Q. Now that we have a good idea about hardware developments, could you give an idea of the software side of things?
A. Software upgrades to scopes are also a big part of their feature set. Vendors are constantly releasing new versions of software. Sometimes you even see software updates deliver support for newer protocols that the original equipment did not ship with. In January 2016, some oscilloscopes saw feature updates that increased the number of serial decoders to 16 from the seven or eight protocols that they previously had. Sometimes, customers request support for specific protocols like Flexray and we add those to their test equipment through software updates.
Q. Any changes in new scopes relating to how engineers today use these equipment?
A. Yes, on the user interface front, it has been designed to be more usable for touch-based zooming and panning. One interesting feature here is an age counter, so that people counting long data streams to count the positive edges so that they don’t really have to manually add them. Another small but significant change was with simplifying visuals. If you look at the CAN bus package, there are different fields. What we did was we colour coded them. The beauty of that for end customers is they are able to visually understand the results of the decoder.
Q. Any Interesting insights noticed in engineers’ preferences for various features or oscilloscopes?
A. What we have seen is that while older engineers prefer bench-top instruments, younger engineers prefer USB-based scopes. Some customers pick up USB-based scopes and use it as a component as an OEM. These guys do not use plain software, but use SDKs to develop their own software. Power analysis, monitoring, medical and all sorts of other applications are implemented using USB-based scopes as a component integrated inside.
Q. Any broad trend that you see for oscilloscopes as a whole?
A. High bandwidth is definitely a trend. Today, we see oscilloscopes for inspecting cables and transmission lines to look at their characteristics. In a car-wiring loom, we never used to worry about the bandwidth going around the car. Today, if you need a rear-view camera or other high performance signals, the wiring cable needs to have high quality cables. Traditional loom manufacturers tend to not deliver the quality that is now needed for vehicle manufacturers. As a result we find a lot of need for TDR (time domain reflectometer) measurements in automotive. The same happens in robotics and factory automation, where people look at high bandwidth signals.