NIDays Boston addresses big data, industrial Internet

National Instruments’ NIDays convened in Boston last fall as one of about four dozen stops for the event throughout the year. Dave Wilson, vice president of product marketing, academic, opened the event by saying that NI and its customers have generated 22 exabytes of data over the past three decades. He then described NI’s RIO (reconfigurable I/O) architecture, which comprises analog I/O capability to interface with the infinite data of the physical world, an FPGA, a CPU, and data connectivity. The FPGA, he said, is critical to support immediate interaction with the real world. The FPGA, in turn, can feed relevant and important information to the CPU, which can be programmed with LabVIEW.

Following his address, Rahul Gadkari, NI principle regional marketing manager, U.S. East, with the help of colleagues, described several recently introduced NI products that can help tame the explosion of data.

Gadkari first cited a 14-slot CompactDAQ USB 3.0 chassis that can transfer measurement and sensor data at up to 225 MB/s data-transfer rates. With such products, companies can acquire impressive amounts of data, but unfortunately, they analyze only a small portion of the critical data they are capturing, creating a need for smarter measurement systems with more processing capability at the point of acquisition.

Tommy Glicker, product marketing manager for DAQ at NI, then described how the powertrain controller R&D group at Jaguar Land Rover captured 500 GB of data per day from multiple tools. Unfortunately, the group could only analyze 10% of that data. A one-year initiative incorporating NI DIAdem and NI DataFinder Server Edition helped the group analyze 95% of its data and avoid repeating tests—thereby saving costs.1

And speaking at NIWeek last August in Austin, Pablo Abad, powertrain simulation and tools research leader at Jaguar Land Rover, reported that the previous method had not only limited the amount of data analyzed but had been about 20 times slower than the newly developed automated approach. The group can perform calculations on and search for specific parameters—highest speeds, for example—as well as accompanying metadata.

Gadkari then commented on Berlin Heart Germany, which specializes in life-sustaining cardiac technology, including the Excor pediatric ventricular assist system used for children awaiting a heart transplant. The company uses LabVIEW and CompactDAQ hardware based on an Intel Atom quad-core processor to simulate the human heart during tests.

Gadkari and colleagues then highlighted additional applications:

  • Embraer used NI hardware and software for increased simulated ground testing to shorten time to market.
  • Cirrus Logic uses the Semiconductor Test System (STS) and has found it is cheaper to buy an STS than rent a traditional big-iron ATE system.
  • Harman uses the Wireless Test System to test its cellular eCall technology, which enables a vehicle in an accident to automatically call first responders—cutting emergency response times by up to 50%.
  • Innovari is working to reduce peak loads on the grid to better utilize existing infrastructure using products such as Single Board RIO.
  • Diagnostic Sonar is using a FlexRIO controller to help detect damage in advanced composite materials.
  • FireFly is using CompactRIO to boost the productivity of its turf harvester.
  • Samsung is using NI products to conduct MIMO 5G field tests in Dallas.

In a session on education, Wilson commented on connecting teaching and research with industry. One time, he said, there was a bigger separation between industry and academia, but there’s been a big change, with universities taking a much more practical approach with a focus on building working prototypes. Nevertheless, he said, theory is absolutely critical. “At NI, we believe it all starts with academics,” he said.

Throughout the day, nearly two dozen exhibitors provided demonstrations. Joining NI were Acquired Data Solutions, Averna, BCO, Bloomy Controls, Circuit Check, Data Science Automation, DMC, Everett-Charles, Kistler, MAC Panel, Mouser, OPAL/RT, PCB Piezotronics, PVI Systems, RTI, Seica, TDK, VI Engineering, Viewpoint Systems, Virginia Panel, and Wineman Technology.

Joseph J. Salvo, director of computational sciences and architectures at GE and a founder of the Industrial Internet Consortium, concluded the day with an address on the IIoT. Because of a lack of visibility into logistics, we are leaving trillions of dollars on the table, he said. He cited as an example lost wind-turbine blades in China—you might think it would be hard to lose a 35-m-long blade, he said, but it happens all the time. “We need totally transparent logistics systems,” he said. In addition to finding turbine blades, transparency can help track counterfeit drugs and contaminated food. “The need to maintain your reputation becomes paramount when everything is connected,” he said, “and transparency determines whether you can compete or not.”

It’s time for huge bets on the industrial Internet, Salvo argued. “We can embrace the world and make tools of innovation available to everyone—democracy in action,” he said. He cited as an example a GE request for a jet-engine bracket design. About 700 teams responded, he said, with a winning team from Malaysia—which had never worked in aviation before—submitting a design that reduced mass by 85%. GE, he said, additively manufactured and load-tested the part.

The bracket design is an example of the democratization of the tools of creativity, Salvo said, with the capability to expand a team of 50,000 engineers to 50 million with cloud-driven technology. “GE is committed to the industrial Internet,” he concluded, describing it as “… the biggest digital nervous system the world will ever create.”


  1. Nelson, R., “Big data analytics becomes strategic test tool,” EE-Evaluation Engineering, January 2016, page 22-23.

Editor’s Note

Many of the NIDays presentations were abbreviated versions of presentations from last August’s NIWeek in Austin, which can be viewed at

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