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ATML standard eases test equipment data exchange

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:automatic test equipment? Automatic Test Markup Language?

For many years, the automatic test equipment (ATE) industry has coveted a universal data exchange adapter for ATE, spurred by the need to share test system and test result information with the rest of the enterprise. Many test organizations within the ATE industry have developed or are considering developing their own proprietary XML-based data-exchange standards to meet their specific needs for sharing ATE and test information. This may no longer be necessary, however. An XML-based standard for ATE and test information data exchange, known as Automatic Test Markup Language (ATML), has emerged with widespread support among test and measurement industry leaders and major government programs alike.

The lack of standardized ATE and test information data exchange among the enterprise, other organizations, their suppliers, and OEMs contributes significantly to product development overhead costs. This is especially prevalent in the military and aerospace industry, in which typical units costing millions of dollars consist of hundreds of subsystems and involve dozens of contractors and suppliers. The development of ATML represents an effort to address this problem.

Led by the Naval Air Systems Command and ATE industry members, ATML project is a cooperative effort to define a collection of XML schemas to represent test information, such as test programs; test asset interoperability; and unit under test (UUT) data, including test results and diagnostics procedures. While the mil/aero community is currently driving the ATML specifications, these robust and flexible ATML schemas apply to other industries, including telecommunications, automotive, and consumer electronics.

Figure: ATML component interfaces facilitate data exchange and ensure asset interoperability.

Inside ATML
The ATML working group members cooperated to establish an IEEE standard that provides increased industry and mil/aero ATE system compatibility and modularity. The group focused on developing a standard that provides and manages extensibility while supplying an exchange format that both humans and machines easily can interpret.

In addition, the ATML standard is designed to improve several areas of ATE and test system design by:
???Implementing dynamic test sequences that adapt to historical data
???Supporting instruments and their interface setups

Capturing test informationTo facilitate data exchange among system interfaces, stations, and manufacturersand to ensure asset interoperabilitythe ATML working group defined several external interfaces on which to standardize, including test result reporting, diagnostics, test description, instrument description, test configuration, UUT data, and the test station.1 Drawing on these interfaces, the working group defined eight ATML components built on a ninth common component for an XML data interface (figure).

The website for the ATML working group provides more information on the various schemas and their current status.2

XML-based ATML structure
The ATML data exchange file is in ASCII text format with system-interface-specific tags, or elements, organizing the data. It is the ATML schema that defines the specific elements and their hierarchy within this data exchange file. The text document is a file containing descriptive tags, so it can operate on any platform, and a computer program can easily interpret and parse the tags based on the schema. For those same reasons, it is human-readable.

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