Have you ever thought about device integration? Surely, you’ve heard or read about it; for example, in our recent press release announcing the complete integration of the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones into our product portfolio of mobile network testing solutions. Didn’t you then wonder what exactly device integration means?
Unlike competitors’ claims, device integration is everything but simply connecting user and measurement equipment. It also entails much more than merely rooting a device. “Rooting a phone, in fact, is only a stepping stone to the true detective work upon which device integration depends”, Pascal Luder, Team Leader Device Integration, says.
With that said and with us being industry-wide known as first to fully integrate the latest end-user devices, such as the Galaxy S8 smartphones – offering customers a competitive edge and support in testing and optimizing forward-thinking features and technologies from a true end-user perspective – it was about time to grill the expert. The R&S Mobile Network Testing Team (MNT Team) spoke with our device integration expert Pascal Luder.
MNT Team: What is device integration in the world of mobile network testing?
Pascal Luder: First, it is important to know that all our test solutions are based on commercially available smartphones. Device integration in this context means preparing the smartphone so that each of our products can run on it. In a first step, this preparation entails access to root rights and overcoming the device’s security issues. This is necessary to make all the device’s internal interfaces – most importantly audio, video, trace, and forcing – available to overlying applications, namely our products’ centerpiece, the QualiPoc platform, including its wide array of voice, video, and app tests.
MNT Team: So, rooting the device is key after all.
Pascal Luder: Yes and no. As mentioned earlier, rooting the device is the stepping stone to a complete device integration. Once rooted, the true detective work begins. In order for QualiPoc to properly parse and filter the diagnostic data (radio parameters and key performance indicators), it needs to be able “to communicate”, as in sending commands, with the device’s internal interfaces.
After making the phone’s internal interfaces available, we meticulously test and tinker, checking what works and how, and analyzing what doesn’t work and why. You see, the interfaces are undocumented, respectively not available to the public, and information available on the Internet is rare. So we do a lot of reverse engineering to answer typical basic questions, such as what must be adapted so that videos are correctly evaluated? Which modifications are necessary for the microphone to suppress ambient noise? How does the amplifier need to be adjusted so that the audio levels are accurate? And so on.
MNT Team: The functionalities of today’s smartphones are increasingly complex. Are some parameters that our products need to extract more important or trickier to access than others?
Pascal Luder: In the end, it’s not about what is more important or complex. It’s imperative that QualiPoc can access all internal interfaces. And, indeed, this is where things get tricky. Because there’s such a great variety of manufacturers, devices, chipsets, firmware types, and brands on the market, our biggest challenge is to come up with the “lowest common denominator”. In other words, we must find the most generic approach to integrate new devices into our portfolio. A seemingly insignificant firmware update, however, can reduce all effort to nil.
MNT Team: So, how do we manage always to be the first to integrate the latest devices?
Pascal Luder: We have the right people. Not only are they experts in Linux, as Android is based on Linux, but they’re also highly creative and adamant tinkerers who are not afraid to try. And, we have the in-house expertise and experience. Device integration isn’t something you can study at university; it’s acquired knowledge. Precisely why we do all our integrations in-house in Zuchwil, Switzerland.