Friday, February 24, 2012

This Blog Has Moved

Microwave Journal has published a new web site and all future blog posting will be located at:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pat's Predictions - 2012 Microwave Forecast

It is that time again, I have made my Microwave Industry predictions for 2012:

1. GaN Switches and GaN MMICs experience significant growth in high power commercial markets and start in-roads into military market.

2. LTE continues to grow rapidly taking over the infrastructure market and people start talking about 5G.

3. Wideband RF devices start to replace multiple transmit chains in handsets.

4. Microwave based imaging solutions start to replace some X-ray based imaging in some medical applications.

5. NFC and mobile payments start to penetrate the handset market worldwide.

6. Internet connected homes start to be realized in mass with connected TVs, appliances, heating/cooling systems and security devices.

7. White space radio spectrum and cognitive devices start to be realized.

8. Test and measurement convergence continues at a rapid pace as suppliers combine multiple tests systems into a single box.

9. Modeling software becomes part of the test and measurement systems sell with combined offerings from multiple companies.

10. Addressing interference issues becomes the biggest problem in the cellular infrastructure market – compact filters (IC and miniature ceramic) are offered as possible solutions.

11. Radar sensors become an affordable option in some standard car models (instead of only premium brands such as Mercedes and Audi).

12. UAVs are the only bright spot for Defense spending as cuts are made in most other areas.

2011 Industry predictions and outcomes (let's see how I did last year):

1. Tunable devices and circuits like RF MEMS and switched capacitor banks will be adopted in cell phones and alleviate some of the antenna reception issues that plagued phones like the iPhone 4.
This started to happen to some extent but was limited so maybe this was half correct.

2. Smart Grid applications will take off this year with ISM and Zigbee wireless applications being widely implemented around the world.
While this was talked about a lot, I not sure it really took off so maybe in 2012.

3. LTE will dominate the 4G networks as it is implemented around the world and zooms past WiMAX in deployments.
This definitely happened in a big way as CTIA and MWC were dominated by LTE along with deployments worldwide.

4. Femtocells, WiFi and other shorter range wireless technologies will be implemented to get around cellular dead spots instead of just deploying more basestations to fill in coverage.
This occurred to some extent again, but not in a big way so only half credit.

5. Metamaterials will start to be used in real world devices for filters and other passive devices (maybe even radar cloaking for the military).
While there continues to be research in this area, it did not happen in any meaningful manner.

6. Adaptive/Cognitive radar and communication systems will go into real development programs.
There was some activity in this area but it was limited.

7. Millimeterwave frequency solutions will dominate the new backhaul and satellite communications deployments.
Same as above.

8. SOI and SOS based switches will start taking market share from the traditional dominant GaAs markets.
This started to occur as the Peregrine SOS switches have made in-roads and companies such as Skyworks and RFMD are now producing quality SOI switches which I expect to see more of this year.

9. The confusion of the definition of 4G technologies will continue while someone will define and start using the term 5G.
The confusion definitely continued but I never heard anyone mention 5G.

10. Microwave applications will see significant use in medical technologies to enhance cures for diseases such as cancer.
I keep hoping for this one to occur more than any other prediction, so I once again added a similar prediction this year but only limited progress has been made in microwave medical technology.

Let me know what you think will happen in 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Articles on Microwave Journal for 2011

Here are the top 10 most viewed articles this year on the Microwave Journal web site:

  1. The Current State of Technology and Future Trends in Wireless Communications and Applications

  2. Cognitive Radar: The Next Radar Wave?

  3. RFID: The Next Generation Auto-ID Technology

  4. A Compact, Omni-directional, Circularly Polarized Microstrip Antenna

  5. Making Thermal Resistance Measurements without Test Diodes or Thermal Stages

  6. An Analog Approach to Power Amplifier Predistortion

  7. Trends in Defence Electronics: Technological Convergence in Radar and EW

  8. Xinger®-III Doherty Combiner Offers Advantages Over a PCB Combiner

  9. Two-arm Archimedean Spiral Helical Antenna with Wraparound Absorber

  10. Modern RFID Readers

Half of these articles are not from this year showing the long life time of technical articles as some of them are several years (or more) old.

