A common theme that emerged from the
different use models, says Heydron, were
responses such as: “I wish I could consult with
my colleague, but he’s not here”, or “I wish I had
written the data down yesterday, but there was
no easy way to do that”.
Fluke responded to these customers’ wants
when the wireless technology reached a point
where a quantifiable reduction in net effort
on the part of its customers could be achieved
through its implementation.
So Fluke’s developers began with the ad hoc
tools, focusing on a few simple requirements
like file sharing, data preservation and basic
From the outset, the Fluke development team
identified three or four key target applications.
One of those was the basic sharing that comes
from the ShareLive functionality. Another was
the ability to make a straightforward trend of
measurements on a piece of machinery.
“There are two benchmarks that we compare
against there. The easy benchmark is writing
down data, taking it back and plotting it in an
Excel spreadsheet. That’s pretty easy to meet,”
says Heydron, because all of the time and steps
involved in fulfilling it.
The difficult benchmark, on the other hand,
is a clipboard with a pen attached to it that’s
there at the measurement device every day,
hanging beside it.
“All of the transit is gone. It’s right there,”
says Heydron. “We kept pen and paper as the
measurement benchmark. When you can create
the graphical trend in the same time as a piece
of paper, then we said, ‘That’s good, that’s where
we need to be’.”
Even today, says Heydron, capturing a two-
point trend might be easier with a piece of
paper. A three-point trend might be easier this
ways as well. By the time five points are reached,
the graphical power of a computer begins to
“We think we’re equal to, at least, pen and
paper. And, more important, you can share a lot
easier than with pen and paper. So you get a big
benefit. It’s not just on your machine, it’s there
with your team and without a lot of overhead or
extra effort,” says Heydron.
One instrument family that directly benefits
from Fluke Connect capability is the thermal
imagers. Heydron cites an example of an errant
reading to show how data sharing is important
for these devices. In some cases all that’s provided to the technician is a voltage reading, such as
16. 3 V, and the thermal image itself.
If a technician calls in the troubling reading, Heydron says, all he can do is deliver the
The key piece of information is the image,
which is difficult to convey over a phone call. A
Fluke Connect-equipped thermal imager allows
the technician to directly share the thermal
image along with a visual of the reading. The
imager is equipped with a large processor to
handle imaging; sending that data via WiFi is
quick and easy.
Advances in wireless
One of the technology factors that allowed Fluke
to embrace wireless technology in its instruments was the advent of Bluetooth Low Energy
(LE). Originally introduced in a Nokia telephone in 2006, it was merged into the Bluetooth
standard in 2010 and has since entered new
applications in a variety of industries, including
health care and security.
The attraction of Bluetooth LE is tri-fold.
It’s much less energy intensive than standard
Bluetooth radios, allowing devices to operate
for months at a time on a single button cell. All
major operating systems, including Apple OS
and Microsoft Windows, natively support the
standard. Finally, Bluetooth LE uses the same
2.4-GHz radio frequencies as the standard
antennas, which makes LE devices backwards
compatible and allows dual-mode devices to
share a single antenna.
Bluetooth LE requires half the current load as
conventional Bluetooth and, depending on the
application, Bluetooth LE can consume as little
as 1% the energy.
“It uses very little power on both the phone
side and Fluke instrument side,” says Bradey
Honsinger, lead engineer for Fluke Connect.
“Instruments that use Bluetooth LE are most
often single-measurement tools, because they
At times, however, more data needs to be sent
than Bluetooth LE can handle. Thermal imagers
are a good example, and, in these cases, a WiFi
connection should be made. Fluke has opti-
mized the antennas in its tools to work well with
the WiFi antennas in smartphones. This also
helps the batteries last longer, because cellular
4G and LTE service is far more power intensive.
Range is another factor that Fluke consid-
ered when implementing the Connect system.
According to Honsinger, 30 ft is the conservative
range specification given by Fluke. This takes in
account the fact that many of Fluke’s early Con-
nect adopters will be working in an industrial
environment where electrical interference, or
non-line-of-sight instrument mounting, will be
a factor in connectivity range.
The main reason for including clamp meters
and thermometers in the initial Fluke Connect
deployment is that they are ubiquitous. Wireless technology will benefit a large swath of
customers. And, according to Heydron, these
instruments are straightforward in terms of data
Building the user experience
While the technical side of wireless data transmission occupied much of Fluke’s development
agenda, another factor that needed to be considered was user experience. The primary communication device, the smartphone, has already
been optimized for this, but the standalone
Connect application presented a new challenge.
An instrument like a thermal imager or oscilloscope typically has its own display, optimized for
the type of information that is being generated.
But a smartphone must account for an almost
limitless array of outputs.
Recognizing the need to not swamp users
with too much data on a small smartphone
screen or rob them of valuable visuals, Honsinger and his team received the help of an outside
design firm, Artefact Group, which developed
attractive and sensible user interfaces.
This stage of development called for tests
with individual customers and focus groups.
Honsinger says Fluke also has user experience
experts in-house, which helped optimize the
graphical views. Hands-on feedback started
with sketches and the process became a chain
of continuous feedback with users. A handful
of Fluke’s customers, says Heydron, have field
experience with multiple generations of Fluke
instrumentation. This depth of experience was
advantageous to the Connect development team
as it was optimizing. These users would see data
output and tell the engineers what they assumed
the data was communicating. A simple example
is the output of three individual electrical measurements.
Going forward, Fluke has plans to expand
its user interface optimization to include larger
devices, such as tablets. For the moment, the
system is designed for smartphones, the most
portable of communication devices.