Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Renewed Interest in mmWave Body Scanners

With the recent terrorist attack on the flight heading to Detroit, there is a flurry of renewed priority to install scanners that can detect small amounts of explosives hidden on the body. There are two vying technologies for body scanning, low level back scatter x-ray and millimeter wave imaging. They have been slow to catch on due to the cost, speed and privacy concerns but with this new attack, the TSA is reportedly expediting the order for 300 new machines.

It appears 150 of these were already ordered from OSI Systems' Rapiscan unit which manufactures x-ray machines. From our industry's perspective, we hope many of these are mmWave body scanning machines which provide high resolution 3D images. Companies like L-3 would benefit from this increased buying if mmWave technology is used. There are still privacy concerns but the machines have softwave that can prevent abuse. We always seem to have to give up some privacy or rights to improve security.

What do you think - which technology is better? Do the privacy concerns out weigh the security risks??

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cyber Wars: Wireless Networks, Drones and Hacking

When the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Iraqi insurgents have been intercepting video communication signals from United States Predator drones over the last year, they characterized the actions as “the emergence of a shadow cyber war within the U.S.-led conflicts overseas.”

The truth is that cyber war has been the fifth warfare domain for some time, a new theater of war teeming with invisible enemies. The frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks is increasing daily, driven home by the insurgents’ wherewithal to both know that a $26 piece of pirating software could intercept these video signals (the Pentagon admits assuming local combatants wouldn’t know how to exploit the vulnerability), and actually pull it off.

Dale W. Meyerrose, head of Harris Corporation’s National Cyber Initiative and former Director of Command Control Systems at NORAD Headquarters, is quoted in Government Computer News that characterizing the incident as “hacking” is inaccurate; he likens it more to criminals intercepting police radio traffic than breaking into secure computer networks.

What is not being brought to light, is that whether or not the intercepted packet-based video was securely encrypted, the Iraqi insurgents potentially obtained location information about where the video is being sent – a much more severe disclosure than the targets of the surveillance.

Rajive Bagrodia, founder and president of Scalable Network Technologies, explains in a Defense Systems article that that “passive eavesdropping can be used to reveal the location of other network nodes, and the traffic pattern used to deduce other strategic information. If a wireless device is physically captured or hijacked, it risks revealing location information and packet contents while the rest of the network remains unaware. The most secure mobile wireless networks must therefore operate in a ‘trust but verify’ mode with every other peer node, and protect information, including routing information, at every layer of the network stack.”

However you spin it, the exposure of this year-long espionage shines a bright light on the severe vulnerability of wireless network transmissions—which the military is becoming more dependent upon in the larger shift to net-centric warfare. The specific ability to “eavesdrop” on drone-to-ground video transmissions, and what to do about it, was the subject of a demonstration conducted at this year’s I/ITSEC Conference by SNT of Los Angeles, CA. SNT has pioneered a new class of advanced network simulation and emulation tools called software virtual networks (SVNs) that are capable of rigorously vetting net-centric communication systems, particularly the most vulnerable domain of mobile wireless networks.

A recently article by Kevin Coleman in Defense Tech , Drone Video Hacks — The Cyber War Salvo , states that the military is scrambling to encrypt UAV video feeds in the wake of this disclosure. It further postulates that updating decade-old components will present a major encryption challenge to U.S. military technicians, and security needs to be built in, not bolted on later.

This is exactly the kind of wireless network and application engineering challenge that SVNs were created to overcome. First introduced in 2008, SVNs are exact digital replicas of physical networks in virtual space – indistinguishable from a real network. SVNs are based on emulation, which makes them able to interoperate with applications, devices, management tools, and people – at real time speed. SVNs emulate all of the layers in IP networks and can also emulate networks as large as thousands of nodes. This provides cyber security planners high fidelity results that are comparable to physical testing—but faster and at much lower cost. This in turn enables application developers and network engineers to do exactly as Mr. Coleman suggests – design security into the networks and applications themselves.

Courtesy of Camille Cox: camille@onrampcomm.com .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WiGig Alliance Completes Multi-gigabit Wireless Spec

The Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig) is an organization advancing the adoption and widespread use of 60 GHz wireless technology worldwide. They recently announced the completion of a unified wireless specification that enables high performance wireless display and audio and provides data transfer rates more than 10 times faster than today’s wireless LANs, extending WiFi technology while supporting backward compatibility with existing WiFi devices. The completed specification is now ready for member review and is anticipated to be made available to WiGig adopter members in Q1 2010.

This is a nice setup where devices would use the higher throughput WiGig spec for short distance applications and automatically switch over to WiFi for longer distances. It could be used for wireless HDTV to eliminate wires including connections to other video sources. The beauty of the 60 GHz solutions is they are inherently short range due to the high absorption in air (oxygen molecules) so they will not interfere with other signals (and could be used for more secure military applications).

There are several standards vying for wireless HDTV applications such as lower frequency solutions like 802.11n/WHDI (5.8 GHz) and UWB (3.1 to 10.6 GHz) plus the higher frequency (60 GHz) solutions like WirelessHD, ECMA-387 and IEEE 802.15.3c. There was a nice article covering these different solutions in our August 2009 issue called “MM-waves in the Living Room: The Future of Wireless High Definition Multimedia.”

Which one do you think will win out and why???

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Radio Heads Growing

I have read and seen a lot at trade show the changing demands of cost reduction and greater efficiency in cellular base station design are leading to a growing market for remote radio heads. According to a new study from ABI Research, this market is on track to exceed a value of $1 billion in 2014.

A basestation traditionally was made up of a rack of equipment with a long coaxial cable up to the antenna. This configuration is more expensive and has higher losses due the long cable up to he antenna. Remote radio heads are compact so they can be mounted right on the back of the antenna greatly reducing the losses. They are also less expensive and software controlled so they can be configured and updated remotely. Multiple heads can be attached for MIMO operation and controlled by a single basestation to further reduce costs while enabling higher capacity. They are becoming more important as WiMAX and LTE technologies are implemented that will utilize MIMO operation.

There is also the shift to IP based radios which makes the software portion of the radio even more important. The capacity of these radio systems is increasing quickly, and I see nice solutions from suppliers such as Dragonwave, Ceragon, Harris Stratex, Exalt and more at every trade show. This trend enables more complicated but higher throughput technologies such as adaptive modulation. For more on this subject read our Expert Advice this month by Greg Friesen from DragonWave.

All these changes in the radio implementations will affect the type of demand for components and software as this shift continues. Suppliers will need to improve device efficiency, reduce component size and improve reliability as servicing these heads is more difficult than traditional basestations. Typically discrete devices are used so future integration of multiple functions will reduces costs and improve reliability.

Have you experienced this change in demand at the component level? Has it changed the demands on antenna performance??

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Designers Search

The results of a survey by a trade journal serving the Integrated Circuit market on “How Designers Search – Survey Results.” offered some interesting food for thought. The information was gleaned from the 185 managers, engineers and programmers working in commercial or military sectors out of 443 respondents to a survey sent to eg3.com’s 43,000-plus subscriber list.

The survey attempted to determine how engineers and programmers search for information on technology, what types of content they were seeking, and how they went about finding it. As might be expected, search engines ranked high and were used by engineers, virtually all the time, with Google leading the pack, followed by Yahoo (a distant second) and Microsoft’s Bing.

The survey results also provided insight into how engineers use these search engines. Not surprisingly, most engineers do not give up after the first page of links, but go deep into the result pages. In fact, almost 40% “often” or “always” go as far as Page 10 on their searches. This makes sense for people working in highly technical and specialized fields and represents one flaw in general search engines such as Google. Since they serve the general public, specialized content is easily buried. I know this to be true from my own research efforts, which can often require going far into the Google results. I wouldn’t be surprised if the problem gets much worse before we start seeing a backlash and a shift in the use of search technology and introduction of alternative products/services.

