Edge Computing for the Industrial Internet of Things


The NI family of industrial controllers comprises high-performance, fanless, industrial PCs designed for customers who require the highest level of processing power and connectivity for smarter industrial systems as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). These controllers are purpose-built for edge computing applications that require analytics and data processing near sensors to extract only the insightful information to reduce unnecessary bandwidth consumption and storage resources. Additionally, NI industrial controllers are ideal for automation and control applications in extreme environments. NI industrial controllers offer simplified connectivity for communication and synchronization with sensors, I/O devices, machine vision cameras, motion drives, and other automation equipment.



Figure 1. NI industrial controller IC-3173

Centralized Processing

NI industrial controllers feature fifth-generation Intel processors and Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGAs to provide high-performance processing and FPGA coprocessing for edge computing and industrial control applications. The onboard FPGA works in unison with the CPU to enable high-speed, hardware-timed parallel processing of digital data so information can be processed in real time. This means NI industrial controllers never miss a beat and reliably enable data-driven decision making in real time. Powerful processing capabilities, coupled with ample connectivity to sensors and automation devices, make NI industrial controllers ideal for applications that require data processing and analytics near the edge of the IoT to cut down on the amount of data stored or sent over the network.

Ease of Integration

NI industrial controllers can easily integrate into existing infrastructure and communicate and connect with third-party automation devices and sensors. These controllers can communicate deterministically with motion drives and NI expansion I/O using EtherCAT through one of its four network communication ports. Additionally, the system can send commands and data to other devices such as programmable logic controllers and operator interfaces using industrial protocols such as Ethernet/IP, RS232/RS485, Modbus serial, and Modbus/TCP. Industrial controllers also have a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet port for network connectivity and four USB 2.0 ports for external data storage, mouse, and keyboard. With enterprise connectivity, designers can also monitor the inspection results, view images, or store data in databases for statistical process control.


NI industrial controllers are purpose-built for applications that require rugged data processing and control solutions. These controllers are passively cooled, which means there are no noisy fans that generate dust and fail or require maintenance. With ruggedness in mind, NI also designed these controllers with industrial-grade solid-state drives to provide reliable internal data storage, which is crucial in edge computing and industrial control applications. Additionally, NI industrial controllers can operate in 0 to 55 degrees Celsius ambient air temperature. This temperature specification has been verified in a temperature chamber to simulate a circumstance with full resource utilization. This testing is performed with all of the ports running at full bandwidth and power, the CPU fully utilized, the FPGA clocked at 200 MHz, and full memory utilization, which means NI industrial controllers are tested and guaranteed to withstand the demands of industrial environments.

NI industrial controllers were also designed with life cycle in mind. NI understands that after these solutions are designed and deployed, they must be supported until the next design cycle. For this reason, industrial controllers have the following life cycle:

  • 3 years active
  • 3 years mature
  • 3 years maintenance

To learn more about NI hardware product life cycle policies, see the Additional Resources section of this paper.

Simplified Systems

NI industrial controllers offer an all-in-one approach to system design that significantly reduces system size, has fewer points of failure, and decreases overall system cost. With their powerful processing and ample connectivity, industrial controllers can combine control for multiple subsystems such as human machine interfaces, motion control, image processing, as well as measurements and I/O into one system. Because system designers no longer have to integrate separate controllers for each of these subsystems, they can build solutions quickly and get to market faster. Furthermore, industrial controllers are designed using the same LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture used across the NI embedded hardware offering, which means it is easy for designers to reuse software across these platforms and preserve their development efforts.

Massive Software Ecosystem

NI industrial controllers are available with either the WES7 or NI Linux Real-Time OS. This underlying technology provides a new level of openness to the industrial platform that gives LabVIEW users the ability to access the vast library of community-sourced applications and IP in and alongside LabVIEW applications. The NI Linux Real-Time OS, which adds support for the Eclipse Development Environment, also gives designers the freedom to reuse existing C/C++ code or development expertise. Now it is easy to integrate code libraries into LabVIEW Real-Time applications, or even develop custom standalone executables that interface directly to LabVIEW FPGA applications. Designers have the flexibility to develop using the tools that best suit their tasks and capabilities.

NI industrial controllers are built on the LabVIEW RIO architecture and programmed with the familiar LabVIEW development environment. The NI Linux Real-Time OS helps designers innovate with the massive software ecosystem that the Linux community provides.

Additional Resources

Learn more about Industrial Controllers

Shop NI Industrial Controllers

Hardware Product Life Cycle Policies


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