of Things’ event organised by National Instruments.  The aim of event was to give an overview of the technologies and considerations needed to implement the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The event took place at the fantastic and very modern looking Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry. There was a very varied group of attendees at the event including Engineers, NI Alliance Partners (such as MediaMongrels Ltd), Academics, IT Professionals and even Market Analysts, all looking to learn more about the future of connected industry.

Content Overview

One of the early slides highlighted a couple of interesting statistics:

50 billion connected devices by 2020 – Cisco

~50% of connected devices deployed between 2015 and 2025 will be industrial – IHS Markit

This was followed by an overview of the various systems and components that make up an IIoT solution, as shown in the slide below:

© National Instruments

The event then was broken down into various presentations covering the following topics and showing how they fit within the IIoT  ecosystem:

  • Data Acquisition (hardware selection, sensor placement, sample rates, FPGA for high-speed acquisition, adequately describe data e.g. metadata)
  • Processing and Feature Extraction (where to process data? edge node, on-premises server or cloud?)
  • Control (using FPGA or RT for real-time control)
  • Communication (synchronisation of data, Time Sensitive Networking – technology allowing deterministic communication between critical machines/processes)
  • Security (securing edge nodes, use secure protocols e.g. https, use detection as well as protection)
  • Deployment (how to deploy to multiple systems? demo of NI SystemLink)
  • Data Management (how much data to store? how long for? database technologies)
  • Analytics & Machine Learning (use of process experts still relevant for training machine learning algorithms)
  • Visualisation (e.g. real-time data dashboards, augmented reality)

Of course, there is nothing new about these components individually, it is the bringing of them together to allow better business and engineering decisions to be made faster that I feel makes up the core idea of the Industrial Internet of Things. The benefits could be a reduction in downtime (e.g. through predictive maintenance) or improvements in productivity and quality (discovering and resolving inefficiencies).

As a National Instruments event, they were keen to show how their products and services can be used to deliver IIoT solutions (e.g. using an NI CompactRIO as an edge node, DIAdem for Data Management) but the event didn’t go into specifics or detailed implementation – it was more to provide an overview of the various technologies and to highlight some IIoT success stories.

It is clear to see that National Instruments is putting a lot of investment into IIoT – from their IIoT Lab in Austin, IIoT products/services (e.g. InsightCM, SystemLink) to wider collaboration with various related technologies (e.g. Augmented Reality, Industrial Networking).

Summary

Overall, it was a good opportunity to network with like-minded professionals and interesting to see how previous projects fit within the ‘IIoT’ remit. I also learnt more about some of the new technologies/products that will help deliver IIoT solutions in the future (e.g. Time Sensitive Networking, NI SystemLink).

You can find the presentations from the event here.

MediaMongrels Ltd. has experience developing solutions that fit into the Industrial Internet of Things – from embedded control and monitoring (edge node solutions) to test asset monitoring & real-time web-based dashboards for process monitoring. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your requirements.

 

 

 

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MediaMongrels Ltd is proud to be part of the GDevCon Alliance, a partnership of LabVIEW™ experts and community leaders who have put together GDevCon, an independent Graphical Programming Conference. GDevCon#1 is taking place on the 4th-5th September 2018 at Girton College in Cambridge.

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