Custom, Handheld Analyzer for Proprietary Communications Bus Testing

Custom, Handheld Analyzer for Proprietary Communications Bus Testing

The Challenge:

Replace large COTS-based manually controlled tester with a fully custom, integrated handheld test tool to evaluate Boeing proprietary IntelliBus™ performance and troubleshoot hardware installations on aircraft.

The Solution:

Ball Systems designed a small custom handheld test platform based around the National Instruments single-board RIO deployable embedded device, adding additional circuitry and packaging. Ultimately developing a tool that fully evaluates bus health, performance, layout, power, and bandwidth utilization and providing a consistent and reliable problem diagnosis.

The result is a portable, battery powered system that performs high level bus functions including bus device inventory, bus delay testing, address scanning, bus monitoring, bus traffic storage, and the ability to simulate a downstream bus to an upstream controller. The system also performs physical layer testing including cable resistance measurement, bus bias voltage measurement, bus power (voltage and current), and signal margin measurement.Bus Analyzer


  • Custom ruggedized enclosure
  • National Instruments sbRIO embedded controller
  • A touchscreen display uses custom-designed graphics to present a clean user interface. From here the user is able to initialize tests, set pass/fail criteria, run tests, configure the Bus Analyzer, monitor battery life, and transfer test results.
  • Lithium Polymer battery capable of powering the Bus Analyzer for 6+ hours; recharging from 120V AC source; battery charging status LED.
  • The two custom circuit boards house circuits for high precision resistance, voltage, and current measurement, IntellibusTM physical layer measurements, battery charging and battery fuel gauge, power and signal relays, and power supplies, one of which is capable of supplying power to a small to medium length IntelliBus™ installation.
  • Additionally, the system includes a custom FPGA that performs 10-times oversampling of IntelliBus™ bus traffic and a 400MHz pulse-width counter to accurately detect any bus communication problems and determine how closely the protocol timing is being met on a bus.
  • External connections for bus input and output, oscilloscope triggering, external current probe, charging and powering, Ethernet jack for direct connection to sbRIO, and a USB jack.
  • Stores bus traffic logs to an external USB storage device.


  • Small, portable, battery powered platform replaces the need to carry several pieces of equipment to an aircraft bus installation, including a PC, oscilloscope, digital multimeter, and breakout boxes.
  • Automates testing to reduce setup and test times, and reduce errors in setup and execution.
  • Intuitive user interface through a touchscreen display.
  • Battery-powered and capable of 6+ hours of runtime between charges.
  • Based on the reliability-proven National Instruments sbRIO.
  • Full turnkey solution allowed customer to focus on product development rather than consuming valuable in-house design resources on tool development.
  • Increased satisfaction of Boeing customers due to ease-of use, portability, and time-to-solution.
  • The result is a powerful tool, capable of controlling and testing an IntelliBus™ installation, which is both easy to use and more capable than the previous manual test approach.

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