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 Wired.com. (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" www.IDTechEx.com/tftc.

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.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NI Technology Updates Outlooks For Skyworks Solutions, Anadigics, TriQuint Semiconductor, RF Micro Devices, And Avago Technologies

PRINCETON, N.J., Dec. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Next Inning Technology Research (http://www.nextinning.com), an online investment newsletter focused on semiconductor and technology stocks, has published updated outlooks for Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS), Anadigics (NASDAQ:ANAD), TriQuint Semiconductor (NASDAQ:TQNT), RF Micro Devices (NASDAQ:RFMD), and Avago Technologies (AVGO).

Next Inning editor Paul McWilliams has leveraged a decades-long career as a semiconductor industry insider to deliver in-depth insights and winning stock selections for his newsletter subscribers.

After careful research, Next Inning has published a special report outlining what McWilliams expects will be the impact from shortages of hard-disk drives. In this report, he examines how companies in the hard-disk drive, solid-state disk drive, NAND Flash, PC, microprocessor and other semiconductor sectors will be affected. For tech investors, this is a must-read report.
Trial subscribers will receive McWilliams’ earnings previews and his highly acclaimed State of Tech reports that offer in-depth, sector-by-sector coverage of over 65 leading tech companies and specific guidance on which stocks he thinks investors should own and which should be avoided. These reports, as well as McWilliams’ regular commentary and real-time trade alerts, are available for free to trial subscribers.

To take advantage of this offer and receive these reports for free, please visit the following link:

McWilliams covers these topics and more in his recent reports:
– When Skyworks first announced its intention to acquire Advanced Analogic, McWilliams pulled no punches; he wrote it was a bad deal and investors should avoid Skyworks’ stock. Skyworks was trading solidly in the mid-$20s then. Now that the stock has fallen all the way to the mid-teens and Skyworks was able to renegotiate for a lower price, has McWilliams changed his view on Skyworks? What points of leverage and synergy does the deal offer Skyworks?

– How does Skyworks compare to rivals Anadigics, RF Micro and TriQuint? Which of these four companies is poised to deliver the most upside for investors? Which two does McWilliams think would make a good pairing for investors interested in gaining exposure to the sector while still balancing risk and potential reward?

– Does an investment in Avago offer strong exposure to the RF semiconductor sector? What other high-profile sector is important for Avago and how does its market share there stack up against the sector leader? How much is Avago’s balance sheet worth?
Founded in September 2002, Next Inning’s model portfolio has returned 270% since its inception versus 39% for the S&P 500.

About Next Inning:
Next Inning is a subscription-based investment newsletter that provides regular coverage on more than 150 technology and semiconductor stocks. Subscribers receive intra-day analysis, commentary and recommendations, as well as access to monthly semiconductor sales analysis, regular Special Reports, and the Next Inning model portfolio. Editor Paul McWilliams is a 30+ year semiconductor industry veteran.

NOTE: This release was published by Indie Research Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor with CRD #131926. Interested parties may visit adviserinfo.sec.gov for additional information. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investors should always research companies and securities before making any investments. Nothing herein should be construed as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any security.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Record Breaking Paper Submissions reported by IMS 2012 TPC Chair

By 5:30 am EST (00:30 am Hawaii time) on December 6, 2011, one day before the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the IMS 2012 technical program chair, Raafat Mansour sent out an e-mail to several members of the IMS 2012 steering committee (for which I am serving as the promotions co-chair) announcing that the IMS2012 has received the highest number of submitted papers since the inception of IMS. Including the Hawaiian time zone is noteworthy since the deadline for paper submissions was midnight December 5th, Hawaii time, thereby extending the deadline to the very last minute of the day on US soil. IMS steering committees have long recognized and tried to accommodate the procrastinating habits of certain researchers and academics (you know who you are) by setting the deadline to this time zone. I do not have information on how many papers came in at the last minute, but the 2012 steering committee is to be congratulated for achieving the following record breaking paper submissions:
- IMS2012, Montreal received 1231 papers ( New Record) compared to IMS2003 Philadelphia received 1094 papers ( Previous Record). The average number of paper submissions over the last 4 years (2008-2011) was 825 papers.

This is a fitting tribute to the hard work of this year's steering committee and helps commemorate the 60 year anniversary of the very first conference of what today has become the International Microwave Symposium or IMS. Congratulations.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Synopsys buys Magma

Chip-design software maker Synopsys Inc (SNPS.O) agreed to buy peer Magma Design Automation Inc (LAVA.O) for $7.35 a share in cash, to add complementary technology offerings to its portfolio, and forecast a strong first quarter.
Synopsys will pay a premium of 28.5 percent over Magma's Wednesday closing price of $5.72. Including debt, the deal is valued at about $507 million.

"This acquisition will enable Synopsys to accelerate the delivery of the technology our customers need to keep the overall cost of design in check," Chief Executive Aart de Geus said in a statement.

Synopsys, which plans to fund the deal with a combination of cash and debt, expects it to modestly add to adjusted earnings per share in fiscal 2012.
Separately, Synopsys forecast first-quarter results ahead of analysts' expectations, as it sees higher demand for its services from makers of mobile devices and cloud computing and electronics companies.
For the quarter, Synopsys -- which competes with Mentor Graphics (MENT.O) and Cadence Design Systems (CDNS.O) -- expects adjusted earnings of 51-53 cents a share on revenue of $412-$420 million.
Analysts were expecting earnings of 46 cents a share, excluding items, on revenue of $389 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
For the fourth quarter, the Mountain View, California-based company, which makes software that help design chips, earned 45 cents a share, meeting analysts' estimates.
Total revenue rose 4 percent to $390.5 million, while estimates were for $390.1 million.
The Magma stock rose 25 percent to $7.17 in extended trading, while that of Synopsys was slightly up at $28.01.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

95% of Handsets Announced in Sept 2011 Have Bluetooth

In Strategy Analyitcs' monthly report on handset for data from September 2011:

  • 95% of handsets that entered the market featured Bluetooth, setting a new record for any one month - in Q3 2011 as a whole 89% featured Bluetooth, 18 of which featured version 3

  • 57% of handsets announced had on-board GPS – setting another record for a single month

  • 12 models had 8 MP cameras as the upward trend in resolution continues

  • Processor speeds increased with 23 models having 1 GHz or greater processors and dual core processors featuring on 7 models

According to Strategy Analytics, handsets are becoming thinner and heavier as component miniaturisation continues. Ten handsets announced in September were thinner than 10 mm with the Samsung Focus S measuring just 8.5 mm and weights reached 184 g with the Motorola Milestone 3.