Beyond search engines, online media was ranked as a very good source of information to the engineering community, while emails and newsletters were also highly regarded. Perhaps online media should be ranked as the highest source of information, since search engines ultimately just redirect engineers to these sites anyways.

Social media as a source of information is growing slowly but currently ranked low enough among the survey takers to make some people conclude that social media is greatly overhyped for distributing information. I have a different opinion. I have just recently started using Twitter, Linked-in and Facebook to distribute information that I find useful and assume others will to. If e-mailing a good article to colleagues is common among engineers (which according to the survey, it is), then I believe social media will be adopted for a similar purpose in much greater numbers in 2010. Instead of forwarding an article and listing all the recipients' e-mail addresses, I can forward an article in two mouse clicks via Twitter and cover all the people who follow my Tweets. Think of it as a recommendation service - "As someone working in the microwave/wireless field I found this interesting and think you will to". Its like a custom ad-hoc newsletter. We have just implemented this share capability (Twitter, Linked-in,.. ) on the Microwave Journal web site, and I hope many of you take advantage of it. Engineers may not necessarily be first adaptors but once they discover a time-saving tool, watch out.

The survey found trade shows and print publications still popular but significantly behind search engines for research. This also makes sense. Print has many great qualities, providing a unique, tactile reader experience that the web cannot deliver, although hyper-linking isn’t one of them. I also know that many of our print subscribers hold on to their copies for many months or pass them around the office. This information educates many engineers before they ever go online and fire up the search engine.

In the “What do Designers Want” category, ‘hands-on’ items such as demos, software and evaluation kits rank very highly. On the flip side, vendor articles and webinars ranked moderately low and podcasts very low in response to a “What Information do you seek” question. I found thess results very surprising and perhaps weighted by an abundance of self-promoting, marketing focused articles appearing elsewhere on the web. I know these are a big turn-off for technical people, looking for information to get their jobs done.

Looking at the attendance of MWJ/Besser webinars and download rates of vendor white papers, which remain quite high, I believe the continued popularity of both is testament to the quality of information (and self-restraint) that the marketing people in our industry have shown when developing and presenting information about their technologies and products.

If we can do more to help you find what you need, feel free to comment. The suggestion box is open.

WiMAX Growing Quickly as LTE Looms Large

ABI Research just released a report that mobile WiMAX subscribers will be about 2 million strong by the end of 2009 this month. They state that Clearwire in the United States has already declared 173,000 subscribers, Yota in Russia has been growing at a decent rate reaching 100,000 subscribers in August and 200,000 in October, and PacketOne in Malaysia has reached 130,000 subscribers.

Plus we have UQ Communications that expected to reach 300,000 subscribers by the end of 2009, but is behind schedule in its rollout and will fall short of that initial target. South Korea has seen KT’s and SKT's subscriber numbers remain fairly stagnant, while these service providers prepare for another big push as a third WiMAX service provider comes to South Korea.

This handful of WiMAX service providers alone will account for a significant minority of the nearly two million mobile WiMAX subscribers expected by the end of 2009.

I have read a lot about South Korea's outstanding mobile WiMAX network that works well even throughout its underground subway. They have fast data rates and low drop out rates with a multitude of applications available. They boast the highest broadband household penetration rate of 95% as referenced in our Oct cover story on the US Broadband Initiative (compared to the US rate of 60%).

ABI's practice director Philip Solis says "Mobile WiMAX service providers around the world find themselves in very different situations". Some are mainly focused on fixed services for homes and businesses, while others are jumping feet first into mobile WiMAX, offering a variety of external modems, laptops, netbooks and even handsets tied into HD multimedia services, as with Yota in Russia. Some have little fixed or mobile broadband competition, while others are competing directly against fixed and mobile broadband services.

"Some, such as Japan's UQ Communications, are behind their buildout schedules and subscriber expectations, while others such are Clearwire are increasing the pace of their deployments because of more-than-adequate funding. Still others such as Yota in Russia are exceeding all expectations. Some are remaining local, while others, such as Clearwire and Yota, are building networks in more than one country."

Just as the mobile WiMAX market is starting to bloom, LTE networks from early movers such as Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo are targeting the same potential customers. The LTE ecosystem will eventually be vastly larger than the mobile WiMAX ecosystem, but just as LTE deployments start picking up in 2011 and 2012, some 802.16e service providers will begin upgrading their networks to 802.16m.

How soon do you see LTE taking over the lead over WiMAX for subscribers? I think it will be a couple of years but it will happen. They both have their place depending on the application and location so I don't think one is always better than the other.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SA Says GaAs Evolving to Stave Off Si Challenge

Strategy Analytics reports that the GaAs industry is creating innovations designed to stave off the dual challenges of integration and low-cost silicon technologies. Newer BiFET and BiHEMT processes will enable GaAs device manufacturers to integrate HBT power amplifiers onto a single die with HEMT-based switches and other functions. Meanwhile, the use of optical lithography for production of smaller geometry processes will enable more cost-effective production of millimeter-wave ICs. But HBT and HEMT processes will continue to underpin the commercial market for GaAs devices which will be worth $4 - $5 billion by 2013, as stated in the latest Strategy Analytics study.

BiFET and BiHEMT technologies will enable the development of a future class of products, providing integrated solutions that retain the industry-leading performance offered by GaAs and necessary for next-generation wireless markets,” noted Steve Entwistle, VP of Strategy Analytics’ Strategic Technologies Practice.

GaAs is still erroneously perceived by many as an exotic, expensive technology,” said Asif Anwar, Director of the Strategy Analytics GaAs and Compound Semiconductor Technologies Service. “The reality is that GaAs technologies continue to meet the requirements from cost-sensitive markets, such as cellular handsets and is the most cost-effective technology for markets that require millimeter-wave performance.”

Mr. Anwar concluded, “The application of optical lithography for millimeter-wave IC production will significantly enhance the cost-effectiveness of GaAs compared to silicon technology-based offerings, while retaining the benefits of performance and faster time-to-market.”

How much progression do you think GaAs BiFET and BiHEMT processes are making to fend off Si improvements in integration and lower cost?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keithley Sells RF Product Line to Agilent

Big news yesterday in the RF test and measurement world as Agilent agreed to purchase all of Keithley's RF test product line. It appears that these products were not profitable for Keithley in the short-term so they were turned into cash as they expect to receive proceeds of approximately $9 M and to realize a pre-tax gain in the range of $2.5 to $3.5 M during its first quarter (ending this year) as a result of the sale. It also seems that all workers at the Santa Rosa design center have been offered jobs with Agilent’s Santa Rosa-based Electronic Measurement Group as the Keithley location on Aviation Boulevard will become an Agilent facility next month which is good news for the employees. The official news item is linked above.
On the final day of the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels the issue of mHealth was brought into focus in a number of presentations (*listed below) covering issues such as standardisation, reimbursement, user acceptance, mHealth communities and aiding healthcare in developing countries.

At the end of the session Chair, Marc Sauter, director of strategy at Cinterion Wireless, summarised the key points that had been raised and highlighted the challenges that need to be addressed.

He began, “The sessions offered a comprehensive and detailed overview of the mHealth market from a number of different angles. What is clear is that we have a complex eco-system and value chain in the healthcare market, which, as has been demonstrated throughout this conference, is reflected throughout the entire M2M market.

“A key issue is the standardisation process, which is crucial for the success of mobile health. But since the official standardisation is struggling the likelihood is that standards will increasingly be developed by companies. As was mentioned[1] Microsoft, Intel, General Electric and others are active here.”

Another issue raised was the channels for reimbursement for mHealth services with the example given that if a patient receives a service via telemonitoring there can be a different means of reimbursement from the health service or insurance company than if that patient had visited the doctor in person, although the service was comparable.

Sauter then maintained that the ease of use and functionality of devices will determine user acceptance. He said, “This is particularly pertinent in the mHealth sector where often the users are elderly people or very young people who are not familiar with the latest technologies. We have to take that into consideration when designing devices. Also, as has been said several times during this conference, with regards to user acceptance a question that always has to be asked is: can you trust the system?

