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Agilent Labs Awards 2007 Barney Oliver Prize for Innovation


December 20, 2007

  Bruce Hamilton, Darlene Solomon, John Eidson
Bruce Hamilton, Darlene Solomon, John Eidson

Agilent Laboratories awarded the 2007 Barney Oliver Prize for Innovation December 14 to John Eidson and Bruce Hamilton. The prize recognizes outstanding technical contributions at Agilent Laboratories that demonstrate creativity, innovation, technical depth, synergy, and business value that lead to a useful technical or scientific result.

John and Bruce developed a high-precision time synchronization protocol that enables the use of Ethernet for real-time applications in test and measurement, telecommunications and industrial automation. Their work resulted in an international standard, known as IEEE 1588, that provides for precision timing in networks.

Agilent provides customers the advantages of this technology in a continually expanding portfolio of products based on the rapidly growing LAN eXtensions for Instrumentation (LXI) standard. LXI incorporates the IEEE 1588 standard allowing instruments to have a common sense of time, and it details how instruments connect and interact in a LAN environment. Agilent’s span of LXI instruments now includes digital multimeters, arbitrary waveform generators, system power supplies, DC power analyzers, modular power meters, signal generators, signal analyzers, network analyzers, synthetic instruments, high performance and portable oscilloscopes, and more.

“It’s a great pleasure for Agilent Laboratories to honor John and Bruce with the 2007 Barney Oliver Prize for Innovation,” said Darlene Solomon, Agilent chief technology officer and vice president of Agilent Laboratories. “Their pioneering work demonstrates in a most compelling way how Labs researchers create business and customer value through world-class technology innovation."

John and Bruce's research

John and Bruce started their work a number of years ago when they observed measurement processes at customer sites. Over and over again, they saw how the computer in a measurement system was a bottleneck. Customers didn’t complain about the need to configure the computer, read the manuals, tweak the timing or cope with traffic, because that was just a fact of life when
connecting instruments.

John and Bruce considered questions such as: What if the computer wasn’t there? What if instruments just talked to each other and coordinated their own communication? What if they had a common sense of time?

They developed a fundamentally different approach. By enabling a common sense of time among the measurement instruments, actions could be coordinated without the need for a central controller. This would allow for more rapid measurement without all the intermediate communications steps between the instruments and the traditional central controller.

Results from John and Bruce's work

Because of the Labs/Agilent business partnerships based on work by John and Bruce, Agilent and other companies provide next generation test capabilities developed around LXI for customers in industries spanning aerospace and defense, wireless, semiconductor, automotive and general purpose manufacturing.

LXI is the LAN-based successor to GPIB. The LXI standard goes beyond GPIB to provide additional capabilities that reduce the time it takes to set up, configure and debug test systems. LXI also helps integrators leverage the time and effort already invested in system software and architecture. The standard is managed by the LXI Consortium, a not-for-profit corporation comprised of leading test and measure-ment companies. The group's goals are to develop, support and promote the LXI standard. LXI's flexible packaging, high-speed I/O, and prolific use of LAN address a broad range of commercial, industrial, aerospace and military applications.

LXI Consortium announcements

The LXI Consortium announced at the AUTOTESCON 2007 tradeshow September 13 that “a survey of its member manufacturers shows that annual sales of LXI-equipped test and measurement equipment now exceeds $200 million (US). This represents the fastest ramp-up in sales of any communications standard in the history of the test industry, according to LXI Consortium officials.” Just two years ago the LXI Standard was introduced at this same tradeshow.

“In addition, the Consortium announced that there are more than 419 LXI-equipped products, including spectrum analyzers, digital multimeters, signal generators, signal analyzers, power supplies, power analyzers, waveform generators, oscilloscopes, and digitizers from such notable manufacturers as Agilent, Xantrex/Elgar, Keithley Instruments, Pickering Interfaces, Rohde & Schwarz, and VXI Technology.”

Mesures magazine, a Paris-based monthly that reports on instrumentation and industrial automation, highlighted Agilent's 6000L Series low-profile oscilloscopes in its 12th annual Palmars Technologique awards. These oscilloscopes are based on the LAN eXtensions for Instrumentation (LXI) standard and are optimized for use in test systems.

Additionally, last year, Mesures also honored Agilent's series of six LXI-based microwave instruments with a Palmars Technologique award. These modular instruments were the first to comply with the Class A LXI standard, which is the most demanding in terms of synchronization and triggering.

About the Barney Oliver Prize

The Barney Oliver Prize for Innovation honors Bernard M. Oliver (1916 – 1995), who was a scientist, inventor, and innovator. Agilent Laboratories has awarded the prize annually since 1999 for contributions to Agilent that result from work done in the Labs and that demonstrate Barney's outstanding qualities of creativity, innovation, technical depth, breadth of expertise, and respect for business value.

Dr. Oliver, known to all as Barney, was a man of enormous intellect, curiosity and vision. When he was 19, he graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in electrical engineering. A year later he completed an M.S. from the California Institute of Technology, where he earned a Ph.D., graduating magna cum laude at the age of 24.

Barney then joined Bell Telephone Laboratories where he quickly established a reputation for brilliant, creative insights and clever inventions. In 1952, Bill Hewlett and David Packard persuaded Barney, whom they had known since their student days, to join their fledgling operation as director of research. In 1957 he became vice president of Research and Development, and in 1966, he established Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, which he directed until his retirement in 1981.

During his career Barney was awarded 60 patents and authored 71 papers that reflect a remarkable breadth and depth of thought, ideas, and actions spanning physics, mathematics, electronic and electrical engineering, education, and social issues. He was active in the IEEE and served as its president in 1965.

Barney had a lifelong interest in astronomy, and in particular the use of radio telescopes for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Between 1982 and 1993 he was the chief engineer of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute and member of the SETI board of trustees.

Barney received many awards. In 1986 President Reagan awarded Barney the National Medal of Science for “translating the most profound discoveries of physical and communication science into the electronic, radio, and computer systems which have improved our culture and enriched the lives of all Americans.” In 1997 the SETI Institute established the Bernard M. Oliver Chair, and in 2004 Barney was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Among his academic honors were the Halley Lectureship on Astronomy and Terrestial Magnetism of Oxford University (1984).

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