Screen sizes continued to increase with 50% of the handset screens included in this report exceeding 3 inches leading us to believe that resolutions will follow suit. Rather unsurprisingly this is accompanied by a rising curve in battery capacity as the prevalence of larger touchscreens continues along with the need for more talk and standby time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wireless Connectivity ICs to Surpass $8 Billion in 2011

ABI Research recently reported that the total market for standards-based wireless connectivity ICs is expected to exceed 3.5 billion units per annum in 2011. “Broadcom leads the market with Qualcomm, CSR, and Texas Instruments all snapping at its heels,” says Peter Cooney, practice director, semiconductors. The market will total more than $11 billion per annum by 2014.

Wireless connectivity technologies are well-established in many electronic device markets. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS are becoming ubiquitous in certain devices, such as smartphones, with attach rates approaching 100% in some cases. Rapid growth is forecast for newer technologies such as NFC and 802.15.4. Wireless connectivity technologies also continue to progress at a fast pace, with new developments such as Bluetooth v4.0 (with low energy being a key facet) and Wi-Fi moving to the 802.11ac standard and 802.11ad coming in the future. As attach rates increase, combinations of different wireless connectivity technologies have been developed to address the needs of customers. "Combo ICs" have become increasingly important, particularly in the smartphone, laptop, and media tablet markets (among others). Standalone ICs are not dead, however, and there are many compelling reasons that not all markets will to move to combo ICs.

RR-CONN chart

Mobile Emergency Alerts Should Save Lives

When wildfires, tornadoes, and other public-safety emergencies strike, MetroPCS customers will soon be able to receive government alerts on their mobile phones. The network operator is the latest to announce it will use the affordable, hosted Commercial Mobile Service Provider (CMSP) Gateway from Interop Technologies to deliver the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) alerts when they become available in 2012. Bluegrass Cellular of Kentucky announced earlier this month that it also will rely on the hosted Interop gateway to provide CMAS service.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Industry's First SMT GaN Module for CATV

I don't normally point out specific products but I like to highlight new technology or products first to the market. RFMD has introduced the industry’s first surface mount GaN power doubler module aimed at CATV networks. It uses a combination of GaN HEMT and GaAs pHEMT technologies and provides high output capability from 45-1003 MHz with excellent distortion performance.


  • 45 to 1003 MHz GaAs/GaN Power Doubler Module

  • 61dBmV Rated Power

  • High Current Mode: 450mA at 24VDC

  • Low Current Mode: 350mA at 24VDC

  • Min. Gain: 22.5dB at 1GHz

  • Saves ≈ 50% PCBA Area versus SOT115J (with external baluns) 182 mm² versus 362 mm²


  • CATV Optical nodes

  • CATV Line amplifiers

RFCM2680 Product Announcement from RFMD on Vimeo.

Microwave Journal will be covering this subject in depth in our April issue next year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Military Month

I call the end of Oct through the beginning of Nov Military Month as we typically attend EuMW, MILCOM and AOC during this period along with our publication of the Oct Government/Military issue. At EuMW 2011, Microwave Journal coordinated a full day Defence/Security Forum in Manchester. The morning sessions concentrated on Security technologies such as through the wall radar, IED detection, etc. Strategy Analytics put on a lunch and learn session covering Defense Budgets and Trends followed by afternoon sessions covering the challenges of next generation radar and testing. It concluded with an executive forum with speakers from Defense agencies and OEMs. Our event page has video coverage and links to some of the presentation that were given.

Next came MILCOM last week in Baltimore which was well attended, and we met with more than 30 companies featuring new components, test systems and software to meet the needs of emerging communications systems. Our MILCOM 2011 show summary lists all the interesting products we found along with some quick facts about the show. We found some interesting new testing systems/techniques, high efficiency GaN amplifiers, tunable filters and more.

Now I am off to AOC 2011 in Washington DC. The Association of Old Crows Annual Convention focuses on EW so it will be interesting to see what new developments have taken place since last year. Digital RF Memory (DFRM) and very wideband detectors/systems have been the trend as enormous amounts of data are being collected, analyzed and in some cases re-broadcast (with some slight modifications).

Monday, November 7, 2011

MILCOM 2011 Preview

As MILCOM 2011 celebrates the 30th anniversary of their premier international conference for military communications, Microwave Journal will be on site visiting with the RF and microwave companies that are exhibiting in Baltimore this week. MILCOM gathers the leading minds of government, military, industry and academia in an interactive forum to further explore, define and leverage the benefits networks bring to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. We will see how solutions are being developed for increasing capacity, enabling mobile comms and low cost, secure comms for every soldier. Last year we saw smartphones being quickly adapted to operate as rugged, secure military handsets with the promise of apps for improved situational awareness. This year we expect to see even more solutions that use this model and others.

We have already received product previews for MILCOM from companies such as RFMD, ADI, TI, M/A-COM Tech, Agilent, R&S, Valpey Fisher, Aeroflex, Teledyne, Mercury Computers and EB to name a few. I will be Twittering and blogging from MILCOM using Hashtag #MILCOM2011 and you can follow me @pathindle. Look for our wrap up article next week.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Nokia/Samsung Lead Handset Market - ZTE/LG Fight for 3rd

ABI reports that 3Q-2011 smartphone shipments grew 33% year-on-year to reach 28.8% shipment penetration of total handsets (381 M) shipped. Mediocre smartphone shipments from Apple, RIM and Nokia have stopped the hyper growth of the smartphone market according to Mike Morgan, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.

