Keysight Technologies Tips and Tricks for Using USB, LAN, and GPIB

Keysight Technologies Tips and Tricks for Using USB, LAN, and GPIB
Keysight Technologies
Tips and Tricks for
Using USB, LAN, and GPIB
Application Note
GPIB has been and will continue to be a popular choice for input/output (I/O) in
test equipment. However, with high performance LAN and USB ports built into
most current generation PCs, many test-system developers are ready to explore
the benefits of using LAN or USB for instrument I/O.
Keysight Technologies, Inc. was one of the first test-and-measurement (T&M)
manufacturers to enable those benefits by including LAN and USB ports in its
instruments and by offering I/O drivers, software, and configuration tools that
make connections as easy as using GPIB. Along the way, Keysight has been
working with other manufacturers to develop T&M-specific standards that
enhance LAN and USB for use in test systems.
This application note provides a variety of tips and tricks that will help you create
flexible test systems that can easily incorporate USB, LAN, GPIB, and RS-232C.
By expanding your range of I/O alternatives you can enable new usage models
that boost productivity, and add new tools that protect your investments in
system hardware and software. The foundation of these benefits is an approach
we call Keysight Open, which simplifies system development through systemready instrumentation, open software environments, and PC-standard I/O.
Utilize faster, simpler I/O
that’s built in
Most current-generation PCs include one high-speed LAN port and multiple
USB ports. An increasing number of measurement instruments-and most new
Keysight instruments-now include LAN and USB ports alongside the GPIB
connector. It’s likely that all three interfaces will coexist for years to come.
Compared to GPIB, the PC-standard interfaces offer similar or superior
performance with greater convenience and lower cost.1 Because the interfaces
are built into today’s PCs, there is no need to open the computer and install a
GPIB card. What’s more, high quality LAN and USB cables are typically less
expensive than a GPIB cable of equal length. With these advantages, LAN and
USB will often be a better choice than GPIB (or extensions such as HS-488)
when creating a new test system.
If you’re concerned about instrument programming, two recently developed
T&M standards ensure that it’s virtually identical whether you use GPIB, LAN or
USB. The VXI-11 protocol defines LAN-based communication for all types of test
equipment, not just VXI, and the USBTMC-USB488 standard extends USB for
T&M applications.
VXI-11 and USBTMC both create an I/O connection that looks just like GPIB
to a PC-based application. This means existing GPIB programs-and everything
you’ve learned over the years about GPIB programming-can be used virtually
unchanged if you choose to connect via LAN or USB. This is especially true if
you also use the VISA I/O API.2 With USB, the only additional step is setting the
instrument address to meet the USB naming convention.
Keysight initiated the creation of both VXI-11 and USBTMC and is committed
to driving the T&M industry toward wider use of PC-standard I/O. We will
also continue to work with other instrument vendors to define and develop
open standards that will deliver technical and economic advantages to system
1. To ensure top performance, isolate the LAN or USB connection from any non-instrumentation data traffic.
2. Virtual Instrument Software Architecture input/output application programming interface. To learn more, please
see the glossary on page 11.
Connect to GPIB instruments
via USB (or LAN)
Envision a brand new desktop or notebook PC sitting on your desk. Now imagine
that you’d like to connect it to the oscilloscope on your workbench and then
step through some saved configurations, make a few quick measurements,
transfer the data, and analyze the results. There’s one small problem: the PC
has LAN and USB interfaces but the scope has a GPIB port. Fortunately, a handy
converter unit makes it easy to connect GPIB instruments to your new PC.
The Keysight 82357B USB/GPIB interface allows you to connect instruments
directly via one of the PC’s USB ports-no switches to set, no PC cards to install.
In fact, with the typical GPIB daisy-chain approach you can connect up to 14
instruments to a single USB port through an 82357B. This type of configuration
is great for benchtop applications because USB is so simple to set up and use.