Here are the top 10 News items for 2011:

  1. AWR Announces China Expansion with Office in Asia

  2. TI to Acquire National Semiconductor

  3. Rogers Assists Circuit Designer with Free Impedance Calculator Software

  4. Agilent Ships Latest ADS Platform

  5. Cambridge Consultants Sprints Ahead with Counter-terror Search Technology

  6. NXP Launches High Performance RF Design Challenge

  7. Skyworks to Acquire SiGe Semiconductor for $210 M

  8. GigOptix to Acquire Endwave
  9. Comtech Receives $3.3 M for High Power Amplifiers and Switches

  10. TiaLinx Announces Launch of Cougar20-H, A Mini-Robot

The biggest news of the year for me was the National Instruments acquisition of AWR and Phase Matrix announced right before IMS 2011. Also popular were our show coverage and show wrap up articles which all ranked very high. What was your favorite article or topic of the year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Summary of Dec Cell Phone Mkt Shares

This market insight report compares Q3 shelfshare trends in smartphone and non-smartphone markets across the world. The analysis was carried out using SpecTRAX, from Strategy Analytics which covers 13,000 handset models from 140 network operators in 31 countries.

This month’s shelfshare report uses data from Q3 2011 to reveal:

- Smartphones accounted for 49% of global shelfshare with non-smartphones accounting for 46% of operator shelfshare.

- Smartphone presence in operator portfolios has doubled in three years and now the market is dominated by big brands. Mobile phone portfolios are being filled up with smartphones, tablets and USB dongles at all price points.

- The top five global smartphone shelfshares were held by Nokia at 22%, Samsung 17% and then HTC, RIM and Sony Ericsson each had around 10%. Together they occupied 75%.

- Samsung and Nokia also dominated non-smartphone global shelfshare at 27% and 22% respectively. Their nearest competitor was LG which achieved 14%.

- The regional analysis showed extremely different smartphone shelfshare trends in terms of the top ten market leaders outside of Europe. Top of the charts were RIM in North America at 27%, Nokia 22% of South America, Sharp 19% in Japan and Samsung with 20% in South Korea.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Non-Lethal Weapons: Technologies & Global Market - 2012-2020

Over the next ten years, the Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW) market is forecasted to emerge as a key domain for asymmetric warfare and law enforcement technology providers. Governments worldwide have undoubtedly understood the function of non-lethal weapons following lessons learned in Egypt, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan. Unforeseen street riots and mass demonstrations over the last decade have revealed the loopholes in the security dogma of the 21st century.

There is a growing demand from combatant commanders, law enforcement officers and political establishments for NLW capabilities. This demand is driven by the need to help them win the hearts and minds of the non-combatant population and prevent world outcry and media attention due to non-combatant casualties. As a result, many governments have entered into non-lethal weapons R&D and procurement dedicated to the full spectrum of public safety, law enforcement, crowd control and asymmetric warfare.

The new Non-Lethal Weapons: Technologies & Global Market - 2012-2020 report is the first and only comprehensive study of the emerging NLW market. In this report HSRC analysts forecast that the NLW market will triple towards 2020. The growth will be accelerated in 2016-2020 to a 17% CAGR due to pipeline NLW technologies.

The report, segmented into 61 sub-markets, offers for each sub-market 2011 data and 2012-2020 forecasts and analysis. In more than 320 pages, 124 tables and 99 figures, the report analyses and projects the 2012-2020 market and technologies from several perspectives, including:

* Market forecast by user sector: military and law enforcement sectors
* Market forecast by application: (e.g., blunt impact NLW, disperse NLW, anti-vehicle NLW, non-lethal ammunition, NLW RDT&E)
* National markets in 16 leading countries, (e.g., US, UK, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Brazil)
* The NLW Industry: Vendors , Products, Prices ,Performance and RDT&E programs
* Market analysis (e.g., market drivers & inhibitors, SWOT analysis)
* Business environment (e.g., competitive analysis, recent contracts)
* Current and pipeline technologies
* Business opportunities and challenges

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do-It-Yourself M2M in Your Home

A couple of guys from MIT have started Supermechanical and developed a WiFi module that can connect sensors to the Internet. According to their project listing on the KickStarter website, "Twine is the simplest possible way to get the objects in your life texting, tweeting or emailing. A durable 2.5" square provides WiFi connectivity, internal and external sensors, and two AAA batteries that keep it running for months. A simple web app allows to you quickly set up your Twine with human-friendly rules — no programming needed. And if you're more adventurous, you can connect your own sensors and use HTTP to have Twine send data to your own app."

