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The Future of Test & Measurement

Back in September, Martin Rowe had a very interesting piece on EDN entitled “Wh
at will drive test & measurement?
” In his column, Rowe combines the answers that two of his readers had given to some questions he had earlier posed on the test industry. His respondents represent two different generations – the old hands and the up-and-comers. Weighing in for the old hands was Bob Witte, VP of Technology Strategy for Keysight Technologies; for the up-and-comers, there was Shayan Ushani, a student at Bryant University who’s also an entrepreneur.

The first question Rowe asked was whether hardware has become a commodity, and software is really the only thing that matters.

Witte sees that, while hardware commoditization may be on the way, “there are still significanttest-measurement-opt measurement challenges that can only be achieved with high-performance, usually custom hardware.” Ushani believes that “software is the key to the progress of any high-tech device and, in general, the future technological revolutions. Clearly, the test and measurement industry is no exception.” I guess it’s no surprise that, as an older hand, I’m with Witte that hardware still matters.

The next question was about how the IoT will impact test and measurement, especially with respect to security. This is an especially timely question, given the recent hacking incident in which household IoT apps were hijacked to take part in major denial of service attacks. In Witte’s opinion, IoT devices are the future of data collection for T&M, and security remains an issue that has yet to be resolved. “Access to IoT data must be controlled but cannot be too cumbersome, which will impede broad deployment.” Meanwhile, because so many IoT products come in at a low price point, there’ll be pressure on test to keep cost downs.

Ushani sees that “IoT and predictive analytics will definitely play a big role in the future of test and measurement…From wearable technology to remote tracking systems, artificial neural networks will be implemented in T&M networks.”

Another question posed was “will the traditional test engineer be a job of the past?” Witte answers this one at length, concluding that test engineers will need to be building new skills in that area. So the job will change but likely not disappear.” This was followed by a question on whether engineers will need more by way of software than hardware skills. Witte writes that, “even if they don’t “write code” as a main part of their job, knowing how to create and manipulate software is an extremely valuable skill.” Ushani’s take is that “Software developers will become a norm even in the hardware arena.”

I’m not going to replicate the entire article here, but the back-and-forth is very enlightening.

Of course, no one person ever really speaks for an entire generation, but it’s interesting to see just how different the perspectives can be between an old hand and an up-and-comer!