Electronic test and measurement (T&M) instruments are indispensable for validating the functioning and performance of electronic devices. PS Deodhar, chairman, Aplab, one of India’s leading manufacturers and exporters of T&M instruments, spoke to Uma Gupta of EFY about the T&M industry, outlining key trends and recent activities.
EB: What are the major tech trends that are changing the testing landscape the world over?
The convergence of computers and communications, and the emergence of automation in a wide range of industrial systems (and even consumer products), have not only created a bigger demand for T&M products but also posed new challenges when it comes to evaluating their technical capabilities. Today, all T&M products have to be intelligent and digitally addressable, both for data acquisition and control. They need to be fully digitally controlled using microprocessors and digital signal processors. Also, they need to be capable of self-calibration and user friendly data acquisition.
There is a need for T&M equipment that is capable of measuring high rising pulses, glitches and fast changing digital signals, as well as working in mixed domains. Broadband signal measurement with modulation and demodulation measurements, and computer simulation for indepth analysis are other features that are in high demand.
At the same time, these high performance equipment are needed in a portable form. Complex digital modulation, for example, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing and measurements on wide bandwidths, has become commonplace.
EB: What are the top markets for T&M in India?
In India, telecom is today the largest market for T&M products as this
sector has grown both terrestrially and via satellites. The sophistication here is high and it covers a wide range of techniques and measurement topologies. The next large market is education and training. Engineering education is growing and so is the market. Fast obsolescence is another reason for market growth. T&M products are also needed in applications such as defence and industrial automation.
In India, there is very little hardware manufacturing being done both in the telecom and IT fields. Not even 5 per cent of the hardware needed for these two sectors is produced in India. It is a direct result of the lack of planning by the government as well as the industry. As a consequence, the demand for T&M devices in manufacturing—for calibration and quality assurance—does not exist.
The existing demand is primarily for maintenance of the user equipment. Here again, fast technology changes lead to products getting obsolete before their useful life is over. There is no great need for repair and reuse like there was 25 years ago. We have, therefore, ended up with huge volumes of electronic garbage to deal with.
EB: What’s the difference in the kind of T&M equipment needed by telecom and education, the two major markets?
For the educational sector, equipment needs to be simple to use but at the same time should meet the latest measurement requirements. The telecom sector is widely using optical-based technology for transmission and reception.
So another category of T&M equipment is required for this segment.
Solutions providers are quite in line with market demands. Newer versions of equipment and software are available to engineers, encouraging further work in the field of R&D to arrive at the next generation of products.
EB: With 4G mobile networks coming up and the transition to the IPv6 Internet addressing scheme, is the industry ready with new testing solutions?
At present, this concept is new in India and we are studying the requirements closely. But we have some equipment like vector network analysers that can meet this T&M need to some extent.
EB: What are the priority applications for Aplab in India?
We are focused on the field of education. Our focus was always to bridge the gap between higher-technology products and students who are new to the concepts and have to quickly fill in their knowledge gap to bring themselves up to date with current developments in electronics and electrical engineering. We are also focusing on the telecom and defence segments for our range of test and measurement equipment.
EB: What’s brewing in Aplab’s R&D labs right now?
Aplab’s R&D for test and measurement instruments is focused on optical communication test equipment and a certain range of RF measurement equipment.
EB: Going forward, what would future T&M products be like?
The T&M space is changing very dynamically. But with growing software developments, it is quite possible to design new concepts with simulation, based on the measurements taken on similar circuits. This will reduce the engineering time for designs and help professionals to quickly bring the product to market.