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A $4,000 guitar tuner?

Aw 5955 News04 Compact Rio

It might sound like a lot of money to tune your “G” string, but it made an effective demonstration for National Instruments (www.ni.com) engineers showing off the company’s latest signal analysis tools. The tenth annual NI Week bash, held in NI’s home town of Austin, Texas, drew a record crowd of just over 2,000 users and system integrators. This attendance was an increase of about 500 over 2003. Two phrases were often heard during the sessions—industrial automation and, “we have a clearer vision on automation than ever before.” Attendees could also peruse the booths of 137 exhibitor/partners during breaks from the many technical sessions offered.

NI Senior Vice President of Research and Development Tim Dehne opened the three-day event with a keynote address sprinkled liberally with presentations by the developers of many of the new products introduced here. Says Dehne, “NI Week has always been a great exchange of ideas between passionate scientists and engineers with other passionate scientists and engineers.”

Certainly the most significant announcement was CompactRIO (shown above), an embedded control and acquisition platform featuring reconfigurable inputs and outputs (RIO). It is designed for applications in which small size and reliability are crucial. Users of the company’s LabView development platform now have the ability to define their own custom circuitry using reconfigurable field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips.

Both Dehne and NI President and Chief Executive Officer James Truchard acknowledged the term for controllers defined by the ARC Advisory Group, Dedham, Mass., as programmable automation controller (PAC). These controllers combine the ruggedness of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) with the openness, flexibility and connectability of personal computers. NI has adopted this concept, exemplified by CompactRIO hardware and the latest LabView software.

Gary Mintchell

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