National Instruments: Creating the Tools That Drive Innovation

Innovation in the technology space often leads to growth. That’s great if you’re a tech company. But if you’re the company that makes the tools that enable other companies to develop those innovations, that’s even better. Such is the case with the National Instrument Corporation.

National Instruments (NI) products facilitate virtual instrumentation and automated measurement—two vital ingredients in the recipe for the mass production of cutting-edge “smart” devices. As the demand for new smart devices tied to the Internet of Things (IoT) increases, engineers need a digital platform that enables them to manufacture the fruits of their labor at a faster rate. National Instruments products, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) they operate in, allow engineers to work with greater efficiency.

In essence, National Instruments creates the tools that drive innovation.

Not bad for the Austin, Tx based company that began as a part-time endeavor out of a garage.

National Instruments Products at a Glance

Headquartered in Austin, TX, National Instruments has developed a wide range of tools crucial to the smart device manufacturing chain. Their most notable advancement has been the integration of a graphical user-interface into the testing and control phases of product engineering. In other words, what the Windows and Mac operating systems did to home computing, their NI platform did to the manufacturing process.

National Instruments products include software such as LabVIEW, LabWindows/CVI, TestStand and Multisim. Their hardware offerings include VXI, VMEbus, interfaces for GPIB and I2C, and real-time embedded controllers such as Compact FieldPoint and CompactRIO.

From industrial internet of things devices to smart cars, National Instruments products help tech companies innovate.
Alexander Davern, CEO National Instruments on What Makes Them Different

As their software is an open platform that works with modular hardware, they’ve helped scientists and engineers test, measure, and control systems that reduce food spoilage in factories, detect pathogens in the body to diagnose patients, program autonomous vehicles for the blind, and build vast networks for wireless connectivity.

National Instruments products play an intrinsic role in the development of smart technology.

The NI Platform and the Industrial Internet of Things

Amazon and Apple may have fleshed out the Internet of Things with Alexa and Siri, but it was National Instruments who truly made the Industrial Internet of Things hum. By enabling their hardware and software to talk with infrastructure instead of through applications, manufacturing can be remotely managed at lower costs. During the course of this mini-industrial revolution, National Instruments has collaborated with tech giants like Intel, Cisco, HP, Analog Devices and Xilinx.

The NI Platform, which is the IIoT’s foundation, has four key benefits:

  • Productive Software. National Instruments software consists of a wide range of available options, including LabVIEW and TestStand, which translate programming ideas into reality. They help reduce project development phases, improve system performance, and deliver business insights based on data collected and analytics.
  • Flexible, Modular Hardware. NI’s hardware ranges from high-performing radio frequency instrumentation to low-cost measuring devices. Their capacity for flexible input/output allows engineers to reconfigure hardware according to their project requirements. This means they don’t have to buy new equipment when there are changes to the project.
  • Seamless Integration. National Instruments hardware and software are flexible and compatible. This allows engineers to customize control systems more easily and according to their needs.
  • Openness and Inter-Operability. Third-party tools can be added to the NI Platform to create an even faster and efficient system, depending on the complexity of the project.

On the Leading Edge of the Tech Space

National Instruments products continue to push the boundaries of innovation.

One initiative is to provide the tools that make 5G technology possible. This will allow not only faster phone and computer downloads but also the full IoT implementation. The deployment of 5G would profoundly impact real-time interaction, as well as the way businesses work all over the world. Networks with 5G technology will further actualize AI, machine learning, and the automation of a vast range of activities.

National Instruments’ financials reflect their position on the leading edge of the tech space.

Their total revenue for the second quarter of this year yielded to $341 million—a commendable jump from the $312 million revenue the company gained in their first quarter. Evidently, their progress and gain for the year have just begun. In fact, their guidance—an indication or educated guess of a company’s future earnings—for their revenue estimate for the third quarter is in the range of $325 to $355 million.

National Instruments Products—Fueling a New Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution may have reshaped the textile industry, and society as a whole, but it has nothing on National Instruments. By creating the tools that drive innovation, the company has fueled the New Industrial Revolution—and made life easier for engineers and consumers alike.

