Since June 2016, Tektronix has been part of Fortive, a company with nearly $7 billion in annual revenue that also owns Fluke. Tell us about the Tektronix mission within Fortive.
Fortive leads with a shared purpose across all its operating companies, focused on “essential technology for the people who accelerate progress.” This complements our Tektronix vision: “Every day we break down the barriers between inspiration and realization of world-changing technologies.”
The way we live our lives is driven by technology. And we are at the center, empowering engineers to create and realize innovation with ever greater ease, speed and accuracy. As digital technologies become more complex to design — and yet more essential to everyday life — measurement plays an increasingly vital role. And the demands are growing. Our customers gain competitive advantage when essential measurement insight is more accessible and effective. We innovate on behalf of our customers — creating pathways to new solutions.
Our culture at Tektronix, and being part of Fortive, is defined by problem solvers who embrace this spirit of discovery — people with vision, ambition and ideas. Together with our customers, we are advancing human understanding, happiness, productivity, security, health and sustainability. That’s very powerful and rewarding.
Why is Tektronix focusing on the needs of engineers in the military and government sectors?
If there’s one segment of the electronics industry that requires close collaboration between design engineers and test and measurement, it’s aerospace and defense. To keep them moving forward, technology is evolving, as well as the corresponding evaluation equipment needed to assess performance. Together they must advance to continuously improve, to support advancing technologies in components and systems, as well as the continuous evolution in microwave and RF technologies.
When people think of aerospace and defense, most of the attention focuses on applications like electronic warfare (EW), RF sensing and satellite communications (SATCOM). But now the space is becoming increasingly complex due to the integration of internet of things (IoT) technology.
IoT devices, typically viewed as a way to increase the efficiency of a warehouse or home, are now being used to connect aircraft, machines, systems and people in aerospace and defense systems, for improved performance and lower total operating costs. According to one report, this is now more than a $20 billion market. Taken as a whole, acquisition, test and evaluation solutions play a critical role in enabling innovation and ensuring performance in this ever-changing industry.
What are some of the key trends and challenges facing these engineers?
For military and government operations, understanding the RF environment is not only important, it can make or break the success of a mission. Communications, navigation, electronic protection, electronic sensing and electronic attack all require a thorough understanding of the RF spectrum and who’s occupying it. This is why Tektronix is taking our high speed/high fidelity acquisition cards and deploying them as technology enablers to the field. Whether it’s an automated sensor for EMCON (emissions control) or RADHAZ (radiation hazards) monitoring or an intelligent, dynamic sensor for access availability, real-time situational awareness of the RF spectrum can critically preserve expensive systems and sensitive equipment and can help ensure mission success in an otherwise spectrum-denied environment.
Additionally, this type of RF sensing is becoming increasingly complex, and novel approaches are required to keep up with the current demands. These innovative solutions must incorporate a level of intelligence or autonomy while preserving their high quality RF signal paths and excellent resolution, to allow system operators a clear and accurate understanding of the RF environment.
As the fight changes to remote, over-the-horizon engagements, another factor shaping military systems is the physical properties of receivers and transmitters. The size, weight and power (SWaP) of deployed technologies should not be overlooked, since some systems and operations are actually required to work in a backpack that an infantry person is carrying or on a UAV. In these applications, power efficiency and power optimization are also critically important.
Why is RF sensing becoming increasingly complex?
The reasons fall into two broad camps: changes in the way spectrum is allocated and changes in the availability of RF technology.
In the first camp, a recent complication is the government’s decision to sell off part of the spectrum for commercial use. This has a significant impact on any military/government systems currently occupying this portion of the spectrum. A specific example of this spectrum reallocation is the expansion of LTE bands into what used to be military radar bands. Another important change is the shift from allocated spectrum, using the standard 1494 spectrum assignment, to the more recent proliferation of dynamic spectrum access technology.
In the second camp, RF sensing is being complicated by the utilization of cheap RF technology. Not only is this technology easier to access, it’s also becoming prevalent as a tool in more and more applications, yielding discernment and signal identification as a significant challenge for military operations. The ISM band is one example, specifically the 2.4 and 5 GHz regions, where it’s becoming incredibly congested. This makes it very difficult to tell if a signal is just a run of the mill wireless router or if it’s someone trying to penetrate a network or leak information out.