Manufacturers are either getting rid of feature phones or re-inventing them for the emerging markets. Nokia achieved a remarkable turn-around through tactical pricing cuts that bounced its market share back up 24.6% to 28% in 2Q-2011. While it cleared out Nokia’s excess inventory and distribution channels, it also resulted in its average selling price slumping to from $65 to $51. While Nokia is pre-installing apps, such as Angry Birds, to its re-invented feature phones, both Sony-Ericsson and LG are moving their focus away from feature phones. Sony-Ericsson has stated its plans to end feature phone production in 2012 while LG seeks to dominate the LTE smartphone market. Motorola grew both handset and smartphone shipments in Q3 while tablet sales slumped to 100 K. ZTE’s Q3 handset shipments are set to bump LG from 3rd place when officially announced on Monday. Samsung’s legal issues with Apple were not sufficient to slow its shipment growth, and it remains comfortably in second place with 20.8% market share.

Ericsson’s announcement to sell its 50% share in the Sony-Ericsson joint venture for $1.5 billion underscores the hugh paradigm shifts in the mobile device market-place. Sony wishes to integrate smartphones more tightly into its portfolio of tablets, laptops and gaming platforms. “Customers are no longer seeing their handset as a ‘standalone device.' Increasingly, customers are seeking out a seamless communications, media and UI experience”, said Jake Saunders, VP for Forecasting. Apple has iCloud integrating the end-user experiences across iPhones, iPads and Macs. Microsoft is striving to achieve the same objective with its Window Phone 7 devices that allow content to cross over from smartphone, Xbox and Windows PC.

I see RIM loosing its grip on the professional market as they seem to severely lag in smartphone features. This segment is ripe for being overtaken by another manufacturer. While Android phones continue to grow in popularity, the iPhone still has the upper hand as the smartphone to beat. It will be interesting to see how Nokia does with Windows based phones next year. Never a dull moment in the handset market.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

RF Module Winners in iPhone 4S

There are already teardowns of the iPhone 4S online, so let's look at the winners in the RF frontend section. Skyworks, TriQuint and Avago all have RF modules in the handset. All of the companies stock prices were up on the news last week. Below is a breakdown of the modules with a picture of the board containing the RF section.

  • Qualcomm RTR8605 Multi-band/mode RF Transceiver. Chipworks has provided a die photo (orange)

  • Skyworks 77464-20 Load-Insensitive Power Amplifier (LIPA®) module developed for WCDMA applications (yellow)

  • Avago ACPM-7181 Power Amplifier (green)

  • TriQuint TQM9M9030 SAW filter (blue)

  • TriQuint TQM66052 (possibly a PA-Duplexer Module) (purple)

Photo and part numbers/descriptions via http://www.ifixit.com/.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Microwaves in Manchester - EuMW 2011

Most of the MWJ editors and staff arrived in Manchester, UK on Sunday for the largest Microwave Conference and Exhibition in Europe, European Microwave Week. There are about 1400 delegates registered for the technical sessions this year and the content appears to be very good. I sat in on a few sessions ranging from emerging technology such as graphene FETs to more mature high efficiency GaN amplifiers.

The exhibition started on Tues and were well attended even through Wed. The Manchester Central facility has a nice layout where all the sessions are very close to the exhibition floor and entrance so finding your way around is relatively easy. The exhibition floor is wide open with a very high roof as it was an old rail station converted into an exhibition center. The major T&M companies like Agilent, R&S and Anritsu have the largest booths up front with other major players like CST, Ansys, AWR, NI, TriQuint, Sumitomo, Cobham, etc. having large booths right behind them. Over 200 companies are represented here . We see a lot of activity in GaN, non-linear modeling, wideband components and test systems, advanced materials and improved packaging.

There has been an emphasis on recruiting young engineers to the field, especially in Europe, including emphasis on more women as evidenced by the Women in Microwaves sessions. Several companies have applications that will engage young people such as Ansys' high frequency educational toolkit in conjunction with Anritsu and Eductika. We talked with Dr. T at NI about this subject, and he indicated that NI also has Labview based programs to engage young engineers in high school and college so several companies are doing something about the problem.

MWJ organized the Defence and Security Forum which was extended to a full day after its success last year in Paris. The morning sessions concentrated on security issues covering UWB and TeraHertz imaging for IED detection, through the wall imaging and detection of threats hidden on the body. The lunch and learn session was given by Strategy Analytics on the future budget trends in a declining budget atmosphere. The afternoon sessions were dedicated to an industry perspective on future challenges for radar and EW. A representative from Thales and Cambridge Consultants spoke first followed by an industry panel including representatives from Agilent, NI, NXP, RFMD and TriQuint. The day's events were concluded with an executive forum covering future needs and trends in defense related to microwave technology. Hundreds of attendees participated in the day's events.

The exhibition is wrapping up tomorrow and MWJ has shot about a dozen videos which will be posted online in a couple of weeks. The videos covered many product demos from the exhibition plus interviews with the president of EuMA, Dr. T from NI and representatives from AWR.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tattoo Electronics Open Up Many Possibilities

It was recently announced that researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed “tattoo electronics”. These are wireless electronics so flexible and thin they can be applied to the skin and forgotten.

According to the release, the high-performance epidermal electronic system mounts directly onto the skin with the ease, flexibility and comfort of a temporary tattoo. The system could be used for monitoring brain, heart and muscle tissue activity; wound measurement and treatment; biological and chemical sensing; computer gaming and covert communications.

The challenge for Huang and his colleagues was to make the thickness and stiffness of the electronic system similar to that of skin. The researchers accomplished this through a serpentine design of electronic nanoribbons. The circuits for the various components are fabricated as tiny wires. When mounted on lightweight and stretchable membranes, the wavy, snakelike shape allows the wires to bend, twist, scrunch and stretch while maintaining functionality.

The electronics also can be removed easily. They adhere to the skin the same way it is believed a gecko’s foot adheres temporarily to a surface: through an electrostatic phenomenon called the van der Waals force. Tape or glue is not necessary.

Tattoo electronics could have medical applications from Northwestern News on Vimeo.

The system features electrophysiological and physical sensors and wireless power and communication modules. It is free of cumbersome wires, making it practical for use outside a research lab or clinic, in a natural environment. The researchers also show that their system’s EEG, ECG and EMG recordings are comparable to signals collected using bulky commercial devices that require tape for mounting to the skin.