Who are the Top Startups in 2018 Fueling Indonesia’s Economy

Indonesia has been experiencing strong economic growth in the past few years because of digital inclusion. Its economy has been growing at a steady rate of five percent per year and is expected to come as the fourth largest economy in the world by the year 2050. The flourishing economy has brought about a growing middle class that is digitally savvy. In fact, Indonesia has a population of over 260 million people, with about 79 million active social media users. Because of this, tech startups in Indonesia are gaining a lot of attention and funding from local and international investors. Great startup companies have cropped up in the past few years, forever changing the economic landscape of the country.

The following is the Bold Business list of Indonesia’s top startups for 2018:

The company started in 2010 as a motorcycle ride-sharing app. Since then it has evolved into a mobile platform for various on-demand lifestyle services. Apart from transportation, app users have a wide range of services to avail—logistics; food, grocery, and medicine delivery; shopping delivery; entertainment tickets; massage and beauty services; professional cleaning; automotive solutions; and digital wallet and bills payment. It is one of Indonesia’s unicorns, and its total disclosed funding has already amounted to $2.1 billion from investors including Allianz, Temasek Holdings, Tencent, and Google. As of February 2018, the company reached a valuation of $5 billion. It is a startup continually expanding with plans of venturing into the video streaming and online content industries.
Founded by Silicon Valley engineers, Traveloka is an app and website providing travel solutions such as flight and hotel bookings, travel packages, connectivity products, and other modes of transport. It is now available in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Now the app is celebrating more than 30 million downloads, making it the most popular travel app in the region. Its funding has totaled to $500 million, from investors such as Global Founders Capital, East Ventures, and Expedia. It is also one of Indonesia’s startup unicorns.
One of the top companies in Indonesia, Tokopedia is the second startup ever to become a unicorn in the country. It enables consumers, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and business owners to shop and maintain their online presence without charge. Thus it has become one of the largest marketplaces in Indonesia. It is also the top funded startup, with about $1.3 billion from its giant investors like Alibaba from China and SoftBank from Japan. Tokopedia has also launched its virtual credit card in beta, contributing to the country-wide effort for cardless shopping.
It is an e-commerce leader in Indonesia. It offers a wide range of products—from fashion, electronics, health and beauty, home, and others. It is the pioneer in O2O shopping, (online-to-offline and offline-to-online). This allows customers to pay, pick up, and even return products in any Matahari Department Store all over the country. It has received about $142 million in funding from its three main investors—Matahari Department Stores, the Lippo Group, and Mitsui & Co.
The company is one of the great startups in the e-commerce industry as it allows scalable selling and buying. Any individual or corporate organization can open an online store through Bukalapak, and sell to prospective buyers all over Indonesia either by the unit or in bulk. It has also become a unicorn thanks to its investors Emtek Group, Gree Ventures, 500 Startups, and Queens Bridge Venture Partners.
Customers can shop online without a credit card. Akulaku then gives its customers options to pay for their orders through cash, bank deposit, and other means. The app aims to be inclusive, so everyone will be able to shop online, which initially was exclusive to credit card holders. Akulaku has raised a total of $150 million in funding. Its investors, Sequoia Capital, FinUp, DCM, Shunwei China Internet Fund, and many others contribute to the increased funding in the past two years alone.
Kredivo, by FinAccel, also gives customers instant credit to shop online. Customers can ‘buy now and pay later’ through flexible payment plans—starting from 30 days up to 12 months. It is a highly disruptive way of e-commerce purchase financing. As of July 2018, it has secured $30 million from some of the biggest investors in the region: 500 Startups, Jungle Ventures, GMO, and AlphaJWC.
PT MCash Integrasi
The company specializes in providing innovative digital kiosks that offer numerous services. These kiosks can be accessed in countless retail shops and give customers a physical experience of their transactions. The digital kiosk can help customers buy tickets, pay bills, buy sim cards and gift vouchers. Because of its accessibility, PT MCash Integrasi has acquired $43 million in funding. Its investors, while undisclosed, come from the UK, US, Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong.
Pundi X
Pundi X is pushing for real-life applications of cryptocurrency. It allows people to purchase anything through the Pundi app on their phones for cashless transactions. Customers can also buy cryptocurrency through their apps, all through QR codes. It has also developed the XPhone, which does not require a mobile carrier to function.  Recently, the executives of Pundi X  made the first ever phone call on the blockchain. As it pulls cryptocurrency and blockchain into the mainstream, it secured funding of about $35 million. Its most recent investors are Karnika Yashwant and Dentons Rodyk.
Cocowork Formerly EV Hive, Cocowork strives to provide individuals and companies well-designed spaces conducive for collaboration. Cocowork currently has 21 locations all over Jakarta and Medan, helping professionals achieve their working and business goals. Earlier in the year, its recent investment round gathered $20 million, led by SoftBank Ventures Korea, H&CK Partners, and Tigris Investment, and a few others.
Alodokter is the leading health care portal in Indonesia providing quality content, medical service, and interaction with highly qualified and competent doctors. It is a disruptive mobile solution to its 17 million users, who can consult doctors at any given time and book appointments. Alodokter also contains complete databases for patients and doctors in Indonesia. As it gives patients better access to healthcare and healthcare information, it is an app that saves them money and effort in seeking help. Alodokter has a total of $11.5 million in funding—its most recent $9 million is from SoftBank Capital, FengHe Group, and Golden Gate Ventures.
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Push From Indonesian Government

