New technologies and standards continue to roll out in every industry: PCI Express, Serial ATA, and HyperTransport for computing; RapidIO and Gigabit Ethernet for communications; and DVI and HDMI for consumer electronics. As a result, dramatic changes in signaling and users’ testing needs will be the drivers for four future oscilloscope trends:
- Raising the bar across the board
- Signal fidelity and probing
- Turnkey analysis solutions
- User customization
High-bandwidth oscilloscopes require probing means that bring all bandwidth to the probe tip. Signal fidelity is critical for accurate measurements of high-speed data rates. Moreover, the trend toward differential signaling has created a demand for true differential probes that can deliver high-speed signals without compromise. Thus, innovative connection means are needed to probe today’s densely populated circuit boards with minimal signal loading.
Designers using digital protocols are being challenged to ensure interoperability between devices that adhere to different standards. To shorten the time it takes to learn and re-learn the complex test procedures that accompany each standard, oscilloscopes must continue to support software applications that turn complex testing into fast, simple procedures.
Time-to-market pressures and resource constraints are forcing engineers to relentlessly increase productivity. As a result, oscilloscopes have to be easy to use and customizable to a user’s specific measurement task. Scopes also must offer industry-standard interfaces and easy communication between the instrument and external computing applications. The industry is expanding the use of open architectures, allowing users to share and analyze information. For example, oscilloscope waveform displays can run alongside, and exchange data with, Windows applications such as Excel, Word, LabView, or MatLab to more efficiently document, analyze, or automate testing.
Future designs will require oscilloscopes to support banner specifications in all areas, as well as signal fidelity, creative probing, and robust features like turnkey analysis and greater user customization. This will create more efficient and confident engineers throughout the design and test cycle.