LAN works, too: The Keysight E5810A LAN/GPIB gateway enables easy, direct
communication via the PC’s LAN port. As with the USB/GPIB interface, you
can use the E5810A to connect up to 14 daisy-chained GPIB instruments to
the PC. The gateway also includes a single RS-232C port that can be used for
serial communication with the DUT, a test fixture or other device. This type of
arrangement is well suited to design verification and manufacturing applications
that require high performance systems.
Figure 1. The Keysight 82357B USB/GPIB interface and E5810 LAN/GPIB gateway enables easy
connection between PCs and GPIB instruments
Create a “hot pluggable”
system with USB
USB is all about ease of use: it provides plug-and-play connections that allow
“hot” removal of devices from a PC or of the PC from a test system. This means
you no longer need to set aside a dedicated computer for instrument control.
Instead, you can simply connect any instruments and peripherals to a selfpowered USB 2.0 hub just be sure to get one with enough ports to accommodate
all of the equipment you want to use.3
A single USB cable is all it takes to link a PC to every device plugged into the
hub. This makes it easy for anyone to connect their PC to the system, and makes
it easy to keep the system intact on a bench or cart. For larger systems, you can
use multiple hubs with no drop in performance. When you connect the hub to
a computer, Microsoft Windows will automatically discover and connect all of
the USB devices. If the PC is running the Keysight IO Libraries Suite, you can
get the system up and running very quickly by launching Keysight Connection
Expert, which can discover instruments connected via USB and GPIB. Keysight
Connection Expert can also find LAN-connected instruments: it can directly find
instruments on the same subnet, and can also find a remote instrument if you
enter its IP address.
To handle up to 14 GPIB instruments, you can connect an 82357B USB/GPIB
converter to the hub. You can also add up to four RS-232C devices with a single
Keysight E5805A USB/4-Port RS232 interface. These ports can be used as COM
ports or programmed directly via the Keysight IO Libraries Suite.
GPIB instruments
E5805A USB/RS232 hub
Figure 2. A self-powered USB hub makes it easy to create a hot-pluggable system that anyone can connect to and use
3. To ensure top performance and reliable, consistent operation, use a USB 2.0 hub that has an external AC adapter; we also
recommend using a USB 2.0 hub and USB 2.0-compatible cables, even if the attached devices are USB 1.1.
Keep things simple with a
private, independent
In some organizations, the adoption of LAN-based instruments and systems is
being slowed by the need for IT involvement, which is often driven by concerns
about network security and performance. You may be able to avoid these issues
by creating a private network that is reserved for use by a standalone test
If you choose to use a dedicated PC, the LAN-based system can be completely
isolated from the company intranet and the Internet. This has two important
advantages. First, it preserves system performance by shielding it from the
volume of data traffic carried on the intranet (conversely, it also shields the
intranet from potentially heavy system communication). Second, this approach
also isolates the system from any malicious threats that might reach the intranet
from the Internet.
If you want or need access to the intranet and beyond, you can create a security
buffer by adding a second LAN card to the PC and activating the Internet
Connection Sharing (ICS) feature in Windows XP. In this configuration the host
PC serves as the router for the private network, using ICS to (1) route traffic from
one LAN card to the other and (2) provide Network Address Translation (NAT)
services for the private IP addresses in the network. Keysight Application Note
1465-10, Using LAN in Test Systems: Network Configuration provides detailed
descriptions of this approach and a router-based method.
Instrument 1
Instrument 2
Figure 3. A PC configured with two LAN cards enables the creation of a private, protected network
that can also access the corporate intranet
Standardize to simplify
connections and
If you have several people who run similar tests, consider defining and building
a standard test system or test bench. The system-to-PC connection will need
just one cable if you standardize on a USB hub, LAN switch or similar device.
For automated, repetitive testing you might want to also connect essential
peripherals — printers, barcode readers, custom operator interfaces — through
an appropriate hub. Three examples will illustrate some of the possibilities.