They also demonstrate their system’s potential for use in human-machine interfaces. The electronics can be mounted on a person’s throat and, after training, the system can translate the simple spoken commands “up,” “down,” “left” and “right” into directions to control the video game Sokoban. This capability could prove useful to patients with muscular or neurological disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, who could use the electronic patches to communicate or interface with computers. Another demonstration shows the electronics can be integrated with commercially available temporary tattoos, if there is a desire to conceal the electronics.

Avago and Skyworks Modules Show Up in Droid Bionic

I like to see the smartphone teardowns for the major new phone introductions to see who the RF/microwave winners are for the high visibility products that will represent significant volume. The latest (long anticipated) smartphone is the Motorola Droid Bionic with market leading specs in many areas. ABI Research (and a few others) have done teardowns and found some interesting findings.

According to ABI Research vice president of engineering James Mielke, “Motorola has mixed some of the latest technology with quite a few components now considered the norm and a few that have not been seen in phones for years.” One of the newer components, the OMAP4430, scored well in performance testing but not quite high enough to top the leaderboard.

Major changes include:

LTE modem designed by Motorola
• A new LTE transceiver from Intel (Infineon)
• An interesting RF configuration supporting more than the advertised CDMA/LTE support
• Transition from Nvidia Tegra II to OMAP4430 application processor

But for us RF folks, the most interesting is the Avago Quad Band GSM/EDGE PA (ACPM-7868) indicated by red arrow and Skyworks 700 MHz LTE PA module (SKY77483) indicated by the red arrow. According to the Avago datasheet, the PA is a linear quad band/multi-mode PA for both GMSK and 8-PSK modulation schemes. There are two amplifier chains, one is to support the GSM850/900 bands and the other is to support the DCS1800/PCS1900 bands.

The LTE RF module is a Skyworks 700 MHz LTE load insensitive PA with an integrated coupler. ABI also noted that there is a ceramic filter which has not been really seen in modern handsets. I am guessing it might be to prevent interference with the many frequency bands near the LTE signals (could be from Trans Tech which Skyworks owns?).

Let me know if you have further information on these parts. Photo courtesy of ABI Research.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

IBM to Publish 2 GHz Graphene IC at Upcoming Conference

IBM is set to publish a paper on a 2 GHz frequency doubler RF circuit in a CMOS-compatible manufacturing process technology at the upcoming International Electron Device Meeting, due to be held in Washington DC, Dec. 5 to 7. IBM researchers will deliver a paper that is a significant step toward moving graphene from the lab into a manufacturable technology. It will detail how using a 200 mm wafer-scale CMOS-compatible fabrication process can be used to make high-performance graphene FETs and RF passives.

A major obstacle with graphene is the difficulty of building a gate dielectric (insulating layer) on its inherently inert surface. However, graphene layers grown by controlled vapor deposition (CVD) can be transferred to many types of substrates. To take advantage of this property, IBM built silicon wafers containing pre-defined embedded gate structures, and then transferred CVD-fabricated graphene layers onto them. As an example they built a frequency doubler which demonstrated a conversion gain of ~-25 dB at an output frequency of 2 GHz. This performance was nearly constant from 25-200°C, indicating that both n- and p-transconductance are temperature-independent in this range, a new finding for CVD graphene-based devices.

The four images on the right show (a) an 8” graphene FET wafer; (b) single die; (c) SEM image of a typical fully processed device and (d) an enlarged view of the device showing the embedded gate structure with two-finger design. Except for the CVD graphene transfer, all processing was done in a conventional 200 nm fab. Graphene technology is finally making it into production.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New RFIC Greatly Mitigates LightSquared LTE Interference with GPS

There has been a lot in the news the last few months about LightSquared's proposed new broadband LTE network which is close in frequency to the GPS band and could cause interference in critical areas of navigation systems. LightSquared is seeking FCC approval for 40,000 basestations to support 260 million users across the country establishing a new LTE network. They were approved in Jan 2011 but recent tests have indicated that signals from the network could interfere (jam) nearby GPS receivers so the FCC has said they cannot launch their network until the problems are resolved.

LightSquared has indicated they will adjust the direction of their signals to minimize the strength near GPS stations and move the frequency a little farther away. There is a 10 MHz block near the GPS frequency that they will not use and move to another block of spectrum currently used by Inmarsat. They will also reduce the maximum power levels to provide additional protection.

But today Tahoe RF announced an RFIC solution to the problem with an integrated dual channel (L1 & L2) GPS RFIC that substantially mitigates interference from LightSquared and 4G L-Band LTE signals (and other jamming environments). The RFIC also includes a fractional-N synthesizer with a high performance VCO. The receive paths can be configured high linearity or low power operation by setting the ADC bit rate. The two independent receive paths are integrated with 12 bit analog to digital converters providing complete conversion of the GPS signals from RF to digital data. The RFIC has the ability to process L1 and L2 received signal data in the presence of a greater than 60 dBc jammer.

GPS devices are being improved against the backdrop of various 4G and other signals that can interfere with the relatively weak satellite signals with improved filtering and sensitivity. Infineon recently announced highly integrated GPS/GLONASS modules with improved sensitivity plus pre- and post- filtering around the LNA. These modules have out-of-band rejection of greater than 43 dBc in the cellular bands.

This is a very exciting area as another company is trying to bring broadband to the rural market around the country, something the Obama administration has been promoting and supporting for a while but has not seemed to meet expectations. Can all these signals co-exist as we squeeze more and more data into our limited spectrum?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How I developed the Sixth (or Twelfth) Wavelength Transformer

The following article was sent to us by Peter (B) Bramham, inventor of the sixth wavelength transformer (I never knew that in his first publication he was mistakenly listed as B. Bramaham so it has taken many years for people to realize it).

There have been various references in the last few years to a method of matching transmission lines, variously called the “alternated-line” and “twelfth-wave” and “Bramham’s” transformer. This is shown in the Figure below. It is usually compared with the quarter-wave stepped matching section and the half-wave taper, over which it has several advantages. It is shorter in length, and uses only lines of the same impedances as the lines which are to be matched.

Back in 1959 I was a member of the international group working at CERN, the European Laboratory in Geneva, on a proton linear accelerator. I had previously worked in Britain on electron accelerators for medical use, which used high-power RF at S-band (around 3000 MHz). For proton acceleration, lower frequencies were used, in this case 202.5 MHz. So I had to forget about waveguides, and get used to rigid lines and coaxial cable. The high-power feeds to the accelerating cavities used 3-inch line made from brass or copper tubes, and phase-shifters and power-dividers were required in the lines.