Also discussed was the creation of mHealth communities in cities, regions and provinces whereby all the players work together to share data, share information and their experiences and create a unique, tailored service.

With regards to the development and implementation of mHealth technology he referred to a presentation[2], which raised a number of issues. These included defining the set of data that needs to be monitored. In particular it is crucial at the beginning to get this definition right in order to get the right diagnosis. Then there has to be acceptance of the device and the system, alongside data security and privacy and the definition of guidelines and processes on how to use and implement the technology. And as commercial companies developing systems and providing services need to make money, business cases need to be developed.

Sauter commented, “The M2M technology is there. We have cellular/platforms, mobile operators[3] say they have services in place and we have service providers offering services today. But we have to be more informative so that the end users and doctors know what to do with it.”

With regards to implementation, specific mHealth projects[4] are already in operation with encouraging results. Sauter commented, “Such projects show just what the potential is for mHealth and I think it should encourage us to go further down the line.”

He continued, “It was made clear in presentations that the eco-system will develop. The younger generation of doctors and patients will emerge that are used to playing around with iPhones and other devices, that will enable them to better adopt new technologies. New healthcare patterns will emerge.

mHealth is not just about the health monitoring of patients but can also assist in healthier and more comfortable living[5]. It has a role to play in staying fit and can offer piece of mind too. Telemonitoring can also provide health information to doctors about patients in their own environment without the stress of travel, waiting in surgeries etc, and provide more accurate data, leading to better treatment.”

In a global context the issue of bringing better healthcare to developing countries was raised[6]. Examples were given whereby mobile phone services or applications of the phone can help to improve the healthcare situation. Here, GSM, GPRS and HSPA technologies are all being utilised for mHealth applications.

Summing up Sauter said, “The mHealth revolution is going to be very significant and a huge market. We all need to work hard to develop this market to its full potential.”

1. mHealth initiative – introducing the mHealth revolution and its impact on healthcare strategies, Peter Waegemann, executive director, mHealth Initiative
2. Examining the latest technology for monitoring the elderly, ill or disabled, Maurice Zembra, general manager, Medical Data Transfer
3. mHealth – new business perspectives for mobile operators, Marc Sauter, director of strategy, Cinterion Wireless
4. Understanding how Virga Jessa Hospital in Hasselt, in collaboration with Belgium Social Security has developed a monitoring strategy for patients with chronic diseases, Prof. Paul Dendale, cardiologist, Heart Centre Hasselt, Belgium
5. How can mobile technology support remote diagnostic measures and how can it support the boom of elders who want to prolong the good life at home?, Bjorn Tellefsen, director M2M, Devoteam Telecom
6. Examining Vodafone’s role in founding the mHealth initiative, Caroline Dewing, external relations, Vodafone Group

Richard Mumford

Monday, November 23, 2009

M2M Business Exchange – Smart Thinking For The Future

Smart meters and the home was a key topic at the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels with speakers covering such areas as the creation of revenue streams, the role of mobile operators, the use of integrated technology and how smart metering can help reduce carbon emissions.

Setting the scene as chair of the Smart Meters & Homes session, Gary Thomas, director of PracticaPro, referred to a recent report from Pike Research that estimated that there would be more than 250 million smart meters installed worldwide by 2010.

Thomas stated that, “The opportunity for consumers to take control of their energy usage, reduce their global footprint and therefore help achieve global emission reduction targets is the really exciting part of smart metering.”

He continued, “Things get even more interesting when you start to think about how smart meters might integrate into the wider smart grid. Potentially they have to communicate with network operators, a whole raft of consumer appliances, electric vehicles, microgeneration units etc., and that integration is where the power of smart meters is unleashed.

“But standing in the way of those benefits are a whole raft of technical, commercial and regulatory, social and data security issues, not to mention the small matter of how to engage consumers in the drive for better energy efficiency.”

In his presentation titled Creating additional revenue streams from smart metering, Rich Hampshire, UK utilities practice lead at Logica, maintained that we need smart metering because climate change, population growth and the availability of primary fuels mean that how we satisfy our energy needs is changing and that delivering sustainable, affordable, secure energy requires action.

He highlighted that today’s challenges were to match demand by increasing generating capacity, addressing the intermittency of renewables, local balancing for decentralised generation and infrastructure development to handle load.

Hampshire identified a key objective as being to engage customers through various approaches, including fiscal stimuli, environmental incentives and rewarding them for behavioural change. He also outlined the importance of utilising the multimedia world to engage consumers and simplify interaction.

Environmental issues came under the spotlight when Maher Chebbo, vice president utilities Europe, Middle East and Africa for SAP, and also chairman of the EU Smart Grids Demands & Smart Metering Group considered, How is Smart Metering ICT contributing to the 2020 goal of radically reducing carbon emissions.

He began by giving five ‘energy insight predictions’ – energy efficiency is the ‘first fuel’ choice, Distributed Energy Resources (DER) as a grid support tool, intelligent grid up to $70 billion in 2013, web portals key for active consumers and generators focused on CO2 reduction.

He stated, “The European Commission has fixed clear goals. In Kyoto in 2007 the different goals for energy reduction, for CO2 reduction and the introduction of new renewables were fixed, requiring 20 percent less energy consumption by 2020 compared to the level in 1990. On 7 December in Copenhagen a United Nations conference will again discuss these targets and need to be even more ambitious, not just thinking about objectives for 2020 but by 2050 having reductions of 80 percent compared to 1990.”

He continued, “These targets have to be reached. In Europe the market is open but is not in the US. Since July 1, 2007 every customer in Europe has had the choice to switch to another supplier. This has meant that utilities are having to reach environmental goals while opening up the market, selling some of their businesses and unbundling other businesses. This construct has meant that in recent years some of the investment has been spent on IT in order to get the IT platforms ready for market openness.”

Chebbo posed the question, “What does this mean with regards to Smart Grids?” He proffered, “If you look at the full package from power production to the customer today there is central production and transmission distribution but in the future there will be millions of distributed generators connected to the network. There will be a hub rather than central and linear distribution down to the customer.

“However, the ICT tools to deliver communication technology and services are not ready. We have some models and some experience regarding how to make customers more empowered? But all of these tools have to be revised when you are working in a situation which is not centralinear distribution but you are working in a hub. There has to be completely new thinking as there will be ten times the data that there is today. So, one major aspect of investment in Smart Grids is making these processes available to a wide range of consumers – mostly residential. Smart Grid and smart metering investments are required.

In the presentation, Determining the role of the mobile operator in delivering smart metering, Valerie Le Peltier, director machine to machine verticals for Orange Group, offered another perspective.

“Smart metering is a fantastic opportunity and for us as a telecommunication operator it is also the beginning of a new story. It is the opportunity for rolling out new infrastructures that could be used for other uses and in particular smart city use cases. In some instances new infrastructures will have to be rolled out which, of course, is very complicated, it varies from one country to the next and from one energy to the next.”

Le Peltier commented, “The telecommunication operators are usually called for with regards to the long distance part of the picture and we do want to be there and address the market properly. However, the other area where we think that telecommunications operators can add value is the local data collection network, in particular, rolling out new radio networks that collect such data.”

She added, “As has been mentioned in an earlier presentation GSM might not be appropriate in all cases to connect the meter up to the information system of the utility and also it might not be economically viable to roll out based on GPRS. So, we think there is a business case for advanced radio technologies – mesh networks.

Richard Mumford

Analysts At Dawn – Challenges Facing M2M

Fragmentation, the development of the mass market and standards were key issues raised by the panel, Robin Duke Woolley, Emil Berthelsen and Dave Birch at the Analyst Dawn Briefing held at the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels.

Robin Duke Woolley, founder and CEO of Beecham Research, identified the fragmented nature of the M2M market as being a key issue. He stated. “What’s different about M2M is that it is very fragmented. Due to the broad range of applications there is a broad range of different technologies that can be used to find solutions in the M2M space. So, what tends to happen is that suppliers focus on technology areas that they are familiar with and therefore they only see a very small part of the overall picture.

