Friday, September 01, 2006

Dave Baker of G Systems on Wireless, FPGA, and FireWire

National Instruments Alliance partner, G Systems based in Plano, Texas, is always working on something interesting. I called Dave Baker, G Systems’ Vice President of Engineering, and the other day to get an update on their current projects. One trend evident in the discussion is the increased use of wireless in every day applications.

He described several applications including a WiMAX test system to test WiMAX base station modules. G Systems built a system to perform signal switching and parametric testing. rx The system includes a RIO (Reconfigurable I/O) board to simulate board interfaces. Dave talked about the challenges of combining PXI and Rack and Stack instruments. PXI replaced a lot of Rack and Stack boxes. What remains are some RF-specific devices including Signal Generator, Vector Signal Analyzers, and Power Supplies based on GPIB.

One of the challenges with emerging technologies is the shifting of protocol standards. A modular software architecture designed by G Systems enables quick adaptation to new standards testing.

Another application he described applies wireless capabilities to asset management using a GPS receiver coupled with a satellite phone transmitter to track an item’s location. G Systems’ customer combines the two technologies into one unit. It’s a compact device that can be mounted to an asset and runs with very low-power consumption (ten year battery life). In a typical configuration, the transmitter wakes up once per day and places a call by satellite phone to a network provider (you have to sign up for a service) to indicate the GPS location of the device. This type of tracking device helps locate assets scattered over wide areas – anywhere satellite phone service is available. G Systems uses virtual instrumentation for production tests of the GPS device including GPS simulation and RF parametric tests.

Another trend Dave mentioned is the increased use of FireWire 800 or IEEE-1394B as a high-speed communications bus, especially in the mil/aero market. In one application, G Systems used a Windows-based PC to perform vision processing and broadcast the image data out of 1394B interfaces. 1394B continues to replace the old Mil-Std 1553 as the next-generation bus.

For the future, Dave discussed using more of the power of FPGA technology to solve problems such as ASM protocol processing of FireWire data, image processing of serial digital video such as D-RGB/DVI, and time-critical communications such as RFID test systems.

If you have questions for Dave, you can reach him at G Systems through their web site.

Best regards,
Hall T.