At that time, there were various standard impedances for coaxial lines and cables. In Britain, 75 ohm and 50 ohm impedances were largely used. Equipment we had from Germany used 60 ohms, while that from the USA used 50 ohms. CERN had a mixture of these. The linear accelerator design was based on a machine being built at AERE Harwell in Britain, and used high-power lines of 47.6 ohms. This seemed strange, but turned out to be the nearest you got to 50 ohms using standard (“Yorkshire Copper”) brass tubes. Rather than machine metric tubes to get 47.6 ohms, I changed our standard impedance to 50.4 ohms which corresponded to metric tube sizes.

So I had to fit impedance transformers all over the place. I started with half-wave tapers where there was space, or quarter-wave stepped lines where there was not. Then I started looking analytically at various matching systems. Hence my report CERN 59-37. As it seemed to be of interest in other labs, I offered it for publication to the journal “Electronic Engineering” in January 1961 (reference 1). (Due to a printer’s error, my initial appears as B instead of P). Only in recent years have I seen many references to my work, perhaps because the Internet makes it much easier look in the literature.

The main interest in my transformer seems to have been in the USA, among radio-amateurs (“hams”). A common problem was matching a 75 ohm feeder cable to a 50 ohm system. With my transformer you didn’t have to look for a quarter-wavelength of 61 ohm cable.

I have been pleased to see many references to my transformer on the Internet, thanks to L.B. Cebik (reference 2), Darrel Emerson (reference 3), and others. I have retired from CERN now (many years ago), and am living in France, close to the Swiss border and Geneva.


1. P. Bramham. A convenient transformer for matching coaxial lines. Electronic Engineering, Jan.1961. (Vol.33 no.395)

2. L.B. Cebik. Antenna application notes. Eagle.

3. Darrel Emerson. The twelfth-wavelength matching transformer. QST, June 1997 (Vol.81 no.6.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

RFID Enables Self Serve Draft Beer

My new favorite wireless product - self serve draft beer enabled by RFID technology. Coming soon to a bar near you, self service drafts using an RFID card, computer screen or maybe even your smartphone. According to their website, DraftMagik™ is the first hosted service of its kind to manage and deliver draft beer to the Point-of-Pour™ while also providing an interactive patron experience. The beer can be poured in full-service fashion by the bartender (behind the bar) or in a “pour your own beer” mode by age-verified patrons (in front of the bar at a table or wall). Each of these distinct Point-of-Pour™ locations are managed by DraftMagik to provide the establishments a secure and reliable system to control, measure and effectively deliver draft beer.

DraftMagik also meters and tracks patron consumption via secure RFID technology. These RFID loyalty cards or one-time use wristbands can manage pre-paid, declining balance; credit card secured or pre-loaded balances. DraftMagik monitors and centrally controls a wide variety of advanced sensors, flow meters and valves to ensure accurate and real-time display and reporting of all draft beer served at the client site.

I can't wait!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Stellar Partnership

Those of you following me on twitter (@mwjournal) received a tweet yesterday as I was about to meet with the folks at Stellar Industries in Millbury Massachusetts –a quiet New England town blending residential homes and “old-school manufacturing” facilities on the outskirts of Worcester. Stellar Industries, a manufacturer with just over 30 employees specializes in custom designed substrates and direct bond copper for photonics and microelectronics. The company does a brisk business selling products to the Telecom, Biomedical, and Defense Industries.

The company believes there is a good business opportunity for their products in the RF market, thus they requested a meeting to see how the Journal could help spread the word. With the recent inflation in gold prices, their copper clad substrate technology offers excellent heat-sinking properties at very competitive prices. Company President Ron Visser is well acquainted with the Microwave industry and has been attending the MTT-S IMS for years. Exhibiting at last year’s show, Ron and his sales manager Eric Brown were pleased by the amount of interest exhibition attendees showed for their technology.

The astronomical price of gold (thanks to speculators and other investors looking for safe haven) would give their copper submounts a huge cost advantage. And the company’s double-digit growth last year vindicates their bullish enthusiasm for revenue growth in the immediate future. So we look forward to hearing more from this company in the future.

Another tidbit that I heard from Eric Brown during our facility tour concerned a successful government initiative to support Stellar’s growth as a business. The Mass Manufacturing Extension Partnership offers companies training in the Time Wise® Principles of Lean Manufacturing to help them become more competitive. I was very impressed by this story, especially considering the news this week about the California solar panel manufacturer that received federal seed money yet is now filing for bunkruptcy because they can't compete with their Chinese counterparts.

Too often the media reports on the government’s shortcomings and one can come to believe the public sector is incapable of getting anything right. But based on Eric Brown's praise for this particular state funded program, this just isnt the case. In an age where government is portrayed as “the” problem and a roadblock to capitalism and the free-market, this example illustrates how government can be get it right. As any investor knows, in business you win some and you lose some. This example tells me that we need continued government support for the private sector, even if every effort doesnt succeed.

From the Mass Manufacturing Extension Partnership website:

Stellar also specializes in vapor deposited thin films and gold/tin solders on thick film and thin film as well as on semiconductor wafers. For small manufacturers, on-time delivery and high quality, long-lasting products are what separates them from larger companies and overseas competition.Stellar Industries, a manufacturer with just over 30 employees, makes a unique product which is good for business, but the types of custom requests it receives from customers can slow down delivery. The Millbury-based company makes miniaturized heat conductive ceramic blocks, similar to circuit boards, which are made-to-order for customers in the telecom, biomedical, and defense industries. Demand for their products is increasing and as the company grew, management recognized a need to more efficiently manage their production process. Stellar called on the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) to help streamline their performance on the production lines.

