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Create Rugged Handheld Test Systems with LabVIEW PDA

Publish Date: Oct 27, 2014


Traditional stand-alone test equipment often does not work well in outdoor, hard-to-reach, or moving environments. These settings
demand a small, lightweight, and portable test system. Today's handheld devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and
tablet PCs, have enough memory and processing power to handle many test applications. In addition, PDA devices often have
integrated wireless connectivity to share data with remote computer systems, so you can easily build portable applications for
remote system monitoring or wireless instrument control. However, some applications require extended temperature, humidity,
moisture, and shock specifications not found in consumer-grade PDAs. Additionally, processor-intensive activities, such as
acquiring multiple channels of data, can quickly deplete the limited lifespan of standard onboard PDA batteries.

Figure 1. With the NI LabVIEW PDA Module, you can automatically compile your LabVIEW application to run on a handheld
device, such as the Juniper Systems Allegro CX, and optimize the application for the smaller memory space and unique
processor.
Rugged Devices
For these types of applications, handheld devices from vendors such as DAP Technologies, Diagnostic Instruments, Juniper
Systems, or Woodhead Industries provide more rugged alternatives to consumer-focused PDAs. Industrial handhelds, such as the
Juniper Systems Allegro CX, provide greatly improved durability and reliability features including:
Integrated PCMCIA and CompactFlash support
Extended battery life
Additional memory
Increased data storage
Shock and water resistance
Higher-resolution displays
In addition, many of these specialized vendors will customize their PDAs to better suit you or your customer's specific needs.
Powerful Software
In creating a custom portable test system, rugged hardware is not the only consideration -- a flexible software development
platform also is key. To create a fully customizable portable test application, you need the ability to quickly develop your own test
programs for use on these industrial handheld devices. Using the National Instruments LabVIEW PDA Module, an extension of the
NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, you can easily build powerful and flexible test applications that run on these
portable devices. LabVIEW PDA automatically compiles your LabVIEW VI to run on a handheld device and optimizes the
application for the smaller memory space and unique processors common to these portable computers.
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application for the smaller memory space and unique processors common to these portable computers.
Similar to LabVIEW on the desktop, the LabVIEW PDA Module makes it easy to develop professional user interfaces and perform
powerful analysis. Hundreds of signal processing and mathematics VIs are included in the LabVIEW PDA Module. From data
filtering to curve fitting, LabVIEW PDA provides you with the analysis tools commonly used by scientists and engineers in test
applications.
Applications developed using the LabVIEW PDA Module run on any consumer PDA device with Palm OS 3.5 or later or Pocket
PC 2003 or later. Additionally, the LabVIEW PDA Module is compatible with several industrial devices that run Windows CE,
including rugged handhelds and touch-panel displays.
Touch-Panel Displays
Touch-panel displays are useful for showing information from a headless device such as the National Instruments Compact
FieldPoint, CompactRIO, or Compact Vision System hardware targets, or any other NI LabVIEW Real-Time target or third-party
hardware using standard communication protocols. With applications built using the LabVIEW PDA Module, you can easily create
a touch-panel display that communicates with and retrieves data from your embedded hardware systems.

Figure 2. Touch-panel displays show information from a headless device such as the NI Compact FieldPoint, CompactRIO, and
Compact Vision System hardware targets, or any other NI LabVIEW Real-Time target.

Touch-panel displays come in a wide range of sizes and include a variety of interfaces, such as wireless communication, serial
communication, and even CompactFlash and PCMCIA expansion slots to provide additional hardware or onboard memory
support. Some touch-panel display manufacturers who already use the LabVIEW PDA Module to build applications for their
devices include IVC Displays and Stron Electronic.
Hardware Integration
The integration of PCMCIA and CompactFlash buses into industrial devices and touch-panel displays gives you the ability to
create custom, portable data acquisition solutions using the LabVIEW PDA Module and a variety of National Instruments
hardware. Choose from data acquisition, digital multimeter, and Controller Area Network (CAN) devices to deliver a wide range of
portable data acquisition systems.
Applicable National Instruments data acquisition devices include the NI CF-6004, DAQCard-6062E, DAQCard-6036E, and
DAQCard-6024E. Using these devices, you can develop handheld measurement systems for applications ranging from automotive
service to field diagnostics to physiological monitoring. One of the latest additions to the NI data acquisition family, the NI CF-6004,
is a CompactFlash device measuring less than 16 sq cm. Designed specifically for use with handheld devices, the NI CF-6004 is a
compact yet powerful device for handheld data acquisition. With 14-bit resolution and up to 200 kS/s single-channel or 132 kS/s
aggregate sampling on up to four analog input channels, the NI CF-6004 packs full measurement functionality into a Type II
CompactFlash slot.
In addition to data acquisition products, the LabVIEW PDA Module also supports the National Instruments PCMCIA-4050 digital
multimeter (DMM) card. Using this DMM card, you can build customized handheld digital multimeters. These cards are particularly
useful because with LabVIEW, you can store data locally on the PDA and record results from each DMM use, customize the
appearance of the user interface, and display data as a graph or other custom display. In addition, you can use the wireless
functionality of many PDAs to send and receive data directly from your handheld DMM to a remote networked computer or other
networked instrumentation.
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Finally, you also can use NI PCMCIA-CAN interfaces directly with handheld devices that support PCMCIA. National Instruments
offers a driver specifically created for handheld CAN applications, empowering you to build handheld in-vehicle data-logging as
well as portable control and monitoring applications using CAN.
Custom Test Applications Made Simple
When you use the LabVIEW PDA Module with industrial handheld devices and touch-panel displays, you can easily create custom
test applications for harsh environments and small spaces. The addition of hardware to your portable test system, such as the NI
CF-6004 data acquisition device, further extends your applications to include portable data acquisition, DMM, CAN, and even
wireless functionality. This connectivity makes it practical to build a variety of previously complex applications, including remote
system monitoring, industrial inspection, and in-vehicle diagnostics.
Obtain more information on the LabVIEW PDA module.
Nora Tucker
LabVIEW Product Manager
nora.tucker@ni.com
This article is running in the July 8, 2005, issue of NI News and the Q4 2005 issue of Instrumentation Newsletter.

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