In profile: National Instruments

In 1976, three talented entrepreneurs seeded the 'measurement revolution' by launching a little-known startup named National Instruments.

Company History

In 1983, NI engineers undertook a research initiative that redefined the work of engineers and scientists across multiple industries. Their goal was to create, for engineers and scientists, a software tool to revolutionise measurement and automation in the same way the spreadsheet changed the financial industry. As a result, in 1986 NI launched the first version of the LabVIEW graphical development environment. Originally created for the Macintosh, this technology set the stage for virtual instrumentation products by helping LabVIEW users customise measurement systems to suit their needs. In more recent years, NI has launched multiple software and hardware products supporting virtual instrumentation. In the 1990s, NI played a key role in the definition of the PXI industry standard; then in 2004, NI released CompactRIO, an ultrahigh-performance embedded control and acquisition platform; and in 2006, NI released CompactDAQ, a USB-based data acquisition system.

Product portfolio overview

National Instruments products are based around the concept of virtual instrumentation, taking advantage of the latest developments in PC-based technology, such as multicore processors, and combining them with productive software and modular hardware. National Instruments LabVIEW is a graphical development environment for creating flexible and scalable test, measurement, and control applications rapidly and at minimal cost. With LabVIEW, scientists and engineers interface with real-world signals, analyse data for meaningful information, and share results and applications.

NI is a market-leader in PC-based data acquisition and instrument control, offering the most complete family of devices for desktop, portable, industrial and embedded applications on practically any bus, including USB, PCI, PCI Express, PXI, PCMCIA, CompactFlash and Ethernet.

Other modular hardware platforms in the National Instruments portfolio include PXI, the open, PC-based platform for test, measurement and control. PXI provides the industry’s highest bandwidth and lowest latency, with modular I/O spanning high-resolution DC to 6 GHz RF. The NI CompactRIO rapid prototyping platform is a low-cost, reconfigurable control and acquisition system designed for applications that require high performance and reliability.

Hardware and software products from National Instruments, featuring LabVIEW, PXI-based modular instruments, CompactRIO and CompactDAQ.

Future plans

The concept of graphical system design is at the heart of National Instruments vision for the future. The NI embedded design and prototyping platform combines the LabVIEW graphical development environment with off-the-shelf, FPGA-based measurement and control hardware for design, simulation, rapid prototyping, implementation, validation and verification of embedded systems. The intuitive LabVIEW graphical dataflow programming environment allows engineers and scientists to rapidly develop and iterate on designs, reducing the time from concept to prototype. Using LabVIEW, with tightly integrated FPGA-based NI PXI or CompactRIO hardware, further reduces time to market by eliminating the need for costly integration steps such as board bringup. After prototyping and validating the design, domain experts can then deploy to an extensive range of off-the-shelf NI hardware or custom hardware by targeting components such as DSPs, embedded microprocessors and microcontrollers.


National Instruments has direct operations in nearly 40 countries.

In Summary

COMPANY NAME National Instruments

WEB ADDRESS www.ni.com

LOCATION Austin, Texas, USA (corporate headquarters) Newbury, UK (UK & Ireland)





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