Utilizing the Time Wise® Principles of Lean Manufacturing, the MassMEP trained all 32 employees. Stellar Industries showed great progress in the time it takes to produce a product and improved their teamwork skills. "The MassMEP team opened our eyes to different ways of manufacturing," said Ron Visser, President of Stellar Industries. "We can now look at everything from a different standpoint. We take what the customer wants and break it down into smaller steps to increase productivity and product quality."Since the program was implemented, the dollar output per manufacturing employee has increased 8 percent to an all time high for the company. Product output has increased by 25 percent. For the first time ever, all weekly work orders were delivered on time."Communication is key. As a result of the training, we have opened up lines of communication that weren’t there before," added Visser.The company also conducts frequent Kaizen events, short bursts of activity to make small improvements with a goal of making large gains in efficiency and productivity, which will continue to wring out more waste from their operation. They now also have a Lean steering committee that monitors such activity."The next step for us is to be certified by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), the world’s largest developer of production and manufacturing standards," said Visser. "Lean has allowed us to be more disciplined, so we should be able to go into ISO much easier than a year ago. Every day, we see improvements. It takes a continual effort."

About Stellar Industries

Stellar’s products include custom lapped and polished electronic grade ceramics composed of Alumina, Beryllium Oxide, Aluminum Nitride, or specialty ceramics. Stellar also supplies custom services for metalizations on these ceramics using a variety of thick film, thin film, refractory and Direct Bond Copper metalizations. Our ceramic substrates are used in a variety of electronic components including:
Laser Diode / Photodetector Submounts:
• Featuring precision machining and wrap-around metalization vapor deposited gold/tin solder alloys
High Power Microelectronic substrates:
• Featuring Copper Clad High Temperature DBC metalization
Microwave and RF thin film substrates:
• Featuring Precision Ion Etch geometries

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wireless Sensor Networks to Reach $2 Billion in 2021

According to IDTechEx research in the new report "Wireless Sensor Networks 2011-2021", WSN will grow rapidly from $0.45 billion in 2011 to $2 billion in 2021. These figures refer to WSN defined as wireless mesh networks, i.e. self-healing and self-organizing. Wireless Sensor Networks will eventually enable the automatic monitoring of forest fires, avalanches, hurricanes, failure of country wide utility equipment, traffic, hospitals and much more over wide areas, something previously impossible. It has started already with more humble killer applications such as automating meter readings in buildings, and manufacture and process control automation.

The market for non-mesh wireless sensor systems in general is far larger and some proposed standards apply to both. For example, in addition to the above, the market for Real Time Locating Systems is $0.38 billion in 2011 rising to $1.6 billion in 2021.

Mesh WSN - status today
By far the biggest success of WSN has been in smart meters. Lesson number one - the Governments can make things happen faster than industry. In many countries around the world Governments have mandated that so called "smart meters" need to be installed in certain circumstances, such as new house builds or retrofits. More than 50 million have been installed so far. Now meter reading data is sent wirelessly, and the power is taken from the electricity supply so no batteries are needed. This is seen as a starting point to home automation - wireless sensors embedded in the house that will automatically communicate with the smart meter, your thermostat etc. It is part of the smart grid activity. Here, the ZigBee protocol is being employed.

Lack of Standards Delays Adoption
However, those that supply WSN need to be aware. There is no single standard that has emerged as a clear winner. Indeed, many so called standards are not - many companies implementing ZigBee for example meet the basic criteria to use the ZigBee label but add further capability resulting in systems that are not interoperable with different sensors from different vendors. Many vendors, including giant system integrators that have their own proprietary wireless communications, hope that they may become the chosen default "standard". A small number may win. The industry is not gearing towards a more collaborative approach to allow many to win. This in turn is putting off adoption. Would you install tens of thousands of wireless sensors in your plant locations if it was a proprietary solution? What if that company would not exist in five years?

This reads on to the lack of scalability - party due to lack of multi vendors sensors working together - but no-one has really tested many tens of thousands of mesh wireless sensor nodes. Theory suggests key network paths may form and if they are removed the system can slow down to unacceptable levels.

Lack of Total Solution Delays Adoption
Another challenge that vendors need to address is that many only offer hardware. Adopters are often on their own for the software - which they need in order to make useful decisions on the data collected to give the system a payback. IDTechEx note that in wireless sensing, the big successes are those that offer complete solutions. One example is Savi Technology, part of Lockheed Martin, that offer a full solution to asset tracking/visibility and the other is Ubisense, a successful UK company that has recently listed (and oversubscribed in doing so) based on a real time locating systems (RTLS) solution offering. Those selling only hardware now take note.

Adoption Forecasts
In the new IDTechEx report "Wireless Sensor Networks 2011-2021", IDTechEx forecasts the market in great detail. We study how the average price per node will drop from $29 in 2011 per piece to $25 per piece in 2021. The report looks at the latest activity and sees how these challenges are being tackled.

US ahead but Asia catching up
The USA dominates the development and use of WSN partly because of the heavier funding available there. US industry sits astride the computer industry thanks to companies such as Microsoft and IBM and WSN is regarded as a next wave of computing, so US industry is particularly interested to participate. Add to that the fact that the US Military, deeply interested in WSN, spends more than all other military forces combined and creating and funding start-ups is particularly easy in the USA and you can see why the US is ahead at present.

Watch the Governments
It was the Governments that created the first killer market for wireless sensors in smart meters, even though in reality most do not use the wireless features of the smart meters yet. The US military have spent more than $21.5 Billion on RTLS/sensor asset tracking solutions. Industry usually prioritises rapid payback, Governments don't always have to as they seek better security, safety, longer term efficiency etc. One such new project in Europe is "Living planIT", focused on making smarter cities. 22% of the global population lives in 600 major sized cities, representing 50% of the global GDP. Improving quality of life is therefore a very important challenge but also represents a great opportunity for sustainable technologies. Living PlanIT's aim is to create an ICT platform through aggregating existing and proven technologies that will be blended into real estate development. That would have as a prerequisite to embed technology (e.g. wireless sensors) into the construction process rather than rely on retrofitting which becomes more cost intensive.

In the first wave of the project, 2, 897,640 sensors will be embedded in Living PlanIT's "test-city" in Portugal. Requirements for these include standardisation, open API, horizontal integration but also, zero maintenance for embedded sensors that would have to meet lifetime expectations of over 30 years. Living PlanIT will be presenting at the IDTechEx event "Wireless Sensor Networks & RTLS USA 2011" in Boston, USA on November 15-16. This is the only event on the topic to cover the latest progress with technology and adoption. You will hear the needs and experiences of many end users.