“Cellular operators and hardware suppliers operate in one part of the market, the Ethernet and broadband suppliers operate in a different part, as do ZigBee, Bluetooth and RFID providers. However, when you put them all together it is quite a substantial area of activity. Add to that the end user and what he is using this stuff for and it is a very significant market.”

That significant market is growing apace and Dave Birch, director of Consult Hyperion, commented, “What is interesting at the moment is the emergence of a mass market and I believe there are four characteristics of a mass market. It has to be accessible, automatic, authorised and authentic. All of those four factors have to be in place.”

Of the four he identified authorisation as being, “the real problem and that is where there are some cracks in the foundations.” He continued, “There is danger that some of the basic security standards don’t get added on until afterwards.”

“Also, I think that how devices search and whether they are allowed to talk to each other is problematical. We know about the problem of authenticity. We understand how to put signatures etc and we tend to focus on the easy things but have probably put off some of the more difficult issues for too long and need to be tackling them.”

Robin Duke Woolley raised the issue of standards saying, “One of the problems with standards in the M2M space isn’t helped by the fact that there are so many different sectors and so many different devices involved in the market, each within a different industrial sector.” He added, “Attempts to achieve interoperability across industry sectors have not moved very far.”

Berthelsen, manager at Analysys Mason observed, “There is an analogy between mobile applications enterprises and M2M. In mobile enterprises one of the focus areas was creating a platform onto which the applications could be launched with the remote devices. The important element here is the ability of the middleware platform to allow people to link to any device across any network at any time. And that is pretty much an ideal scenario that needs to be transferred to the M2M sector.”
During the session there was only time to touch briefly on key issues, so Berthelsen posed the question, “The M2M market in Europe may be growing by 25 to 30 percent per annum but how do we support the market and help it evolve in the coming years?”

Richard Mumford

M2M Business Exchange – Providing Services

Our International Editor, Richard Mumford, visited the M2M Business Exchange in Brussels, Belgium and had the following review with additional posts following this one.

At the opening of the M2M Business Exchange, the conference chairman for the first day, Robin Duke Woolley, founder and CEO of Beecham Research, offered a perspective of the M2M sector when he commented, “The M2M market is all about connected services. It is not about devices. It is not about technology. It is not about infrastructure. It is a means to the end of providing end user services.”

He added, “We are talking about a change in the business of the supply of the devices and the services that surround those devices. We are talking about a change for the end suppliers of those devices in the marketplace.”

He also emphasized that such issues would be under discussion during the two-day conference, which followed on from the one-day pre-conference workshops. He referred to a chart titled: M2M World of Connected Systems, which segmented the market into the nine sectors – Building, Energy, Consumer & Home, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Industrial, Transportation, Retail, Security/Public Safety and IT & Networks – that are key areas of activity, almost all of which are topics of the M2M Business Exchange.

This prompted Robin Duke Woolley to state, “One of the things that is impressive about this conference is its depth of coverage with presentations related to buildings, a number of papers covering energy, consumer and home is a theme that runs through the conference and healthcare will also be discussed. Industrial topics will be covered, alongside transportation and telematics and security and public safety.”

The conference is designed to bring together the entire M2M business chain and aims to address the business models and strategies relating to wireless connected devices. Its scope means that it has attracted 130 registered attendees made up of M2M developers, M2M adopters and end users, wireless module providers, sensor equipment providers, systems integrators, sensor equipment providers, SIM card manufacturers and technology partners.

Throughout the two days there are keynote presentations, tracts dedicated to specific topics, exclusive discussion sessions, analyst briefings and interactive debates. To offer a technological perspective a small showcase exhibition has attracted key players including Cinterion Wireless Modules, Belgacom, Devoteam Telecom, and Tridium.

Richard Mumford

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

High Growth Areas Projected in the RFID Market

I have been wondering for the last year or so why RFID applications have not been deployed more widely in various industries. I am sure the financial situation has not helped but RFID seems to have a good ROI in many situations. But maybe I am over optimistic and the costs are really higher than I perceive.

ABI has just issued a new report on how RFID is being used or trialed in a variety of industries. Global economic conditions and business necessities have resulted in mixed outcomes but they have identified the three most promising hot-spots as the retail apparel segment, asset management, and active RFID (in a number of verticals).

“2009 has confirmed those assessments,” says RFID practice director Michael Liard. “All three of these RFID application and technology areas have shown strong growth, and today account for 9.3% of the total RFID market, with combined revenues of more than half a billion dollars. We expect the trend to continue in 2010 and beyond: apparel, asset management and active RFID should show a 12.7% combined compound annual growth rate through 2014, outpacing the overall RFID market growth. This is considered strong growth given the level of maturity of many RFID-based asset management applications.”

The adoption of item-level RFID in the fashion apparel market is graduating from pilot testing to full-scale deployment. While installations at Marks and Spencer in the United Kingdom, American Apparel in the US, and Charles Vögele in Switzerland remain the largest contributors to market growth, scores of companies are now in various stages of implementation.

A few years ago at RFID Journal Live I was a part of a demonstration of what we called the "Magic Mirror" that would read tagged apparel and display all of the item details on a screen (intended to be placed next to on within the mirror in a changing room). The display would show all of the colors that were available, the construction and material details and other details about the item. It would also recommend other items or accessories that would match well with the item being tried on (e.g. a nice tie or scarf to go with the shirt or perhaps matching pants or skirts). I thought at the time this would be an immediate hit and prove to enhance sales tremendously.

ABI also thinks asset tracking and management is showing particular applicability to work-in-process tracking, including spare parts and tools; Returnable Transport Items (RTIs); IT asset management; medical assets, rental item management (library books, media, laundry, etc.); and yard management.

They also state that active RFID-based solutions, including real-time location systems (RTLS), is expected to experience solid growth in a number of verticals, such as healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace and defense, transportation, and commercial services, in support of asset tagging, people tracking, and more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

And the award goes to...

Some impressive milestones in the world of Microwave semiconductors were noted this week. Here's a glimpse of some of the noteable announcements

RFMD announced the receipt of its first purchase order from a tier-one wireless base station original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for a product featuring RFMD's state-of-the-art gallium nitride (GaN) process technology. The purchase order is for RFMD's RFG1M09180 180 W GaN broadband power transistor (BPT) and is in support of the global expansion of 4G wireless networks.

NXP Semiconductor touted their ranking at the top of the latest Vendor Matrix released by ABI Research.

The Strategy Analytics RF & Wireless Component market research service predicts that the market for power amplifiers (PA) in cellphones and related mobile devices will grow to $2.8 B over the next five years, in the report, “Cellular PA Forecast 2009 - 2014.”

TriQuint was one of five companies recognized by Raytheon at the four-star level; this is the second consecutive year that TriQuint was honored with a Raytheon SAS Supplier Excellence Award (SEA).

Peregrine Semiconductor, announced that they were the recipient of a 2009 TechAmerica ‘High Tech’ Award.

802.15.4 Chipset Market to Approach $155 Million in 2014

I really find the ABI Research and Strategy Analytics reports interesting as many of them focus on applications within our industry. ABI has stated that over the next five years, 802.15.4 chipset shipments will underpin a host of wireless sensor networks (WSNs) across home, building and industrial building automation, as well as Advanced Meter Infrastructures. This will help fuel the growth of the 802.15.4 chipset WSNs market from just over $10 million in 2008 to nearly $155 million in 2014, a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 87.9% over the period.

They say that wireless is set to become a key development in the transition to smart energy management. ZigBee – just one of a myriad communication protocols to leverage 802.15.4 silicon – is already the target of a great deal of investment for building management systems in residential and commercial building markets, with a range of projects and specifications leveraging the specification. There is increasing emphasis on energy management for a host of reasons. The availability of standardized 802.15.4 semiconductors to support widespread availability and support for WSNs to support these projects will help strengthen demand further.