How is the world of SATCOM changing?
Like many other areas of aerospace and defense, SATCOM is going through a transition. What most satellite applications have in common is very high transmission bandwidth, in general, and sometimes very complex transmission capability. The thing that’s changed in the landscape is that there are more and more of these satellites being used. Capacity is being pushed harder and harder and, as more satellites are being deployed, we’ll be seeing additional band usage and wider bandwidth requirements.
Along with the increasing number of satellites being used comes an increasing demand to test their communications capabilities. This includes increasingly rigorous and more demanding testing at the physical layer of SATCOM signals, determining values like bit error rate and error vector magnitude.
How are these changes in SATCOM impacting test and measurement?
To be successful, SATCOM applications need to combine both very high frequencies with very little noise and extremely wide bandwidth. Testing SATCOM equipment, therefore, can be a challenge. A lot of solutions have a high enough frequency range, but they don’t have a wide enough bandwidth; or they have the frequency and bandwidth, but they don’t have the resolution. And even with these things, you still need to have a way to generate signals so that you can actually test at those frequencies.
What are some of the changes occurring in EW?
Indeed, like RF sensing and SATCOM applications, EW is also in the midst of changes that demand adaptation.
For one, threats are becoming increasingly complex. EW signals are often embedded with intelligence and discrimination algorithms to resist jamming. In the past, threat assets used to test electronic attack systems and sensors used to be hardware-defined and could not easily be upgraded to resemble the evolution of the threat. Legacy threat generation capability was often pure pulse trains, not representative of actual physical and electromagnetic environmental effects. In order to robustly test EW systems, you want the threat stimulus to be as representative of the real world as possible.
Another EW trend is the increasing need to accurately characterize electronic countermeasures (ECM). ECM can be affected by transmitter or amplifier effects, battery, power sharing for multiple techniques and timing issues in the system and digital radio frequency memory (DRFM). That’s why it’s so important that countermeasures be verified, over time and across scenarios, in both time and frequency domains. The characterization of overall system and platform effects on the techniques are extremely important to understand actual ECM performance in the operational environment.
Discuss how the military and government sector fits into the overall market focus for Tektronix, including wireless communications and optical networks.
The military and government sector is one of four main communities we aim to partner with in becoming their next-generation technology/solution providers. Evolving out of high fidelity test and measurement products, our company is now taking our core acquisition capabilities and core generation solutions and enabling operational applications, such as software-defined radar receivers and reconfigurable threat assets.
Additionally, over the past few years, Tektronix has reoriented itself around the use of technologies rather than classes of hardware, to offer better expert advice, create better workflows and integrate software into decision making. We deliver services that increase the productivity, up-time and throughput of our military and government’s advanced test and evaluation and operational strategies.
We do all of this because we believe our digital age holds remarkable promise for our customers and for the consumers, communities and industries they serve across military and government, wired communications, automotive, power management, advanced research and more.
Tektronix has long been synonymous with oscilloscopes. In recent years, though, you’ve introduced several RF product families, such as arbitrary waveform generators, spectrum analyzers and vector network analyzers. Describe your RF product strategy and how your value proposition compares to the major T&M companies.
Tektronix is targeted and strategic in its approach to the market. As I mentioned earlier, Tektronix has oriented itself around the use of technologies, rather than product classes of hardware. We are nimble and have the resident expertise to know where to apply that knowledge and foresight to benefit the warfighter.
Beyond technically advanced, precise instruments, we bring a proven track record of RF domain and application expertise. By actively sharing this expertise with our customers, we create collaborative innovation — a powerful alignment that harnesses the new ideas needed to accelerate toward the digital future.
Tell us about your background, what led you to Tektronix and what you most enjoy about your role.
I joined Tektronix in May, 2017, as our strategic lead for military and government-focused technology, where I’m responsible for identifying current capabilities and leading new technology development for military-specific applications across Tektronix and other Fortive business units.
Being a former customer of Tektronix, I’ve acquired a deep level of appreciation of the relationship Tektronix offers, coupled with our performance technology and where and how we can take that to enable and protect our warfighters.
Read more about the Tektronix Military and Government segment.