Source: IDTechEx report "Wireless Sensor Networks 2011-2021" www.IDTechEx.com/wsn

Friday, August 26, 2011

Industry leaders predict a 'White Space economy'

Cambridge Consultants has released a report discussing the foremost business opportunities in wireless technologies enabled by White Space frequencies, predicting the development of the first White Space consumer devices in the next five years. The report entitled is the result of a White Space workshop hosted by Cambridge Consultants, and brings together experts from across the wireless and broadcast industries including representatives from Nokia, Samsung, BBC, BSkyB, Neul and CSR to discuss White Space technology.

The report views the use of White Space radio as an inevitability, addressing a critical need for redressing methods of spectrum usage and opening up new possibilities for wireless devices. Much discussion of White Space to date has focused on the potential for helping meet rapidly increasing demand for mobile data on smartphones. However, the report emphasises that White Space technology has the potential to provide for a far broader range of applications and presents a solution for the ‘always on’ society.

Deemed the ‘White Space economy’, the report considers the expansive new business opportunities for a range of industries and suggests that initial market opportunities will emerge as a series of smaller, niche applications which would minimise dependency on multiple parties and require lower investment. In terms of revenue generation, White Space technologies could see returns both through direct data delivery or indirect revenue streams such as advertising. Data revenue may suit certain geographies for applications such as rural broadband, whereas advertising could be more suitable for applications such as local content broadcasting.

The report also examines the role of the UK as leading Europe in White Space development, and the role Ofcom has in creating a successful model that will set the blueprint for other countries to follow.

Specific opportunities highlighted:

Micro or localised wireless Internet service providers (WISP)
There is great potential for businesses (supermarkets or local government, for example) operating in more remote areas to supply Internet services and advertising to the local surrounding area. Delivery of personalised and location based services to very local clientele, for a very modest investment by the supplier, is an attractive new business model and the report speculates that delivery could cost as little as one tenth of the cost of copper.

Localised broadcasting
For broadcasters, there is now interest in using White Space for interactive ‘back-channel’ applications and the delivery of highly localised content and advertising.

The ‘Internet of Things’
Encompassing areas such as M2M, smart metering, and applications that require connectivity over a long-range but low data rate, White Space stands out as an enabler of the ‘Internet of Things’. White Space is especially appropriate firstly because the method for connecting can be optimised to meet the need for longer range and lower bit rate. Secondly, the data transferred is low rate and in some instances very infrequent, and for some applications the majority of data can be transferred at a time when it is less likely to cause interference.

The report predicts that we will see enterprise White Space devices developed by the end of 2011, and consumer devices entering the market in five years.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Product Highlights from EMC 2011

I spent the last two days in lovely Long Beach, CA at the IEEE EMC 2011 conference and exhibition. It is a great venue right on the harbor including the nice southern CA weather with the Queen Mary parked right across the harbor. The traffic in the exhibition was average with some busy times in the morning but typically slowing as the day went on. I visited all the microwave companies at the show and have noted below some of the more interesting products I came across. A full report will be coming in a couple of days highlighting all the companies I visited.

AR was showing off their DER2018 digital emissions receiver with continuous coverage from 20 Hz to 18 GHz with 140 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth. We shot a video to demonstrate its fast scanning performance as it displayed a full scan in 7 sec that would take a spectrum analyzer something like 10 minutes to produce.

For test and measurement, R&S had several displays but highlighted their RTO Oscilloscope in a video we shot. The touch screen display and noise floor are very impressive. Agilent was showing off their N9038A MXE EMI receiver which we also captured on video. It can scan 20 minutes of gap less data using its data recording function. Aeroflex was showing off their new S-Series fast, low noise signal generator operating from 100 kHz to 3 or 6 GHz.

There were many impressive amplifiers such as IFI's 1 to 6 GHz, single band amplifier which is unique to the industry, Ophir's family of 80 to 1000 MHz models ranging from 200 to 2000 W and CPI's 18 to 22 GHz 250 W model. Miteq had on display their family of fiber optic links to 22 GHz which are well suited for low loss equipment links that are immune to interference. 3M showed me a ribbon flex cable that performs to 12 GHz even when fully folded at a 90 degree angle.

I was able to attend the Gala Event on the Queen Mary which was spectacular and well put together. Hundreds of attendees were transported for a short ride to the other side of the harbor and enjoyed drinks and dinner on the majestic ship. The organizers did a great job this year! Next year's show is in Pittsburgh, PA - see you there.

RF Things to look for in the UK

At the Journal, we are currently working on our September European Microwave Week Show issue. This year the event takes place in Manchester, UK and so England is on our minds. The show is about six weeks away and early signs of heavy activity among Journal advertisers and EuMW exhibitors is indicating a strong show. If you are among the microwave professionals travelling to the UK keep your eyes out for the RFID way-finding system that is being deployed troughout the country to assist the blind and partially sighted.

According to RFID News, a UK-based charitable organization known as Guide Dogs is working with the University of Reading to employ RFID technology to provide the visually impared with the means to choose how they get about. The way-finding system consists of three main components: RFID tags, a handheld receiver, and a database of pre-recorded messages about each tag’s location.

The tags are embedded in the surrounding environment such as at bus stops or indoor shopping centers. When it comes into range, the handheld reader scans the tag and speaks to the user, telling exactly where he/she is. The system, dubbed Talking Tags can also provide additional information about the immediate environment around them. Users and potential service providers such as city officals, retail outlets, and transit providers recently tested the system in London and gave it positive reviews.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Electromagnetic Fish Hook Repels Sharks

This news is a couple of months old but I found it interesting and just now stumbled upon it. A New Jersey-based Shark Defense company developed the SMART (Selective Magnetic and Repellent-Treated) Hook that is intended to repel sharks but does not affect other types of fish. It is magnetic and coated with a metal that produces an electrical current when placed in seawater. Electromagnetic fields are known to affect sharks' sensory systems they try to steer clear of them when possible. Market-valuable fish, such as tuna, do not have this electrical sense and are not repelled by the hook. It requires no power source, and reportedly only costs slightly more than a traditional hook (an amount that should be made back through reductions in damaged equipment, wasted time, and unmarketable catches).

