VI Shots Interview
During NIWeek 2013, the Raima Database API for LabVIEW was awarded the LabVIEW Tools Network Embedded Systems Product of the Year Award. Michael Aivaliotis sat down with Scott Meder, the Director of Sales at Raima, to find out what this toolkit is and how LabVIEW application developers can take advantage of these capabilities in embedded systems. Listen to the audio below or go to the source at the VIShots Website:
The VI Shots Podcast, Episode Twenty-Eight
Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of VI Shots.
My name is Michael Aivaliotis and this is the podcast devoted to the world of LabVIEW.
With each episode, I bring you interviews, discussions, and share with you, ideas for how you can take your LabVIEW development to the next level.
Well, thank you all again for listening and joining me on this episode of the VI Shots podcasts. Today, as always, I have a special guest interview. But, before I get into that, I’d like to let you know of all the different ways you can now listen to this podcast. I know there are several of you that are listening to my voice right now by clicking on the play button on the VI Shots.com website. So you open up a browser of choice, whether it be Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and then you click on the little play button that’s on the episode page. However, I’d like to introduce to you the concept of mobile listening. Some of you are already on board with this, but some of you may not. You know, you can actually listen to this podcast on your mobile device, whether it be an Android device, iOS, iPhone and iPad or even a Windows phone. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can download the absolutely free app from the App Store called Podcasts. This is an app made by Apple and allows you, from within the app, to subscribe to many podcasts including, of course, this one here, the VI Shots podcast and there’s no need to plug into iTunes anymore.
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Now let’s get on to our interview. Well, I’m here today with Scott Meder, who’s the director of sales at Raima.
Michael: Scott, welcome to the show.
Scott: Thank you for having me.
Michael: Scott, there was a big announcement this year for your company. One of your products won an embedded systems Product of the Year Award at NI Week this year. NI week twenty thirteen. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Scott: Sure, well, we’re obviously very excited about receiving that award. A couple years ago, we got engaged with National Instruments. We saw a natural fit for having a partnership and over the last couple years we developed a database solution that integrates with their LabVIEW environment. And we were given the award at the NI Week 2013 conference for Embedded Systems Product of the Year, so we’re pretty excited about that.
Michael: Now this is a database API for LabVIEW, but it’s not like a typical database tool. I mean, it can run on the desktop, but it’s specifically for embedded, correct?
Scott: Correct. It can run on the desktop or on the actual real-time targets on the CompactRIO system. So basically the Raima database API for LabVIEW offers database management. Basically a database management solution specifically designed to provide local database management for applications deployed on NI’s CompactRIO or single board RIO devices. It also offers extended functionality to share data between multiple targets, whether sharing information between CompactRIO devices or external computers. But it also can run the desktop as well.
Michael: And so this is basically a collection of VIs that you can drop into your own real-time application, correct?
Scott: Correct. Yes.
Micheal: And then you compile it in, and then you download it onto your real-time target. Hasn’t something like this existed before for the platform is this something unique?
Scott: You know, actually, this is fairly unique. We’re actually the, currently, the only product that runs directly on the C-RIO real-time target. Not only on their VxWorks based serial systems, but soon to be on their NI Linux real-time operating system. Other solutions only allow you to write basically to a database hosted elsewhere. So over a network on like a PC computer, whether that be, Sapphire MySQL solution or SQL Lite solution. We’re the only ones offer a solution directly on the real-time target on the CompactRIO device.
Michael: Sounds like you had a customer calling you there for one of the toolkits! (laughs)
Scott: (laughs) I think you probably right!
Michael: Now the database that this API interfaces to, is that a custom database that Raima developed?
Scott: Correct. Yeah, it’s actually… This is probably a good opportunity for me to give you some background. So, Raima, the company, actually founded in ‘82, so we just celebrated thirty years.
Michael: Wow, you go back quite a ways.
Scott: We do. We go back quite a ways. And, we have been successfully deployed with a core database embedded technology for those thirty years into a number of different applications. Industrial automation, Aerospace and Defense, Networking and Telecom, Medical devices, those type of areas. So we’ve had this core technology that’s been established, that’s been in the market for several years and basically this LabVIEW API was created takes that core database technology and exposes the API through LabVIEW in a way that LabVIEW developers are used to working with it through LabVIEW. So, yeah, that core technology has been out thirty years.
Michael: So it’s a proven database, it’s used in many industries and other platforms as well, and you’re just kind of migrating that to the LabVIEW environment, I guess, right?
Scott: That’s exactly correct. Yeah.
Michael: Just so people can get understanding of how they could use this tool in their applications, can you give some examples how this this could be implemented, or some use cases, I guess, for this?
