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Hardware's Role in Virtual Instrumentation

Hardware's Role in Virtual Instrumentation

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Hardware's Role in Virtual Instrumentation
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I/O plays a critical role in virtual instrumentation. To accelerate test, control, and design, I/O hardware must be rapidly adaptable to new concepts and products. Virtual instrumentation delivers this capability in the form of modularity within scalable hardware platforms. This document introduces a few of these platforms and modular I/O types and illustrates the .


1.What are capabilities of virtual instrumentation hardware?
2.On which hardware I/O and platforms does virtual instrumentation software run?
3.How will new bus technologies such as USB 2.0 and PCI Express enhance virtual

4.What are the benefits of Ethernet for virtual instrumentation?
5.Additional Virtual Instrumentation Resources
What are capabilities of virtual instrumentation hardware?

An important concept of virtual instrumentation is the strategy that powers the actual virtual
instrumentation software and hardware device acceleration. National Instruments focuses on adapting
or using high-investment technologies of companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Analog Devices, Xilinx,
and others. With software, National Instruments uses the tremendous Microsoft investment in OSs and
development tools. For hardware, National Instruments builds on the Analog Devices investment in
A/D converters.

Fundamentally, because virtual instrumentation is software-based, if you can digitize it, you can
measure it. Therefore, measurement hardware can be viewed on two axes, resolutions (bits) and
frequency. Refer to the figure below to see how measurement capabilities of virtual instrumentation
hardware compare to traditional instrumentation. The goal for National Instruments is to push the curve
out in frequency and resolution and to innovate within the curve.

Figure 1. Compare virtual instrumentation hardware over time to traditional instrumentation.
See Also:
Learn about NI data acquisition hardware
Learn about NI modular instrumentation hardware
On which hardware I/O and platforms does virtual
instrumentation software run?

National Instruments modular I/O covers diverse I/O types so that engineers and scientists can select I/O across many categories including analog, digital, counter/timer, image, and motion. Modular I/O also includes modular instruments such as oscilloscopes, meters, arbitrary function generators, LCR meters, and more. With the wide variety of excellent I/O, engineers can randomly select any I/O type required by the application. Careful engineering ensures that these diverse I/O types work seamlessly together, meaning they can efficiently share backplane and timing resources.

Standard hardware platforms that house the I/O are important to I/O modularity. Laptop and desktop
computers provide an excellent platform where virtual instrumentation can make the most of existing
standards such as the USB, PCI, Ethernet, and PCMCIA buses. Using these standard buses, National
Instruments can focus on measurement hardware innovation while benefiting from inevitable PC
platform innovation (for example, USB 2.0 and PCI Express).

Figure 2. Modular I/O and scalable platforms such as USB, PCI, and PXI provide flexibility and

In addition to supporting standard platforms, National Instruments is part of a 65-vendor consortium
that has helped tailor the PXI hardware platform for virtual instrumentation.PXI is a standard for
modular I/O built on PC technologies. It adds integrated timing and synchronization, industrial
ruggedness, and increased channel count to a PC-based architecture. Today, there are more than 1000
products created for the PXI platform being used worldwide by thousands of companies.

Choosing the appropriate platform on which to create virtual instrumentation on depends on specific application requirements. For example, portability, stringent synchronization, and acquisition rates all play a role in choosing a platform.

[+] Ampliar Imagen
Table 1. National Instruments Hardware Platform Comparison
See Also:

Learn about the PXI hardware platform
Learn about the USB hardware platform
Learn about the Compact FieldPoint hardware platform
Learn about the CompactRIO hardware platform

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