When Thomas J. Watson, Jr., the former president of IBM said in a 1973 lecture that “good design is good business,” he was acknowledging the impact design had made on IBM’s fortunes during the 1950s and 60s. In those decades, Watson Jr. had overseen the company’s transition from making punch-card systems to new electronic computers. It was a big shift on multiple levels. He also put in place an overarching ‘design thinking’ program which spanned everything from IBM’s products, to its buildings, marketing and logos.
Those changes formed the foundation of IBM’s future in the computer market, eventually leading to the popular phrase customers would utter, "You’ll never get fired for buying IBM." Becoming a trusted brand has always required building products with thoughtful, integrated features and high reliability. Rapid hardware development, spiral design cycles, and the introduction of continuous software services forever extend the relationship between product developer and product user. End-of-life electronic components, processor and memory upgrades, new interfaces and features, and bug fixes continue the be part of the development process long after the design is complete, the prototype has been validated, and the device has been produced.
Trusted brands deliver products with performance, reliability, and safety that users demand. Getting there requires in-depth testing and benchmarking in the widest possible range of environments and use cases. But another key element has emerged in the product development lifecycle – the need to integrate services as part of the product offering. The more features and uses your product has, the more customers benefit from deeper interactions beyond the sale. Learning, exploring, and using are all more engrained with integrated offerings.
Knowing when a microsecond matters
We are fortunate to support a lot of very important and exciting customer product developments. One area, automotive, is currently undergoing a renaissance: integrating more eMobility, more autonomy, more connectedness, and of course more electronics. There is also a lot at stake so developers need to make sure measurements are very precise.
Cars are integrating autonomous driving algorithms that rely on inputs from sensors: optical imagers, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and radar systems, to name a few. For new automotive millimeter wave (mmWave) radars operating at 77 GHz, testing requires a precise set-up so we had to develop a complete service offering – measurement equipment, chamber guidance, special data capture software, and high precision calibration. You will see why when you see the basic test steps:
- Start with an automotive radar target simulator consisting of an anechoic chamber, signal analyzer, power meter, and target object
- Create a Simulink model of an automotive radar simulator
- Run uncertainty analysis on all sub-elements to generate test procedures and limits
- Load procedures into the test system
- Run diagnostic measurements to verify system operation
- Preform calibration on the test equipment
- Run the test
Throughout this collection, precision counts so the equipment alone was not enough. It needed precise tuning. We are looking for the signal, but we are also looking at the noise, interference, temperature variation, environmental variation – they all make a difference in the result. And why? Because seconds can count, milliseconds can count, and in this case, microseconds can count a lot.
Putting it in perspective: What’s an order of magnitude between friends?
Let’s take our setup above and pretend that we are simulating the position, or range, of a car driving in front of us. Uncertainty in time delay due to skipping the tuning steps, for instance, can cause a bias in the recorded results. The time delay measurement is very sensitive. Radars send out pulses and once they encounter something solid, some of the signal bounces back. The more solid the object, the larger the reflected signal. Range is determined by measuring the pulse delay.
If, in our example, the car in front of us is 100 meters away, and the setup has as small as 1 microsecond of uncertainty, that translates into a potential 30-meter error in estimating its real range. Not good.
Build a business that solves problems and helps your customers win
Whether your innovation is in automotive technology, 5G, IoT, cloud, aerospace and defense, or any other modern market, the move to products integrated with services is part of your world. It is necessary for a better customer experience. Developers expect, and need, complete solutions that solve a problem. The trusted brands of tomorrow will be the ones who successfully help their customers win in the market. We intend to be at the head of that line so that customers may someday utter: “You’ll never get fired for buying Keysight. Those guys solve problems.”
Find out more about how we’ve helped enterprises solve their design problems here.