Test and measurement systems designers leave rugged computers to the experts
Posted by John Keller
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There seems to be a trend in portable electronic test and measurement equipment that involves commercial off-the-shelf (COTS ) rugged laptop and notebook computers. Seems the test and measurement folks want to leave the rugged computer portions of their systems to the real experts.
This trend was in evidence as I prowled the aisles of the AutoTestCon test and measurement trade show this week at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.
Many pieces of test and measurement equipment, such as spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, and systems that integrate these and other instruments in one box, need some sort of computer to run software that controls test parameters, inputs, and the like. This is part of an overall trend known as "virtual test," which trades knobs, dials, and rudimentary displays for computer-based control.
Some of the latest test instruments, however, are contained in a solid electronics enclosure that instead of screens and buttons have a standard docking-station connector compatible with rugged laptop and notebook computers like those made by Panasonic.
One company taking this approach is Astronics DME Corp. of Orlando, Fla. Officials say Panasonic and other rugged computer manufacturers already have designed their systems for shock, vibration, EMI, and other demanding environments.
Why, they ask, should their engineers have to bother with the computing portion of test instruments when the computer companies can do it better, faster, and cheaper?
Sounds like this is what the COTS movement is all about.
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