Creating complex interfaces to interact with real-time systems may seem like a daunting, laborious or long-winded task for test engineers, developers and systems engineers.
Many traditional real-time graphical user interface (GUI) creation packages require the user to have a competent knowledge of one or more programming languages in order to perform simple tasks such as creating a dashboard-like display. This results in an unnecessarily challenging and lengthy development cycle which ultimately impacts on the time spent testing.
VISUALCONNX is designed for test engineers, developers and systems engineers who will be using or building graphical user interfaces, allowing interfacing to real-time systems for the purposes of testing, measuring or logging parameters and signals from the target system.
It allows powerful real-time user interfaces to be created in minutes – simplifying the logging, testing or simulation of embedded systems. Once complete, interfaces can be packaged and distributed in just a few clicks.
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VISUALCONNX offers wide compatibility with a range of target test systems, and is comfortable with meeting a range of complex requirements, even including an open API that allows users to create new connection types or import pre-made functions.
Using intuitive mouse-driven drag-and-drop editing for both controls and connections, you can quickly connect your real-time interface to CAN, Simulink® Real-Time, MICROGen RCP hardware and more. A virtual connection is also available for training purposes.
Options are available for different levels of users: run-time system operators, interface designers and interface developers. A Full Developer option allows creation of sophisticated interfaces with the ability to include custom scripting. Both the Full Developer and GUI Designer options of VISUALCONNX allow for quick and easy creation of packaged programs for distribution across teams, which can be run via the VISUALCONNX Run-Time option.
Choosing your software
The most advanced option is VISUALCONNX Full Developer, an ultra capable Windows graphical user interface creation package designed to interface to real-time hardware and communications interfaces, supporting scripting and built-in data logging. It supports all of the functionality of VISUALCONNX Run-Time and GUI Designer options, including the package manager.
By dragging the GUI components (known as controls) onto a window (known as a form), you can quickly and easily build a user interface with many powerful capabilities. Once your controls are placed, you then open a real-time connection, such as CAN or CCP, and drag the node in the connection tree to connect the GUI to the real-time signal parameter or I/O point required.
A number of real-time connections are supported, each of which is represented as a hierarchical tree of signals, parameters or I/O. By selecting the appropriate connection type you can then open a link to the real-time hardware, thus enabling the drag-drop connection for your model or real-time implementation. Features of VISUALCONNX Full Developer include:
|Support for plug-in Active X components
|Custom scripting development support
|Data logging support via script templates
|Packaging support for VISUALCONNX Run-Time
To add real benefit, you can support almost any programming needs by creating a script (VBScript, Jscript and Python support) and intercepting user changes or real-time signal and I/O displays as required. Simply double clicking on a form or control will create a template function that intercepts the real-time I/O signal and allows you to modify the value as required.
Support for plug in Active-X components
Active-X components may be used to add rich controls to interfaces with configurable mapping of properties and methods to fit within the user interface expectations. Further scripting may be added to map additional properties and methods to enhance the user experience as required.
Host data logging support
Using the supplied viewing and analysis tools, some or all controls on each form can be logged to memory in a straightforward manner. When the GUI application is then run, the logging takes place seamlessly and stores the data within the project for offline viewing and exporting to a CSV file. Annotation of data can also be applied.
An open API (Advanced Programmer Interface) is also available for Full Developer options to create their own connections using VB, C#, C++ or MATLAB as required. This also makes connection to legacy hardware possible.
For users that don’t require the advanced facilities of the Full Developer option, VISUALCONNX GUI Designer can be used. This is a highly capable Windows graphical user interface creation package, designed to connect with real-time hardware and communications interfaces. It allows interfaces to be created quickly and easily via drag-and-drop mechanics.
To help you distribute your real-time project, the package manager creates a single installer for your for deploying all forms and graphics designed to run on the VISUALCONNX Run-Time. This can be especially helpful when using other departments or outsourcing some of your testing, or for tier one suppliers.
A number of real-time connections are supported, each of which is represented as a hierarchical tree of signals, parameters or I/O. By selecting the appropriate connection type you can then open a link to the Real-Time hardware and connect your GUI to it using drag-and-drop mechanics.
VISUALCONNX Run-Time allows you to run interfaces built in the GUI Designer or Full Developer versions of VISUALCONNX.
The Run-Time option can be used to support pre-developed projects or products that require a GUI hosted on a Windows PC.
To create a VISUALCONNX Run-Time project it is necessary to use either the GUI Designer or the Full Developer versions of VISUALCONNX. If you want to create a data logging hosted application or be able to write scripts for your application you will need the Full Developer option.
We use VISUALCONNX Run-Time for our own products at the front end for a range of different test and monitoring interfaces. VISUALCONNX Run-Time is used for a selection of companion software packages that support other add2 products. These packages are available alongside their respective products.
Examples include the main interface for the DTB, the LVTest software for controlling the LVTGO-VBS and Genix H3 intelligent I/O configuration and monitoring. VISUALCONNX Run-Time is also used within add2 for various testing of hardware.
Getting to know VISUALCONNX
1. Creating a project
All work within VISUALCONNX starts with the creation of a project. This contains links to blank graphical surfaces called forms, plus information on the real-time hardware connection. Selecting the form takes you to the next step…
2. Creating a form
Here, controls such as dials, switches and graphs can be placed onto forms to create photo-realistic visual interfaces. These controls can be linked to real-time connections by simply dragging and dropping. They also format themselves automatically according to data type.
