White Paper

LXI Clears The Way To Smarter Instruments

Source: Keithley Instruments, Inc.
By Paul F. Franklin, Keithley Instruments, Inc.

Abstract - The trend toward more intelligent instruments has become increasingly evident as vendors of test and measurement equipment take advantage of increased processing power to expand the features and functions their products provide. These include advanced data analysis and reduction, more sophisticated sequencing and control, and built-in functions targeted at specific T&M applications. This paper details how the capabilities included in the LXI (LAN eXtensions for Instrumentation) Standard enhance and accelerate the trend toward smarter instruments. It examines how the new generation of LXI smart instruments will lower the total cost of test while improving performance, increasing flexibility, and enhancing ease of use.


New technologies are making each generation of instruments smarter than the one that preceded it. But what exactly is a "smart instrument"? Essentially, it's an instrument that does more of the work for the user in any of a number of ways. For example, smart instruments typically incorporate several of these functions:

  • Performing complex measurements
  • Providing versatile control over timing and sequencing
  • Turning raw data into useful information through sophisticated analysis
  • Helping users visualize complex information with tabular or graphical displays
  • Assisting in the presentation and/or interpretation of results by incorporating application domain knowledge
  • Providing comprehensive integrated help and user guidance
  • Offering greater ease of setup and operation
  • Simplifying integration into test systems with other instruments and equipment
  • Speeding and simplifying programming
  • Ensuring greater reliability and easier maintenance and calibration
  • Providing greater versatility and flexibility
  • Simplifying instrument upgrades and/or extensions

While instrument makers have made progress in addressing some of these aspects of smart instruments, none have achieved the level of capability most users would probably prefer. Why not? What factors are preventing instrument makers from delivering the kinds of products users really want? It's no surprise many of them are economic considerations. Defining, designing, developing, and producing truly smart instruments increases development cost, time to market, and product cost. Instrument makers must balance these considerations with the market's demand for less expensive products and faster product introductions. While users undoubtedly want smarter instruments with advanced functions and capabilities, they may be unwilling or unable to pay for all of them, given their shrinking test budgets. Instrument makers must demonstrate how smart instruments reduce the total cost of test before users will be willing to pay more for them.

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White Paper: LXI Clears The Way To Smarter Instruments