Open Architecture Tools to Describe Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) Capabilities
Navy SBIR 2018.1 - Topic N181-009
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick -
Opens: January 8, 2018 - Closes: February 7, 2018 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Open Architecture Tools to Describe Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) Capabilities


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, Information Systems

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMA 260 Aviation Support Equipment

OBJECTIVE: Develop innovative methods and associated tools to support the definition of Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) capabilities and their individual instruments using an Open Architecture (OA) approach, to allow for precise understanding of the ATE, interoperability across Navy and DoD electronics maintenance, and improved utilization of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) tools to support ATE operations.

DESCRIPTION: The Navy needs to define ATE stimulus and measurement test capabilities using an Open Architecture (OA) approach, based on industry standards.  Currently, each ATE family in the Navy and across the DoD has its own proprietary means for describing these capabilities.  This leads to difficulty for engineers in understanding the ATE capabilities; little opportunity to utilize generic and COTS automated tools to access, analyze, and utilize the capabilities; and reduced possibility for interoperability of tools and test programs across the Navy and DoD ATE.  Industry standards are being developed to provide an OA approach for defining ATE and instrument capabilities.  However, there has been little analysis in terms of the completeness of these standards to describe actual DoD and commercial ATE, and the instruments contained within them.  Further, there has been little development of tools that can assist electronic test engineers to build databases containing the ATE and instrument capabilities, nor to provide automated means for inputting and analyzing the capabilities using the standards.   Finally, at this time, the standards do not address all areas of ATE capabilities (e.g., radio and radar).

The methods and tools developed under this topic will aid in the support of Navy and DoD ATE by determining the applicability and potential shortfalls of current industry standards; providing automated tools to reduce the human effort of defining ATE capabilities and updating these definitions as instruments are removed and replaced; and automating the analysis of ATE and instrument capabilities.  This topic is intended to address the set of ATE capabilities as a whole, but also the capabilities of the individual instruments that are contained in the ATE.  Of particular interest are synthetic instruments, which can provide a wide range of disparate capability using Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology.  Synthetic instruments provide great flexibility to the ATE designer, but issues with configuration management and control have been recently identified.  Using an OA approach for defining these instruments, along with automated tools for storing, updating, and analyzing their capabilities, will greatly improve the management of ATE instruments, both synthetic and traditional.

The DoD Automatic Test System (ATS) Framework Integrated Product Team (IPT), led by the Navy, has identified the use of industry standards for instrument and ATE capabilities as key to supporting an OA approach in Navy and DoD ATE.  In particular, the Standard for Signal and Test Definition (IEEE-1641) and the Automatic Test Markup Language (IEEE-1671, ATML) have been identified as enablers to OA for ATS.  However, the IPT recognizes that the standards have not been proven for effectiveness in DoD ATS, industry (especially instrument developers) has been slow to utilize the standards, and few tools that could leverage such industry standards have been developed.  It is expected that the execution of this topic will go far in proving the effectiveness of the standards, including making recommendations for future standards development, while also leading industry to utilize the standards to describe instruments and develop tools that can capitalize on them.  This will lead to more efficient operations for Navy and DoD ATE.  However, there will be challenges in attempting to integrate these new tools and models into existing ATE and Test Programs. These challenges are primarily a result of legacy ATE and Test Program Sets (TPS) not following industry standards, due to a lack of understanding of the benefits of an OA approach, and the lack of tools available that can utilize the standards.  These challenges must be addressed.  A primary first step toward this will be the development and demonstration of standards-based information related to ATE and TPSs, and tools that can use this information. A successful completion of this proposal will encourage the DoD Services to integrate the OA approach in their ATE and TPSs, and simplify the effort to do so.

To achieve the generic objectives of OA (such as increased use of industry standards, reduced lifecycle cost, and improved understanding of data elements), and the more specific DoD ATS objectives (such as improved quality of test, improved joint interoperability, and use of COTS solutions) a set of tools are required that employ standardized technologies associated with defining instrument capabilities in existing, as well as future ATE.  These tools should create and manage industry standard signal libraries (such as IEEE-1641), utilizing input from both human test engineers and instrument capability files.  The tools should accept capability information, allow for updating the information, and report on individual instrument and ATE-wide capabilities, without requiring the human to understand the details of the signal models being used.  The effort should also include a survey of existing COTS tools (especially those conforming to an OA approach) related to ATE and Test Programs, and how they might be integrated with the tools produced for this topic to achieve even greater benefit to automatic test efficiency and utilization.  Finally, an analysis of how to incorporate this new approach in existing ATE and Test Programs must be performed.

PHASE I: Design and demonstrate a proof-of-concept signal model library necessary to support described technologies.  Define a set of tools that can be utilized together to support the development and management of an ATE signal library, based on the individual instruments contained in an ATE.  Show how capabilities can be extracted and analyzed from the ATE signal library in a human readable format that would not require detailed knowledge of how the library and signals are defined.  Identify the issues involved in integrating the signal library in current ATE, and the impacts to existing ATE and Test Program software.  Survey the market for ATE and Test Program tools that might be leveraged to expand the scope and effectiveness of the tools developed in this proposal.  The Phase I effort will include the development of prototype plans for Phase II.

PHASE II: Further develop the Phase I products into a prototype usable set of tools to support the creation of an individual ATE library from both human input and analysis of instrument-supplied data files (where available).  Evaluate and demonstrate the prototype tools using one of the members of the DoD family of testers, such as Navy Consolidated Automated Support System (CASS), Air Force Versatile Depot Automatic Test System (VDATS), and Army Next Generation ATS (NGATS).  Access to capability information for these testers will be provided by the DoD at no cost to the small business.  Perform analysis of the models and tools to determine their ability to support the description of the ATE capabilities and the benefits of using OA standards in DoD ATE.  Ensure the models and tools are consistent with industry standards, such as those defined by IEEE.  If noticed during development, make note of applicability of existing industry standards and the possible need to enhance these standards.  Describe features of the tools developed for this project to allow for interfacing with other COTS tools, either existing or conceptual, to provide even greater overall benefit to ATE operations.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize and deliver models and tools suitable for use on ATS across the DoD.  Transition the technology to appropriate test platforms.  Signal modeling is a generic technology that may be used across DoD and industry.  Further, the need to define ATE and instrument capabilities using an OA approach can benefit both the DoD and industry by providing more efficient analysis of ATE and instrument capabilities, and allowing for generic tools to work across ATE from disparate organizations.  Therefore, successful technology development has direct impact to all DoD Services, and could be transitioned to commercial industries, including the commercial aviation and automotive sectors.


1. IEEE STD 1671-2010, IEEE Standard for Automatic Test Markup Language (ATML for Exchanging Automatic Test Equipment and Test Information via XML (2011).

2. IEEE STD 1641, IEEE Standard for Signal and Test Definition.

3. DoD ATS Executive Directorate website.

KEYWORDS: Automatic Test Equipment; Signal Model; Open Architecture; Electronics Maintenance; Instrument Capability Description; Diagnostics


These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2018.1 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2018.1 BAA SBIR pre-release on November 29, 2017, which opens to receive proposals on January 8, 2018, and closes February 7, 2018 at 8:00 PM ET.

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