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devices such as computers. This shrinks physical space requirements to fit in small, very handy and transportable devices. What is your view on this? RS: It is beyond dispute that the computer world has a higher speed of innovation than conventional T&M equipment. Lab test equipment has a lifespan of seven to ten years. A computer lasts two to four. By choosing a solution such as what you describe, you can certainly improve the performance and lifespan of a test instrument. That makes sense where speed and automated processes are concerned, such as in production. You can also increase performance by outsourcing certain algorithms to a high-performance computer. We extensively use solutions like these in the production environment. It’s a different story in the mobile field. For example, it is of course possible to separate the functions of a battery fed handheld device into a small test module and a tablet. But then technicians would have to carry two devices and handling is less convenient than with a conventional device. Our customers tell us that they prefer an instrument that includes all required features. That is why concepts like these do not play a role in handheld devices. EETE: So there will never be a Rohde & Schwarz oscilloscope app? RS: You should never say never, but at the moment I do not believe this is a business case. Of course, it is cool when you can operate your tester from a smartphone or tablet, but is it practical? We’ve already had the discussion about whether it’s practical to voice control a test instrument and have it voice report the measurement results. Now imagine a lab with fifteen employees, and each of them has a talking tester. And they’re all voice reporting at the same time. That may be fun, but I don’t see any value for the user. EETE: But software is easier to upgrade than hardware. So if I have a new test sequence that might require another type of analysis, it might be actually easier to implement it with an app than by changing my hardware. RS: No, that isn’t necessarily the case. At Rohde & Schwarz, we spend around 50 percent of our development costs on a product after it is launched. It’s no longer true that hardware is inflexible. Of course, analog hardware in the frontend can only do so much, but there are DSPs and FPGAs for analysis, and the instruments have built in computers with hard disks. Rohde & Schwarz’ Teisnach plant. We update the software every three months. We offer a software option if, for example, a customer wants to work with a new wireless communications standard and the instrument has the technical prerequisites. You could, of course, call this an app, but we stick to the traditional term of software option. These options make it possible to custom configure instruments without overloading them with expensive features. A product can have up to 100 different options over its lifespan. That is a key component of our business model. Only those customers who need these features have to pay for their development. Of course, there are T&M equipment vendors that disclose the internal structure of their products to allow customers to develop software. We steer clear of that for a number of reasons. On the one hand, support is very costly. On the other hand, we think that we can make at least the standard applications better and cheaper because we know the instrument much better than the customer does. We can also distribute the cost of development over many customers. EETE: What is your opinion on uploading test analysis to the cloud? There are possibilities for evaluating data via cloud models: for example, production testing in the semiconductor industry. They say that the advantage is better application scalability. RS: Our observations tell us that many companies are quite cautious about these sorts of offers. Small companies may not be able to afford to analyze their measurement results inhouse, but I would be very surprised if a large semiconductor manufacturer would let a service provider evaluate its production measurement results. All companies carefully protect their quality data. That is why I don’t believe that many companies would allow their confidential business data to be stored and processed by a service provider. Then again, what we already have, and what I also believe has a future, is networking test instruments and integrating them into IT infrastructures. We have our own development databases for storing results and conducting centralized analysis. Remote access to test equipment is also useful for customer service. Technologies such as Remote Desktop allow you to display the results from a test instrument in Taiwan right in the developer’s office. Functions like this are standard today, at least when it comes to higher performance T&M equipment. However, this usually require a bilateral agreement with customers since you are active within their IT network and have to transmit data out of it. Rohde & Schwarz’ Memmingen plant. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe July-August 2015 19


EETE JULAUG 2015
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