Developing Applications with the NI LabVIEW Statechart Module

Publish Date: Feb 13, 2012 | 10 Ratings | 4.30 out of 5 |  PDF | 3 Customer Reviews | Submit your review


This document explains the definition of statechart diagrams and demonstrates the basics of the LabVIEW Statechart Module.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Using LabVIEW Statecharts
  3. Benefits of Statecharts
  4. Conclusion
  5. Related Links

1. Introduction

With the NI LabVIEW Statechart Module, you can create statecharts in LabVIEW software for developing event-based control and test systems. The statechart programming model complements the LabVIEW models for data flow, textual math, dynamic system modeling, and configuration-based development. You can choose the right model or combination of models to develop your system based on your application requirements.

Figure 1. NI Graphical System Design Platform

Figure 1. LabVIEW Graphical Development Environment

The National Instruments graphical system design platform combines the programming models in LabVIEW with off-the-shelf desktop and embedded controllers and measurement I/O. With this combination, you have an integrated development toolchain for designing, prototyping, and deploying systems. LabVIEW statecharts offer a high-level design tool with powerful scalability through programming concepts such as hierarchy, concurrency, and events. Because statecharts provide a system-level view, you can use LabVIEW statecharts as executable specifications. The statechart programming model is especially useful for developing complex systems that must respond to a variety of events such as embedded control systems and communications systems. With the LabVIEW Statechart Module, you can deploy designs to a variety of hardware platforms ranging from desktop PCs to field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

Note: For complete LabVIEW Statechart Module documentation, refer to the shipping documentation.

History of Statecharts

The statechart diagram was invented by David Harel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in the 1980s. According to Harel, the purpose of the statechart diagram was to “extend conventional state-transition diagrams with … the notions of hierarchy, concurrency, and communication.” Harel invented the diagram while he helped design a complex avionics system, presumably finding the existing tools for such a system lacking. In the 1990s, statecharts were adopted as a behavior diagram within the Unified Modeling Language (UML) specification, which is widely used for modeling embedded systems.

How Statecharts Work

To begin understanding statecharts, it is best to start with the classic state diagram and then add the notions of hierarchy, concurrency, and events. The classic state diagram consists of two main constructs: states and transitions. In Figure 2, the state diagram describes a simple soda vending machine with five states and seven transitions to illustrate how the machine operates. The machine starts in the “idle” state and transitions to the “count coins” state when coins are inserted. The state diagram shows additional states and transitions when the machine waits for a selection, dispenses a soda, and gives change.

 Figure 2. Classic State Diagram of Vending Machine

Figure 2. State Diagram Describing a Simple Soda Vending Machine 

Figure 3 shows a statechart that describes the behavior of the same machine. Notice how the notion of hierarchy and events reduces the number of states and transitions. In the statechart, you can nest the “count coins” and “dispense” states within a superstate. You have to define only one transition (T3) from either of these two states to the “give change” state. You can configure the T3 transition to respond to three events: soda dispensed, change requested, or coins rejected. Additionally, you can eliminate the “select soda” state in the classic state diagram by introducing a “guard” condition to transition T2. Guard conditions must evaluate to “true” for the transition to occur. If the result of the guard condition is “false,” the event is ignored and the transition does not take place.

Figure 3. Statechart Representation of Vending Machine

Figure 3. Statechart Describing a Simple Soda Vending Machine 

At this point, you can expand the statechart to demonstrate the notion of concurrency by adding a temperature control element to the software within the vending machine. Figure 4 shows how you can encapsulate the dispensing logic and the temperature control into an and-state. And-states describe a system that is simultaneously in two states that are independent of each other. The T7 transition shows how statecharts can define an exit that applies to both sub-statecharts.

Figure 4. Statecharts Can Represent Concurrent States

Figure 4. Encapsulating the Dispensing Logic and the Temperature Control into an And-State 

In addition to hierarchy and concurrency, statecharts have features that make them valuable for complex systems. Statecharts have a concept of history, allowing a superstate to “remember” which substate within it was previously active. For example, consider a superstate that describes a machine that pours a substance and then heats it. A halt event may pause the execution of the machine while it is pouring. When a resume event occurs, the machine remembers to resume pouring.

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2. Using LabVIEW Statecharts

With the LabVIEW Statechart Module, you can design software components with a statechart diagram and define the behavior of the states and transition logic with dataflow graphical programming. Use the LabVIEW Project Explorer to fully integrate statecharts into the LabVIEW environment. Each LabVIEW statechart has several components that you can use to configure the context of the design. Figure 5 shows an example statechart called LVStatechart 1.lvsc. You can create triggers that correspond to transitions and state reactions as well as edit the list of input and output data variables that the statechart uses.