– Development lab: First, identify a standard set of basic and common
instruments. Then, if the system is connected via USB or as a private
LAN, you can apply standardized addressing to every device. You can
also easily attach a USB printer or configure a standard network printer.
– Test station: Start with a standard set of basic and common instruments
then add a barcode reader for easy entry of DUT information. To control
operator access, consider adding a biometric security device to the system.
If you need RS-232C ports to connect the barcode reader or control the
DUT or a test fixture, use the E5805A to add a four-port serial interface to
the system.4
– Portable calibration system: Put the standardized system instruments,
printer, and barcode reader on a wheeled cart for easy transport within
or between facilities. You could even add a hefty uninterruptible power
supply (UPS) to the bottom of the cart. This would help prevent inadvertent
shutdowns during a calibration and also allow battery operation while
moving the system, reducing warm-up time at your next stop.
To simplify programming, you could also adopt a standard addressing protocol
for all system devices. The Keysight IO Libraries Suite makes this “GPIB
simple” by letting you assign descriptive, user-friendly names (aliases) to each
instrument or resource. As an example, you can assign a function generator any
name you like even though it resides at a specific IP address.
4. If the E5810A LAN/GPIB gateway is part of your configuration, it includes a single RS-232C port for connecting serial devices.
Enable instrument sharing
via LAN
A LAN connection makes it possible for multiple users to access instruments via
the company intranet or the Internet — but be sure to employ all relevant and
required security measures. Shared access is especially helpful if several people
need to use equipment that must be borrowed from a loaner pool but could
instead be kept in a common work area. LAN-based sharing is also very useful
if a geographically dispersed team is working on a one-of-a-kind prototype that
is co-located with its test system. Of course, you can also access the system
locally via the LAN interface of any PC you bring to the system.
If the PC and instruments all support the VXI-11 protocol, it will enable session
locking and prevent other users from accessing the system during a test. If VXI11 isn’t available, some form of manual scheduling may be required to prevent
conflicts. As an example, if your organization uses Microsoft Outlook you could
create a mailbox and calendar for an instrument (or system) and let the team
use Outlook to schedule their tests.
LAN provides the longest reach
Compared to GPIB and USB, LAN enables instrument sharing, remote
operation and test monitoring over much greater distances. In the
simplest configuration, a single LAN segment can be as long as 100
meters (328 feet). The addition of a hub stretches that distance up
to 1,600 meters (about one mile). A LAN’s reach becomes virtually
unlimited — though typically with lower performance — when you add
routers, switches, bridges, or repeaters.
Operate instruments and
monitor tests from a remote
Today, many LAN-enabled instruments are equipped with built-in Web servers.
Through the instrument’s LAN port, you can use a local or remote PC to access
internal Web pages that let you configure, calibrate and operate the unit. As
an example, you could log in from home and instruct an instrument to calibrate
itself — and it will be ready to use by the time you arrived at work.
If the system includes a mix of LAN and GPIB-based instruments, the E5810A
LAN/GPIB gateway provides similar capabilities. Its Web interface allows you to
communicate with any connected GPIB instrument or RS-232C device.
When using instruments such as DMMs and oscilloscopes, the Web server may
also enable remote monitoring of measurements and provide access to measured data. For example, some built-in Web servers can display measured values
or waveforms so you can check the progress of a test or the state of the DUT.
Some LAN-enabled instruments provide even greater functionality. Inside every
Keysight Infiniium product is a PC running custom software and a version of the
Windows operating system. Windows has several LAN services built in, enabling
capabilities such as the sharing of files, folders, drives, and printers.
Figure 4. The virtual front panel of a Keysight Infiniium oscilloscope enables browser-based operation
of the instrument
Overcome cabling issues by
using wireless connections
A variety of situations make it difficult to reach a test system with an interface
cable. Perhaps the distance exceeds the maximum length of a GPIB or USB
connection. Maybe the system is in a hazardous or inconvenient location. You’re
in a hurry and can’t wait for facilities staff to pull new cabling. Or maybe you’re
simply on the wrong side of the hallway and can’t safely string a cable to the
test system.