Twine is a wireless module tightly integrated with a cloud-based service. The module has WiFi, on-board temperature and vibration sensors, and an expansion connector for other sensors. Power is supplied by the on-board mini USB or two AAA batteries (and Twine will email you when you need to change the batteries).

For $99 to support the project development, you can monitor temperature and motion with one module and receive a text message, Twitter or e-mail if the conditions you set are exceeded. There is a simple web interface to setup the module and conditions of your choice with each sensor. The WiFi module comes with a built-in temperature and accelerometer and you can add other external sensors for things such as moisture, magnetic switch, etc. which you can add via an external connector board.

Applications include sensing water in your basement, opening of doors, washer/dryer is finished, etc. They have already exceeded their funding goal by a huge margin but you can order the various configurations on the KickStarter website for delivery in March of 2012.

MIT Camera Captures One Trillion Frames per Second

A team of researchers over at MIT might have just broken a new record. They’ve created “the world’s slowest fastest camera,” which is able to shoot one trillion frames per second. To put the speed into perspective: one trillion seconds is over 31,688 years. If you then take one second of footage on this camera, and played it back at 30 fps, it would still take you over 1,000 years to watch it, according to (If you decide to host that sort of movie night, please don’t invite us over.)

Led by Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, the team relied on this new technology called a “streak camera,” which, essentially, has a slit so narrow that only a thin slice of laser light can be seen at one time, according to ExtremeTech. The laser pulses are then picked up by an array of 500 sensors in the camera, and, with the use of mirrors, the camera’s angle of view is changed over time until each of these one-dimensional slices can be built up into a complete 2D image.

Watch Video

Good Idea: USB Wall Outlets

File this item in the "why didn't someone think of this sooner" folder - Current Werks, a leading innovator in green mobile power storage and charging devices, just introduced two industry-changing, energy-saving USB wall outlets: the Quattro and Duo. The company will exhibit these products in the Eureka Park TechZone at the 2012 International CES Tradeshow, January 10-13 in Las Vegas.

The Quattro (patent pending) is the first product in the industry that replaces a standard electrical wall outlet with four powerful USB charging ports. The Quattro's four USB ports deliver a combined output of 22Watts, making the Quattro the most powerful in-wall charging solution available anywhere. The Quattro also features an innovative (patent pending) tamper-resistant door that when closed completely eliminates standby power, also known as vampire power. The Quattro has the ability to replace four bulky USB AC adapters with one wall outlet.

The Duo (patent pending) features two powerful in-wall USB charging ports delivering 16Watts of output power from a standard 110V wall outlet. The Duo's advanced power management design gives the consumer a total of four charging solutions, two USB charging ports and two standard US/CAN sockets from a single wall outlet. This makes the Duo the second most powerful in-wall charging solution available in the market today, surpassed only by the Quattro. The Duo supports 15Amp and 20Amp wall receptacles.

The Quattro and Duo USB Wall Outlets, with their energy-saving design, are ideal for both commercial and residential applications. They are powerful enough to provide the fastest charge available to even the most power-hungry portable devices, such as Apple's iPad® and iPhone® as well as Android® smartphones and tablets. The Quattro and Duo outlets are designed to maximize charging power and wall outlet space available for charging, while eliminating unnecessary charging wall clutter.

The Current Werks USB wall outlets are priced at $39.98 for the Quattro and $24.98 for the Duo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Growth in Printed Electronics

The following was written by Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, Technology Analyst, IDTechEx

At end of November, IDTechEx held the world's largest printed electronics and photovoltaics conference and tradeshow in Silicon Valley at the Santa Clara Convention Center. This show brought together more than 1300 attendees from 28 countries. Players active across the entire value chain were present; covering the full range from research organisations to end-users, and from small start-ups to multi-billion internationals.

Mr Raghu Das, CEO, IDTechEx, opened the show with his keynote speech, arguing that there lies a great untapped market opportunity in offering final integrated products. Indeed, product integrators are in the privileged position of being able to cherry pick the best materials from an ever expanding range of options. This conclusion is supported by IDTechEx statistics showing that 97% of all companies profiled are currently offering only materials and/or components, and not final products. Therefore, IDTechEx is excited to see the printed electronics world evolve towards its next step, which will witness more and more final solutions and/or products appearing on the market.

