A hallway discussion with our CTO on how technology innovation drives solution and sustainability advancements
2019-02-26 | 7 min read
Every now and then, I catch Jay Alexander, Keysight’s Chief Technology Officer, in the hallway of our headquarters office and we stop to talk about recent company events. Jay and I have known each other for 17 years, including many years when we both worked from the company’s Colorado Springs, CO offices. There, Jay was Keysight’s vice president and general manager for the Oscilloscope and Protocol Division. He was also engaged at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and served as chairman of the Pikes Peak United Way for two years. Given his non-profit roles and continuing volunteerism in Santa Rosa, we always have much to talk about in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) space.
Most recently we have discussed the juncture of CSR and technological advancements, both within and outside the company. I thought I’d document and share one of our recent hallway meetings to exemplify how the crossover between CSR and technology plays into everyday life in Keysight. Here is a paraphrase of that conversation after some initial pleasantries …
I have always appreciated your long-time support of CSR.
I believe strongly that both individuals and corporations play a role in helping build a better planet. From philanthropy and volunteerism, to environmental stewardship, future skills development and ethical business practices—everyone can help make a difference.
I’m lucky enough to be in a position to influence research and development opportunities that meld innovation with sustainability. While technology and CSR may seem like separate topics, connecting them enables win-wins that move the industry forward while improving, or at least minimizing impact on, the planet. For example, in the test and measurement space, we consider industry trends that pose an opportunity for sustainable product development, like SWaP-C (the drive toward reduced hardware size, weight, power and cost) and mmWave trends.
SWaP-C has multiple benefits for the industry and planet.
Absolutely. The concept of SWaP-C has been the driving force for numerous technology innovations in recent years, spanning many industries and end markets. As an everyday example, just think about how much technology we carry around in our pockets with today’s smartphones compared to what existed in the early brick-sized mobile phones, or in the early mainframe computers for that matter.
I remember those brick-sized mobile phone days. It wasn’t just the size that felt like a brick, some literally weighed more than a brick. The concept transfers to our industry as well when considering where we can cut back on hard materials and carbon footprint.
That’s right, in the electronic measurement industry, the SWaP-C trend is driving a shift from large benchtop or rack-and-stack instruments to smaller modular and handheld form factors. At Keysight, we have invested in advanced design, electronic circuits and packaging and manufacturing to drive SWaP-C improvements in our product lines. Our Fieldfox handheld analyzer is a successful example of reducing product footprint by packing the functionality of twenty earlier-generation instruments into one integrated, lightweight unit. At only seven pounds and 14 watts of power consumption, this instrument can replace a 300-pound rack of old-style equipment. That’s pretty impressive.
More recently, innovations in 5G and automotive radar are driving the need to commercialize mmWave technology across a wide range of applications. These applications in themselves provide some level of positive social impact. However, historically, achieving mmWave performance has required large and expensive electronics.
Yes, and this clearly goes against the industry trend toward smaller, lighter, lower-power implementations. If this is not addressed, it may limit adoption into commercial applications that can benefit from the technology. These applications require high performance, but they also need to take advantage of the SWaP-C trend. To deliver on these needs, Keysight is applying new approaches to drive SWaP-C improvements in mmWave technology. Some of these improvements are embodied in current products and solutions, and others will come to market this year and beyond.
Both SWaP-C and mmWave really do have multiple positive impacts.
The most obvious impact is in reduced materials throughout the supply chain. In Keysight’s FieldFox example, each instrument requires over 290 pounds less material. That’s a lot of metal, plastic, fiberglass, solder, etc., that never needs to be manufactured, shipped to customers and ultimately disposed of. In addition, the dramatic reductions in power consumption and manufacturing effort reduces the production of greenhouse gases.
SWaP-C and mmWave are just a couple of example opportunities for technology innovation in the environmental sustainability space. Honestly, each stage of a product lifecycle – from development to end of life – offers multiple opportunities to minimize environmental impacts and even improve social impact in some areas.
We definitely consider technological alternatives at various stages of the product lifecycle. There are many opportunities to use technology to improve the planet socially and environmentally. The key is to consider sustainability early in the engineering process rather than as an afterthought, so the design objectives can be achieved while also being responsible stewards of the planet and environment that sustains us all.
We went on to talk briefly about how the longevity of our hardware products, and our Keysight Take-Back and Trade-In programs, help divert product from landfills while supporting customer needs, as well as some recent Keysight Giving Program and volunteerism opportunities. But those are topics for another time!