Design Con 2015

Infiniium gets user-interface upgrade

-February 27, 2014

On February 25, Agilent Technologies announced a new user interface for its popular Infiniium line of real-time oscilloscopes. I had a clue that this new interface was coming when Jay Alexander, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Oscilloscope and Protocol Division, mentioned something about it to me in January at DesignCon.

According to the press release, the new user interface is:

  • First to offer separate dockable windows for time, frequency and protocol measurements for user-customizable views (see screen image).
  • First to save composite files to enable file sharing across multinational companies.<\li>
  • First to migrate a full-featured real-time oscilloscope user interface to the PC for rapid navigation and powerful viewing/analysis.
  • First to offer smart markers that dynamically update delta values coupled with annotated axis values for faster debugging.
  • First to offer transportable and server-based licensing to facilitate sharing. (Not only can users share data, they can also lend application licenses.)

Agilent's new user interface for Infiniium oscilloscopes lets you display
multiple measurements at once. (Source: Agilent Technologies)

Oscilloscope makers keep adding features to their instruments based on user demand for more signal analysis. Unfortunately, more features results in more controls and thus, user interfaces need overhauls from time to time. But like all user interfaces, beauty is in the eye of the user.

Agilent's video seems interesting and is worth a look. Having seen many video and live oscilloscope demos over the years, even a live demo where the demonstrator knows how to use the interface isn't enough to get a feel for how the instrument works. That's why I always ask to try the instrument myself.

While speaking to Alexander at DesignCon, I asked if engineers were ready to make the jump to a smartphone/tablet interface where you use your fingers to zoom in on a part of a waveform. His reply: "not yet." Given all of the oscilloscope announcements this week, which use traditional and PC interfaces, he seems to be right. Personally, I think it's time for oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers to adopt an iOS-style user interface. Having used one, I could easily lose those knobs or drawing boxes with a mouse to zoom in. In another ten years, oscilloscope knobs will be gone.

The new user interface will be available from www.agilent.com on April 29, 2014. It will work with all Infiniium oscilloscopes that run Windows 7.

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