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LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite

LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite Revolutionizes Wireless Prototyping for Software Defined Radio

NI has announced the LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite, which combines software defined radio (SDR) hardware with a comprehensive software design flow to help engineers prototype 5G systems.

The LabVIEW Communications environment enables the entire design team to map an idea from algorithm to FPGA using a single high-level representation. This approach empowers designers to focus on innovation instead of implementation, which increases the rate and quality of their prototyping.


SDR has become the standard for prototyping next-generation wireless systems. The addition of the FPGA to the x86 architecture has expanded the flexibility of the platform but adds the need for specialized skills and tools. LabVIEW Communications leverages existing IP, including algorithms in C and .m, so designers can integrate the right language for the right task all within a single design environment.


LabVIEW Communications is optimized for the SDR platform with a hardware-aware design environment that provides control of physical configuration, hardware constraints and system documentation in a functional software diagram. This adds the flexibility of the hardware to the software, which gives designers access to all components in the SDR platform. Using this deeply integrated solution helps designers achieve optimal performance by eliminating the need to manually map algorithms to different hardware architectures.

LabVIEW Communications helps bridge the gap between the ongoing rollout of 4G and the to-be-determined 5G standards of the future.

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"LabVIEW is here to stay as long as algorithms define the functionality of the systems"

 Satish Mohanram, Technical Marketing Manager, National Instruments India

What is LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite? What marks it apart from traditional development environments available to industry?
In a typical traditional communication design process there are multiple phases, starting with the development of an algorithm, then validating the same algorithm in the actual environment, which involves putting it on to hardware,generating the RF signals from the algorithm designed and then finally putting it on to a chip or deployment target. 
 
Algorithm development is generally done in floating points and then the floating point algorithm has to be put on a specific target so that all the ios, the system level, up conversion, digital down conversion is mapped and then you have to take it on to a target which could be a FPGA or a processorand just because of the complexities of these algorithms they are deployed typically in a fixed point which is on FPGA to get the required speed. Different tools are currently in use for these three stages of algorithm development, system mapping and system implementation.There are tools that are used for algorithm development, there are map tools that are available in a market place, for system mapping they use some sort of system building tools which helps them map the ios and come up with configurations and then system implementation is done with tools that are very specific to that vendor.So these are the disjoint steps which typically keep the algorithm developer away from implementation. If you take example of the companies which are into thisspace, they typically take close to a year to start from an algorithm and finally take it to system implementation. Because the skills that are necessary for each and every stage is very different, the tools that are used are very different. 
 
The LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite provides an environment which spans across all these three different stages. It is a single environment which takes care of different types of algorithm development that you would like to do and the same environment can help you map these algorithms to targets and once you map it you finally implement these algorithms on the hardware. So this tool chain takes care of pretty much everything.
 
In today’s scenario it is even more important to have a tool chain like this because moving from today’s generation of communication systems to the next generation of communication systems, it is the algorithms working closely with the hardware which will make the high bandwidth communication system possible.This is one reason why if you look at the 5G communication researchers,they prefer this tool chain over any other tool chain that is available in the market and we did give this to the lead users including companies which are into design of 5G communication systems and they have got back to us and said that this had drastically brought down the time it takes algorithm to get deployed.
 
LabVIEW supports existing (3G & 4G) as well as future (5G) technologies. What makes LabVIEW future proof?
If you look at the ways systems are getting complex,more and more functionalities are getting added to the system. Traditionally each and every one of these functionalities has been hardware. Remember the days when phones use to only have SMS capability, it was basically built on hardware and then from there today we have different apps running on a phone,they are all software algorithms that run on hardware. If you take evolution of communication systems from the longest time that we have had the VHF communication to today’s 4th generation communications systems, you will see that transformation has happened here also, where software algorithms are making better utilization of the bandwidth available,rectifying errors and the data is getting transmitted. One common thread that runs across is that algorithm has made a significant improvement to all of these and these algorithms are going to take us to next generation communication systems. LabVIEW as an algorithm systems design environment which is not text based but it can encompass multiple different models of computation from C code to M code to G code and is the perfect mix of things which will help us design future systems and help the software element which will define the future systems if designed in a tool like this. Labview is here to stay as long as algorithms define the functionality of the systems.
 
What to expect with 5G coupling with LabVIEW?
In 5G there are some typical areas that are kind of challengingfor scientists and engineers. This suite enables5G communication researchers by providingthem an algorithm design environment which incorporates text, C, M and G code together,hence, it is perfectly designed for a processor FPGA combination which is the typical heterogeneous computer architecture that we see in today’s technologies. When it comes to mapping systems, the environment is hardware aware which means based on the hardware that you are going to finally target this code, this will automatically optimizeon that specific hardware. Coming to the exploration of these algorithms, there are requirements that need algorithms to be optimized and this environment by default provides the required capabilities to do those kinds of optimizations to do floating point or fixed point conversions and so on. It actuallygives schedule views and feedback as well. Because of all of this researchers are being able to deploy these systems much faster.
 
Today if you take the set of lead users or researchers who are working on 5G communication,twenty of the top researchers in 5G research use our tools, so all that I can say is the first 5G system hopefully will be implemented using Labview or prototyped and implemented using Labview which is a big thing for a design environment.
 
Who are your target market segments?
Our target is any company which is into communications systems design, it could be 5G communications or it could be communications being designed for specific applications such as automotive radar, vehicle to vehicle communication or sometimes even defense applications so anybody who is into communication systems design from an industry perspective is a target audience. If you take academic side of things the researchers who are trying to come up with the algorithms that will go into making next generation systems, who would like to implement and see physical results of their algorithms. Not just the theorists who come up with the theory and making recommendations but people who are into implementing those theories to see practical results. One of the challenges that students who are learning communication systems today face is that communication systems theory is very abstract and very difficult for a lot of students to visualize what really happens. People don’t really see electromagnetic waves and this tool will help them implement even the basic communication systems and then evolve their knowledge from there. If you ask me there are three categories - one is the industry of course, second academic researchers and the last is students who are interested in learning communications and want to do it  their own way. These would be our target market segments.
 
How will the industry benefit from this?
The way I would like to answer this question is by sharing with you some quotes that some of our lead users have shared with us. These users have already used LabVIEW and given us some feedback about it. 
 
There is Nokia who is doing millimeter wave prototyping for 5G research and they told us:
“It took about one calendar year, less than half of the time that would have taken with other tools to implement their millimeter wave prototype”.
 
“Wireless consumer’s insatiable demand for bandwidth has forced the wireless community to invest tremendously in new ways to increase network capacity” said Gerhard Fettweis, Vodafone chair at Technische Universität Dresden. “At TU Dresden, we’re heavily involved in 5G exploration using NI hardware and software integration. With our collaboration and the use of the NI platform, TU Dresden researchers significantly compressed the time to transition from concept to prototype. In six weeks, we were able to have a working prototype. In the past, using other standard tools, this process would have taken us more than two years to complete.”

 

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