National Instruments CEO James Truchard Outlines Future of Virtual Instrumentation at NIWeek 2002

8/15/2002 - James Truchard, CEO and President of National Instruments, kicked off NIWeek 2002 highlighting new products and technologies that are fulfilling the company's vision of virtual instrumentation. He discussed how the abundance of PC processing power as well as advances in other commercial technology is making virtual instrumentation the preferred approach to modern test systems.

"Virtual instrumentation has improved to the point that today we can meet and sometimes exceed the capabilities of traditional measurement systems," Truchard said. "By leveraging the continuous advancements in commercial technologies, virtual instrumentation is addressing application areas that only a few years ago were the domain of proprietary vendor-defined solutions."

As an example of this trend, Truchard pointed to two new modular instruments that the company introduced today -- the PXI-4070 6 -Digit FlexDMM and the PXI-5660 2.7 GHz RF signal analyzer. The NI FlexDMM shatters traditional speed and performance barriers by offering a continuously variable reading rate from 100 S/s at 6 digits to 5 kS/s at 4 digits, as well as a 1.8 MS/s fully isolated digitizer. The NI RF signal analyzer has a 20 MHz wide bandwidth for capturing magnitude, frequency, and phase data. It also ships with LabVIEW software for performing highly advanced analysis on complex signals.

"These new products illustrate how we are extending the reach of virtual instrumentation by leveraging the power of the PC," Truchard said. "Some people say we are entering the post-PC era, but that's like saying that there is a post-automobile era. We continue to shape the future of measurement and automation, finding new, more productive ways for engineers to leverage the ever-increasing performance of PC technology."

Truchard also discussed a roadmap for growing the use of LabVIEW-based virtual instrumentation throughout the system design process. Increasingly, engineers deliver new products to market faster using LabVIEW not only to test completed products but also to integrate real-world measurements into the simulation and modeling of product designs. From defining the first prototypes to manufacturing the final product, virtual instrumentation-based system design and test is truly revolutionizing the entire design flow.

As part of this discussion, Truchard talked about the development of LabVIEW FPGA, a plug-in module for the National Instruments flagship graphical development environment. This new module will expand the realm of applications that engineers can solve with virtual instrumentation. Just as the productivity of LabVIEW revolutionizes instrumentation with user-defined instruments, LabVIEW FPGA enables user-defined hardware for a wide spectrum of applications that can benefit from high-speed custom hardware logic and tightly integrated real-time systems.

"As a first step, LabVIEW FPGA will target a National Instruments reconfigurable I/O device so that users who build sophisticated test systems, such as automotive testers, can use off-the-shelf software and hardware to build extremely flexible test platforms that integrate both test and real-time control," Truchard said.

In a demonstration of a hardware-in-the-loop tester, NI engineers showed how LabVIEW FPGA block diagrams can execute on a FPGA in closed loop with real I/O up to 80 times faster that what could be done before. Truchard said commercialization of this technology is expected in 2003 and that NI would be working with a small group of LabVIEW pioneer developers in the next few months.

Truchard, a respected veteran of the measurement and automation industry, often advises and counsels industry, academic, and governmental organizations on technology issues. He is a member of the University of Texas System Chancellor's Council and a former member of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Advisory Council on Digital Economy. Truchard has addressed several industry gatherings, including the 2002 National Manufacturing Week conference and the 2001 Sensors Expo and Conference. He co-founded National Instruments in 1976 in Austin, Texas, and Worth magazine has recognized him as one of the 50 best chief executive officers in the country because of his clear vision and leadership. Truchard, who is the Frost & Sullivan 2001 CEO of the Year for the Test and Measurement industry, has led NI through double-digit growth for 24 of the past 25 years. He is co-inventor of the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment.

About National Instruments (
National Instruments leverages commercial technologies, such as industry-standard computers and the Internet, to deliver customer-defined measurement and automation solutions. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 2,900 employees and direct sales offices in more than 37 countries. NI increases the productivity of engineers and scientists worldwide by delivering easy-to-integrate software and modular hardware. In 2001, the company sold products to more than 24,000 different companies in more than 60 countries around the world. For the past three consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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