Tech trends in the lab: Apps displace buttons, GPIB lives on: Page 2 of 3

May 10, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Tech trends in the lab: Apps displace buttons, GPIB lives on
Technological change does not spare laboratory measurement equipment. The most striking and visible trend in this market is the transformation of the user interfaces: Increasingly, touch screens replace conventional buttons; context-sensitive user guidance makes voluminous manuals redundant, says Peter Bachmayr, Technical Marketing Manager EMEA at Tektronix EMEA.

a standard web browser. This enables remote measurement applications: In field service and maintenance situations, the service local engineer can call in an expert from the development department to resolve tricky problems. "Through these technologies, instrument manufacturers can cut their time-to-market for new products", says Bachmayr.

Not only user expectations undergo a constant change. So does the demand. Based in Munich, Germany, for Keithley EMEA the automotive industry is a very significant customer, and the 'electronification' of the car generates significant demand from car suppliers developing electronic solutions for vehicles. And the trend towards green automobility is reflected in the demand for instrumentation: High voltage (because electric cars are powered by high voltage batteries) and low power are the most significant usage trends, acknowledges Bachmayr.

A major demand driver is the connected car. Infotainment, radar, car-to-x communications - all these applications determine the demand for test and measurement equipment. "RF Interferences are a dramatic topic", Bachmayr said. "In particular it drives the demand for real-time spectrum analysis".

Another big issue for measurement technology is, of course, the Internet of Things (IoT). In this context, the challenges lie in the ability to measure ultra-low currents. "Since these intelligent sensors typically are powered by batteries, they must be designed to consume very low power", the Keithley expert says. The quiescent current of MCUs in intelligent sensors frequently lies in the area of femtoamps and the measurement equipment has to take these requirements into account.

In power electronics, semiconductor manufacturers are about to evaluate next-gen materials such as GaN or SiC. While the design of such devices reflects the demand from customers in the automotive industry, the customers for equipment to characterise GaN and SiC devices are in the semiconductor industry. "In the characterisation of these transistors existing equipment hits its limits", Bachmayr explains. The faster switching speed translates into higher bandwidth requirements, and since GaN and SiC transistors are handling much higher

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