With the reduced system costs and greater configuration flexibility that wireless networks provide, one of the few remaining risks is choosing the right wireless technology—mostly due to the diversity in wireless networks. At least three new wireless technologies that use different communication protocols have been introduced within the last decade—Wi-Fi (http://rbi.ims.ca/3854-536), Bluetooth (http://rbi.ims.ca/3854-537), and Zigbee (http://rbi.ims.ca/3854-538). National Instruments LabVIEW empowers engineers to address the challenge of numerous emerging technologies by helping them easily change protocols as their needs change.
NI LabVIEW is designed to mitigate risks, such as those inherent in choosing between hardware devices, because it is based on the fundamental vision of virtual instrumentation. The concept of virtual instrumentation is simple: Use flexible software to develop systems that adapt to powerful hardware. In this case, engineers reduce their risk with LabVIEW because they can use this software with virtually any wireless technology by making a few quick modifications instead of rewriting their entire applications.
For example, an engineer designs an application using LabVIEW to support a Wi-Fi network because of the application's similarity to a standard LAN line application with which the engineer is already familiar. The engineer develops this application, which uses simple TCP/IP communication, with the assumption that the customers will use Wi-Fi networking devices. Instead, the customers decide to use Bluetooth because many of the devices in their system natively support Bluetooth. If the engineer had built this application with a different language, the customers would have had to rewrite large sections of the code to make the transition from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth. Because this engineer used flexible LabVIEW software, the customers quickly adapted their new application to use Bluetooth by replacing a few function calls. The rest of the application automatically recognized the change in protocol and adapted accordingly.
Because of its virtual instrumentation design, LabVIEW helps engineers make numerous system changes in addition to the wireless network application modifications described above. With LabVIEW, engineers can design a software system once and interchange the underlying hardware technologies multiple times. This includes changing which specific instruments they use for taking measurements, which sensors they select for reading the measurements, and even what type of computer systems they choose to run their applications. By using LabVIEW, engineers are guaranteed to have the most flexibility in designing and modifying their applications.
A sign of good software architecture is that the resulting application helps engineers make hardware changes without major code reworking. By using flexible software in this way, engineers can make the decisions that are right for them today to relieve the risks of changing their hardware technology systems in the future.