SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Test and measurement instrumentation has changed dramatically in the past few years, according to a National Instruments Corp. Fellow who urged designers at DesignCon to consider how they can use testing and instrumentation as a key part of the design process.
Mike Santori, who has been with NI for more than 25 years, said in a keynote address that the electronics industry is seeing the evolution of a system-level test architecture that makes heavy use of FPGAs and test instrumentation built from off the shelf technologies.
"We strongly believe in an instrumentation architecture that can give you more information about your device and leverages the same technology you are using in your design," Santori said.
Santori said NI collaborated with Qualcomm Atheros to help the networking chip vendor create a test instrumentation architecture that provided significantly more information about the company's chips. The availability of this detailed information on device performance was used by Qualcomm Atheros to help refine the chip and the design process, Santori said.
An FPGA-based instrumentation approach with off the shelf components can also dramatically reduce the length of the chip design cycle, Santori said.
"The key is letting users have access to the FPGAs, just like they have access to processors in computers," Santori said, adding that test engineers need to be able to program the FPGA within the tester to do specific tests.
"You can get much more detailed information about how the device operates using this high-performance, tightly integrated approach," Santori said.
Santori also noted that more and more products are being built on standard platforms, with all of the value and differentiation coming from software. "The core differentiated technology in instrumentation is without question today software," he said.