Scott: Sure, so, well, let’s think of the energy sector is probably a strong area for not only NI, but for the potential use of our product. So think of maybe a wind farm power generation facility where you might have C-RIO devices on each wind turbine, which stores its operation status data directly in the Raima database on the C-RIO. That would be one use case. Maybe these wind turbines are…maybe these C-RIOs are gathering wind speed and wind direction. That type of data, so that adjustments to the blades themselves can be made. Maybe it’s monitoring the critical component conditions that are taking place, such as temperature and vibrations in order to detect maybe a developing failure situation before the problem occurs. So, you know, using the functionality of the Raima database within a system like this, you can collect data locally, process data closer to the asset actually being monitored and maybe replicate data in near real-time back to the wind farm control center computer which contains all the status records generated by all the wind turbines in the wind farm. And decisions, proper decisions can be made much quicker and it can be more of an automated process.
Another scenario that we’ve been talking with some people about is in a Navy type vessel situation where you’ve got Navy vessel alarm system for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance where you have maybe a POC or C-RIO device taking condition reads of the vessel’s propeller and it’s possibly there gathering vibration readings as well. And it gathers this data on the local C-RIO device and in near real time it must send out alerts to the maintenance team when maintenance is required or the propeller is having a potential issue. This information could be collected in the Raima database on the C-RIO, again with near real-time replication to the main system or the main maintenance team. So that this team can see immediately when there’s alarm, when maintenance is required and actions can be taken.
So again, there’s an area where you’re collecting data, you’re storing, you’re managing it locally on the CompactRIO. You’re distributing that data, moving that data to the systems and getting it into the hands of the people that need to make decisions. And, you know, another way of thinking about it is…or another example is…gathering data. Let’s say locally on a C-RIO device, could allow for data reduction and simplification to take place right on the C-RIO device before massive amounts of data that are being collected at the source need to be replicated over a network. So, maybe you can do some simplification. You can narrow down to the amounts of data, the important data that needs to be sent over the network. And you can do that right on the CompactRIO before having to send all that data over the network to a main computer system. So, hopefully in that type of scenario, you’re minimizing the amount of data transfer and limiting the time from data collection to data visualization and decisions are made much quicker and smarter and more efficiently. That’s just ways that people have; certain scenarios for people to utilize our technology.
Michael: Now what is the pricing structure for this toolset? Someone was interested in that.
Scott: Sure! Well it’s actually right there available on the tools network. If you go to NI’s website, that’s where you purchase it. So you go into the developer zone, you get on the tools network, and the pricing is right there on the front page. And basically, though, you get a developer’s kit that allows you to develop with your application for around $700 and then as you embed the application within your product and it gets deployed out on these compact Rio devices, there’s basically a runtime component. There’s basically different levels from, I think, 1 to 10 units, 100-250 or whatever. It’s kind of broken down and you just purchase it based on the quantity level that you’re at.
Michael: So there is the development license, which is seven hundred and then I notice here it says that one seat is $250, and then the pricing goes up from there, depending how many seats, I guess, you need, right?
Scott: Absolutely, yeah. So when you start getting into the thousands, and all that, it drops considerably and I think at the top levels, you know, $45 for a thousand units, and if you had to go beyond that, we would probably have to work out some kind of custom arrangement.
Michael: Uh hm. Now, a lot of the LabVIEW developers have used other databases like MySQL and some of the other; some of them open source and some not. What is kind of your unique positioning for your database platform?
Scott: Well, I think the core couple things that are worth noting is not only that we are right now, the only product that runs directly on the C-RIO VxWorks real-time target. So with those other products that you mentioned, you do have to, currently, you know, write to the database hosted elsewhere. So you have to go across the network to a PC, the database host on a PC.
Scott: And so that’s currently a major difference and so that’s kind of our niche and where we fit in. But also, there’s everything from, depending application, you know, what are the performance you’re looking to hit. You know, performance numbers depending the application, sometimes we’re more well targeted towards a near real-time or real-time type scenario. And then it’s also, you know, what are you looking to do as far as moved data? And so, in near real-time, we can also not only replicate data between Compact RIO devices and share data between devices, but that you can also replicate to a backend system like into an Oracle database, like Oracle enterprise, or even into a MySQL database or into some other back end computer system. So being able to move and share data among systems. And also, being able to do a unified query across all C-RIOs. This has been something of interest to a lot of those that we have spoken to. Where, as you have Compact-RIOs deployed throughout an application in the field and let’s say you want to query across all Compact-RIOs and have it come back as one central query, you can do that. So full unified query across several Compact-RIOs. And also, what are your scalability requirements? We also look at that. Are you looking to scale to a high degree or number of users? Or multiple C-RIOs in a system? You know, that scalability, being able to fan out is something where, I think, you’ll see a lot of our strengths.