3. Running an interface
Once the interface has been created and its data has been linked with the real-time system, it is ready to run. Real-time interaction is now possible with the connected system, through controls that display signal and write parameters.
4. Enhancing functionality
The look and behavior of controls can be modified easily through provided menus. Active-X controls can be added for visual impact. Advanced users may create custom connections or use scripting to, for example, run pre-defined test sequences or automated processes.
Available controls and parameters
VISUALCONNX comes with a large array of controls and parameters as seen in the screenshot below. Discussion of these follows.
A selection of controls
The digital switch control sets or displays two-state information for setting and displaying parameters, signals and I/O.
The switch has many configuration options, such as assigning two images, sound files or changing colours and border styles.
The instrument control sets or displays analogue information for setting and displaying parameters, signals and I/O.
The instrument has many configuration options, such as assigning background images, the number of needles, coloured bands and captions.
Knob or Dial
The knob or dial control sets or displays analogue information for setting and displaying parameters, signals and I/O.
The knob control has many configuration options, such custom background images, scaling, coloured bands and captions.
The Label control is used to display text and values in real time. Label controls are read-only, so you cannot use them to enter data.
Labels are resizeable and offsetable. The font is fully changeable and they can display data such as vectors, matrixes and binary.
The Text box controls are used to enter values in real time or text for scripting. This control can read and write.
Like labels, all elements of the text box are fully customisable. Extra functionality includes the ability to change scrollers, fonts and justification.
Property edit boxes provide a combinatorial label and text box control, and are ideally suited to parameter setting.
Formatted values can be edited with different resolutions, and the boxes are fully customisable with the ability to change font, colour and size.
Rotated text boxes are controls like a label that can be placed at any angle. These controls are read-only and can be linked to real-time data.
Rotated text controls are fully customisable and can show multiple values with custom resolutions and any chosen angle.
The Option group control is used for setting or reading a number of parameter values from a specified list of either text or numbers.
Option groups are fully customisable. Read-only and write-only options are available to set, as well as value only, name only or name and value.
Table entry controls are controls for reading or editing look-up tables within VISUALCONNX forms. The data may be loaded from a script.
Colour, size and font are just example of table elements that can be edited. Limits can also be incorporated to change the table’s style when criteria are met.
The checkbox control is used for setting or reading two-state parameters and signals. Functionality is that of standard checkboxes.
The control can be styled in a variety of ways including justification, size, text and colour. Limits can be used, as well as the read-only setting to lock the checkbox.
Excel table entry controls are controls for reading or editing look-up tables within Excel but accessible on the VISUALCONNX form.
Colour, size and font are just some examples of table elements that can be edited. With a valid license, Excel will smoothly run within VISUALCONNX.
VISUALCONNX contains both vertical and horizontal scrollbar controls. Max values can be set, as well as scroller incremental resolution.
The scrollbar controls are used for setting or reading parameter and signal values within a range. Both types of scrollbar are fully customisable.
Parameters and signals
When a control is placed and a connection has been chosen, the control can be linked to a parameter, signal, input or output via the drag-and-drop mechanism. There is a range of included signal types such as gain, frequency, revs and speed which can have properties edited, depending on requirements. Custom parameters and signals can also be scripted.
Properties and configuration
When connected, controls will scale appropriately, depending on the parameter or signal assigned to them. Their behaviour and appearance can be configured to act differently in the control properties menu.
Configuration options range from simply changing the scaling of the control, to adding background images and editing the sample time.
What connections does VISUALCONNX offer?
VISUALCONNX can connect to a model/executable in any open target over a wide range of physical or logical interfaces, using standard protocols such as CAN, CCP and TCP/IP. The intuitive drag-and-drop connection ‘tree’ is normally defined via the target interface or industry standard formats such as CANdB or other data dictionaries. VISUALCONNX currently has 12 different data connection types with more in development. Some of these connections are specialist whereas some are built for use with add2 hardware. Key VISUALCONNX connections are outlined below:
• The MICROGen connection uses CAN communications via CCP, providing high bandwidth communications up to 1Mb/s. A range of CAN hardware is supported. MICROGen is a compact, real-time target programmed using Simulink®.
• The Multi-CAN Connection provides a means of connecting one or more CAN buses to VISUALCONNX forms. Examples of use include creating CAN databases and CAN interfaces. CAN monitoring tools such as COMMDongle can be used with this connection.
• The VISUALCONNX SimulinkRT® connection uses Ethernet communications for the physical layer, providing high bandwidth communications up to 1Gb/s. Using VISUALCONNX with SimulinkRT® connection requires a LAN connection to the target system.
• Virtual connection is provided primarily to help you to get to know the software and to give examples of the kind of things VISUALCONNX can be used for. This connection does not require any external hardware and so can be experimented with very easily.
The full list of available connections follows:
|• PC system
||• MICROGen over CAN
||• SimulinkRT® with UDP streaming
|• COFF over XCP
||• MATLAB via COM
|• RTLAB over TCP/IP
||• Red Hawk
|• SimulinkRT® over TCP/IP
||• Airbag tester
|• CarSim/RTLAB over TCP/IP
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