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Industrial and DAQ controllers run Linux on quad-core Atom

Aug 6, 2015 — by Eric Brown 2,017 views

[Updated Aug. 31] — NI unveiled new CompactRIO and CompactDAQ controllers that run NI Linux Real-Time on quad-core Atom SoCs, and also upgraded its FlexRIO and RIO controllers.

NI (National Instruments) has upgraded its line of industrial and data acquisition controllers, which run the company’s hardened NI Linux Real-Time Linux distribution and use its LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture. The new products replace last year’s CompactRIO control system, which combined a dual-core Intel Atom E3825 system-on-chip with a Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA, as well as the 2014 edition of the CompactDAQ data acquisition controller, which has the same Atom E3825, but lacks the FPGA.

CompactDAQ cDAQ-9137

The new CompactRIO and CompactDAQ systems each move up to a quad-core, 1.91GHz Intel Atom E3845 SoC. They also expand I/O expansion slots from four to eight. The new CompactDAQ model has a four-slot version, as well, and there’s also a new CompactDAQ Chassis that expands to 14 slots. In addition, NI unveiled updated its smaller FlexRIO and RIO systems (see farther below).

The systems all run Windows Embedded Standard in addition to NI Linux Real-Time, the latest version of which adds support for Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux). In addition to the LabVIEW software, there’s an optional LabVIEW FPGA Module for customizing FPGA-enabled I/O. NI also provides a wide array of add-ons including mounting, display, and power devices, in addition to its many I/O modules.


CompactRIO Controller (cRIO -9039)

NI’s CompactRIO announcement does not point to a specific product page, but the updated model appears to be the cRIO-9039, which has a quad-core, 1.91GHz Atom E3845 SoC combined with a Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA. The system’s eight expansion slots can be loaded with a selection of more than 100 of NI’s C Series I/O modules for the CompactRIO, which include voltage I/O, sensor devices, wireless gateways, and more.

CompactRIO cRIO-9039, empty (left) and full of I/O modules
(click images to enlarge)

The cRIO -9039 is equipped with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and 16GB of flash for the Atom subsystem while the 325T Kintex-7 FPGA has its own 128MB of RAM. The system features dual gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB device port, as well as RS232 and RS485 serial ports.

The 328 x 109.2 x 88.1mm computer runs on a wide-range 9-30V power supply. The system can operate at -20 to 55°C, and offers 50 g shock resistance and 10-500Hz, 5 g vibration resistance.

CompactDAQ (cDAQ-9137 and cDAQ-9136)

The latest CompactDAQ controllers appear to be the eight-slot cDAQ-9137 and four-slot cDAQ-9136. Both feature the quad-core Atom E3845, and appear to be otherwise identical. These data acquisition controllers support more than 60 of NI’s sensor-specific I/O modules with integrated signal conditioning.

cDAQ-9136 with its four slots (empty (left) and full
(click images to enlarge)

The cDAQ-9137 and cDAQ-9136 each offer 2GB of RAM, 32GB of flash, and a user accessible SD slot. The CompactDAQ controllers integrate dual gigabit Ethernet ports and dual USB ports, and offer RS232, trigger input, and user button interfaces.

The new DAQ controllers measure 88.1mm high and 118.6mm wide, and are 219.5mm (cDAQ-9136) and 328.8mm (cDAQ-9137) long, respectively. Ruggedization features are the same as with the CompactRIO controllers: -20 to 55°C, 50 g shock, and 10-500Hz, 5 g vibration.

The new CompactDAQ Chassis (cDAQ-9179) lets you expand with 14 USB 3.0 expansion slots. The cDAQ-9179 has four built-in 32-bit general-purpose counter/timers for applications involving quadrature encoders, PWM, event counting, pulse train generation, and period or frequency measurements. Access is provided via dual built-in BNC connectors or by using an installed, hardware-timed digital module such as the NI 9401 or NI 9402, says NI. The system is equipped with NI-DAQmx software.

NI also announced an updated enterprise data management solution called DIAdem 2015 for its DAQ controllers. The 64-bit software is designed for managing, analyzing, and visualizing big data, and adds new data visualizations and analysis functions, says NI. The DataFinder Server Edition 2015, meanwhile, adds multistep querying “that can be sent out to a global federation of servers,” says the company.

FlexRIO and Single-Board RIO

NI has also upgraded its FlexRIO and RIO systems, but offers fewer details. Both systems run the same LabVIEW, NI Linux, and WES software as the other NI controllers.


The FlexRIO is defined as a high-performance, reconfigurable instrument for PXI prototyping and deployment within an integrated hardware/software platform. The system is equipped with a dual-core ARM processor and a Kintex-7 FPGA. It’s unclear if these are implemented separately, or if this is a higher-end Xilinx Zynq ARM/FPGA combo SoC. The FlexRIO system lets you plug in one of more than 30 analog, digital, and RF I/O modules.

NI Single-Board RIO digital (left) and analog/digital models

The new RIO single board computer (SBC), meanwhile, is said to run an Artix-7 level Zynq SoC. The board is available in digital-only or analog and digital models. A mezzanine card connector is standard on the digital model and optional on the analog/digital version.

Another view of the Single-Board RIO digital and analog/digital models
(click image to enlarge)

Single-Board RIO I/O includes USB, RS232, CAN, and Ethernet ports, as well as an optional, high-density RMC connector. You get access to up to 100 FPGA DIO lines, and can add up to two NI C Series I/O modules. The analog/digital model adds 16x “AI” channels and 4x “AO” channels, all of which are 16-bit, says NI.

Last September, NI launched a fanless, rugged machine vision computer called the NI CVS-1459RT. The USB3 Vision compatible computer runs NI Linux on the same Atom E3845 as the latest CompactRIO and CompactDAQ systems. In February of this year, NI announced a Zynq- and Linux-based RoboRIO robot controller designed for FIRST robotics competitions.

Further information

The new NI controllers appear to be available now. Product pages and starting pricing (includes Linux) are as follows:


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