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LabVIEW NXG is the future of LabVIEW: Jonah Paul of NI

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For the American test automation firm, National Instruments (NI) LabVIEW has been a 30-year old legacy and the product line has evolved. Last year, NI introduced LabVIEW NXG, so for the first time, there are two versions in the market at once. In an interview with Mohd Ujaley, Jonah Paul, Senior Group Manager, Product Marketing at NI said, “What’s driven the development for both is the customer’s needs. The way we customize them is based on the 35000 customers that we have and the tasks they want to do.”

How LabVIEW 2018 is different from earlier versions?                     

LabVIEW has been a 30-year old legacy and the product line has evolved and grown as the engineers around us have evolved and grown. Just last year, we introduced NXG so for the first time we have two versions in the market at once. What’s driven the development for both is the customer’s needs. The way we customize them is based on the 35000 customers that we have and the tasks they want to do. But the challenge is that, if you think about NXP vs. Honeywell they are obviously very different industries but also very different applications – from validations Labs to production floors and LabVIEW is being used in all of those settings across the product development process.

Our recent versions of LabVIEW reflect that – LabVIEW NXG is the future of LabVIEW and we continue to invest in it with new technologies such as web technologies was introduced with NXG in January. Engineers can view their systems remotely using a new technology called the Webvi – giving them access to web technologies without being experts in it. Likewise, with LabVIEW 2018, we are driving re-use for customers. LabVIEW centres around the idea of bringing new technologies like Web and making them affordable and accessible. The second part is openness; with LabVIEW 2018, customers can utilize python scripts directly within the environment. Whether it is Python or .NET or C, our goal is to make LabVIEW inter-operable so that customers can get to the end-goal easily.

What role do you see for testing in the growth of new technologies such as IoT or 5G?

While talking to our customers we are seeing that it becomes an I/O and a data problem. The data they are taking today are going to look very different from the data they collect tomorrow. This is because of the number of sensors and the amount of instrumentation they have within their products – all IoT centric, 5G centric. Look at how fast things are being prototyped and the amount of data being collected from those systems – it is not only about the accuracy of the data which is important, but it is also about the ability to analyze it to get meaningful insights from the vast amount of data that people are collecting. Again, LabVIEW plays a part in that as part of our overall software platform to pull in, analyze and visualize data sets.

Do you see testing being automated? Is it practically possible?

For us, there are certain elements that are common across industry and applications that can be standardized. Often, at NI we refer to it as “Make the common easy so that you can focus on the unique challenges as an engineer and add the most value”.

For example, a capability that we introduced in LabVIEW NXG was to address a common challenge that we see across engineers, regardless of application and industry, which is set up of hardware. We introduced a new system design technology to allow them to quickly visualize and have at their fingertips the right context of documentation. Now they can focus not on set-up or hardware getting the I/O, but more on what they ultimately care about – data, the insights, engineering IP etc. which are value adding in the system.

Recently you introduced a Mac version of the software – how has that played out and why is it beneficial?

LabVIEW from the start has had a focus on being cross-platform and that has taken on different versions and flavours. The Mac version plays an important role from an education perspective- in fact, we just released ELVIS III. Additionally, it is beneficial for the web technologies I spoke about earlier- the Webvis that are created can run on anything with a browser – regardless of a Mac, Linux, phone or a tablet etc. The most important is for it to be cross-platform and Mac is one of those operating systems that we look to support in the right way.

Hardware obsoleteness is a challenge for the enterprise. NI claims to have the technology for testing that can bring down 100 hardware devices to just 10. Can you shed more light on that?

One key aspect from the LabVIEW from the software perspective that we have seen via trends is to help manage and mitigate the risk with hardware obsolescence is abstraction layers. It helps to abstract things like drivers and specific hardware and LabVIEW is a tool that’s often used to do that through things like object-oriented programming and other technologies that engineers are talking about at this conference. Tools like LabVIEW and Test AN – which is our sequencing tools are both utilized used often in the air defence industry by customers, like Honeywell, to help mitigate risks through abstraction of hardware or even measurement layers. That goes a long way in minimizing costs.

Beyond hardware, National Instruments is also focusing on software now. Do you see software playing a larger role than hardware in the next 3-5 years?

National Instruments has historically viewed itself through the lens of software. As a software-defined platform, we focus on the software being the instrument and helping enable the engineers to have control over how their instruments work together. LabVIEW plays a critical role – what we see in our customer workflow is that the demand around validation and engineering in automotive is so high that we’ve started to introduce additional pieces of software that is more specialized around certain needs they have. I foresee us introducing more such specialized software in the future as well – enabling operational efficiency.

What are the three technology trends that will have the most significant impact on the way we test?

If I look at my customer’s landscape, it’s an exponential curve and predicting 3 – 5 years is not easy. The first key aspect is teams – if I approach it as a test manager and look at what challenges will I be facing in the future, I will be concerned about my teams working together efficiently because the reality is that, no longer can one engineer complete the data system- whether it is code or complexity etc. Team collaboration around a problem is a reality that is only going to grow with time and we are certainly investing in tools to help solve some of those. As a manager, I would also have to deal with retention of my people and making sure that my team is working best together and certainly software plays a key part in that.

The second aspect important to test landscape is Web and Cloud and connectivity. I see many test managers internalizing – what does it mean for me, my test lab? How I can best utilize it so I’m not left behind as my competitors may get a competitive advantage if they set up their systems in the right way through cloud and connectivity systems.

The third aspect is managing the mix of I/O and the data and how they deal with the rapid change in the I/O sets and the demand of their testers to keep up– if you come back to standardization, each of the three things are important- how do your teams most efficiently work in a standardized framework or tester- that’s a struggle. How does the standardized tester look in the sense of a cloud or a network connected system as well as a standard system.

How has the R&D centre in India contributed?

India is a key part of our software group. Each R&D centre in the world play a part in the platform of software that we’ve developed; certainly, LabVIEW is one of them as well as many other products. Its great to see the collaboration across the globe.

Is there any Indian customer which is using LabVIEW or any of your other technologies?

JLR was able to analyze 100 percent of their data very efficiently.


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