Test, QC & Monitoring Global Viewpoint – October 2015

Software-Based Test and Measurement

Today’s digital production and broadcast signals are complex. Ensuring these signals are properly operating and meeting standards is an engineer’s key challenge.

The increasing complexity of production and broadcast technology makes test and measurement all the more important. But, for companies that specialize in this space, it’s a bit like chasing cats. Sure many trends can be summarized down into products, but others, such as streaming video, UHD, 4K and HFR may not have been so obvious to those who made scopes, RF analysers and volt meters.

One result is that as broadcast and production equipment become more software intensive,that complexity of smart devices, networks and applications will create the need for customized testing and monitoring solutions.

Looking for trends

Recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan, shows that demand for T&M flexibility means that traditional testing tools must become more software-based. The research predicts that more than 70 percent of test equipment will be virtualized and software-defined by 2020.

Rather than a reduced need for the traditional T&M solutions, "The emergence of smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart healthcare, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart governance and smart citizens will create tremendous opportunities for test equipment vendors," said Olga Yashkova-Shapiro , Manager, Frost & Sullivan Measurement and Instrumentation Program . "The increasing complexity of smart consumer devices will also require testing be integrated earlier in the product lifecycle."

The T&M value chain consists of component providers, device vendors, network providers, platform providers and system integrators. The resulting fragmented value-chain results in the lack of a one-stop-shop solution provider with end-to-end solutions. Testing providers must explore a more efficient way to provide bundled solutions in order to address this challenge

As the Internet of Things expands, test and measurement will become even more important--and complex

As the Internet of Things expands, test and measurement will become even more important--and complex

"With the advent of virtualization, infrastructure testing participants need to develop products that can be tested on major hypervisors as well as other virtualized network components," advised Shapiro. "Testing vendors must also ensure interoperability, standardization, and the general consolidation of infrastructure deployed on the cloud to strengthen their position in the global communications test and measurement market."

Fewer T&M providers

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a continuing decrease in test and measurement vendor companies. Sure, they may still exist within larger companies that purchased them (Videotek purchased by Harris, now Imagine Communications), but any resulting decrease in competition may be detrimental to an overall T&M marketplace that is desperate for cost-effective solutions.

Couple this with the increase in device and signal complexity and test product prices naturally have gotten more expensive. It’s no longer sufficient to just ensure a camera is outputting RGB and burst. Today that signal is a whole string of ones and zeros any of which could signal an error. Just looking at a video monitor no longer is sufficient.

Firmware upgrade examples

When the measurement device is software-centric, new features can be added as needed. Even more important to a manufacturer is that a multi-feature product can be sold without all the features enabled. The device may be capable of measuring 50 parameters. However, if the customer only needs 25, he isn’t charged for the functions not needed at purchase. The other functions can be later turned on as needed via a purchased license over the Internet. Such functionality adds life to the product and income to the manufacturer.

Let’s look at a couple recent examples where such after-the-sale software upgrades were made available to previous customers.

The company SmallHD recently released a free firmware upgrade (version 2.0) that adds a variety of features for its new Sidefinder, as well as the 501 and 502 Full HD 5-inch on-camera monitors.

The new firmware unlocks the ability to output video containing an embedded 3D LUT to other devices downstream using HDMI, SDI or both simultaneously.

Triveni RM40 test and measurement system works with 10GigE Video providing analysis for QoS and QoE.

Triveni RM40 test and measurement system works with 10GigE Video providing analysis for QoS and QoE.

Triveni Digital released an upgrade to the RM-40 10GigE Video QoS and QoE solution. The product is designed to help cable operators quickly identify and resolve video and audio quality issues, from the 10GigE core network all the way to the edge QAM, while ensuring compliance with closed-captioning and audio loudness standards and legislation.

The soft-upgrade adds HEVC capability to the StreamScope MT-50, including; intelligent filtering, closed captioning analyses, and audio monitoring.

Those are only two of the many companies that have discovered the value of embracing software upgrades. See The Broadcast Bridge for many others.

Software-based testing allows multiple, automated and historical data to be combined into useful, and actionable, information. Is this always the best solution? Maybe not, but when it’s needed, such testing may be the only way to guarantee the QoE the broadcaster is being paid to deliver.

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