Enthought at National Instruments’ NIWeek 2017: An Inside Look

This week I had the distinct privilege of representing Enthought at National Instruments‘ 23rd annual user conference, NIWeek 2017. National Instruments is a leader in test, measurement, and control solutions, and we share many common customers among our global scientific and engineering user base.

NIWeek kicked off on Monday with Alliance Day, where my colleague Andrew Collette and I went on stage to receive the LabVIEW Tools Network 2017 Product of the Year Award for Enthought’s Python Integration Toolkit, which provides a bridge between Python and LabVIEW, allowing you to create VI’s (virtual instruments) that make Python function and object method calls. Since its release last year, the Python Integration Toolkit has opened up access to a broad range of new capabilities for LabVIEW users,  by combining the best of Python with the best of LabVIEW. It was also inspiring to hear about the advances being made by other National Instruments partners. Congratulations to the award winners in other categories (Wineman Technology, Bloomy, and Moore Good Ideas)!

On Wednesday, Andrew gave a presentation titled “Building and Deploying Python-Powered LabVIEW Applications” to a standing-room only crowd.  He gave some background on the relative strengths of Python and LabVIEW (some of which is covered in our March 2017 webinar “Using Python and LabVIEW to Rapidly Solve Engineering Problems“) and then showcased some of the capabilities provided by the toolkit, such as plotting data acquisition results live to a web server using plotly, which is always a crowd-pleaser (you can learn more about that in the blog post “Using Plotly from LabVIEW via Python”).  Other demos included making use of the Python scikit-learn library for machine learning, (you can see Enthought’s CEO Eric Jones run that demo here, during the 2016 NIWeek keynotes.)

For a mechanical engineer like me, attending NIWeek is a bit like giving a kid a holiday in a candy shop.  There was much to admire on the expo floor, with all kinds of mechatronic gizmos and gadgets.  I was most interested by the lightning-fast video and image processing possible with NI’s FPGA systems, like the part sorting system shown below.  Really makes me want to play around with nifpga.

Another thing really gaining traction is the implementation of machine learning for a number of applications. I attended one talk titled “Deep Learning With LabVIEW and Acceleration on FPGAs” that demonstrated image classification using a neural network and talked about strategies to reduce the code size to get it to fit on an FPGA.

Finally, of course, I was really excited by all of the activity in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which is an area of core focus for Enthought.  We have been in the big data analytics game for a long time, and writing software for hard science is in our company DNA. But this year especially, starting with the AIChE 2017 Spring Meeting and now at NIWeek 2017, it has been really energizing to meet with industry leaders and see some of the amazing things that are being implemented in the IIoT.  National Instruments has been a leader in the test and measurement sector for a long time, and they have been pioneers in IIoT.  Now it is easy to download and install an interface to Amazon S3 for LabVIEW, and just like that, your sensor is now a connected sensor … and your data is ready for analysis in Enthought’s Canopy Data platform.

After immersion in NIWeek, I guess you could say, I’ve been “LabVIEWed”:

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