NI Jins the Wireless Revolution


By Andrew Bond, Industrial Automation Insider

Dec 02, 2009

National Instruments is throwing its hat into the wireless ring with the announcement of the NI WSN (Wireless Sensor Network) platform, which combines LabVIEW with a range of low-power wireless measurement nodes to create a complete monitoring solution designed for reliable long-term remote deployment. The LabVIEW graphical programming software integrates seamlessly with the new battery-powered, industrial-rated measurement nodes, simplifying and accelerating application development through drag-and-drop configuration, extracting measurements, performing analysis and presenting data. It also supports native Web connectivity for remote interaction with the wireless systems.

Low Power

The WSN software is based on IEEE 802.15.4 and supports mesh routing and power management capabilities across the network, making it possible to increase measurement distance while maintaining network reliability. The software connects the wireless devices to LabVIEW running on MS Windows or a LabVIEW Real-Time host controller. The measurement nodes are optimized for low-power, multiyear deployment with LabVIEW allowing customization of the embedded software on each node via the LabVIEW Wireless Sensor Network Module Pioneer. LabVIEW also supports seamless integration with wired measurement devices and with a wide range of third-party wireless sensor network platforms.

The wireless measurement nodes are powered by four AA batteries, providing up to three years operation before battery replacement. The first two nodes in what is planned to be an expanding range are a four-channel, ± 10 V analogue input node and a four-channel, 24-bit thermocouple node. The platform also includes the NI WSN-9791 Ethernet gateway, which is used to connect the measurement nodes to LabVIEW.

One of the pre-release implementations of the platform has been deployed by the Center for Embedded Network Systems at UCLA in a parking garage at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, where it helps patients and families quickly identify open parking locations and is being used to research options for proactive communication to commuters on parking availability across the campus. "The use of NI technology will allow us to improve the commuter experience, (and) reduce additional traffic and emissions as commuters search for parking," said Dr. William Kaiser, director of the Actuated, Sensing, Coordinated and Embedded Networked Technologies lab at UCLA.

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