field-programmable gate array (FPGA) users, LabVIEW 2010 delivers a new IP Integration Node that makes it possible to integrate any third-party FPGA IP into LabVIEW applications and is compatible with the Xilinx CORE Generator. National Instruments also implemented more than a dozen new features suggested by lead users through the LabVIEW Idea Exchange, an online feedback forum that marks a significant new level of collaboration between NI R&D and customers.
Introduced in 1986, LabVIEW abstracts the complexity of programming by giving users drag-and-drop, graphical function blocks and wires that resemble a flowchart to develop their sophisticated systems. LabVIEW offers integration with thousands of hardware devices, provides hundreds of built-in libraries for advanced analysis and data visualisation and is scalable across multiple OSs and targets such as x86 processors, real-time OSs (RTOSs) and FPGAs. From the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotics kit to the CERN Large Hadron Collider, a large spectrum of users worldwide has adopted LabVIEW.
“LabVIEW users are some of the most innovative people in the world, and their input helps us make LabVIEW an ever more effective and productive programming tool,” said Jeff Kodosky, National Instruments Business and Technology fellow, Cofounder and ‘Father of LabVIEW.’ “With LabVIEW 2010, we have taken their feedback and suggestions and opened up the platform to further customisation so that our customers and partners can expand LabVIEW to new applications that have not yet experienced the power and efficiency of graphical programming.”
Executing Code Faster
Key to the productivity delivered by LabVIEW is the compiler, which abstracts tasks such as memory allocation and thread management. The compiler hierarchy has evolved over the lifetime of LabVIEW to become smarter and more optimised. With LabVIEW 2010, the compiler data flow intermediate representation has been further optimised, and Low-Level Virtual Machine (LLVM), an open source compiler infrastructure, has been added to the software’s compiler flow to accelerate code execution. National Instruments has conducted benchmarks ranging from real-world customer applications to low-level functions, and the new compiler delivers an average improvement of 20 percent across these benchmarks.
Extending the LabVIEW Platform through Partnerships
With the release of LabVIEW 2010, National Instruments is introducing the LabVIEW Add-On Developer Program to give thousands of partners the opportunity to expand the platform and introduce custom functionality into LabVIEW. The program establishes an online marketplace as part of the updated LabVIEW Tools Network for developers to offer their free and paid toolkits and a comprehensive location for LabVIEW users to browse, download, evaluate and purchase the add-ons. More than 50 add-ons from NI and third-party developers are available, including code reuse libraries, templates, UI controls and connectors to other software packages. Additionally, LabVIEW users can use the VI Package Manager from JKI to connect directly to the LabVIEW Tools Network from their desktop and manage add-on installations and updates.
Additionally, National Instruments has partnered with leading technology providers such as Xilinx to further open up the LabVIEW environment. One example in LabVIEW 2010 is the new IP Integration Node, which makes it possible for users to integrate any third-party FPGA IP into the LabVIEW FPGA Module and offers direct compatibility with cores created with the Xilinx CORE Generator.
Delivering What Customers Want
During the development of LabVIEW 2010, NI R&D used the new LabVIEW Idea Exchange on www.ni.com/ideas to solicit feature ideas from customers. In addition to submitting new ideas, customers can use the exchange to collaborate on suggestions submitted by others and vote on their favorite features. Fourteen popular submissions from the LabVIEW Idea Exchange were implemented in LabVIEW 2010 including many that improve code documentation and organisation.
LabVIEW 2010 also uses customer feedback to deliver new features that make getting started easier. For example, LabVIEW now provides a new hardware configuration tool that makes it possible for users to access and configure their LabVIEW Real-Time targets remotely via a Web browser. Other features include a smart installer that automatically detects the software associated with a serial number for faster installation and an improved instrument driver finder that offers prebuilt project examples for specific instruments.
Adding Functionality for Large Application Development
For more advanced users and development groups, LabVIEW 2010 includes new features that improve interfaces to reusable code, group VIs and their hierarchy for faster build times and separate the VI source code from the compiled version to aid in source code management. These capabilities are ideal for large group development where code maintenance across many users, software versions and computer platforms is critical.
Readers interested in learning more about LabVIEW 2010 and downloading the evaluation software can visit www.ni.com/labview/whatsnew. Members of the LabVIEW service maintenance and support program will receive LabVIEW 2010 automatically in the mail or can download the new version from the NI Services Resource Center at www.ni.com/src. Readers whose software is part of a company-wide Volume License Agreement (VLA) should contact their VLA administrators for special installation instructions.