In 2016, following a tumultuous year of economic retrenchment, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo determined that harnessing technology is the gamechanger the country needed. The Widodo administration sees technology as one of the drivers that could provide significant growth. It introduced an e-commerce roadmap, ten economic policy packages, and provided financing for small and medium businesses and tech startups. The Indonesian government was previously closed off foreign investments but has since then eased these limitations.

Zac Cheah, PundiX CEO, top companies in indonesia
Zac Cheah on Crpto Potential

There has been so much help from the Indonesian Stock Exchange and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have facilitated incubators for startups in Jakarta and Bali. This would help these great startup companies have access to consultants, investors, accountants, lawyers, and investors in preparation for their IPO.

Widodo visited Silicon Valley in February 2016, where he obtained the commitment from Google to assist in training 100,000 mobile app developers. He also planned to produce 1,000 tech entrepreneurs by the year 2020. He also sought the help of Twitter and Facebook to ramp up their initiatives in Indonesia. Widodo also paid a visit to Plug and Play, one of the best tech accelerators in the United States.

Indonesia’s Nascent Digital Revolution

Four technologies are driving the digital revolution in Indonesia. The many great startup companies are intelligently utilizing them to elevate the country’s impact on the global economic stage. First is mobile devices and the Internet. Smartphones have become the number one device for accessing the Internet. In Indonesia, and the rest of the world most online traffic comes from mobile devices.

Second, there is cloud technology. As cheaper and faster Internet connections have been adopted, so has remote computing power. This has helped businesses increase efficiency, storage capacity, and improve cash flow.

Third, IoT’s prevalence has affected Indonesian businesses and homes. As Internet penetration has increased, connected devices have also been adopted. This helps create an advanced ecosystem that lays the foundation for other tech implementation in the future.

Lastly, there’s big data and advanced analytics. Big data has been instrumental in providing insights into the thousands and millions of data gathered with every online transaction.

These four disruptions are intertwined, and together are the key to accelerating Indonesia’s growth and impact in the global economy. Having a strong foundation in these technologies makes investments and innovations flourish across the country. However, while Indonesia has had impressive advancements, it still has a long way to go before it fully realizes its digital revolution.

New Batch of Great Startup Companies

What we mentioned are only a few of the many great startup companies that are enriching the flourishing Indonesian economy. They are creating great innovations, efficiencies, and jobs like never before, consequently reshaping the country’s local and global economic impact. Indonesia is expected to be the next hub for tech companies because of its high economic growth, large population, and untapped market potential. The startup landscape in Indonesia doesn’t just replicate other successful businesses like e-hailing or e-commerce, but is bold in exploring other markets, addressing many different needs of its vast population.