I recently noticed another standard, DASH7, that intends to compete with ZigBee and active RFID. DASH7 is a new wireless sensor networking technology that evolved from a combination of existing radio-frequency identification and sensing technologies operating at 433 MHz. The underlying layers of DASH7 technology follow the globally implemented ISO 18000-7 standard and it uses less power with better range than ZigBee according to the DASH7 Alliance.

I do think next year will be the time some of these protocols start to take off as Bluetooth did this past year. Which applications do you think will grow the fastest?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Univ of Utah Figures Out Cloaking and Seeing Through Walls

There has been some very interesting work going on at University of Utah - I was not aware that they were doing so much work in this area. They reported what appears to be the first active cloaking method for various types of waves including microwaves and a low cost radio tomography method to image through walls.

Active Cloaking:
In recent years, scientists devised and tested various cloaking schemes. Experiments so far have been limited to certain wavelengths such as microwaves and infrared light, and every method tried so far has limitations. "We have shown that it is numerically possible to cloak objects of any shape that lie outside the cloaking devices, not just from single-frequency waves, but from actual pulses generated by a multi-frequency source," says Graeme Milton, senior author of the research and a distinguished professor of mathematics at the University of Utah.

Most previous research used interior cloaking, where the cloaking device envelops the cloaked object. Milton says the new method "is the first active, exterior cloaking" technique: cloaking devices emit signals and sit outside the cloaked object. Compared with passive cloaking by metamaterials, the new method - which involves generating waves to protect or cloak an object from other waves - can cloak from a broader band of wavelengths. The problem with metamaterials is that their behavior depends strongly on the frequency you are trying to cloak from.

This cloaking method utilizes destructive wave forms so the drawback is that you have to know the characteristics of the incoming waves before the arrive so the exact opposite wave can be transmitted as it arrives.

Here is a link to the full announcement which includes a video.

Radio Tomography:
University of Utah engineers have shown that a low cost wireless network of radio transmitters can track people moving behind solid walls. The system could help police, firefighters and others nab intruders, and rescue hostages, fire victims and elderly people who fall in their homes or even be used in retail marketing and border control.

Their method uses radio tomographic imaging (RTI), which can "see," locate and track moving people or objects in an area surrounded by inexpensive radio transceivers that send and receive signals. They used commercially available ZigBee radios which are low cost and easily available. Several studies were done by placing transmitters around an area and measuring the variations in signal strength as people moved around to demonstrate the concept.

RTI measures radio signal strengths on numerous paths as the radio waves pass through a person or other target unlike radar that measures the reflected signal so it is more like CT or X-ray imaging. The researchers developed math formulas and used them in a computer program to convert attenuated signals - which occur when someone creates "shadows" by walking through the radio signals - into a blob-like, bird's-eye-view image of that person walking. So they were able to get rough images through a wall of people and objects moving around the room.

Here is a link to the full announcement about this subject which also has a video link. Great stuff - if you find any interesting research such as these projects going on, please let us know about them.

Space Data Successfully Completes CDMA Balloon Flights

I had not heard of this company before but Space Data Corporation has announced that last month it conducted successful trials of its CDMA SkySite®, a major milestone in the development of economically practical wireless voice and data communications to large areas with sparse population. It is expected that each SkySite will be able to provide coverage over approximately 20,000 square miles. The use balloon platforms to position basestations in the sky to enable communications in remote areas that do not have coverage.

During two trial flights, a prototype miniaturized CDMA 1X-RTT base station was carried aloft over a remote area in western Utah by the SkySite balloon platform to altitudes as high as 60,000 feet. At that point, the 1900 MHz PCS band BTS was used to carry calls from, to, and between ordinary CDMA handsets located on the ground approximately 60 miles away. Call quality was excellent, with low frame error rates on both the forward and reverse channels. Backhaul was provided by a high capacity digital microwave link operating in the 2.4 GHz band. After completion of each trial, the BTS “payload” was released, parachuted to the ground and recovered intact.

The successful trial confirmed the technical feasibility of serving ordinary wireless handsets from substantial distances using the SkySite system. Applications include serving remote areas of low population densities, “fill-in” for coverage gaps in rural networks, and providing emergency communications in areas where terrestrial systems are out of service due to widespread disaster situations.

I think this is an interesting method for enabling communications in remote areas if it turns out to be as cost effective as they describe. It seems well suited for temporary situations like military operations or disaster situations in remote areas or to increase capacity temporarily in certain emergency situations. It seems like providing long term coverage would hard to justify from a cost perspective.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

SA Report - Avago, Eudyna and WIN shake up GaAs rankings

The latest GaAs rankings are out from Strategy Analytics and there were several surprises especially from the international competitors. Avago Technologies, Eudyna Devices and Taiwan’s WIN Semiconductor made impressive gains in GaAs market share in 2008, ascending the top-ten list in the annual Strategy Analytics ranking of the world’s leading GaAs companies. RF Micro Devices remains the leading GaAs vendor by revenue, but its closest rivals - Skyworks Solutions and TriQuint Semiconductor - are pushing this market leader hard.

GaAs Market Share (courtesy of Strategy Analytics)

Lower down the ranks:

• Avago Technologies overtook Anadigics as the fourth-ranked supplier in 2008
• Eudyna stole Mitsubishi Electric’s position as the leading Japanese GaAs vendor
• Fast-growing WIN Semiconductor is neck-and-neck with TriQuint as the largest supplier of GaAs foundry services

“Despite the onset of the global financial crisis, the GaAs industry grew 8% to reach a total value of $4 billion,” said Asif Anwar, Director of the Strategy Analytics GaAs service. “Although the end of the year saw production slump to a near-standstill, Strategy Analytics believes that the GaAs industry hit bottom during the first half of 2009, and has since recovered its former momentum, with no major casualties resulting from the global recession.”

Other findings from "GaAs Device Vendor Market Share 2008: North America" and "GaAs Device Vendor Market Share 2008: Asia Pacific and Europe," include:

• M/A-COM will benefit from its ownership change, and this will help the company challenge competitors moving forwards

• Revenues at Japanese GaAs device manufacturers increased sharply

• UMS cemented its position as the leading European source of GaAs devices.

What do you think of the latest rankings? Do you see any other suppliers making a run at the top ten??

China’s 145 Million Unit Gray Market

Like many other illicit enterprises, China’s vast gray-market cell phone business is one of those things that many know about but few actually discuss it. iSuppli has reported that with gray-market shipments in 2009 set to grow to 145 million units, or nearly 13 percent of the size of the legitimate global cell phone business, the gray market has become too big and too lucrative for the mobile handset supply chain to ignore anymore.

They report that China’s gray market wireless handset shipments are expected to amount to 145 million units in 2009, up 43.6 percent from 101 million in 2008. This will amount to 12.9 percent of the 1.13 billion unit global market for legitimate cell phones. The gray market this year is set to nearly quadruple from 37 million units in 2005. In contrast, worldwide unit shipments of legitimate cell phones will decline by 8 percent in 2009.

By 2013, the gray market will grow to 176 million units, expanding at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.7 percent from 2008. The legitimate cell phone market will achieve a CAGR of only 4.4 percent during the same period. The gray market will peak in 2012 at 192 million units. This figure presents iSuppli’s forecast of gray-market cell phone shipments.
Gray-market handsets are cell phones manufactured in China that are not recognized or licensed by government regulators. Makers of these products generally do not pay China’s value-added taxes and, therefore, profit illegally from their participation in the market.Such phones employ fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, which are used by wireless networks to identify valid devices. These phones also do not carry test/quality certifications or network entry permits.

iSuppli says the gray cell phone market long has been a fact of life in China, with domestic demand propelling sales growth. However, the business underwent a fundamental shift in 2008, as domestic shipments began to decline, and exports started to boom. In 2009, exports are expected to exceed domestic shipments by a factor of more than three to one. These exports are starting to impact the sales of legitimate established global players.

