Text : J Srikant

National Instruments, the Austin, Texas based technology giant, recently held its annual conference, NIDays 2014, at Bangalore. A coming together of industry and academia, the event gives a clear glimpse of what can be expected in the near future when it comes to technology solutions.

The event, which saw the participation of nearly 800 engineers, academicians and researchers, had a slew of new products on display, a few of them for the first time. “NIDays is about 2 core objectives from our point of view. One is the introduction of new technologies and the other is the promotion of collaboration in the communities of engineers who leverage NI tools and create an opportunity for engineers who are not using the tools to learn from their peers,” said Alex Davern, COO & CFO, National Instruments.

From the technology point of view National Instruments showcased new technologies relevant to numerous industries. One of the new technologies shown at the event was Labview 2014, the upgraded version of their flagship product Labview. NI also spoke on how this new version could be applied to automotive industries as well. NI has been closely working with the automotive industry and has several solutions specifically for this sector. NI products are extensively used in test cell applications, where tests are performed on newly developed products. The tools are used almost equally by vehicle manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier-1 suppliers.

Following its acquisition of Drivven, NI has been working on the engine control segment. Tools from Drivven were integrated into the NI framework of graphical system design to create the Engine Control and Combustion Suite. NI gave the example of Subaru which used NI’s FlexRIO hardware and was able to test ECUs. They were able to increase the test coverage and at the same time increase productivity by 20 times more than what they already had. Tata Motors has also used NI modular hardware and extensive software to build a future-proof and adaptable HIL test system for one of their upcoming parallel hybrid vehicles.

NI also announced its move into the industrial internet with the launch of its InsightCM Enterprise, a condition monitoring solution that helps companies gain insight into the health of their capital equipment for machine maintenance and operations. While consumer internet has been talked about for some time, industrial internet is just taking wings and is expected to pick up in India as well. Semiconductor test platform and Virtual bench for tablet computing are the other technologies which NI showcased at NIDays.

NI, which is into graphical system design, had revenue of $1.2 billion globally out of which 7-8% came from the auto sector. Davern said that the numbers in India are very similar to its global numbers. The top revenue grosser for NI is academia which contributes nearly 12% to the overall revenue.


In India too, NI works with a number of engineering colleges to which it supplies products. There were numerous colleges from across India using NI products who exhibited their creations. NI gave away the NIyantra Awards, an annual Graphical System Design contest organised by them. This year’s contest was won by Hindustan University, Chennai who developed an Industrial Defense Unmanned Ground System (InDUS). The runners-up were AWH Engineering College, Calicut who made a Shadow Bionic Arm.

NIDays 2014 also witnessed participation from NI customers and alliance partners from a range of industries including academics, health care and semiconductor, aerospace, automotive, life sciences, robotics and telecommunication. The application of the year was awarded to the team from National Aerospace Laboratories for their appliance Drishti Transmissometer.

What enables National Instruments to come out with so many new technologies every year is its strong focus on R&D. The company has scaled up investment recently and now spends a healthy 18% on R&D. Close to 2,000 engineers globally work in R&D. India is the second largest development centre for NI with nearly 170 people in the R&D centre at Bangalore. “All engineers here work on global projects and contribute significantly to global development,” said Davern.


He further said that there would be an increase in value addition from Asia and expects this region to grow more than its other developed markets. However, he pointed out a few aspects that need to change in India. “The application of technology in India is not as high as it could be because of the cheap labour. For a lot of companies in India, when they have to make a decision between capital and labour, it is still labour. I would like to see that change, which will also be good for our business,” said Davern.


NI said they are keeping an eye on the movement of technologies from the consumer sphere to the industrial sphere, and also on mobile technology; how it can be applied to test and measurement, to expand their product portfolio globally and in India.
ACI

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