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I think one day soon, if not already now, somewhere, there will be Multimeters that have touchscreens and are software configurable with Apps that allow you to add most anything to your meter like an O-Scope, function generator, logic analyzer, etc. and a way to configure inputs and outputs and test sequences to use for specific testing circumstances. And if your repairing a certain type of device you can upload your test sequence so that others can follow your process and steps with things like "put the leads on this component press test" and it compares the results to your pass/fail requirements along with pictures and so on, so you can do this on site. Companies can send out the complete steps to troubleshoot their gear that are downloaded and put into your meter so that all you have to do is follow along to find the problem. With that in mind, is there a particular development board and software out there that can handle something like this? I think the touchscreen part is out there but I need something that has specs like National Instruments multifunction PCI card that is built onto the development board, or an add on board, or could someone smarter than me make something like this ASAP?

Thanks Russ

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This would be doable with current technology with ease but a (or perhaps the) key question is "what is the market demand?". While it would definitely be useful for some people, how many is "some" compared to total market? You may be able to find a lucrative niche. Or not.

Not too many manufacturers are liable to want to enable the unskilled in this way - or get them dangerously involved - when there are service people making a living from it already.

An alternative to this is an eg USB interfaced meter (or Bluetooth etc) and a smart Pad/Phone or a PC. The cost of doing this in small volumes would almost certainly be hard put to justify compared to an Android application or similar. In most cases you would not even need a meter interface - you "just" follow the instructions and key in the results. Certainly a lot more certainty would be possible with a connection to the meter if inexperienced or unskilled people were using this - but they are not a good target group for letting loose in this arena regardless of the tools available.

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You possibly simply asking what small platforms with screens are worth the evaluation/learning/development/customization time ?

Android fanboy pitch:

The best current and future screen is Android. None of the niche suppliers can beat the cost and value of Android devices. Expect to see discount $9 picture frames driven by android in every shop few years from now. Android is free, and so it will be on every touchscreen big and small. You definitely will not want to spend your own time, learning how to draw nice Korean or Russian fonts pixel by pixel. Forget all those 2-line 8 pixel character LCDs. Once you saw a nice Android Application on real screen, you stop thinking about any proprietary ugly UI.

Any app (super easy to code in Java) written today will most likely run well 10 years later with minimal changes. The only technical part is "last mile" problem of how to connect peripherals to Android.

At the moment you can choose 1 of 4:

  • USB peripheral compliant to Android ADK Accessory specification in host mode (Recommended and officially supported connectivity)
  • USB-to-serial (poorly supported, needs intrusion into OS)
  • Bluetooth (last choice for EE tools because of radio interference)
  • Native serial, I2C, etc. (most likely will never be easily available, supported in long terms. Requires focused, high quality development of Linux/Android drivers)

ADK looks like most promising for small wire-connected peripheral devices. I, personally, could not miss the opportunity to adopt Android and got one 10" device for study. The Java programming for non-network screen-only application is fun (needs may be 3 days learning if one can program anything at all by copy-pasting from internet). Debugging can be done without device at all (on virtual machine). The target device can be any kind of hardware (ARM or not) as long as it is Android. Next step in adoption is to choose Android ADK compatible accessory. I am still stuck choosing between ARM32, PIC32, AVR. But possibly will pick PIC32, as simply most available on small hobby boards.

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Not sure whether the market is not already covered for this quite well, but since I am not an expert in that area I will suggest a couple of dev boards that may be of interest:

The Saxo-Q is 200 Msps FPGA board mwhich would be great to base a "high" (depending on where you are looking from of course) speed MSO upon.

Gabatronics does some really cool stuff with accessible, cheap technology. The xMegalab is the largest board, down to the DIP sized xProtolab

Of course you could stick a few boards together - e.g. touch screen PIC32/24 dev board from Microchip, a Digilent board and something like the Flashy or Saxo-Q.

Oh - just to get an idea of what's out there, here is an iPhone based scope too (pretty expensive for specs though..)

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