The Future and Evolution of Lighting

The light industry is often an overlooked topic in the tech world, where smartphones, autonomous vehicles, and IoT devices dominate headlines. Nonetheless, with the numerous new electric and digital innovations of today, lighting is now catching up. These days, lighting isn’t just about providing light—it’s a carrier for innovations and an innovation in itself. The evolution of lighting has come a long way, and we’ve only scratched the surface of its numerous technological and real day implications.

Trends that Resulted from the Evolution of Lighting

Lighting is now powered not just by electricity but also by decentralized power supplies. Nowadays, people are less dependent on electrical power grids.

Many also draw power from solar panels. (In fact, as of February 2017, there were about 1.3 million solar installations all across the United States.) The trend of solar panels is catching on as it’s a green source of energy and can reduce energy costs significantly. Plainly, this fact shows only the tip of the iceberg in smart lighting trends.

In the evolution of lighting, there is also a significant shift from using CFL—Compact Fluorescent Light—bulbs to LED—Light-Emitting Diode—devices. CFLs are basically miniature fluorescent lights bulbs (mirroring the size of standard-issue incandescent light bulbs), and this means that they still consume energy even when they’re off. LEDs, on the other hand, only use energy when an electrical current passes through them. They can be rapidly be switched on and off by computerized microcontrollers. These lights are known for their programmability. LEDs also emit less heat and can last longer than CFLs. Because of all these benefits, LED adoption is on the rise—especially now that LED prices have also been declining.

a photo of two light bulbs side by side -CFL-and-LED- in the Evolution of Lighting
In the evolution of lighting, there is a major shift from using CFL bulbs to LED devices.

Smart technology is indeed changing the way how light is being used. Truly, smart lighting trends have veritably come to light (pun intended!). Lights are no longer limited to the words “on” and “off.”

There are lights that change color and intensity according to temperature and surroundings. There’s also light control through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, smart hubs or smart speakers. You can now access and control lights remotely with a smartphone or tablet. (Some can indeed function as a speaker and can add to your home security.) Even now, lighting adds another dimension to its use through its increased convenience, versatility, and reduced power consumption.

Lighting creates an important impact on everything from selling products, the productivity of students in schools, workforce efficiency, and presentation of food. Common examples include how Tiffany’s use lights to showcase its diamonds and jewelry. Car dealerships are using lighting in their showrooms to highlight their vehicles. Restaurants such as PDQ are now using lighting as a differentiator for consistent and focal ambiance. There are also the health-related advantages of LED lighting in the workplace, which can help prevent eye strain and migraine style headaches.

Brands Leading the Way in Innovations in Smart Lighting Trends

General Electric Co. has now stepped foot into the world of smart technology with its lighting products. In September 2017, it released the C by GE Sol, a table lamp powered by smart speaker Amazon’s Alexa. In fact, it functions exactly like a smart speaker that happens to light a room. GE claims that it is not just an innovation in the evolution of lighting but a new way of living. There is no need for a separate Echo unit or hub, as the Sol serves as the smart speaker.

Acuity Brands, on the other hand, is weaving technology into architecture and has one of the most extensive product portfolios. The Atlanta based company is creating a sensory network in buildings in the hopes that these buildings would eventually integrate into a smart city. A sensory network is the LED lighting infrastructure that integrates with mobile phones to deliver analytical insight into foot traffic. Airports may adopt this indoor technology to make them more energy-efficient. Thus, in spaces where there is less traffic, lights can be dimmed or turned off, essentially saving energy. One of Acuity Brands popular products is its Juno FlexConnect miniature silicon optics for grazing, washing and other accent applications.

Acuity Brands CEO Vernon J. Nagel gives a quote on their company's progress relevant to the Evolution of Lighting
Acuity Brands is weaving technology into architecture.