Figure 5. Statechart LabVIEW Project

Figure 5. An Example Statechart Called LVStatechart 1.lvsc 

The file contains the actual statechart diagram. Within this diagram, you create the states of the system and the transitions between them. One of the main benefits of statecharts is how they visually represent the behavior of the system and, therefore, self-document the software. Figure 6 shows a statechart that describes a packaging machine. You can easily see the different states of a machine and the transitions between each state.

Figure 6. Statechart That Describes a Packaging Machine

Statecharts are useful to describe reactive systems. You can design each state with multiple reactions that correspond to a variety of triggers, or events, that are sent to the statechart from a hardware device or user interface. The reactions are implemented with LabVIEW graphical programming. Figure 6 demonstrates the LabVIEW code that executes when the system is in the “Producing” state and the trigger “Materials Low” occurs. The triggers can also cause transitions to execute between states. An alternative way to determine transitions is to use LabVIEW code that evaluates a guard. Guards describe conditions that have to be met to execute a transition. Figure 7 shows the guard code for the transition labeled “Materials Runout.” The LabVIEW code ensures that the level has to be less than 35.5 to execute the transition from the “Producing” state to the “Standby” state.

Figure 7. Guard Code

Figure 7. The Guard Code for the Transition Labeled “Materials Runout” 

To meet the needs of different use cases, LabVIEW statecharts generate code for two execution modes: synchronous and asynchronous. The synchronous mode is designed to describe the behavior of a controller with different states that react to a set of I/O inputs that are updated at a constant rate. This mode is applicable to embedded control systems such as engine control units (ECUs), motion controllers, and environmental controllers. The asynchronous mode is designed to address applications with external events from an application. This is useful to program human machine interfaces (HMIs) and model event-based systems and algorithms.

Demo: Example of a Synchronous Statechart

When you have determined the right execution mode for your statechart, you can generate executable code in the form of a modular subVI, or function call. You can then call the subVI from within a LabVIEW dataflow diagram as shown in Figure 7. You can visually debug the statechart through LabVIEW execution highlighting and through standard debugging elements such as breakpoints, probes (variable watch windows), and single-stepping.

Demo: Statechart Debugging

You can generate statechart code for a variety of hardware platforms, including desktop systems, HMIs, programmable automation controllers (PACs) such as NI CompactRIO and PXI, FPGAs on NI hardware, and any 32-bit microprocessor. The ability to deploy statecharts to many hardware platforms makes the LabVIEW Statechart Module an excellent design tool for the development and deployment of embedded systems. You also can use statecharts with the LabVIEW Control Design and Simulation Module to model and evaluate hybrid systems using dynamic system simulation.

Learn More about Using LabVIEW Statecharts to Program FPGAs

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3. Benefits of Statecharts

Using LabVIEW statecharts for system design provides several benefits for software developers. Statecharts offer a system-level view that describes the complete function of a system or application because a statechart diagram captures each possible state of the system. Therefore, the use of statecharts helps reduce the possibility of software “hangs” and other unexpected behavior because you are forced to consider every alternative to which the software needs to respond. As this paper has discussed, the statechart programming model is especially useful for reactive systems, which are characterized by how they respond to inputs. You can design a system so that it scales to handle multiple state reactions and transitions based on any combination of events. Statecharts are similar to graphical dataflow programs in that they are self-documenting and promote the easy transfer of knowledge between developers. A new member of a design team can look at a statechart diagram and quickly grasp the elements of a system.

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4. Conclusion

The statechart model of computation offers a sophisticated way to tackle complex application development. Statecharts are especially useful for programming event-response applications such as intricate user interfaces and advanced state machines used to implement dynamic system controllers, machine control logic, and digital communication protocols. With the new LabVIEW Statechart Module, you achieve the rapid development and tight hardware integration of the LabVIEW platform. You can now add the statechart to your tool chest for programming complex applications.

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5. Related Links


  • David Harel, Statecharts: A Visual Formalism for Complex Systems, Department of Applied Mathematics, The Weizmann Institute of Science, 1986.



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Customer Reviews
3 Reviews | Submit your review

A nice start - Sep 8, 2008

I like this introduction to Statechart...It help me a lot to start working with this tool.

Figure numbers? - Jan 29, 2008

Figures are referred to in the text, but there are no captions for the figures. In some cases they are above the reference in the text, and in others below. A bit confusing unless you already are familiar with the terminology.

A very comprehensive and meticulously explained demo. - Oct 9, 2007

The demo helped me understand the basic application of statecharts in LV. It was really a very good demo.

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