With its large size and rapid growth, the gray cell phone market has become a major revenue driver for suppliers of semiconductors and other components. While MediaTek is one of the primary suppliers of semiconductors to the gray market, many other makers of semiconductors for legitimate handset OEMs also sell to gray-market manufacturers. However, the chips sold into the gray market often do not meet quality specifications of mainstream handsets. While this represents a lucrative opportunity for these semiconductor suppliers, it does come with some risks.

What do you think of the gray market and its affects on the legitimate market???

Friday, October 30, 2009

MIT Auto ID & Sensing Expo

The RFID Special Interest Group ran this event for the local RFID community at MIT in Cambrige, MA. The Expo provided a chance to educate, network and collaborate among the RFID community of the MIT Enterprise Forum so I could not resist attending this nice event in our own backyard.

There were 2 keynote speakers, Sam Madden (Assoc. Prof at MIT) and Carlo Ratti (Dir, Senseable City Lab). Prof. Madden discussed the CarTel Mobile Sensor Network where they had built applications on top of a system of wireless car sensors riding on taxis and volunteer cars around the city. They collect position, speed, etc. from the car's electrical system and GPS plus have an accelerometer and transmitter unit to send the data to the network. They even can detect and map potholes. They have mapped the size and position of all of the potholes in Cambridge and even verified the data with cameras. They collect the data via open WiFi networks and have a web interface where you can track the vehicles in real time, see trip history and even calculate the best routes via real time traffic information.

I was not able to stay for Carlo Ratti's presentation but it focused on the Trash Tracking project that MIT has been doing which I remember seeing in the news recently. TrashTrack uses hundreds of small, smart, location aware tags and tracks the trash through the waste management system. The system hopes to understand the removal chain to achieve 100% recycling in the future.

There were table top exhibits from market research companies, universities, industry organizations, RFID suppliers and RFID integrators. Some of the well known names attending were Zebra, Alien, ThingMagic, EPCglobal, Nokia, and NXP. There were over 40 organizations participating which is great for a local event.

I made the rounds from table to table and found the following interesting tidbits:
  • Conair, the small appliance manufacturer/importer, has a RFID division that supplies smart cargo tags, RFID labels and GPS tags. They have negotiated a RFID tag price under 10 cents as manufacturers continue the quest for the 1 cent tag
  • Alien and ThingMagic have Gen 2 reader units now with integrated antennas on top of them which I had not seen. The ThingMagic unit uses a custom Laird antenna mounted directly on their reader and the Alien unit has the antenna integrated into the reader top.
  • NXP was showing off ICs for LF, HF and UHF smart tags - I was not really aware they had such a broad offering of ICs for RFID. They have various options for memory, authentication, power, data rate, etc.
  • I still love the Ford RFID tool tracking system available on F-series trucks and E-series vans. It uses a ThingMagic system and is done in association with DeWalt tools. When the vehicle is started or the system initiated, the antennas in the truck bed scan for the tagged tools and take an inventory to let the user know if anything is missing from their list of tools that is stored in the system.
  • It has always been difficult to tag metal products with RFID tags that will be accurately read but Emerson & Cuming has developed specialized standard and custom designed tags that solve this problem. The have several versions from thin to flexible types for most any application.

What interesting RFID products or applications have you come across lately???

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 Most-Anticipated Cell Phones

The list below came to me in an e-mail. The popularity of smart phones will hopefully continue and many of these soon-to-be released products will enjoy robust sales, translating into good earnings for component vendors. Media-rich phones also require more bandwidth capacity on the inforstructure-side, so strong smart phone sales will benefit many in the microwave field.

1. Motorola Droid (Verizon Wireless) - The most anticipated cell phone launch of the season is just days away, but the hype for this the Motorola Droid smartphone has been building for quite some time. Verizon Wireless has invested heavily in a national “teaser” marketing campaign, while keeping the details about this Android-based device close to the vest. The Droid is the first commercial phone released with the new Android 2.0 platform, and has been dubbed the “iPhone killer” by many a technology-writer. Verizon Wireless is stoking the fire with a campaign that touts all the things the Droid does that the iPhone doesn’t – from running multiple apps, to a full slide-out keyboard, to changeable batteries and memory to a 5.0 megapixel camera that takes photos in the dark.

2. Motorola CLIQ MB200 (T-Mobile) - The highly-anticipated Motorola CLIQ is the new king of the T-Mobile Android smartphone lineup, and the first since the original G-1 to have a full slide-out keyboard. What really makes it buzz-worthy, though, is that it utilizes the new MotoBlur user interface that syncs your social media, contacts, and e-mail in real time, providing instant access to the latest happenings and messages from friends. (The Cliq is currently available to existing T-Mobile customers, however, new customers will not be able to purchase the device until November 2nd, and therefore, it still garners a spot on our top picks.)

3. Samsung Moment (Sprint) - Sprint’s second Android device, the Samsung Moment, mark’s Samsung’s entry into the Android smartphone market with a full slide-out keyboard and a first-of-its-kind AMOLED touch screen, providing unprecedented brightness that’s also kind to your battery life.

4. LG Chocolate Touch (Verizon Wireless) – The LG Chocolate is an iconic Verizon Wireless phone, and this new touch version should be even sweeter than its predecessors.

5. Samsung Behold II (T-Mobile) – The Behold II is the sequel to the very successful Samsung Behold but with one MAJOR difference - the latest version runs on the Android smartphone operating system. The Behold II also features a "cube menu" that provides quick access to six multimedia features at the flick of a finger: music, photos, videos, the Web, YouTube, and Amazon MP3.

6. HTC Desire 6200 (Verizon Wireless) – Verizon Wireless is making headlines with the Droid, but is expected to follow quickly with a second Android-powered smartphone dubbed the Desire. The Desire will not have a keyboard, and will boast HTC’s touch screen “Sense” interface that has won rave reviews on the HTC Hero.

7. Sprint Palm Pixi (Sprint) – The Sprint Palm Pixi is being touted as a tiny, sleek webOS-based handset that offers many of the same features and functionality as the Pre without the hefty price tag.

8. BlackBerry Storm 2 (Verizon Wireless) – This next generation of the touch screen BlackBerry Storm looks similar to the original model on the outside, but boasts notable improvements on the inside such as a Wi-Fi radio, sleeker design, and an improved SurePress typing system.

9. BlackBerry Bold 9700 (AT&T & T-Mobile) –This smartphone is an updated version of the high-end Blackberry Bold that hit the market last year. It is thinner and lighter with a faster Web browser than its predecessor and replaces the original Bold's track ball with an optical track pad.

10. LG Shine 2 (AT&T) – The successor to the immensely popular Shine; but as its name indicates, it promises to be twice as sleek and sexy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

AOC International Symposium & Convention

I am at the 46th annual AOC International Symposium & Convention in DC and saw most of the microwave companies serving the EW world yesterday. The top priority is still IED defeat systems and the AOC show daily stated that more than 36,000 devices have been fielded (that number surprised me as IEDs continue to be the biggest challenge to saving lives in Iraq and Afghanistan). An estimated $628 million is expected to be spent on the JCREW program alone over the next 10 years. Battlefield SIGINT is also important but does not seem to have as much priority as IED defeat along with EW systems for UAVs. There is also a significant emphasis to update legacy protection on existing systems.

Many of the high performance component and test companies are represented here. Rohde & Schwarz, Agilent, Anritsu and Aeroflex were represented as well as components manufacturers such as Anaren, Empower, Aethercomm, Miteq, Microsemi, CPI, e2V, Werlatone, TRU/Sage, Teledyne, etc. Of course, the system/sub-systems companies such as Cobham, BAE, Northrup Grumman, Selex, Elt, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, DRS, EADS, ITT, Raytheon, etc. are the largest booths at AOC although Rohde & Schwarz also had a large prescence.

I am impressed at the increases in processing speed, bandwidth, memory, etc. that are achieved in the hardware/software each year improving the capabilities of the systems. Real time video, spectrum capture/analysis and data processing speeds are achieving unprecedented levels. Several systems we saw can capture radar signals, analyze them and send out countermeasures in real time.

