The proliferation of the Internet of Things is resulting in “networks of networks of connected devices,” said Jim McGillivary, general manager of RF and Component Solutions at Tektronix, in a recent interview. The number of connected devices has surpassed the number of people in the world and will reach 50 billion by 2020, representing 6.58 devices per person. Applications include vehicle, asset, person, and pet monitoring and control; agriculture automation; security and surveillance; building management; M2M and wireless sensor networking; smart cities; and telemedicine and healthcare.
The IoT is accompanied by more than 20 wireless standards plus proprietary protocols, McGillivary said, requiring that engineers face a quickly growing need to acquire RF design expertise. In addition, engineers face shrinking time-to-market windows, and increasing number of projects, and shrinking budgets for each project. Further, the expanding number of RF-capable devices presents spectrum management challenges—or the “Interference of Things,” as McGillivary put it. Challenges also center on installation and maintenance, signal characterization, and documentation.
IoT engineers, McGillivary said, are following different RF workflows than traditional RF experts, who typically shared high-end instrumentation. IoT designers tend to use pre-certified RF modules to minimize the need for testing. In 2000, spectrum analyzers costing more than $30,000 accounted for more than half of spectrum analyzers sold. That had shrunk to half by 2005, and although the expensive instruments still account for a substantial plurality of instruments sold, the popularity of instruments costing less than $15,000 is increasing, as they become attractive to customers unwilling to pay a premium for high-end instruments and as the low-cost models offer sufficient performance for IoT test needs.
To address today’s test challenges, McGillivary said, Tektronix is transitioning from a product-centric hardware company to an application-focused technology company. For RF test in particular, the company yesterday released two new series of USB spectrum analyzers, which build on the company’s RSA306, which has also been upgraded to the RSA306B, which includes 10-dB better spurious performance and improved amplitude accuracy.
The brand new analyzers include the RSA500A for field RF test and the RSA600A for lab wireless applications. All make use of SignalVu software, which comes with 17 free measurement apps. The field instruments, said Varun Merchant, technical marketing manager, help users scan for, classify, and locate interfering signals and handle installation and maintenance chores. The lab models help engineers imagine, design, troubleshoot, and ensure wireless standards compliance and EMI precompliance, he said. See the related article for the new spectrum-analyzer product details. In addition, see “Presenters offer IoT test strategies at BiTS Workshop” for information on IoT effects of semiconductor manufacturing test.