latest version of its LabVIEW graphical development software – LabVIEW 8 – provides a suite of new capabilities that allow engineers to design, distribute and synchronise intelligent devices and systems.
A distributed system uses multiple processors. However, the processors can be of mixed architectures, including microprocessors, DSPs, or FPGAs. What’s more, distributed systems can be physically located on a single board, box, or rack, or spatially distributed in separate devices or systems on a network.
Addressing communication needs between often functionally different nodes is challenging. While various standards and protocols exist for communication – such as TCP/IP, Modbus TCP, OPC – one protocol cannot usually meet all of an engineer’s needs, and each protocol has a different API. This forces system integrators to use multiple communication protocols to complete the entire system. In addition, any communication protocol or system an engineer uses also must integrate with existing network communication protocols such as OPC.
One way to address these often competing needs is to abstract the specific transport layer and protocol. By doing this, engineers can use multiple protocols ‘under the hood’, unify the code development, and save development time.
LabVIEW 8 distributed intelligence addresses these challenges with a single communication interface that provides data sharing among real-time controller nodes (for example, a vision system and motion control system) and integrates with OPC.
LabVIEW 8 shared variables, an abstraction layer for protocol transport, can handle complex data types required for advanced distributed applications and can scale to include high-level functions such as logging and alarming. Engineers can use LabVIEW shared variables to share data to and from any node in the system including real-time nodes, historical databases, and Web-based supervisory consoles.
Engineers can configure these shared variables through interactive dialogs, binding controls and indicators to data sources across any network.
Moving data and commands among different computing nodes in a distributed system is only one of the challenges involved in developing a distributed system. Managing and deploying the source that runs on these distributed nodes is a fundamental challenge faced by system developers.
In the simplest distributed case, where homogenous computing nodes execute the exact same source code, engineers can maintain the master source in one place and then distribute it to all nodes when they alter the code. In the advanced distributed case, each node has dissimilar executable code running on mixed architectures, and all nodes may not be online simultaneously.
LabVIEW 8 manages the source code and application distribution for an entire system of computing nodes from one environment. The new LabVIEW Project in LabVIEW 8 stores the source code and settings for all nodes used in the distributed system, including PCs, real-time controllers, FPGA processors, and handheld devices.
LabView Project also hosts a number of tools that teams of developers can use to manage a large application, including integrated source code control compatible with the leading SCC tools, project libraries that package code as modular, reusable functions that developers can easily plug into systems as needed, and build specifications that developers can use to define and save multiple project builds for source code distribution, debugging, component building, or final deployment.
All real-time, FPGA, and handheld devices in the system are visible in the LabVIEW project, making it easy for developers to manage the system.
Developers can also add targets to their project even if they are off line, making it simpler to design the architecture and develop a system when some components are missing. From an intuitive ‘tree view’ in the project, developers can view, edit, redeploy, execute, and debug code running on any node in the system. Developers can observe the interaction among all the distributed system nodes in real time, which is critical because intelligent nodes can execute simultaneously. This ability improves communication and synchronisation, development and debugging, as well as reducing overall development time.
Additionally, LabVIEW 8 has a new tool for simplifying instrument control. With the new LabVIEW Instrument Driver Finder, engineers now can automatically recognise connected instruments and search, download and install the appropriate driver from the more than 4,000 available on the NI Instrument Driver Network.
National Instruments offers the new LabVIEW 8 in multiple languages, including French, German, Japanese and, for the first time, Korean, as well as LabVIEW documentation in simplified Chinese.
As National Instruments launched its new LabVIEW 8 software, DataAct, a National Instruments Alliance Partner, announced the availability of DataAct Version Chooser for LabVIEW to aid engineers working with multiple versions of the LabVIEW software.
Using the Version Chooser, engineers can control which version of LabVIEW opens their applications, and see the LabVIEW version with which a file is compiled and saved.
For engineers using NI LabVIEW 8 that still need to develop or support projects and files in older LabVIEW versions, Version Chooser is a valuable tool. For instance, without Version Chooser, the simple task of double-clicking on a file may launch the wrong version of LabVIEW.
Version Chooser is delivered in components in one installer. The version component, which adds the “Get LabVIEW Version” action to the Windows Explorer right-click menu, is free, while other components have a 30-day trial.
Version Chooser is available at http://www.dataact.com/downloads.htm.