Friday, May 8, 2009

Tales from the Past

A friend of mine shared this story with me and I thought it was worth passing along. During the space race back in the 1960's, NASA had to address the problem of how astronauts would write in the vacuum of space. At the cost of $1.5 million dollars they developed an "astronaut pen", which went on to enjoy success in the commercial market. Proving that ingenuity can solve almost any problem. The Soviets, faced with the same problem used pencils.

Its a funny story and worth pointing out to our community that applies considerable brain-power to solving problems. Be wary of the complex solution to a given problem, Nature loves simplicity. Always consider the possibility of a good, cheap and simple solution, right?

Apparently the rest of the story validates the pen development. Initially, NASA used pencils just like the Soviets did, but the leads sometimes broke and became a hazard floating in the zero-gravity environment of the capsule. Also, the lead and wood could burn rapidly in the pure oxygen atmosphere.

Paul Fisher realized NASA needed a safer writing instrument and so in 1965 he spent a million dollars of his own money (applause for the free market entrepeneur) developing an all metal pen with sealed pressurized ink cartridge. The ink has a flash point of 200 degrees c, satisfying the need for a writing tool that wouldn't burn in pure oxygen. Fisher sold 400 pens to NASA in 1967 for $2.95 before they went on to great commercial success. By 1968, the Soviets were using them as well.

So keep on innovating

Component Makers Hit Hardest in Q1

A preliminary look at the first quarter financial results for the telecom industry reveals poor but not surprising results, reflecting the impact of the recession. Service provider revenues are down versus the same quarter last year, but only a few percentage points, while capital spending and attendant equipment vendor revenues are down 15–25%. Component makers and contract manufacturers are also reporting revenue declines averaging 20–30% versus the year-ago quarter.

Among equipment vendors, revenues declined 15% on average, with Alcatel-Lucent down 6.9%, NSN down 12.1%, and Cisco down 21.5% (with exchange rate effects factored out for Alcatel-Lucent and NSN). Further down the supply chain, component revenues were down almost 20% among sampled companies, and contract manufacturing revenues were down nearly 28%, due to a ‘bullwhip effect’.

A couple of bright spots are also starting to appear. Wireless backhaul leader Ceragon reported a revenue decline of only 7%.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Tools on the Blog!

You might have noticed that we have added some cool new tools to the blog. In the right column, we now have a link at the top to get all of our entries as audio files. You can listen to them as you do something else or download them to your mp3 player. There is also a feed on the page to subscribe to for updates.

Also in the right column is a Twitter Search feed. You can enter any term and it will provide real time updates for that keyword. Enter IMS2009 to follow everyone for Tweats about the upcoming IMS 2009 MTT-S Symposium. Pass the word around to use the hashtag #IMS2009 so everyone can monitor the action and participate. Just begin each Tweat with #IMS2009 and everyone can track that term.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hotel Reservations for IMS 2009

The IEEE MTT-S steering committee for the IMS 2009 in Boston has extended the deadline for reserving a hotel room from among their block of rooms. The new date, May 8 is this Friday - just around the corner!!! Hopefully, the extension will help all you last minute planners. If you have been on the fence about attending, I recommend you consider the long term benefits of industry networking and the year-in year-out high quality of attendees that go to this one show.

While the economy has certainly been rough this year, the IMS is our industry's biggest single event and should not be missed. Even if it requires tightening the budget in some other areas. The cost of a few days in Boston is considerably less than a series of road trips to visit the same number of customers. From an editor's perspective, I could easily fill up more than half of my editorial requirements for yearly content at this one show, just by meeting with clients.

Reserving your hotel room through the MTT-S allows them to negotiate room rate reductions in following years and provides additional savings to the society, which gets passed on to attendees and exhibitors by lowering operating costs. And bus service from the hotel to the convention center is provided for those who book through the MTT-S. One final note - think about all those potential contacts socializing down at the hotel bar. Are you sure its worth being out at the Budget Inn in Revere?

Agilent Introduces Real-time RF Geolocation Technique

Agilent Technologies recently introduced an integrated real-time radio frequency (RF) emitter geolocation technique using a network of RF Sensors. The Geolocation server software estimates position of a non-cooperative intermittent or short-duration RF signal using measurements from the sensor network and calculations with time-difference-of-arrival (TDOA) techniques.

"Traditional direction-finding systems are ideal for obtaining the line of bearing on higher power and narrowband signals. However, modern signals with complex modulations, wider bandwidths and short durations are driving a need for complementary geolocation techniques such as TDOA," said Tom Burrell, vice president and general manager of Agilent's Signal Networks Division. "Tightly synchronized receivers provide the foundation for transmitter geolocation techniques in commercial, radio regulatory, security and defense applications."

The geolocation system can be operated manually by the user or "tipped" automatically from a signal search/monitoring system. Then, three to five sensors at separate locations provide precisely time-stamped spectrum data to the server software. The software's visual displays show two-dimensional signal correlation and propagation characteristics in addition to the estimated position. Raster maps in most standard formats, e.g., jpg, gif, tiff and geotiff, can be imported and combined with the estimated position from the geolocation software.

The Agilent N6854A depends on low-cost receivers for accurate and timely geolocation of emitters. The small low-profile form factor receiver - about the size of a laptop PC - offers many discreet deployment and mounting options including pole-top or wall-mount. Co-locating the sensor with the antenna reduces antenna size and complexity plus helps to minimize signal loss due to coaxial cable attenuation. Announced on April 1, the N6841A RF Sensor monitors signals over a frequency range of 20 MHz to 6 GHz using a 14-bit ADC to accurately digitize signals with a 20 MHz information bandwidth. The network interface allows the sensors to be distributed within a building, throughout a city or across the world.