Fueled by the current technology boom and increased connectivity due to the Internet of Things, test system trends significantly evolved in 2019 and should continue to do so throughout the new year. Exponential demand for systems with increased capacity and speed that are also customized for longevity presents engineers with plenty of problems to solve. Our experts have outlined the critical test system trends you can expect to see in 2020.
The fifth generation of wireless communication standards is here. The new standard boasts higher throughput, lower latency, better system efficiency, and higher traffic and network capability to support an exponentially increasing number of devices. To prepare for 5G, dependent technology categories are racing to ensure reliable access to 5G’s faster transfer speeds. Moving to mmWave frequencies above 24GHz is the step change that will unlock the additional bandwidth.
With the increased complexity of the higher-band frequencies, test equipment needs to adapt in kind. The test scope covering the wider frequency range must also consider design changes to the technology, such as new baseband processors and over-the-air (OTA) methods. Increased competition to win the race to 5G adds additional pressure on test engineers, while the industry sorts out its preferred test methods, standards, and approach to the seamless integration of 5G. In the past, test equipment suppliers and test engineers have risen to the challenge of testing increasing performance and complexity while minimizing time to market and cost of test, and we will do it again for 5G.
VXI to PXI
Another trend for 2020 is the continued migration from VXI to PXI. Manufacturers are decreasing the number of VXI product offerings, relegating the technology to mainly legacy applications. PXI offers a wider range of data transfer sizes at a lower hardware cost than VXI does.
The Aerospace and Defense industries are moving to PXI, bringing a large segment of the market with it. While the complexity of PXI cards leads to various considerations the test engineers must weigh before selecting the PXI card type, the shift to PXI should continue to grow in 2020.
Many technology drivers for Industry 4.0 will influence test system trends this year. Some of these include automated robotics, industrial IoT, digital fabrication, product security, cloud solutions, Big Data analytics, intelligent sensors, and augmented reality.
The notion of connected intelligent automation is driving the testing landscape as algorithms create an optimized automation strategy. This approach will enable technicians to conduct testing faster and more efficiently. With the increase in automation, predictive analytics, and Big Data, analytics play an even larger role in reducing the cycle time for the testing. The ability of the test system software to rapidly and effectively analyze data will prove critical to the ability of the system to meet the demands of a project in the coming year.
In test systems, as with all connected devices, speed improvement, technology robustness, and connectivity enable not only better system performance, but improved test system customization to a given application or industry. In 2020, as 5G propels Industry 4.0, test system designers will more critically assess the technology they have and determine whether the inflection point that will come with 5G warrants upgrading some or all of their system components. Big data will more strongly guide market strategy, continue to improve the efficiency and precision of data validation, and direct product improvements to optimize test systems for connected industries.