IAA spoke with Ng Yousi, area sales manager, National Instruments, on the company’s collaboration with the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) and trends impacting the test and measurement industry in the years ahead.
IAA: Tell me about NI’s collaboration with ARTC?
Ng Yousi (NY): National Instruments (NI) has been working with Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) since they were located at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. We started as a Tier 2 member last year (2017), however, we have also collaborated with them as a Tier 1.
As a tier 1 member we have a certain number of ‘research credits’. In the case of NI, if there are research areas where our customer wants to do, we can engage ARTC to collaborate with us to demonstrate this capability. In the same way for Roll Royce they have their own internal research projects, but NI is more external for our customers. In that sense, that is why we have engaged them at the Tier 1 level. Right now we are more engaged with them on the model factory for the factory of the future. In the technical sense, we are involved in condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, machine-to-machine communications, as well as machine learning as well as well.
For machine learning there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, our platform as a whole enables our users to do machine learning. That is on the hardware platform. Edge analytics are important for us too. We have developed a tool kit to allow our users to be able to develop their own algorithms and increase their machine learning capabilities. We are defining ourselves as a technology provider.
This allows us to work with different companies and different experts on different areas.
IAA: As the industry moves closer to the Edge of the network, how does that impact your business?
NY: Having the industry talk about Edge analytics really works to our advantage. We have been working on our CompactRIO platform for more than 14 years. This is an architecture that we have adopted since the beginning with IOs right at the frontend, FPGAs as the middleware, and on the backend there is a real time host running a real time OS and doing more advanced analytics.
Just providing the platform and the solution is insufficient, we need to work on connectivity to other platform providers like on the IT side. By joining the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) it really allowed us to work with companies like HP, PTC on AR and analytics, as well as OSIsoft.
Using the IIC as a platform has benefited us and the projects and partnerships we work on together. We collaborate with each other to make sure there is interconnectivity between the different systems.
On the product side, we are developing things like a machine learning toolkit. We are hearing a lot of new things and insights that are coming from our customers. Things like what they need and what they think is lacking in our platform. This helps us improve our product and solution offerings. We are in a good position to assist our customers because we really have solved the hardware piece, and we are working on the software capability.
IAA: A lot of the industry is moving more towards a more open source business model. NI prefers to control the development of its hardware and software, so they work very well together. In the consumer space, we see these different models play out between Apple (closed) and Google (open), what is your opinion on this?
NY: There are two angles that we usually take. These are some of the value propositions that the customer see from using our platform. One is the complete system. In the past we would segment the different industries and skill sets, so we would have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and so forth. What we really need now are system engineers.
Instead of differentiating the hardware and software pieces, the company or the platform provider should be the one handling this portion, but you decide how you want to implement it. With that being said, it also allows the user to be able to go under the hood and make changes to any part of the edge analytics, the machine learning portion, data acquisition portion, etc.
IAA: Could you give me an update on what you are doing in regards to 5G?
NY: I will break this down into two parts. Firstly, we have an IoT platform and we also have an RF platform. This arrangement also helps researchers in the SDL space to develop 5G solutions and future generations of 5G/6G services. That platform is used with the same artitecture, with IOs on the frontend. In this case, the IOs are the antennas, the RF bands. Next we have an FPGA and then a host that is running Windows or a real time OS. We are working with a number of companies to develop some are the initial testbeds for 5G.
A lot of this relies on maximising the bandwidth, and on reducing the latency, as well as massive MIMO, for instance. That is an area that we have kept separate, although using the same architecture and reference platform. A project like the one we are doing with I2R, where they are merging the IoT part, which is time sensitive, with the wireless part, together. This relates to our discussion on using the platform together. We have a project that combines both the performance capability from the IoT side, with the performance and capability from the RF side, which is a fairly supercomputer type system.