Electronic Design

LabVIEW 8.6: More Multicore And More Embedded

During this year’s NINI Week, National Instruments announced LabVIEWIEWIEW 8.6 in addition to a wide range of other NINI hardware and software. And, this latest version of LabVIEW continues to push the limits of parallel processing.

Many of its more than 1200 multicore optimized analysis and signal processing routines can take advantage of Intel’s Thread Building Block runtime. LabVIEW applications can push 1 million fast Fourier transforms a second (FFTs/s) with the help of multicore platforms. Future versions of LabVIEW may take advantage of GPU multicore platforms.

LabVIEW now makes it easier to identify parallel sections of code using the Control Design and Simulation Module. Multicore support enhances other LabVIEW modules, such as the NI Vision Development Module and the NI Modulation Toolkit for LabVIEW, which can test wireless devices up to four times faster.

On the embedded platform side, LabVIEW supports the Single-Board Reconfigurable IO (SB RIO) board (Fig. 1). The SB RIO is the same FPGA and processor platform found in NI’s modular CompactRIO test and prototyping system (see “Reconfigurable Backplane Eases Process-Control Design” at ED Online 8942). With the SB RIO, designers can deploy in their own case while incorporating their own interfaces. A related hardware announcement at NI Week covered support for remote data-acquisition and control (DAC) modules via wireless connections. NI’s offering handles a single module originally targeted at CompactRIO (Fig. 2). NI additionally supports a range of wireless third-party DAC units. LabVIEW DAC I/O can also be accessed via Ethernet, PCI, PCI Express, PXI, PXI Express, and USB links.

PLATFORM IMPROVEMENTS
LabVIEW is many things, but it is primarily a visual data-flow programming language development environment. So, improvements to the user interface and development process are key. One highly requested addition is a diagram cleanup button that rearranges objects and wires for a clean, easy to understand presentation.

Case objects can now tunnel unused input wires to outputs, saving programmers time. A centralized breakpoint manager helps programmers working in complex debugging environments. Developers looking to customize the development environment can take advantage of the new Palette APIs, which control the icon palettes used to create controls.

Multiobject property editing is now possible. Several state-chart enhancements have been included, like visual state-chart debugging and live state-chart visualization. Mathscript is now supported on Mac and Linux platforms, and dozens of new Mathscript functions have been added. Mathscript debugging has been improved as well.

LabVIEW 8.6 also sports a number of additions to the Real-Time module, such as the Distributed System Manager and a Scan Engine with an out-of-the-box determinism of 500 ns. Industrial function blocks were added. LabVIEW now provides real-time safe function blocks based on the IEC 61131-3 standard for programmable logic controllers (PLCs) as well.

FPGA IMPROVEMENTS
CompactRIO’s FPGA isn’t the only FPGA target that LabVIEW has in its sights. LabVIEW can deploy applications in a range of FPGA platforms. Hence, there’s a plethora of FPGA enhancements in the latest version of LabVIEW, including new resampling and adaptive filter intellectual property (IP).

The new component-level IP (CLIP) node lets designers drop Verilog and VHDL code into a LabVIEW virtual instrument (VI). Fixed-point support is now available for FPGA targets. FPGA simulation that’s up to four times faster on a multicore platform is also supported on Windows hosts.

Deployment of LabVIEW applications as Web services provides remote access from a range of devices, from PC Web browsers to smart phones. Furthermore, NI is taking advantage of soft cores on FPGAs such as multiple instances of Xilinx’s PicoBlaze, which can be used to access and process off-chip information. Other new features announced at NI Week include support for Windows XP Embedded and the LabVIEW Touch Panel module.

Pricing for LabVIEW 8.6 starts at $1199. Check out Lab Bench Online and http://electronicdesign.com/shows/NIWeek/ for more event coverage.

National Instrumentsts www.ni.com

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