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NIWeek: Xilinx Inside

NIWeek: Xilinx Inside
by Paul McLellan on 08-24-2015 at 7:00 am

 Being from Britain, NI always means Northern Ireland when I see it. After all the official name of my country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, giving us the same problem as the United States of America, the full name is a mouthful. So we abbreviate the country to UK and call ourselves British or even Brits. But it also stands for National Instruments and every year they have an week-long conference known as NIWeek.

National Instruments are mostly on my radar for a design environment that they have called LabVIEW. As it says on their website:If you can turn it on, drive it or fly it, chances are NI and LabVIEW made it happen.

The product has been around for over 20 years and provides a graphical interface for hooking up everything in the lab and driving the measurement process.

 What is NIWeek? The 21st annual NIWeek conference began August 3 in Austin, Texas (where DAC will be for the next two years, by the way), and once again brought together the brightest minds in engineering and science. More than 3,200 innovators representing a wide spectrum of industries, from automotive and telecommunications to robotics and energy, discovered the latest technology to accelerate productivity for software-defined systems in test, measurement, and control.

Most systems in test, measurement and control ship in relatively low volumes, sometimes astoundingly so. When I was doing my PhD I visited HP (presumably now that group will be Agilent if it still exists) and one thing they built was huge analyzers for satellite downlinks. I forget how many they expected to sell but I was surprised how low a number it was (and how much one cost). But back then how many people needed to analyze satellite signals. I bet they sell a lot more with DirectTV, Sky, GPS and more. Low volumes and a reasonable power budget (these are typically not tiny hand-held devices) make it a perfect application for programmable fabrics made by Xilinx, what you probably casually call an FPGA but by the time there are multi-core processors and whole peripheral fabrics, the name is starting to get obsolete. But I suspect Xilinx is fighting a losing battle in trying to get away from it. Like the Association of Computing Machinery just embrace the weirdness of calling your iPhone and its software a machine. It worked for IBM.

Xilinx also has a broad portfolio of different device families at different performance points (and price points). Here is a summary showing the huge range of applications. My favorite, the Phasor Measurement Unit. “Scottie, get that Zynq SoC fired up quickly, the shields are failing.”

[TABLE] class=”cms_table_grid” style=”width: 593px”
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | ARTSENS
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Use Ultrasound to determ ine hardening of arteries for potential
flag of heart disease.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Zynq 7020 SOM
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Airbus tools
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Three smart tool families that perform different manufacturing
processes: drilling, measuring, and quality data logging and
tightening – Zynq sbRIO is foundation of these families.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Zynq – sbRIO SOM
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Samsung
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Samsung’s 3D beamforming algorithms and multi-user interface
brought all four emulated handsets online and immediately
bumped the 5G data thouroughput above 25Mbps per user
as compared to 2Mbps per user without 3D beamforming .
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Virtex-7 FPGA
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Nokia Networks
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Prototype mmWave system that transmits 10Gps @ 73 GHz over 200m.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Kintex-7 410T FPGA
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | FireFly ProSlab 155
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | A mobile, Diesel-powered turf cutter/slab harvester called the FireFly ProSlab 155 that harvests, stacks, and palletizes turf slabs 20% faster than competing machines while consuming only half the fuel.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Zynq SoC
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Model cRIO-9039
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | The NI CompactRIO controller pairs a 1.91GHz, quad-core Intel Atom CPU with a Xilinx Kintex-7 325T FPGA—the highest-performance CompactRIO ever released.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Kintex-7 325T FPGA
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Phasor Measurement
Unit (PMU)
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | (Used in condition monitoring test beds, shown at NI Week 2015)
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Zync SoC
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | eCall
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | The in-vehicle eCall device automatically dials 112 in the event ofa serious road accident, and wirelessly sends airbag deployment, impact sensor information, and GPS coordinates to local emergency agencies.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Virtex-6 FPGA
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Fujitsu
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Remote radio head testing.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Virtex-6 FPGA,
Kintex-7 FPGA
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Hyundai Exoskeleton
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Exoskeleton that senses a users physical intent to move; actuators and sensors help people that cannot walk the ability to do so.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Spartan-6 LX150 FPGA,
Kintex-7 160T FPGA
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | IMSat/DSL
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | IMSaT’s Cavitation Research Group working in conjunction with Diagnostic Sonar Ltd. (DSL) wants to create a new therapy that uses focused cavitation to disrupt cancer tissues, making them far more susceptible to cancer-killing drugs.
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Xilinx Virtex-5 SX95T
|- class=”cms_table_grid_tr”
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Passive, Wi-Fi radar
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | uses the ambient Wi-Fi RF already injected into the air from existing Wi-Fi access points. Therefore, the use of this equipment is essentially undetectable, which has extremely interesting implications for military and security surveillance applications, as illustrated by this image:
| class=”cms_table_grid_td” | Spartan 6

There is more detail on most of these applications on Steve Leibson’s Xcell Daily Blog here.

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