I have to mention my friend Jim Fallon as he is receiving the Life Achievement Award at the AOC Annual Awards Luncheon. He ran the AOC Convention a few years ago and did a fantastic job. He has dedicated his career to bringing EW technology to the field to save lives. At M/A-COM he was instrumental in getting some of the first mobile IED defeat devices (Warlock Blue) manufactured and delivered to the field in record time to save more lives in the Iraqi War.

Monday, October 19, 2009

MILCOM 2009 Kicks Off in Boston

MILCOM kicked off today starting with Plenary speaker Mr. David Gergen (Editor-at-large, U.S. News & World Report and Commentator, CNN) who discussed his views on how various presidents related to the military. He stated how past presidents from JFK to Bush Sr. all had military experience so they were familiar with the military where as more recent presidents since Bush Sr. did not have such experience so there was a learning curve as they got to know each other.

He said the Obama is off to a good start with his strategic appointments from the military and Michelle Obama's support for military families. He stated that Gates is a decisive person and has the freedom and trust of the president. The Pentagon has had to make tough budget decisions and that will continue for a while as we have the lowest revenue and the highest deficit ever. He said he thinks Iraq was handled well toward the end and sees hope that the same will hold true for Afghanistan.

The exhibition was fairly well attended but traffic could be a little stronger so hopefully that happens tomorrow. The Microwave Journal had several people meeting with various companies today as we are local and a media partner this year. Our Oct issue is available in all of the publication areas.

One thing I noticed was a number of companies were touting the OpenVPX platform as the US Department of Defense and other users are mandating improved implementation of open standards and interoperability. The VPX Systems Specification, according to their web site, defines an architecture that manages and constrains module and backplane designs and sets interoperability points within VPX while maintaining full compliance with VPX. This specification, developed by VITA members and other companies working together outside of VITA, shall be introduced into the VITA Standards Organization (VSO) in October 2009 as VITA 65 for final comment, ballot, and ratification as a standard.

We will have a wrap up summarizing what we saw at the show toward the end of the week or early next week. I am off to DC tomorrow to cover AOC and will post my experiences from that show in the next day or two.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CEL introduces MeshConnect Extended Range ZigBee module

This week CEL released the new MeshConnect™ Extended Range module, which offers
+20 dBm output power, extended the range of operation to over two miles. The power boost also provides more reliable transmission and allows fewer nodes in the network. It is especially useful for open outdoor applications where the nodes are physically far apart, or for indoor use where the nodes have to connect in a noisy RF environment. The Extended Range Module’s outstanding +123.5 dB link budget ensures high quality connections even in such harsh environments.

For both the original Module and the new Extended Range Module, the company has complete development kits which include a wide range of software packages that will help engineers develop their end product more quickly. The modules support SNAP™, a software tool that quickly establishes simple mesh networks with minimal development time. Both modules also support SMAC, MAC and the full ZigBee stack where needed.

Data rates up to 1 Mbps help you meet the demands of higher bandwidth networks, while a unique, on-chip voice CODEC opens the door voice transmission applications. The MeshConnect modules are ideal for mesh, point-to-point, and point-to-multipoint networks. Their low current consumption especially in standby mode makes them ideal for battery-powered designs, while their miniature footprint and integrated antenna helps to further reduce system size.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Implantable Antennas/Power Amp Design

I attended the AnSys/Ansoft Smart Engineering Simulation Application Workshops earlier this week in Newton, MA. They had a complete RF/microwave track including sessions on Electrically Large Antennas and RCS; Statistical Modeling, DOE and Optimization; HFSS Tips and Techniques; RF Power Amp Design Using Coupled Circuit, EM and Thermal Analysis; Method of Analysis for Implantable Antenna Systems and RF Product Mgmt. Road Map and Dialog.

The Power Amp Design was very interesting as they showed how you can model the chip and package separately and merge the results to simulate the device. Then with a link to AnSys Mechanical, you can make a full model for thermal analysis and evaluate the performance. This allows you to trade of electrical and mechanical/thermal parameters to optimize device performance which is pretty powerful.

I also was intrigued by the Implantable Antenna Systems presentation given by Cambridge Consultants local here to the Boston area in Cambridge, MA (and headquartered in Cambridge, UK). They discussed how most of the radiation energy from a wireless signal is lost just by exiting the body due to losses in the tissues it goes through (especially fat) and reflections due to the changes in interfaces (fat, skin, tissue, etc. have large changes in permittivity). This loss also varies tremendously person to person depending on their build, etc. so over 99% of the energy is typically lost.

Therefore it is very important to have a optimized antenna system to maximize the gain and sensitivity of the signal. They use magnetic coupling for these applications since most of the energy is lost but the typical range requirement is 2 m. The FCC medial band used is 401-405 MHz but sometimes they used the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band for wake up since the FCC only allows 25 micro Watts ERP (if using an agile signal) for the medical band. Another design concern is a shift in frequency from the fat layer which varies by individual so they have to design for a broader bandwidth.

They have designed patch antennas that greatly improve sensitivity over the typical loop antenna currently used in many applications. The patch antenna results in about 3.4% of the radiated power while the loop antenna is only about 0.6% and the patch has better coverage. All of this has to fit into an enclosure about an inch square.

There were some very interesting applications that were presented here and it is very good to see the interaction with their customers as they strive to solve to their problems.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Power Amp Market to Double with MIMO 802.11n

Strategy Analytics reports that adoption of 802.11n MIMO with multiple transmit streams will help boost the market for Wi-Fi power amplifier modules to twice its 2008 size despite continued pricing pressure.

“As prices for single-stream 802.11n (1 x 1) chips dropped to match 802.11g, OEMs have quickly begun to switch from 802.11g to 802.11n in new products. Consequently, 802.11n will ship in more than half of all Wi-Fi systems by the end of 2010,” says Christopher Taylor, Director of the RF and Wireless Components service.

Not only will 802.11n quickly replace 802.11g, but as Wi-Fi continues to proliferate in new devices and applications, multi-stream MIMO configurations of 802.11n (i.e. 2 x 2, 3 x 3 and 4 x 4, transmit x receive) will rapidly grow in support of demand for greater range, faster file transfers and streaming multimedia in many of these applications.

SiGe Semiconductor has established a firm lead in power amplifiers despite increasing competition from GaAs PA module specialists such as Skyworks, RFMD, TriQuint and Anadigics. “A relatively small and nimble company, SiGe Semiconductor owes much of its success to concentrating its resources almost exclusively on Wi-Fi PA modules,” notes Asif Anwar, Director of the Strategy Analytics GaAs and Compound Semiconductor market research service.

I am impressed that SiGe has done well in target markets against some of these larger companies. They seem to have identified the markets that best fit their core technology.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Introducing xMax®--the world’s first mobile VoIP network

This came across my desk and I thought it was worth sharing - Chris Whiteley, director of business development for xG® Technology, will be one of the presenters at the COMPTEL Conference next week in Orlando, Florida. COMPTEL members are entrepreneurial companies building and deploying next-generation networks to provide competitive voice, data, and video services.

Whiteley will be on the Monday afternoon panel examining “Emerging Technologies.” He will present information on xMax®--the world’s first mobile VoIP network, which allows consumers to benefit from much lower-cost mobile calls via the Internet.

xG Technology developed xMax as an alternative solution that enables consumers to benefit directly using mobile VoIP technology. xMax is similar to Vonage or Skype, but in the form of a fully mobile handset that doesn’t require the use and extra cost of a computer or broadband Internet connection.

xMax offers consumers the prospect of lower phone bills because:
• xMax transmits over unlicensed spectrum—the same as baby monitors and cordless phones. Major national cellular carriers paid billions of dollars for licensed spectrum that they recoup from customers.
• xMax was built as a totally Internet-based digital system from top to bottom—an extremely cost efficient communication approach.

xMax networks can enable communication providers to aggressively compete with national carriers by offering customers unlimited voice and data plans both locally and long distance, extremely low-cost international calling, no contracts, as well as home phone and high-speed Internet service.

xMax is the product of xG Technology's extensive R&D activity, a $100 million international effort that involves companies in the US, Europe and Asia. xG's impressive patent portfolio, which includes 50 US and more than 100 international patents and pending patent applications, has been developed with the goal of bringing lower-cost communications to consumers.