In a set of 50 tests using two different groups of sharks, it was found that smaller, recreational-sized SMART hooks with bait received 66 percent less shark strikes than their conventional counterparts. Larger, commercial-sized SMART hooks received 94 percent less, due to the fact that more of the shark-repellent metal was present.

As reported by Live Science, the original work was sponsored by NSF SBIR grant. "Combining a magnetic repellent with a galvanic repellent is very important, because many studies have shown that sharks behave differently to magnets or metals alone," said Craig O'Connell, who researches the effects of magnetism in sharks with Shark Defense and publishes on the subject. "There are many species of shark, and they seek out their prey differently. Having two repellents available increases the chances that the sharks will be deterred."

Magnetic and voltage-creating metals have separately been shown to reduce shark catches by 18 to 68 percent in past studies, although the Shark Defense researchers state that combining the two properties boosts the SMART hook's repellent properties.

EM waves have many uses!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Google Wallet and NFC Smartphones Starting to Take Off

ABI stated that recent developments in contactless payment technology are generating renewed interest, and suggest that the long-delayed dream of comprehensive contactless payment systems may finally be approaching reality. The introduction of Google Wallet and the expectation that several new NFC-enabled smartphones will reach consumer markets soon have created a sense of optimism.

According to ABI Research, in 2010 only about 10% of total POS terminal shipments included some form of contactless technology. While the analyst firm does not agree with some of the wilder media predictions for contactless POS growth – for example that within 12 months, one third of all terminals in the US will accept contactless payments – it does forecast that 85% of terminals shipped worldwide will be contactless-enabled in 2016, driven by increased proliferation of contactless cards and especially, rapid adoption of NFC-enabled cell phones.

Senior analyst Craig Foster comments, “Contactless has the potential to change the way we pay for goods completely, significantly reducing time spent queuing at the point of sale. It also represents an almost perfect fit for the vending industry, because:

• The increased speed and simplicity of check-out go hand-in-hand with the very essence of the vending machine – to provide goods quickly and conveniently;

• The fact that small-value transactions – typically under $25 in the US – do not need to be authenticated by signature or PIN entry is very appealing to vending machine operators.”

M2M practice director Sam Lucero adds, “Contactless technology is also in the very early stages of adoption in ATMs: rather than inserting the card, a customer waves it in front of the machine and enters a PIN.”

Ingenico, VeriFone, and Hypercom are the three leading vendors of POS terminals and command most of the market. VeriFone recently completed the acquisition of Hypercom after satisfying the antitrust concerns of the US Department of Justice. Contactless terminals have formed an increasingly significant part of Ingenico’s portfolio in recent years, accounting for a claimed 21% of the company’s shipments in 2010.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

After Chinook Downing, RPG Defeat Should Get More Priority

It was very sad to hear about the recent downing of the Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan that killed 38 soldiers. Eastern Afghanistan has steep mountain ranges, providing shelter for militants with rocket-propelled grenade launchers creating a dangerous area for military aircraft and personnel. Large, slow-moving air transports like the CH-47 Chinook are particularly vulnerable, so the military should not be surprised that one was shot down especially if it is not equipped with countermeasures as it is a relatively defenseless aircraft.

The two greatest dangers faced in asymmetric warfare are improvised explosive devices (IED) and rock propelled grenades (RPG) as they are easy to obtain and widely used by insurgents. Large funding has gone into IED defeat systems in the US, such the Warlock and JCREW programs, with thousands of systems being fielded. These are RF based systems to jam wireless frequencies that remotely detonate the IEDs. The systems have been relatively effective but there are other ways to detonate IEDs (wires, pressure plates, etc.) so they are not a total solution to defeat them. However, there seems to be much less emphasis put on defeating RPGs as there are only a few systems available today.

Most solutions are deployed on land vehicles which have cages or nets around them that are designed to defeat RPGs but these would not be appropriate for airborne vehicles (photo courtesy of Polish military). There are a couple of active RPG defeat systems that have been developed for vehicles that use RF technology. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries' Elta Group developed an active protection system called Trophy. Trophy intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a shotgun-like blast by using radar sensors to track the incoming RPGs. The system includes the Elta EL/M-2133 F/G-band fire-control radar with four flat-panel antennas mounted on the vehicle, that has a 360-degree field of view. A computer uses the signal from the incoming weapon and calculates an approach vector. The system then calculates the optimal time and angle to fire the neutralizers. The launchers fire the neutralizing agents, which are usually small metal pellets (like buckshot).

A few years ago it was reported that there was resistance to incorporating Trophy into the US Army. The US DoD had contracted with Raytheon to develop a similar system, Quick Kill, which at the time was several years behind Trophy in development so there were rumors they wanted their own system instead of the Trophy. Later, in February 2011, Rafael announced that the Trophy system completed a successful evaluation in the US. This system is primarily intended to be used on ground vehicles so these systems probably need to be adapted to be used on airborne vehicles.

Another system that is a non-lethal RPG defeat concept is the RPGNet from Qinetiq US that uses a net shaped "trap" made of super-high strength ballistic fiber, developed under a joint ONR/DARPA program. The net intercepts the flight trajectory at a safe distance from the vehicle and defeats the RPG by crushing its nose, rendering the fuse inoperable. This prevents the high-order blast effect by preventing the formation of the shaped charge plasma jet. The system is in development by Foster Miller from program for the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Several US companies are working on systems to defeat RPGs but they seem behind several other countries like Israel and the UK. General Dynamics has developed the ShotScreen™ RPG Defeat System which is an active protection system that can be mounted on new or retrofitted on a variety of vehicles including helicopters. The system releases a wave of small diameter, low velocity non-lethal pellets from several non-slewing locations to defeat multiple anti-tank type RPGs. It provides 360° horizontal protection with variable inclination coverage and an option for full hemispherical coverage. As mentioned previously, Raytheon has also worked on active protection systems.

Asymmetric warfare presents different challenges than the military is used to dealing with over the years so priorities need to be assessed and new systems deployed quickly to meet these new challenges. Airborne vehicles operating in insurgent areas need protection/countermeasures such as RPG defeat systems which should be more of a priority for the military on vehicles performing critical missions such as the Chinook that was shot down.