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EETE FEB 2014

Five technology trends for 2014 By Nick Flaherty Nati onal Instruments is highlighting five key trends for engineers in 2014, from control systems to RF and user interfaces. The cyber-physical design challenge Cyber-physical systems (CPSs) are engineered to continuously and dynamically interact with their environment through the coupling of distributed computational and physical components. CPS applications are all around us and include smart grid, vehicle traffic networks, smart buildings, cooperative robots, telecommunications, automotive systems, and avionics. A CPS is characterized by three fundamental and deeply interwoven behaviours - computation, communication, and control - the three Cs of CPSs. Better CPS designs are achievable with disciplined design methodology, holistic development tools, and commercial off-the-shelf hardware. Big analogue data - the biggest big data In test, measurement, and control applications, engineers and scientists can collect vast amounts of data in short periods of time. When the National Science Foundation’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope comes online in the US in 2016, it should acquire more than 140 terabytes of information per week. In general, big data is characterized by a combination of three or four “Vs” - volume, variety, velocity, and value. An additional “V,” visibility, is emerging as a key defining characteristic. Drawing accurate and meaningful conclusions from such high-speed and high-volume analogue data is a growing problem. This data adds new challenges to data analysis, search, data integration, reporting, and system maintenance that must be met to keep pace with the exponential growth of data. Solutions for capturing, analysing, and sharing Big Analogue Data work to address the combination of conventional big data issues and the difficulties of managing analogue data. The SDRification of RF Instrumentation The modern RF instrument has evolved from merely a measurement device into a premier tool for system design. This evolution was fueled by a broad range of technologies from the software defined radio (SDR). The flexibility of the SDR is revolutionizing not only the wireless industry but also RF test equipment. The ability to fully define and customize the behavior of RF instrumentation with software is a key element to solving the next generation of test challenges. As a result, the architecture of tomorrow’s RF instruments will look more and more indistinguishable from that of the SDR. The evolution of system-level design Today’s complex design spans multiple knowledge domains. The development of a cyber-physical system like a smart appliance requires domain knowledge in a handful of RF standards, power management, physical design, heat dissipation, image capture and analysis and potentially video quality. In a market where requirements and technology are constantly changing, the tools used to solve increasingly complex problems aren’t keeping pace. As a result, today’s engineer is slow to adjust, even if it makes getting the job done harder than it should be. The engineering mindset must not only recognize that multiple models of computation are required for complex system development but also demand that the integration of these disparate languages evolve. This evolution in the approach to system-level design allows each domain expert to choose the best tool for the job and then integrate the tools into a single representation of the overall system. Even better, this lets the single developer choose the most appropriate approach, regardless of expertise level. Using mobile devices as remote interfaces Understanding how mobile technology can impact measurement and control systems, and especially the expectations of the users of those systems, becomes a challenge for system designers. A modern UI architecture with multiple points of access, including remote access via mobile devices, can add significant value for users of measurement and control systems. Technicians can carry a single mobile device to check and debug issues with multiple systems, simplifying their workflow and reducing equipment costs. When managers or engineers need to monitor a system at a critical time, they no longer need to be present at the system itself. They can use a mobile device from a location in the field, at home on the weekend, or while travelling across the world. By enabling access to systems from any place at any time, mobile devices serve to make the lives of the system’s users easier and more productive. Whether to create cross-platform web pages using tools such as HTML5 and JavaScript, or native applications using the platform-specific tools for iOS, Android, or Windows RT depends on the mobile device ecosystem in which the system lives. If a wide variety of devices connects to the system, a cross-platform solution like HTML5/JavaScript may be best. If a narrower range of devices needs to be supported, or if the absolutely best possible experience and performance for the specific device are needed, a platform-specific approach like Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android is warranted. “Because engineers use NI tools in so many different industries and applications, we are in a position to examine trends in measurement, sensors, networks, test and more - as they happen,” said Eric Starkloff, NI Senior Vice President of Marketing. “NI compiled what we learned in this report to help engineers take advantage of the latest technological breakthroughs and stay ahead of the competition.” 12 Electronic Engineering Times Europe February 2014 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE FEB 2014
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