Another company, LumaStream, believes that LED is the future of lighting and they are doing it in a different way than any other manufacturer. LumaStream differentiates itself by offering the industry’s first low-voltage power solution to lengthen LED lifespans, increase efficiency, and achieve new levels of performance and control. The St. Petersburg, FL company is able to implement driverless LED light fixtures with smart controls and low-voltage power distributions controlling up to 24 fixtures from up to 150ft away. LumaStream provides a complete low-voltage solution allowing businesses to shrink their operating expenses through reduced electrical infrastructure and low voltage distribution instead of AC to DC at every fixture. Their solution also allows installers to utilize low-voltage class 2 wiring for power, control, and dimming. Therefore, technicians do not have to be electricians to install.

One such business that was impressed by the company’s lighting solution was Tesla. After vetting LumaStream for over 18 months, Tesla chose LumaStream’s lighting solution against other all products in the industry to light their showrooms. As LumaStream’s Chairman of the Board and Founder, Eric Higgs notes, “The market has created a perfect storm of opportunity due to poor fixtures, lots of heat output, the need for heavy infrastructure wiring.”

a photo quote from LumaStream Founder, Eric Higgs, in relation to the Evolution of Lighting
Evolution of Lighting as Seen By Lumastream Chairman Eric Higgs

Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, has developed an alternative for stable and fast broadband connection through light waves. As devices are even more connected today, the radio spectrum can become highly congested. Light Fidelity, or LiFi, uses light waves to transmit data wirelessly. LiFi would be instrumental in places where communication is critical in everyday operations—such as in banks, hospitals, factories, and corporate offices. Smart!

Smart Cities and Smart Thinking in the Evolution of Lighting

A smart city would require dense wireless connectivity to power traffic lights, water, and streetlights. When people talk about smart lighting trends, what comes to mind is traffic-sensitive lighting. Lampposts would cut down on power costs by dimming their light when there are no people within their proximity.

Smart lighting trends are also a platform for many IoT initiatives that can power a city. Like what was previously mentioned, utility providers can use the network of streetlights to reduce power consumption by intelligently adjusting usage. Lampposts can also hold cells that connect sensors to manage traffic, and even to monitor water flow and address flood abatement.

These smart LED streetlights are also instrumental in upholding safety in cities. As LEDs emit more light, fewer street crimes and accidents occur. The city of Los Angeles attributed the 10.5 percent drop in night crime—that is, 7 pm to 7 am—from 2009 to 2011 to improved street lighting.

Lighting Trends and Everyday Living

Truly, lighting will remain necessary and crucial in today’s world. As Higgs also points out, “Everyone needs lighting, but not everyone needs a $5,000 loudspeaker.”

As smart lighting is a platform for smart city interoperability, it can support and connect IoT, sensors, and radios which businesses, homes, and whole cities use. Each connected light point sends and receives data, generating insights required to power cities. LED lighting can connect to the internet or the cloud, allowing easy integration with other smart tech devices. These street lights ultimately form a neural network that runs and manages cities. That network then becomes a massive system optimizing traffic and transport systems and monitoring public safety.

a photo quote from LumaStream Founder, Eric Higgs, in relation to the Evolution of Lighting
Eric Higgs, Lumastream Founder, and Chairman

Incorporating efficient smart lighting trends is always the first step in developing smart cities because this readies the adoption of other IoT initiatives. Indeed, the future and evolution of lighting are heading towards smart applications to create societies that are highly innovative, environmentally safe, and foster a sustainable approach to energy consumption for everyday living.



What’s the Future of Light?

LED vs. CFL Bulbs: Which is More Energy Efficient?

Lighting Reflections, Predictions

The LumaStream Story – Technology Company Creates a New Industry

Case Study Analysis for the Strategic Implementation of Smart Street Lighting in the Linden Neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio

IBM Launches New Artificial Intelligence Technology to Detect Bias

Artificial intelligence is redefining the way we work, travel, learn, communicate, shop, and maintain privacy. But it is still an innovation that requires a lot of refinement. For all the good it is doing for businesses and individuals, AI has its pitfalls, and in an aspect that is inherently human—bias. As a response, IBM Watson launched a new artificial intelligence technology into its “Trust and Transparency” service, which aims to provide better insights into AI decision-making.

