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High-speed, high-frequency test

Will Your Design and Test Flow Soon Be Obsolete?

Recently, Todd Cutler from Keysight Technologies delivered an interesting keynote speech at EDI CON 2016 titled, “High-Frequency, High-Speed Design Revolution Ahead: Why Your Design and Test Flow Will Soon Be Obsolete.” (See the video below.) Cutler, who is vice president and general manager of design and test software at Keysight, was clearly making a bold statement by declaring this, and he does have solid reasons for believing this. With that being said, engineers should at least be prompted to think about whether or not their current design flow will soon be outdated.

According to Cutler, today’s design and test tools are vastly superior to those used in the past. However, the same basic workflow is still followed today. That workflow is basically performed in this order: simulate, prototype, manufacture, and optimize.

Will the same workflow be adequate several years from now? Cutler doesn’t think so. He points out that channel complexity is exploding, specifically mentioning technology like massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO). And data volume is exploding, with petabytes of data moving between data centers, according to Cutler. He states that designing and testing base stations for the Internet of Things (IoT) will involve 50,000 (50,000!) simultaneous channels. That number alone may lead one to believe that future design and test approaches must change. At least that’s what Cutler believes, as he noted in his presentation, “The old way of working will not work.”

In the future, Cutler believes that “complexity will drive workflow coherency.” His future design flow incorporates a blend of simulation and measurement. In other words, he believes that full systems will need to be prototyped immediately after simulations are first executed. After this initial prototyping, more simulations will be performed based on the measured prototype results to refine system-level designs. Simulating and testing are performed with identical measurements and specifications. Cutler thinks this approach of early prototyping represents future design flows.

As the IoT moves along and with 5G on its way, it will be interesting to see if design and test approaches drastically change. Several years from now, will design and test flows look the same as they do now? Cutler and those who agree with him don’t believe so. Will your design and test flow soon be obsolete? Maybe that’s a question you need to ask yourself.

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