The first instrument I ever used was an HP oscilloscope in the EE labs of the US Naval Academy. The learning curve had a slope of zero. We all know that if you turn a knob clockwise, the value goes up. Knobs are intuitive and responsive and they aren’t going away any time soon.
I spent 5 years as an officer on US attack submarines in the late 90s. The submarine force wrestled with the benefits of embracing digital technology vs. the tried and true analog tools in use for over 50 years.
Surely someone could adjust the control rods of a nuclear reactor with something like a track pad or a mouse, but a joy stick is easier to understand and more responsive.
Surely someone could increase the speed of the boat by pushing a button, but adjusting the throttle with a steering wheel shaped device is more intuitive and provides more granularity.
For similar reasons we love the knobs and buttons of instrument front panels. If I want to adjust the trigger, I can be very precise. If I want to adjust the display axis it is easy, fast, and responsive.
When we were designing how the web browser, cloud computing, and instruments would work together, we spent a lot of time navigating this issue with customers.
Successful technology innovations provide customers a better way of doing their current job while simultaneously unlocking opportunities that were previously impossible or difficult to attain. Our ‘Cloud Capture’ feature is a great example of how the benefits of cloud computing can be extended to the work bench in a way that lets customers configure an instrument via its front panel, yet seamlessly take advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
The work flow of Cloud Capture is pretty simple:
1) Connect a USB cable from the oscilloscope to the instrument gateway, then do whatever you would normally do on the scope in terms of configuring it, setting the trigger, etc.
2) Click the 'Cloud Capture' button on the browser.
3) With one mouse click, the measurement is initiated, the plot created, and the configuration stored in the cloud.
In this case the only thing the engineer needs to do differently is click in the browser to ‘capture’ what is happening on the scope. Alternatively, customers could use a USB pedal to do send that signal or use a voice plugin in the browser to simply say ‘Capture’ to make the entire process hands free.
This isn’t to say that soft panels powered by computers don’t have their place. For the customers who prefer that option, we’ve provided customers a streamlined config panel via a web browser for the instruments we support.
Technology should be seamless. The value is a simple way to capture the instrument’s measurement data and configuration for analysis, context, and future use.