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EETE DEC 2014

Executive interview Communications become mission-critical By Christoph Hammerschmidt Driven by new aplicatio n fields in the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) context, communications technologies are undergoing massive changes. This goes along with enormous challenges for vendors of test and measurement equipment. EE Times Europe discussed the matter with Rohde & Schwarz, one of Europe’s leading T&M companies. Dialog partners were Jörg Köpp, Market Segment Leader M2M/NFC and mobile communications technology expert Meik Kottkamp from R&S’ Strategic Marketing. EE Times Europe: The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently a much-discussed topic and certainly won’t be ignored by a manufacturer of advanced Test and Measurement equipment such as Rohde & Schwarz. How does this topic affect your business, and which measurement challenges will IoT confront you with? Jörg Köpp: Rohde & Schwarz mainly focuses on test and measurement for wireless communications. For us, IoT communications normally means M2M communications, so this has various aspects. First, there is the technological aspect. We observe that to some extent in the IoT context the technologies in use are well established – technologies we have known for years. This primarily holds true for the cellular technologies like 2G, 3G and increasingly LTE . However, M2M applications and their diverse requirements sometimes lead to the emergence of new technologies that for instance address power efficiency requirements. For us, this situation creates new business opportunities, of course, but we also have to assess what is “the hype of the day” and what will prevail in the market and remain attractive for us in the long run. Another aspect that IoT brings to test and measurement is that communications increasingly plays a role in mission-critical or life-critical applications – and these applications have to be tested. The certification tools needed for this purpose are an interesting field of future business for us. An example is car-to-x communications. In the USA and Europe, the standardization of this technology has already reached an advanced stage. With IEEE 802.11p, a kind of modified Wi-Fi standard that originally was not designed for this type of application is now in use. For this reason, issues such as fading, concurrent handling of multiple requests, etc., have to be resolved. We are collaborating closely with the respective industry players to develop test methods and to simulate realistic environments like fading profiles to ensure that these devices work reliably under all circumstances. There are also application-related aspects. In safety-relevant applications, the test effort can become very large. However, in IoT, with billions of connected devices anticipated, not all applications are safety-relevant. Consumer applications will be produced in high quantities and must be very low cost. This raises the question of what can be tested with these applications and who is willing to pay for it. This cost pressure is causing the test ecosystem to shift. Manufacturers often do not own the test equipment and do not use it on site. And, by the way, the tendency is that they no longer have the required expertise. Instead, the design and test activities are largely being outsourced. EE Times Europe: Does the shift of testing activities towards specialized service providers lead to consequences for the design of the test equipment? Köpp: For many test houses, IoT and M2M are becoming increasingly important business opportunities. However, there are different constraints than with OEMs, since these test houses in most cases are well established in the test business and have the required experience. But there is still a demand for more cost-effective, specialized test solutions as opposed to versatile, multifunctional equipment for broader markets. EE Times Europe: Does this shift generate new business opportunities for you? Köpp: From our perspective the question is: how can we address this fragmented market with its many small players, and which test solutions are best suited for this market? And is it necessary to create specific M2M test solutions? We have to consider cost aspects as well as technology. One can expect the test effort for many IoT devices to increase. But also at the other end of the spectrum, in the bulk business where cost pressure is extreme, the test ecosystem is undergoing massive change. This holds true for the actors as well as for the technology to be used. Currently under discussion, how entirely new technologies can achieve maximum coverage with minimal effort? EE Times Europe: Does this mean that the test equipment must become more intelligent? Does it have to be connected to the Internet or to a GPS receiver, for instance for the purpose of finding the correct working frequencies? Köpp: Yes, but there are more aspects to be considered. For instance, in the mobile phone business, testing has up to now focused on cellular technologies. Now GPS technology is added to the picture as well as the testing technology for globally dispersed TV channels with their different frequencies. The same holds true for M2M applications. Plus, tests today frequently include higher OSI layers. For this reason, we integrate deep packet inspection functionalities into the test instruments to enable test engineers to examine, for example, signalization and traffic behavior. This can be very relevant, for instance when it comes to power consumption. EE Times Europe: One would expect that power consumption is typically addressed at a higher level, close to the application level. This would put power consumption into the responsibility of software developers, not of test equipment designers. Köpp: The matter is a bit more complex. In the M2M realm, there are indeed features at the network layer that can reduce power consumption. A typical example: if I have a sensor that sends its data once every ten minutes, then such a sensor does not need to be in active state all the time; in between the transmissions it can be switched to some form of power saving mode supported by the network. 8 Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2014 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE DEC 2014
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