New printed electronics products

Indeed, things are already moving quickly, as testified by a range of end-user companies including Proctor and Gamble (P&G), MWV Packaging, Boeing, Decathlon SA and more. A notable example was from P&G, the world's largest consumer packaged goods company with sales of more than $80 billion, which unveiled a decorative tissue box featuring an electroluminescent (EL) display. Here the product consisted of two parts: an interchangeable tissue box featuring the display and a fixed base providing the circuitry and power required to drive the EL display. This will be in stores this season. Also interesting was the novel anti-theft packaging produced by MWV Packaging in collaboration with Vorbeck. This product, which won IDTechEx's Best Product Development award, features a low-cost printed flexible graphene conducting layer and will be used in Home Depot stores in 2012.
Boeing discussed their current use of printed electronics as a bird strike detector in aircraft.

Rollable Displays

System and device manufacturers also presented their latest progress. PolymerVision showcased their truly rollable display capable of showing animated images. This is good news for printed electronics as flexible displays could provide a platform for a plethora of printed components, enabling large new markets. These include flexible Indium Thin Oxide (ITO) replacement, printed thin film transistors (TFTs), printed OLEDs, etc. However, replacing vacuum processed devices still remains ambitious, not least because printed TFTs will struggle in the near future to match the performance of the mature organic and the emerging metal oxide TFT technologies. For more information on Thin Film Transistors read the report from IDTechEx; "Printed and Thin Film Transistors and Memory 2011-2021"

Sensor Technologies

Printed sensors and actuators are also showing very promising signs of rapid improvement. PST Sensors offered a printed silicon-based temperature sensor that could be employed as a touch screen. Peratech offered a quantum-tunnelling ink that would change its conductivity by as much as 16 orders of magnitude when pressed with a finger! The Peratech ink can be formulated in opaque, translucent and transparent formats. This technology, which won IDTechEx's Best Commercialisation Award, could extend touch screen capability to a vast array of substrates and products. Artificial Muscle, Inc showcased their morphiepulseTM technology in the "Demonstration Street" area. This technology can bring a high definition feel to touch screens by printing voltage-controlled actuators. This means that touch screens can respond back to users in a fun and intelligent way, giving rise to different vibration modes for different events.

Conductive Inks

A large variety of different conductive inks were also on show. The inks were differentiated on the basis of their conductivity and price. Nanoparticle inks (Nanogap, Nanomas, Intrinsiq, PChem, Applied Nanotech etc) claimed the higher conductivity ground with higher cost. Traditional flake-based polymer thick films (Dupont, Dow International, etc) offered low-cost and familiarity, but that came at the expense of conductivity at the same temperature. All have an opportunity depending on the application. Copper oxide nanoparticles (Novacentrix) offered truly low-cost inks suitable for high-volume applications such RFID tags, but mandate the use of special equipment to provide high-intensity light pulses. Graphene inks (Vorbeck) were also presented, plugging a gap in the market which requires low cost, moderate conductivity and flexibility.

ITO replacements

Conductive inks offering high levels of optical transparency are also becoming a viable ITO replacement option. Most notably, Cambrios announced that their silver nanowire inks are now in hundreds of thousands of Samsung cell phones. This represents a significant endorsement of their technology and a clear leapfrog towards capturing a portion of the $3 billion ITO market. Moreover, Evonik brought an exciting nanoparticle ITO ink to the play that could be printed only where needed thus doing away with the subtractive and wasteful sputter-etch process predominantly used today.
There is currently no one-size-fits-all solution on the conductive ink market. They are a variety of technologies, each sitting in its own niche based on its own attributes. Breaking into mature multibillion dollar markets traditionally served by polymer thick films is one strategy - the other is to deploy the new functionality (such as better conductors on flexible substrates) to do new things. This however still remains a challenge.

While such presentations bear testimony that printed electronics is indeed fast making significant progress and inroads into markets, they also highlight critical challenges that lie ahead. From the end user prospective, these include the fact that the current state of the market largely requires them to take on the challenge of product design and integration. And from the prospective of material/component providers, these include the delay in the realisation of high-volume markets that would enable printed electronics to realise its ultimate promise of being truly low cost.