Back a few weeks ago I came across a standard called Automatic Test Markup Language (ATML). I did some research, got to the official ATML website, and found out that it is currently under discussion by an IEEE working group. Basically, it is a formalized way of communicating information about tests between hardware, software, databases, and across the internet. It is based on XML and includes schema for test results, diagnostics, test description, instruments, etc.
I like what I've read about it so far, and I've already introduced it to the other people in my group. The plan will be to implement it in work going forward. We currently use a mixture of home-grown XML and a small amount of plain text files. Moving to ATML is a logical progression.
The thing that bothers me is why didn't I hear about this before? It has been in the works since at least 2005, there was an article about it in Evaluation Engineering, and even National Instruments wrote about it to promote their Test Stand software. Perhaps I was so buried in the details of my current company over the past two years that I never lifted my head to see what else was happening.
That is something that engineers, especially test engineers, need to do. New testing tools keep coming out, better versions of existing instruments, new ways to test - we need to stay abreast of these things.