How AIs Have Biases

AI systems don’t have biases per se, but they learn and process information based on training data fed by humans. And we know that people have their biases, as much as they try to be fair and unprejudiced. Humans tend to harbor biases as a way to protect themselves, their values and interests. More than 180 different types of biases have been found — some we are aware of, and some that are embedded in our unconscious minds.  These biases, however, innocuous they may be, bleed into how they design algorithms that AIs use to make decisions. Ultimately, these systems become inaccurate and discriminating.  In some cases, they can be detrimental to the livelihood, opportunities, safety, and freedom of millions of people.

bias in artificial intelligence, AI algorithm picture
Has a solution been found to the problems caused by biases?

Bias in Different Applications

Probably the most recognizable example of bias in AI is facial recognition in photos and videos. When we upload photos on Facebook, it knows which people to tag based on the faces it recognizes. On a much larger scale, facial recognition is crucial for security and safety. When training data to detect faces is insufficient or skewed towards a certain racial group, the AI system becomes unreliable.

In the realm of criminal justice, AI helps judges make decisions on pre-trial conditions as well as sentencing defendants. If the AI algorithm highlights that people of color have a higher risk of recommitting crimes, and that white defendants have a lower risk, this puts the whole system in jeopardy. Judges referring to the AI system could give out unjust sentencing, or too lenient sentencing.

In the corporate world and in school admissions, AI programs help professionals by recommending people to interview. If the training data for the program mostly consists of only successful white males, then it will most likely recommend only white males for consideration. This eliminates opportunities for people of other genders, racial backgrounds, and even high achievement levels.

Banks use AI to guide them in loan approvals based on parameters like age, country of origin, and account maturity. If the training data set lists only a certain age or income bracket, other people automatically and effectively become ineligible.

AI is employed to serve countless people in different industries. It has to function accurately, without any intimation of human prejudice. AI decisions impact the lives of so many people. Jeopardizing its systems with unreliable or outdated training data would compromise everything.

new artificial intelligence technology, beth smith is quoted
How IBM is Uncovering Bias in Artificial Intelligence, Beth Smith

IBM’s New Artificial Intelligence Technology

IBM announced its new artificial intelligence technology to combat biases embedded in AI systems. The cloud service aims to open the black box of AI systems and reveal biased tendencies in decision making. The AI’s new Trust and Transparency capabilities are built on the IBM Cloud and work with popular AI and machine learning frameworks such as Apache Spark MLlib, AWS SageMaker, Microsoft Azure ML, Google Tensorflow, and Watson itself.

The cloud service exposes the decision-making process, detects biases in AI models, and polices unfair outcomes in real-time. It shows factors that contributed to the weighted decisions, the confidence in its recommendations, and the reasons behind its confidence. It can also recommend to add data to the model to help widen its training dataset, and eventually eliminate traces of biases.

The AI keeps track of the AI’s accuracy, performance, and its impartiality. Therefore, decisions and their processes are traceable and can be fixed to behave more fairly in the future.

IBM Research will be releasing an AI bias detection and mitigation toolkit to the open source community. This consists of educational material and tools to train people and encourage collaboration against bias in artificial intelligence.

The New Frontier of Bias in Artificial Intelligence

No matter how businesses believe how ethical they are, their AI systems may have already adopted flawed human perspectives.  These beliefs may be offensive biases, which can ultimately impede their company’s growth. IBM’s new cloud service is the cornerstone in AI decision making and automation. It gives businesses a significant boost of confidence in using automation and AI services in their everyday operations. The new artificial intelligence technology will uphold the value of transparency in decision-making processes. It will make these systems even more reliable than ever, perhaps even more reliable than human insight. Such AI may be instrumental in achieving diversity and inclusion in many corporate settings, creating a healthy working environment, and reliable output.

IBM’s AI integrates ethics deep into an organization’s system, to create strategies that certainly benefit its future plans. Making fair decisions through this service fully harnesses the power of AI and machine learning, and will foster a just, lawful, and principled global ecosystem.