Reflections on 40 Years of Test and Measurement and What Lies Ahead


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The Future

We are seeing glimpses of the future everywhere we look. A modern factory features what we call “cyber- physical systems,” which combine software-centric computing technology with electromechanical systems and human operators to improve safety, efficiency, and cost structures. The acquire, analyze, and present concept is still valid, but we’ve added “sense, compute, and connect” as a parallel flow for IoT devices. Wireless technology in general is pervasive. We’ve been saying this a while, but if you aren’t an RF engineer today, you will be. And the more you connect things, the more you’d be crazy not to take advantage of the data you can collect for billions of sensor nodes. For us, this is Big Analog Data solutions, and it’s the richest set of data in the world. NI customers are acquiring terabytes and terabytes of it every day.

But even as our capabilities become more advanced and the scale of the problems we try to solve grows vaster, the tools we use must be easier to navigate. Just as machine language migrated to assembly and to object-oriented, other paradigms, including graphical dataflow programming, are critical to offer the right level of abstraction. The multirate diagram in our LabVIEW Communications System Design Suite is a great example; no single software tool delivered the productivity needed to prototype 5G algorithms until we were bold enough to tackle multiple models of computation inside a single flow that could deploy directly to hardware.

No great innovation will be done alone. The best platforms we use today are effective because they’ve fostered an ecosystem. Our software-centric approach at NI spawned a partner network of more than 1,000 companies and 300,000 active LabVIEW users. The rise of mobile devices and “apps” is possible only because of a healthy ecosystem built on developer-friendly platforms. Team-based development, code sharing, and community support soon will no longer be novel or best in class. They will be expected.

In Closing

It would be impossible to have witnessed what I’ve witnessed in our industry for the past 40 years and not be excited about where all of these technologies and trends are leading us. My advice to any new engineer is simple: develop a vision for the future and pursue it with intensity. And, at the end of the day, don’t be afraid to have fun.

Thank you for 40 great years. I believe the following five selections from the Automated Test Outlook archive are as true today as the day they were published initially. May they inform your vision for the future and bring you and your organization prosperity and success.

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