Whatever the reason, try going wireless. You may need permission from your
local IT staff but it’s relatively easy to set up a small, secure wireless network
using basic capabilities such as address filtering and shared security keys.
Creating a secure, dependable wireless LAN (WLAN) may take a bit more time
than configuring a wired network, but once the WLAN is set up, connecting and
disconnecting couldn’t be easier.
To help you get started, the Keysight Application Note 1465-9 covers the basics
of using LAN in test systems and also provides a few notes about WLAN
technologies. The Keysight Application Note 1465-14 provides greater detail,
covering application issues such as WLAN set up, configuration and advanced
security techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the successful use of
WLAN, LAN, and USB in test systems, please refer to the complete list of
1465-series application notes on page 11.
Shaping the future of test
system development
Today, Keysight is leading the way in the creation of flexible test systems based
on system-ready instrumentation, open software environments, and PC-standard
I/O. As an example, we’re continually introducing new additions to what is
currently the industry’s largest portfolio of LAN-enabled instruments. At the
same time, we’re also protecting your investment in GPIB-only instruments by
offering devices such as the E5810A LAN/GPIB gateway, the 82357B USB/GPIB
interface, and the 82350A GPIB/PCI card.
To discover more ways to accelerate system development, simplify system
integration and apply the advantages of open connectivity, please visit the
Keysight Open Web site at
Once you’re there, you can also sign up for early delivery of future application
notes in this series. Just look for the link “Join your peers in simplifying
test-system integration.”
Related literature
The latest additions to the 1465 series
of application notes provide a wealth
of information about the successful
use of LAN, WLAN, and USB in test
Using LAN in Test Systems: The
Basics, AN 1465-9
(pub no. 5989-1412EN)
Using LAN in Test Systems:
SettingUp System I/O,
AN 1465-15 (pub no. 5989-2409)
Using LAN in Test Systems:
Network Configuration, AN 1465-10
(pub no. 5989-1413EN)
Earlier notes in the 1465 series provide
additional hints that can help
you develop effective test systems:
Using LAN in Test Systems: PC
Configuration, AN 1465-11
(pub no. 5989-1415EN)
Using SCPI and Direct I/O vs.
Drivers, AN 1465-13
(pub no. 5989-1414EN)
Choosing Your Test-System
Software Architecture, AN 1465-4
(pub no. 5988-9819EN)
Choosing Your Test-System
Hardware Architecture and
Instrumentation, AN 1465-5
(pub no. 5988-9820EN)
Introduction to Test System
Design, AN 1465-1
(pub no. 5988-9747EN)
Using USB in the Test and
Measurement Environment,
AN 1465-12 (pub no. 5989-1417EN)
Using LAN in Test Systems:
Applications, AN 1465-14
(pub no. 5989-1416EN)
Understanding the Effects
of Racking and System
Interconnections, AN 1465-6
(pub no. 5988-9821EN)
Computer I/O Considerations,
AN 1465-2 (pub no. 5988-9818EN)
Maximizing System Throughput
and Optimizing System
Deployment, AN 1465-7
(pub no. 5988-9822EN)
Understanding Drivers and Direct
I/O, AN 1465-3
(pub no. 5989-0110EN)
Operational Maintenance,
AN 1465-8 (pub no. 5988-9823EN)
API — application programming interface;
a well-defined set of software routines
through which an application program can
access the functions and services provided
by an underlying operating system or a
reusable software library
Bridge — a LAN device that connects
segments of a network
DHCP — dynamic host configuration
protocol; a method of automatically
obtaining an IP address for a LANconnected device (e.g., PC, router or
DDNS — dynamic domain name server;
a service that allows a network device to
establish its host name when it connects
to the network; lets other devices use that
host name with DNS to find the device’s IP
address and connect to it
DNS — domain name server; maps
specific names to IP addresses, enabling
use of names in place of IP addresses in
test programs
Driver — also called an instrument
driver; a collection of functions resident
on a computer and used to control an
instrument (e.g., DMM, oscilloscope or
network analyzer); an alternative to SICL
