Test & Measurement

2020 vision: Predictions for the T&M sector

23rd December 2019
Mick Elliott

A bruising 2019 is drawing to a close so now is the time to look ahead and see what 2020 will bring. In this article executives from Keysight Technologies give their predictions of the trends in the electronics and test & measurement sectors over the coming year.

New realms of measurement will grow in importance in 2020

Advanced applications related to 5G will explode, using higher frequencies and smaller geometries. To support this growth:

  • New classes and labs for design and simulation, over the air testing, antenna systems and measurements will be incorporated into the core engineering curriculum.
  • New measurement science (hardware, software and calibration) will be developed and made part of mainstream offerings.
  • Developers of new electronic products and solutions will use different tools, specifications and terminology to specify and validate their designs.

The use of software in implementing technology will remain prevalent, especially in networking and position- or navigation-based smartphone applications.

As a result, software-on-software measurement will see a strong surge and therefore, so will the emphasis on interoperability among software tool chains. 

New standards and certifications will be created, impacting development processes, as well as the marketing required to ensure consumers are aware of what a software-centric product can do, and cannot do.   

There will be substantial growth in specialised processors, such as GPUs and chips that implement AI or AI architectures which determine how a network processes and routes information and maintains security, privacy, and integrity.

Quantum computing and engineering will continue to be in an aggressive hype phase in 2020, but the ability to control, measure, and error-correct quantum systems as the number of qubits grows will be important from the start. 

Data silos will be connected to extract development insights

Leading companies collect data but typically store it in functional silos: R&D design, pre-production validation, manufacturing, operations and services. 2020 will see companies starting to connect these silos of data using modern cloud architectures, such as private on-premise clusters, or public sites like AWS or Azure.

With the data centrally available, teams will correlate performance through the development process, from early design to manufacturing to field deployment and close the loop back to design.

The benefits for these teams include the rapid collection and reformatting of data, faster debugging of new product design, anticipation of manufacturing issues, and improved product quality.

To achieve these gains, teams will invest in a computing infrastructure, determine how to store the data, including file location and data structure, as well as choose analytic tools to select and process data to identify anomalies and trends. In addition, teams will change the way they work to shift attention to data-driven decisions.

5G and the data centre

New 5G capabilities in 2020 will put pressure on networks, revealing new data center and network choke-points. Industrial IoT applications will increase access requests and mobile automotive IoT applications will stretch latency demands. 

Edge computing will become more important to process the increased access requests and meet stringent latency requirements. 

Higher data speeds will place more demands for faster memory, faster data busses, and faster transceivers in the data centre.

Meeting the speed and flexibility demands will be one reason, but customer traceability through the network for application monetisation will be the main driver to upgrade to the latest standards.

We will also see advanced design, test and monitoring capabilities that ensure networks and products deliver the performance and failsafe reliability expected.

The industry will experience closer collaborations between chipset and product manufacturers, software companies, network carriers, cloud hosting companies and international standards organisations to build tomorrow’s networking infrastructures. 

Second-generation devices and base stations will be added to the market, and the standards will have another new release in 3GPP’s Rel-16.

The key technical challenges for the industry in 2020 will be: ensuring performance in mid-band (3.5-5GHz) frequencies, moving mmWave to mobility, transition planning to a full Stand-Alone (SA) 5G network, and resolving architectural decomposition and standards for centralised RAN and Mobile-Edge computing (MEC).

The ‘Internet of Things’ will become the ‘Interaction of Things’

IoT will rapidly move into the mainstream with widening commercial acceptance, increasing public-sector applications and accelerated industrial deployments.

In 2020 we will see an increased level of smart experiences when the IoT – a collection of devices connected to the internet – becomes the Interaction of Things, a collection of things that are communicating and working effectively and efficiently with each other.

There will be powerful devices working with other powerful devices to act quickly and efficiently in the background independent of direct human intervention.

Mission-critical applications, such as remote robotic surgery in the area of digital healthcare or autonomous driving in the area of smart mobility, will feel the impact of this shift. 

While these applications will benefit from the ‘Interaction of Things’, new solutions will be developed to ensure they do not suffer from the ‘Interference of Things’, especially when communication failure and network disturbances can bring about devastating or life-threatening consequences. 

The same will be true of Industry 4.0 applications and smart city applications.  Uptime will not be optional. 

Digital twins will move to the mainstream

Digital twins, or the concept of complete replicate simulation, are the nirvana of design engineers. In 2020, we will see digital twins mature and move to the mainstream as a result of their ability to accelerate innovations.

To fully realise the technology’s benefits, companies will look for advanced design and test solutions that can seamlessly validate and optimise their virtual models and real-world siblings to ensure that their behaviors are identical.   

2020 will not be the year of the autonomous vehicle

The quantity and sophistication of sensors deployed in vehicles will increase in 2020, but fully autonomous vehicles will require more ubiquitous 5G connectivity and more artificial intelligence.

Here is where we see the industry on each of those areas:

  • The first C-V2X network will hit the streets in China, but they will be operating on an LTE-V network until 5G Release 16 evolves the standard.
  • The technical advances for sensors and in-car networks will continue to evolve on a fast pace, needing faster in-vehicle networks. In 2020, Gigabit Ethernet based in-car networks become a reality and significantly improved sensor technology enables artificial intelligence developers to hit new performance levels.

System-level design, test and monitoring will experience a dramatic transformation

The connected world will force a shift in how performance, reliability, and integrity are evaluated. Realising the full potential of sensor systems, connected to communication systems, connected to mechanical systems will require new ways to test at the system level. 

Today, there are available tests for radar antennas and a radar transceiver module. However, testing a multi-antenna radar system integrated into a car will require a different testing approach.  The same is true for data centres, mission critical IoT networks, automobiles, and a wide range of new, complex, 5G-enabled applications.

So over the coming year, the electronics industry will emphasise system-level testing as the definitive, final step to assure end-to-end performance, integrity and reliability across the increasingly connected world.

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