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The role of built in test (BIT) in electronic systems has grown in prominence with the advances in system complexity and concern over maintenance lifecycle costs of large systems. In an environment where standards drive system designs (and provide an avenue for focused advancement in technology), standards for BIT are very much in an evolutionary state. The reasons for advancing the effectiveness of BIT include reduced support overhead, greater, confidence in operation, and increased system availability. The cost of supporting military electronic systems (avionics, communications, and weapons systems) has driven much of the development in BIT technology. But what about the systems that support these end items that contain test and measurement instrumentation - such as automatic test equipment (ATE), simulators and avionics development suites? There has also been a beneficial effect on the maintenance and availability of these systems due to the infusion of BIT into their component assemblies. But the effect has been much more sporadic and fragmented. This paper looks at the state of BIT in test and measurement instruments, explain its affect on system readiness, and present ideas on how to improve BIT technologies and standards. This will not provide definitive answers to BIT development questions, since the factors that affect it are specific to the instrument itself. The topics covered in this paper are: definitions of built-in test, instrument BIT history, importance of BIT fault coverage and isolation in support systems, overview of BIT development process issues that limit the effectiveness of BIT Standards related to instrument BIT, making BIT more effective in support system maintenance and availability and conclusions.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2004