Michael: Yeah. It sounds, actually, it sounds pretty amazing and pretty powerful. Another issue that’s raised a lot is security. Is there a security component in this environment?
Scott: Sure! We provide, actually, database encryption. So, you have full 128 or 256 bit encryption.
Michael: Can talk a little bit about the whole process of putting your product in the LabVIEW tools network? Because there’s probably other companies out there that are interested, kind of, in the same thing. You know, there are service companies that have some products and want to put it out there to the LabVIEW tools network. Talk a little bit about how you found the whole process.
Scott: Well, you know, as we develop, or started developing a relationship with an eye and realizing that this, you know, a product like this made a lot of sense. We started through a process of taking our core database technology and exposing it through the LabVIEW interface and through that process, you know, we learned a lot. It really helped us really dig down and not only get to learn LabVIEW quite a bit and learn about what LabVIEW programmers are looking for, but also, you know, was able to really find areas in our own product that we can improve and what was important to LabVIEW programmers. And it was clear to us through that process that, and I really, they really want to expand their tools network business sector with partner products that are quality. They spent a lot of time with this, they were very well organized and they had a real structured way of verifying the products to make sure that they were the highest quality. That they met a certain litmus test, that you had certain references lined up to make sure that that was product, that product fit well within the framework of what a LabVIEW programmer is looking for. So they invest a lot of time and it was, overall it was a great experience.
Michael: I noticed from your company website that you do services as well. Do you have…so are you a services company or a product company, I guess?
Scott: Well, you know, that’s an interesting question. Actually, it comes up quite a bit. You know, we are a solution based, type, product. We’re not something that you buy off the shelf at some computer store and install it and you got drag-and-drop icons and you’re ready to go. Yes, for LabVIEW programmers, they can use a LabVIEW interface program with their database, but our core product is aimed at low-level C/C++ programmers. And, so, you know, it’s a niche product. So, not only do you…you know, we sell the product, we license the product, but you also have to be able to provide services. You have to be there to support customers, to train customers. And we have engineers that have been with us for fifteen or more years and they’re experts not only in our core database technology, but in embedded systems and in that space, in that vertical. And we’re able to leverage those engineers, not only as they develop with our products, but in the support of our products and to interface directly with our customers. And, so they can assist them in the design process, making sure that they are getting started properly and looking at, you know, custom features they may need. Maybe platform ports. Training them, doing design reviews with them. Making sure that the integration process is seamless. So yes, we provide both. Basically through our product licensing, we have to be there to also support and service the customers.
Michael: So, since your release this year and your announcement at NI week, how has been the response from the LabVIEW community so far?
Scott: Well, you know, it’s…we’ve got some people evaluating the technology. We’ve obviously got a couple design wins. One of the main ones is LocalGrid. But we’re looking at developing that still. Overnight, you don’t have necessarily…the phone doesn’t ring off the hook. So you really have to engage with customers, engage with clients. We’re doing a lot of that right now where we’re helping people get started on evaluating the technology. Understanding how it can be applicable to them. How is it going to fit within their application? How can they benefit from it? And there’s a number customers that we’re just really starting to engage with at this point. So, that’s still yet to be seen. I think we’ll probably know more as this year kinda wraps up. We’ll start, you know, kinda, be able to take a look and sit back and say ok what, what has some of the initial results been.
Michael: Okay, Scott, that’s a lot of great information and hopefully we gave people some ideas for how they can improve their embedded systems with your toolkit. If somebody wanted to contact you for more information about this toolkit and how it could possibly help them, well, how would they do that?
Scott: Sure! Well, they can reach out to Raima. There’s information on our website at http://raima.com/ni and then also on the tools network they can look up the Raima technology and we’ve got a model page there which shows you how to evaluate, download, get started with the product. It’s got the pricing. It’s also got a contact for support in Getting Started Support. So, certainly, we want people to have a good experience with our product. So we are offering complementary support as they get started with the product and how to reach out to us is right there available on the tools network and on our direct site.
Michael: And the download that’s available, I believe that can let you get started without actually having to purchase, correct? You can try it out?
Scott: That’s correct. It’s a thirty day evaluation that times out after thirty days.
Michael: That’s great. Well, thank you, Scott. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Scott: Okay! Well thank you! I appreciate the time.
Michael: And thank you for listening to this episode. If you like the VI Shots podcast, and want to support the show, please go to your favorite mobile app that you’ve now learned how to use, and give us a rating and a review. If you’re using iTunes, you can go into iTunes and give us a rating there. Or, whether you’re using any other of the mobile platforms that I talked about, they all have ratings and reviews. Thank you again for listening and bye for now.