To experience this new technology in the Ft. Lauderdale area, xG has deployed an urban/suburban showcase, which allows accredited journalists, published telecom analysts, and prospective partners to test the xMax platform at highway speeds.

Unique/Novel Subjects at EuMW 2009

I like searching through the paper/poster topics for unique, novel subjects that are not main-stream and might be areas for future growth. I was able to attend a few of these talks but was busy with customer visits covering the exhibition which made it impossible to attend more of them. Here are some that I came across:

  • Design of a Cellular Energy Harvesting Radio
  • New Fabrication Process to Manufacture RF-MEMS and GaN on GaN/Si Substrate
  • Design of a Fully Planar Chipless RFID Transponder with 35 Bit Data Capacity
  • SP48T Module Architecture RF-MEMS Multi-Throw Switches for a Multi-Beam Antenna Measurement Setup at K- and Ka-Band
  • A W-Band MMIC Vector Modulator Utilizing Tandem Couplers and 50 nm MHEMTs
  • Design and Characterization of a Novel Battery-less, Solar Powered Wireless Tag for Enhanced-Range Remote Tracking Applications
  • A Wideband OOK for Wireless Receiver Capsule Endoscope
  • Analysis of New Polarizing Properties of Negative Indexed Materials at Microwave Frequencies
  • RF Devices Written with Carbon Nanotube Ink on Paper
  • A Novel Fabrication Process for Printed Antennas Integrated in Polymer Multi-Layer Car Body Panels
  • UWB Frequency Modulated CW Synthetic Aperture Radar for Through-the-Wall Localization
  • Computer Simulation of the RF System Effects on a mmWave
  • Doppler Radar for Human Vital-Sign Estimation

One that I attended that was very interesting was the Design of a Planar Chipless RFID Transponder where they are trying to integrate low cost, rugged tags on money in Australia. They print chipless tags onto money that are comprised of 2 UWD antennas and a multi-section resonator to improve security and prevent counterfeiting. The goal is to get the cost down to about one cent so it is feasible to tag currency.

A very interesting conference this year with interesting topics – Let us know what you found interesting this year in the technical sessions or tutorials.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Going Non-linear

Like at IMS, there was a lot of buzz about various new non-linear characterization techniques at EuMW 2009. X-parameters from Agilent seem to be catching on and they now have many case studies/examples that show the benefits or using them. There is also S-functions from NMDG which was in the Rohde & Schwarz booth and MWJ has an article in the Sept issue covering their non-linear extensions. I also visited with Heuermann HF-Technik GmbH which is also involved with non-linear measurement and provides software that will work with any NVNA for automation of non-linear measurments.

Mesuro is working with Tektronix and has developed a high performance active load pull system that simplifies and speeds up the measurement and characterization. This lead me to check out the load pull companies such as Maury and Focus. Maury has added a high power capability so you can test X-parameters at up to 25 or 50 Watts and impedance can be a variable now. They have drag and drop capability for file import into ADS. Focus has also improved their system greatly with the measurements made before the tuners so calibration only has to be performed once and the results are more accurate.

A group of companies including Anritsu, AWR, HFE, Mesuro, NMDG, R&S and Tektronix have joined to create the Openwave Forum. The alliance seeks to standardize the data format for the industry so that customers have the choice of tools, equipment and vendors to use. You can visit their web site at http://www.openwaveforum.org/.

There is a lot of information out there on these new techniques and models so we hope to bring you future articles and information that will sort it all out. Our March Test and Measurement issue will also cover the subject in detail.


I always like to find one new product that catches my attention that is from a smaller company that I have not seem before. At EuMW that was Accel-RF. Their new High Power RF (HiPR-AARTS) Automated Accelerated Reliability Test System will help manufacturers prove reliability for application specific GaN devices.

Manufacturers are using Accel-RF’s equipment to prove intrinsic reliability and performance degradation characteristics of GaN technology on discrete devices and lower power MMICs. The next stage in the development of the technology is to build and test high power devices for use in radar and military and communication electronics. The new system is either liquid or air cooled, has RF and DC pulsing capability, and can handle device power dissipation of up to 200 watts each. The system is very compact and can now test devices up to 60 GHz. I was very impressed with its capabilities.

EuMW Gala Celebration at Vatican

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Wed night gala at the Vatican and it was a spectacular event. We received a full tour, visit to the garden area and dinner in the Vatican. What a great opportunity for about 350 EuMW attendees to experience.

We broke up into small groups for the tours with headsets (wireless) that receive the guide's narration as there are many groups around as you walk through. We ended in the Sistine Chapel and then made our way out into the garden. After, we sat inside the Vatican for a beautifully catered dinner. Paolo Lampariello, General Chairman of EuMW, welcomed everyone and challenged next year's chair to top his event with perhaps a visit to the Louvre in Paris. Could be a great opportunity to attend the gala next year!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Free Workshops at EuMW

Don't miss the workshops and tutorials at EuMW as a chance to learn about a new area or brush up on an existing expertise. This year there is quite a wide range of exhibitor workshops that are free and open to anyone. Agilent has a series of test and measurement workshops ranging from nonlinear measurement to MIMO design. Rohde & Schwarz also has nonlinear plus other types of measurement workshopds. And Keithley has one covering LTE testing so there is quite a selection on the test/measurement front. Ansoft has a series of 3 workshops on simulation and modeling and CST is giving in-booth tutorials. So don't miss the chance to learn something new - free workshops are always a plus.

Agilent Unveiling of PXA

Agilent unveiled the PXA signal analyzer today which replaces the high end PSA unit and completes the X series with a full line ranging from the low cost CXA to the high performance PXA. The unit features 75 dB spurious free dynamic range at 140 MHz bandwidth which is the best in the industry.

Agilent now has the low cost CXA which starts as low as $12.5k. Then the economy class unit is the EXA, the mid class is the MXA and of course, the high performance unit is now the PXA. Guy Sene and Ron Nersesian were on hand to pull the blanket off the surprise unveiling in their booth complemented with champagne. Not a bad way to announce it!
They have some 20 demos in their booth covering ADS, NVNA/X-parameters, wideband receivers, scanning MW microscopy, etc. which we will cover in our wrap up article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

We arrived in Rome on Sunday and the weather is beautiful (sunny and 80s during the day, high 60s are night). After some quick sightseeing in the afternoon we made our way over to the conference Monday morning. The venue is nice but quite spread out and not much surrounding the area. The sessions are in large, nicely arranged rooms all in the same area with a cafe so the setup is very well done for the conference. The exhibition is in a separate building next door so hopefully everyone will make there way over when it opens tomorrow.

In quickly looking through the sessions, there seems to be much more about higher class amplifiers (Class E and F including inverse versions) as the demand for more power/efficiency increases and the characterization techniques improve. It will be interesting to hear the details about power amplifiers that are over 75% efficient! There also seems to be more CMOS based devices as Si is ever improving its upper frequency limits and of course, more about GaN amplifiers. The passive devices are always getting smaller and doing more functions than their previous generations.

The exhibition starts tomorrow and the setup is nearing completion. The exhibition hall is well laid out and just the right size for this type of show. The large test and measurement companies dominate the entrance with Agilent, Rohde & Schwarz and Anritsu present with large booths. Of course, the component and software companies are well represented along with the large Italian defense companies Electtronica/Selex and Finmeccanica providing a large sponsorship which we don't typically see at the other European locations. It is nice to see such good local support - maybe they can continue in the other locations.

Let me know your impressions of the conference and exhibition.