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National Instruments moves into IC design territory

Posted: 20 Aug 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:national instruments? labview? niweek? fpga? rfPIC?

Design engineers do not exactly love full-fledged testing and that's where National Instruments sees the opportunity. The Austin-based test and measurement company is moving deeper into semiconductors design flow by integrating its LabVIEW architecture with FPGA and DSP tools.

The firm kicked off its annual technology show, NIWeek 2002, being held from the 14th to the 16th of August, 2002 at the Austin Convention Center, with the mantra of seamlessly integrating its test and measurement tools into chip design.

James Truchard, CEO and president of NI, opened the show by highlighting new products and technologies that constitute company's vision of virtual instrumentation. He outlined how the abundance of PC processing power as well as advances in other commercial technologies is making virtual instrumentation the preferred approach to modern test systems.

On top its future roadmap is interactive measurement that will connect the LabVIEW software programs to the design process. One of the important areas is embedded software, which brings new challenges for design and test engineers alike.

That may bring a leap in technology for NI as it gets down to the components level. The company has recently joined hands with programmable logic player Xilinx for an initiative it calls LabVIEW FPGA. Likewise, National Instruments' LabVIEW software is also introducing DSP capabilities for video-board apps in collaboration with Texas Instruments.

Untested territory

It would be interesting to watch how the company fares into unchartered waters of IC design testing. "National Instruments has a software-oriented way of looking at test and measurement," said Norma Drost, software group product manager, "but it does change the parameters around which we design our products because embedded space requires small footprint."

According to John Graff, VP of marketing, National Instruments has been working on prototype products, and over a year ago, the company decided to pursue active development on IC-level testing.

Shekar Gopalan, vice president, research and consulting, industrial at Frost & Sullivan, said it is the matter of future of LabVIEW architecture. "National Instruments wants it to be a product that continuously evolves itself," he added.

National Instruments' Norma agrees it's more about evolution of LabVIEW. "In the 1980s and 1990s, the test industry leveraged the PC platform, while now we are going to expand into RTOS space, into areas like DSP development," she said. "PC is no longer PC; computer devices are embedded into all sorts of things."

National Instruments has entered into a market it has never been before. For its success, timing would be critical, apart from other factors.

- Majeed Ahmad

EE Times - Asia

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