Friday, February 26, 2010

NI DAQ workshop: Sun tracker suitable for Indian (and global) solar/PV industry

It was a pleasure to attend National Instruments’ Data Acquisition Showcase & Workshop in Bangalore. On display were a complete family of data acquisition (DAQ) products for desktop, portable, industrial and embedded applications.

There were several live demonstrations on systems with acquisition from various sensor types with in-built signal condition on different buses and form factors, building management system, sun tracker demo, and high speed audio recorder. There are much more applications and demos, but I shall only touch upon a few here.

First, I quite liked the Sun Tracker demo (see picture here). This solution should be of considerable interest for folks in the solar photovoltaics (PV) space, especially in India. A solar tracker is a device for orienting a daylight reflector, solar PV panel or concentrating solar reflector or lens toward the sun. The sun’s position in the sky varies with the seasons and times of the day.

Solar powered equipment works best when pointed at or near the sun. A solar tracker can increase the effectiveness of such equipment over any fixed position, at the cost of additional system complexity.

NI’s multisensor DAQ demo actually highlighted the company’s ability in making measurements from various types of sensors using NI hardware, without the need of any third party signalling, and then implementing test cases on this data in LabVIEW. The company's high speed audio recorder is a DAQ device that acquires sound signals at very high speeds and stores the acquired data by streaming to a RAID array at over 100 MB/s.

NI’s automated test demo hgihlighted the ability of NI hardware to automatically carry out multiple tests of various types on different products without any human intervention. The company’s building management system (BMS) is actually a complete facility monitoring and control system, which takes care of lighting, automated motion detection, temperature monitoring, attendance system, power consumption monitoring, etc.

Earlier, field applications engineer, Denver D’Souza made a presentation of NI’s DAQ portfolio, aptly titled “Acquire Everything. No Constraints.” Practically, any signal can be acquired from anywhere. Such a system also needs to be scalable, in terms of hardware and software, and flexible. The system should be able to acquire data from diverse bus and form factors as well.

Several examples of applications were highlighted. A few of those are: for harsh industrial environment — NUCOR refining steel recycling using NI’s platform; embedded data acquisiition — CERN using NI’s R series data acquisition to control the world’s largest particle accelerator; and academia — the University of Manipal, India, using high performance electronics for a formula race car.

Finally, may I also take this opportunity to thank Jayaram Pillai, MD, India, Russia & Arabia, NI, as well as Ramya Nair and Nandini Subramanya for their hospitality, and to Denver for a most enlightening presentation.

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