Thursday, September 30, 2004

Web Service Software Complete the Datalogger Application

Recently, I had lunch with one of our long-time LabVIEW customers. His name is Andres Thorarinsson. He used LabVIEW to control a fairly substantial portion of the city of Reykjavik, Iceland -- including water, electricity, and other city services. We discussed the implementation of datalogger solutions. He indicated an emerging technology that benefits his applications is the use of Web service software. This software basically lets him tap into the voluminous database files his datalogger systems are creating, and analyze the data in a meaningful way. In fact, he can provide his customers with this software (delivered through the web) to allow them to analyze the data captured by his data logging systems.

I recently ran across an article that describes Web service software in a broader context. The article describes how Web service software allows one database to communicate with other databases to provide a service or information source. Here's a link to the article:by clicking this link

If you are working in this area, I would like to hear about your application. You can email me at

Friday, September 24, 2004

Icons That Indicate Their Content by Their Visualization

Recently, I read a paper called "Automatic Distinctive Icons for Desktop Interfaces". The paper describes the use of morphable icons that give some indication of its content. Currently, GUIs use fairly plain and sometimes similar looking icons to represent just about everything. The paper argues that a more detailed representation would make it easier to distinguish the differences between various files, folders, and programs.

As I read the paper, I thought this may be useful to apply to LabVIEW. The icons in a G-program could be used to indicate more about the functioning of each element of the application. Files could be indicated in one manner, while analysis routines could be drawn quite differently to highlight visually the content or functioning of that icon.

You can read more about this technique at the following site:

As usual, if you are interested in discussing this topic, please email me at

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Social Networking Tools at work for Virtual Instrumentation

Social networking tools are a fairly recent phenomenon from what I have seen. It's only been in the last two years that I started to see terms like RSS, Wiki, and the 'Blog'. In particular, I find the Weblog ('Blog' for short) an interesting way to present information on the web. It allows an individual to publish his/her message regardless of the size of one's constituency. Many scientists and engineers will find the Blog useful for expressing an opinion and also for finding people of like mind. This Blog for example poses topics in the area of Emerging Technologies in the hope of finding like minded people for discussion.

The RSS -- 'Really Simple Syndication' is a web-based newsfeed mechanism that allows one to setup an automatic data capture. One example of the RSS is a listing of news stories. Quite often companies post industry-related news on their sites. The news stories are actually taken from another web site and to ease the burden of copying the information from one site to another, RSS is used to automatically capture the information.

The Wiki is another tool from the social networking world which may find its way into the world of virtual instrumentation. The Wiki allows for collaborative editing of documents through the web. This allows people to share a single document and make multiple revisions and thus capturing the input of a variety of people. This has obvious benefits as engineers and scientists work with collaborators spread around the globe and even those collaborators who they have never met.

If you are using Blogs, RSS, or Wikis in your work in Virtual Instrumentation, I would like to hear from you. You can email me at

Friday, September 10, 2004

Hard Drive Storage in Handheld Applications

I am a big fan of the handheld PDA's for measurement applications. They provide a commercial standard for building measurement tools. The display is good enough, the processor is getting better every year, and so is the battery life. One weakness of the handheld is the permanent storage capacity. While one can buy add-on cards, the storage doesn't seem to be sizable.

I recently purchased an IPOD and found it quite an attractive package of a miniaturized hard drive. IPODs sell in large quantities and certainly qualifies for a commercially available technology. It's now seen almost everywhere. What if the stoarge of the IPOD could be packaged with the CPU, Display, and RAM of the Handheld PDA? This would provide tremendous data storage capability for handheld applications without resorting to custom device development.

Today I read a news release from Samsung that they will build a mobile phone with a 1.5 Gigabyte hard drive. The SPH-V5400 model phone will sell for about $800. The inclusion of a hard drive opens the mobile phone/handheld device to many new applications. If you are working the area of handhelds and have thoughts about the need for data storage, I would like to hear from you. Please email me at

Friday, September 03, 2004

DARPA's XG Project: Next Generation Communication Effort

I recently ran into a long-time friend of mine who mentioned he was beginning to look into DARPA's XG project. Not having heard about it, I asked for more details. Apparently, DARPA is seeking to enable dynamic access to radio frequency spectrum. My friend explained that one application scenario would be the following: a US traveler arrives in London, exits the plane and turns on his mobile phone. His mobile phone connects with the local base station and determines the "policies" for that area such as frequency usage, bandwidth, etc. When the traveler returns home, and exits the airplane in the USA, his mobile phone connects to the local base station which communicates the "policies" to the phone -- making it ready for use in that locale. You can see more about this project by clicking this link
This application is going to drive further the need for software-defined radios which allows one to decouple policy (spectrum usage, cost of use, etc.) from the engineering (designing/building the mobile phone).

As the usable spectrum becomes more crowded and users clamor for their application, the communications agencies are going to need more flexible solutions to meet customer demands. Software-defined radio is one potential solution. It is on the horizon and approaching.

If you are working with Software-defined radios, I would like to hear from you. Please email me at