RIO Embedded Control Platforms for Robotics

Publish Date: Apr 20, 2015 | 2 Ratings | 5.00 out of 5 |  PDF


Autonomous or semiautonomous robots often require an embedded control system that can combine deterministic control with high-level intelligence and can easily connect to a variety of sensors and actuators. National Instruments delivers a variety of embedded hardware platforms to address the needs of these complex systems. From cutting-edge robotics research projects to advanced industry applications, the NI platform has proven to be an effective solution for robotics.

1. Reconfigurable I/O (RIO) Architecture

National Instruments embedded hardware platforms share a common reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture. This architecture combines a real-time processor, a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), and a wide range of I/O, including analog, digital, motion, and communication. Using this standard architecture and NI LabVIEW graphical development tools, you can rapidly design and prototype robotic systems with flexible, high-performance hardware.

            Figure 1. NI RIO Deployment Curve: A Variety of Embedded Hardware Solutions for Robotics

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2. NI CompactRIO and NI Single-Board RIO

A CompactRIO embedded system features a real-time embedded processor, a four- or eight-slot reconfigurable chassis containing a user-programmable FPGA, and hot-swappable industrial I/O modules. This low-cost embedded architecture delivers open access to low-level hardware resources for rapid development of robotics systems. It also features a mechanical enclosure for protection. 

Figure 2. Students at Virginia Tech developed this semiautonomous ground vehicle based on CompactRIO.

NI Single-Board RIO is a low-cost board-level embedded system based on the same architecture as CompactRIO. NI Single-Board RIO features onboard analog and digital I/O, which you can expand with I/O modules. Consider the specifications in Table 1 to determine which RIO hardware platform best fits your application needs.

Figure 3. This nimble treaded rover from the USCD Coordinated Robotics Lab is based on NI Single-Board RIO.



CompactRIO Modular Systems

CompactRIO Integrated Systems

NI Single-Board RIO

Temperature range

-40 to 70 ºC

-20 to 55 ºC

-20 to 55 ºC

EMC certifications

Mechanical enclosure provided

Ability to mix and match controller and chassis

C Series slots or expansion

4 or 8 slots

8 slots

3 connectors for expansion I/O

LabVIEW Real-Time Scan Mode support


Full-Speed USB host port for USB-based storage

Internal nonvolatile storage

Up to 4 GB

Up to 256 MB

Up to 256 MB

Power supply input range

Dual 9 to 35 VDC

Single 19 to 30 VDC

Single 19 to 30 VDC


Xilinx Virtex FPGA

Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA

Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA

Table 1. NI RIO Hardware Comparison


With LabVIEW Robotics, you can easily program the real-time processor, reconfigurable FPGA, and I/O of your RIO embedded system. LabVIEW Robotics also includes robotics IP, examples, and sensor and actuator drivers for both real-time and FPGA implementations. 

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