and VISA
DUT — device under test; the component,
subassembly, or product to be measured
by the test system
Ethernet — a specific LAN technology
that is the dominant implementation of the
physical and data link layers; also known
as IEEE 802.3
Firewall — a hardware device or software
program (or combination) that protects
a computer network from unauthorized
Gateway — a hardware device that
connects devices that use different
standards and protocols (e.g., LAN to
GPIB — General Purpose Interface Bus;
the dominant 8-bit parallel I/O connection
for test equipment and test systems
HP-IB — Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus;
another name for GPIB
Hub — a multi-port LAN device that
connects multiple devices together, usually
in a star topology; a multiport USB device
that connects multiple devices to a single
USB port
IEEE 488 — Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers standard for HP-IB;
another name for GPIB
IP — Internet protocol; requires an
address to communicate
IVI — Interchangeable Virtual Instruments;
a standard instrument driver model that
allows a consistent programming style
across instrument models and classes
IVI-COM drivers — also called IVI
component drivers; presents the IVI driver
as a COM object, preserving the full
capabilities of COM-enabled development
LAN — local area network
Library — a collection of callable software
operations; reusable software functions
meant to be used by other programs
NAT — Network Address Translation;
maps private addresses to one or more
public addresses to enable access to
intranet or Internet
Repeater — a LAN device that extends the
length of a network segment by reading,
regenerating, and repeating all incoming
Router — a LAN device that joins multiple
networks and enables creation of small,
private networks
SICL — Standard Instrument Control
Library; a modular instrument
communications library that works with
a variety of computer architectures, I/O
interfaces and operating systems; largely
superseded by VISA
SNMP — Simple Network Management
Protocol; a standard TCP/IP protocol
that enables monitoring and mapping of
network availability, performance, and
error rates
Subnet — a group of connected network
devices; used to partition networks into
segments for easier administration
Subnet mask — a setting that
accompanies an IP address and defines
the boundaries of a subnet
Switch — a LAN device that connects
multiple devices to a single LAN line;
however, unlike a hub, it preserves full
network bandwidth to each device
TCP/IP — Transfer Control Protocol and
Internet Protocol; the two standards
that provide the data communication
foundation of the Internet
UPnP — Universal Plug and Play; a
networking architecture that ensures
compatibility between devices, software,
and peripherals; not the same as Plug and
Play or VXIplug&play drivers
USB — Universal Serial Bus; designed
to replace the RS-232 and RS-422 serial
buses used in PCs
VISA — Virtual Instrument Software
Architecture; sometimes called VISAC; a
common foundation for system software
components, including instrument drivers,
virtual front panels, and application
software; consists of a vendor-independent
set of instrument communication
operations that work across different I/O
interface technologies
VISA COM — provides the services of
VISA in a COM-based API; a subset of
VISA in terms of I/O capabilities but
includes some services not available in
VXI — VME extensions for
instrumentation; a standard, open
architecture for modular test
instrumentation and systems
VXIplug&play — a popular driver
technology for all types of instrumentation;
provides a consistent programming style
across instruments; some VXIplug&play
drivers include virtual front panel
technology that allows development
environments to provide extra help
and visual guidance for operating an
Wi-Fi — Wireless Fidelity; the marketing
name for the various IEEE 802.11 wireless
LAN standards
WLAN — wireless LAN; a flexible way
to communicate with hard-to-reach test
13 | Keysight | Tips and Tricks for Using USB, LAN, and GPIB - Application Note
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Published in USA, July 31, 2014
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