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Kick start your designs, but don’t forget about test

Kick start your designs, but don’t forget about test

New low cost high performance processers like the ARM Cortex-M4 make it easy and affordable for hobbyists and entrepreneurs to ramp up development of their product ideas. These processors along with low-cost yet powerful development boards serve as an integrated, easy to use platform with access to multiple analog and digital I/O, serial data, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB all wrapped together with an easy to use programming language. These development boards have become more user friendly over time and it no longer takes a degree in electrical engineering to bring many electronic designs to life.

Another recent development supporting entrepreneurship has come in the form of crowd sourcing. Online services like Kickstarter provide an infrastructure that allows individuals to submit innovative ideas and for the public to support those ideas by pledging money in exchange for some sort of reward, often early access to the product. The success of crowdfunding has made it possible for nearly anyone with a promising idea to seek funding and potentially turn their idea into reality.

ARM is hosting a Kickstarter week on their ARM Connected Community site (Dec 8-12) to recognize the impact the crowd funding community has on the technology industry. They are highlighting various Kickstarter campaigns with interviews from the creators and other interesting information. There are reviews of various ARM powered products that are commonly used in these projects as well as blogs discussing ideas on how to make the most out of the technology.

The Freescale Kinetis KW2x series development board is a good example of a platform that allows designers to cost effectively bring wireless Internet-connected devices to life. Featuring the Cortex-M4 processor, the KW2x boards come standard with I2C, SPI, UART and USB serial interfaces as well as IEEE 802.15.4 Wi-Fi for wireless communication. The Cortex M4, it should be noted, is a reasonably high-performance processor designed to be responsive, low-power, and easy to use all in a low cost chip.


Now that designing electronics is more accessible than ever, it only seems fitting that testing those electronics should become more accessible as well. Electronic test equipment has gotten much more powerful over the years and is capable of in-depth analysis and troubleshooting. Wherever you are in the design phase and no matter the sophistication of your design, there is capable test equipment available that you can afford. Below is a quick round up of some of the most notable and versatile instrumentation available today – from Tektronix, the world’s leading supplier of oscilloscopes.


For basic designs – and even some not-so-basic designs – this scope will allow you to make simple measurements like amplitude and timing checks on sub-200MHz signals at an affordable price. Even though prices start at less than $600, it offers a host of versatile features including a 7-in. display, 34 automated measurements and dual channel frequency counters. Watch the product demo below for more details. TBS-1000 product video-


This next step up gives you more power and debug tools as well as the availability of up to 16 digital channels with the MSO models. This comes in handy if you want to look at an I2C bus to see if it’s making a connection on its I/O. With automated serial and parallel bus analysis, and innovative Wave Inspector controls, the MSO/DPO2000B Series provides the feature-rich tools you need to simplify and speed debug of your designs. MSO/DPO2000 product video-


The MDO3000 Mixed Domain Oscilloscope features six integrated instruments, including a spectrum analyzer, function generator and more, giving you the ability to capture analog, digital and RF signals with one scope. This scope is well suited for the designer who is beginning to explore the world of RF, but also has many other tasks that need to be complete and can’t afford a bench full of expensive equipment.  MDO3000 product video-


The versatility of the MD4000 comes from its integrated oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer. For the first time ever, you can see how your designs perform in both the time and frequency domains on a single instrument. This scope is ideal for the serious designer that is designing in both embedded and RF systems and needs to solve complicated design issues in the shortest amount of time possible. MDO4000 product video-

Whether you’re just getting started or have already launched a Kickstarter campaign, we want to hear about the design a test challenges you’re facing. Post up in the comments below about your interests and challenges and we’ll provide more insight in future posts. Do you want to manage battery drain better? Validate that the Wi-Fi radio is working at lower power levels?

In the meantime, we’re planning to blog about how to use an oscilloscope to debug many of the designs we see on Kickstarter covering such topics as power management, serial decode, and debugging wireless designs.  Let’s build – and test -- things.


Since publishing the above blog, Tektronix is currently offering discounts up to 89% on software application modules for qualifying oscilloscopes. Check out the details here and save away!