Working at home with PicoScope

Developers working on IT and embedded system software projects commonly work in distributed teams that spread far away from their operational headquarters. High-speed internet access, secure VPN technology and advanced project management tools have enabled home working for many software engineers – a trend that has accelerated recently as a result of the current coronavirus lockdown.

But what about engineers who are working on hardware development?

The hardware design process begins with the product definition that can be negotiated and agreed remotely and documented with standard team sharing tools. Project responsibilities and timelines can be assigned within the project management system. The initial design will be captured on a CAD system, and simulated to find bugs. So far, so good – the available software tools perform equally well in a remote home office as they do in the company design office.

Once the project has passed simulation testing a prototype needs to be built and tested. That’s where things get interesting! How can hardware engineers work effectively whilst away from their laboratory with its array of tools and benchtop instruments that they need to build, test, tweak and validate the functionality and performance of their prototype hardware?

Certain basic tools and instruments are mandated: you can’t do much without a soldering iron, pliers, power supply and a DMM. Depending on the nature of the hardware, a magnifier or microscope and PCB holder might be seen as necessary too.

But for design debugging and making meaningful performance measurements, it’s the oscilloscope that is most highly valued by embedded system engineers. Oscilloscopes are to electronics engineers, what microscopes are to biologists – an essential tool that enables visualization and measurement of the Device Under Test (“DUT”).

Traditional benchtop oscilloscopes are fairly cumbersome – which might be okay in the laboratory but not a good match for the kitchen or dining room table!

PicoScope PC based instruments pack all the capabilities – and more – of conventional benchtop oscilloscopes, in compact enclosures that fit easily on a desk alongside a laptop computer. They connect to the computer with a USB cable and use the computer display to show waveforms, measurements and other analysis data from the DUT.

I have wondered for some time if I should invest in a PC based oscilloscope, or not. I do have a number of ordinary oscilloscopes and I like instruments in one box. Press the power button and off we go. Of course there is the potential to record a fair number of samples for offline work, but on some scopes I can do similar things with USB. Then the pandemic came along…

Suddenly field application engineers (FAE), I and nearly everybody else are working from home. We had a situation in one project where I work as a consultant, and have done PCB layouts where we had some issues with the configuration of one of the more complex parts. We setup a video meeting and the FAE wanted to review some scope images. The first thought was to use a webcam and show the benchtop scope screen, but someone then suggested we used an older PicoScope and tried to share the computer screen.

We were a bit hesitant and wondered if that would work, but hey, let's try ... it actually worked flawlessly, so now everybody is out shopping for new PicoScopes! My engineering friend and old colleague just invested in a 5444D MSO, and for myself, I just need to decide if the 2-channel model, or the same 5444D MSO is the way to go. Fantastic products! 

- Thomas Lövskog • SVP of Innovation at Additude AB

PicoScope 6 application software, included with all PicoScope real-time oscilloscopes have all the features that home-working hardware engineers need to get their work done, including:

Pico Technology produces other PC-based instruments too, including Data Loggers and RF test equipment – all economically priced and ideal for remote home working where space is at a premium.