5G WiFi and Smart Test Equipment Will Change the Tech World

WiFi speeds a thousand-fold faster than 4G and software-enhanced test equipment will lead the technology future, according to National Instruments (NI). Each year, NI produces Trend Watch, a document that outlines the current or soon-to-be-current technologies that will change industry and change our lives.

In Trend Watch 2015, NI points to the major technologies that will alter our world in the near term. This is the first of a two-part article on NI's Trend Watch 2015. This article looks at developments leading to 5G, super-fast WiFi designed to speed data transfer a thousand times quicker than the current 4G. NI also expects to see smarter equipment for test engineers as the traditional automated test equipment (ATE) becomes antiquated.

The concept behind Trend Watch is to showcase the emerging technology NI sees in its horizontal view of global industry. The company plays in the technology of many sectors, so its view is wide. "The motivation for the Trend Watch is based on the unique position we're in with servicing technology companies all over the world," Ray Almgren, a VP at National Instruments, told Design News. "We see the major industry trends, so we thought it would be useful to document and communicate the three to five trends that are having the biggest impact on technology and the economy."

5G may unleash enormous economic potential

5G is expected to be a quantum leap forward in WiFi speed. A user will be able to download a HD video in seconds rather than the 40 minutes is presently takes on a 4G system. The need for 5G comes from the limited spectrum of today's networks. Since the spectrum can't be expanded, the amount of data moving through the existing spectrum will need to increase. The goal of 5G is to address spectrum efficiency using the existing network infrastructure to accommodate more users and devices, squeezing out more bits per hertz. That means addressing network response time (latency).

"Technically 5G is very challenging, and early developers are working on multiple approaches. The impact will be increased bandwidth," said Almgren. "5G will make things possible that we can't even imagine. 5G is the long pole in the tent of connectedness. A lot of work will go into it and it will generate a lot of business for the companies involved."

Test engineers will need smarter equipment

NI's Trend Watch states that "Big Iron ATE will rust when it's exposed to IoT." NI's Trend Watch asserts that traditional test equipment falls short in supporting the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). "IoT transforms every company into a tech company, and if you chose not to incorporate IoT into your products, you probably won't be around much longer," said Almgren. "Companies that do adopt IoT will have to use connected devices defined by software that will progress rapidly. They will need software defined on platforms that can quickly adapt to the evolving device." Almgren notes that traditional ATE cannot accommodate this.

This is the first of a two-part series on NI's Trend Watch 2015.

Design engineers and professionals, the West Coast's most important design, innovation, and manufacturing event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, is taking place in Anaheim, Feb. 10-12, 2015. A Design News event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on access to the latest technologies, be informed from a world-class conference program, and expand your network. (You might even meet a Design News editor.) Learn more about Pacific Design & Manufacturing here.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine, Chile Pepper.

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