Friday, January 7, 2011

Top Ten Viewed Technical Articles for 2010 in Microwave Journal

Below is a list of the Top 10 most viewed technical articles for 2010. Many of these articles are from ealier in the year or 2009 as they had more time to be read than articles published toward the end of this time frame so don't miss our Nov cover story, The State of RF/microwave Switches, and Dec cover story, Smart Grid Communications Evolution, as they have been quite popular over the limited time they have been onilne. Here is the list:

  1. Fundamentally Changing Nonlinear Microwave Design (March 2010 Cover Story)

  2. RFID: The Next Generation Auto-ID Technology

  3. The Current State of Technology and Future Trends in Wireless Communications and Applications (2006 article)

  4. RF Design of Avionics L-band Integrated Systems (Leo's articles are always very informative)

  5. Supporting the Warfighter: Adapting to the Changing Paradigm of the Defense Market (Jan 2010 cover story)

  6. The Missing Link in Ethernet Cellular Backhaul: IEEE 1588-2008, Precision Time Protocol

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

  8. Development Report of Power FETs for Solid-state Power Amplifiers from GaAs to GaN Devices

  9. The Distances Chart: A New Approach to Spurs Calculation (very innovative approach)

  10. RFID Reader Architectures and Applications

For a complete list of 2010 articles (categorized by type), see our 2010 Editorial Index. RFID was the only topic that had 2 of the top ten in 2010 (both were written in 2009) - what do you think? What would you like to see covered in 2011??

Thursday, January 6, 2011

ABI Research Expects Adaptive Cruise Control for Most Cars

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) has been an option on high-end luxury vehicles for more than a decade, but in the next few years ABI research says it will become available on mid-size and family vehicles. Costs have been falling slowly but steadily over the years, and now a new development promises to bring significant price reductions for the consumer.

“The highest cost component of ACC has always been the radar sensor,” says ABI Research principal analyst David Alexander, “and now the cost advantages of silicon technology are going to take effect. We project that, by 2016, the lower costs will play a big part in increasing volumes and push the global market value up to $30 billion.”

While cameras and lidar sensors are still contributing to ACC systems, especially for the low-speed and stop-and-go features, the core component is still the radar sensor. With Freescale Semiconductor announcing in November 2010 that its Xtrinsic chipset is going into production, the new silicon-germanium technology will allow automotive radar sensors to benefit from the efficiency of the latest CMOS manufacturing techniques. Other suppliers are likely to follow.
“We also expect intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems to begin appearing in 2013,” says research director Larry Fisher. “However, rather than being pushed as the next big thing, ISA will take the form of an add-on feature to increase the value of existing packages that include navigation systems and forward-looking camera sensors.”

ABI Research still doesn’t see any proposed financial incentives to encourage the public to invest in speed control systems, but the latest NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) assessments are now including driver assistance systems, and manufacturers will have to start offering them to maintain high star ratings. Research has shown that both ACC and ISA can have beneficial effects on traffic flow when used in sufficient numbers.

A few years ago at M/A-COM (now part of Autoliv), the automotive group was making good in-roads into SiGe designs which has been used in their latest generation ACC modules. This really drove the cost down along with lower cost packaging/antenna materials so I can see this being more widely available on mid-range vehicles as an option.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pat's Predictions for 2011

Last year was my first year of predictions for the RF and microwave industry. So what are my predictions for 2011 and how did I do last year?

2011 Industry predictions:

  1. Tunable devices and circuits like RF MEMS and switched capacitor banks will be adopted in cell phones and alleviate some of the antenna reception issues that plagued phones like the iPhone 4.
  2. Smart Grid applications will take off this year with ISM and Zigbee wireless applications being widely implemented around the world.
  3. LTE will dominate the 4G networks as it is implemented around the world and zooms past WiMAX in deployments.
  4. Femtocells, WiFi and other shorter range wireless technologies will be implemented to get around cellular dead spots instead of just deploying more basestations to fill in coverage.
  5. Metamaterials will start to be used in real world devices for filters and other passive devices (maybe even radar cloaking for the military).
  6. Adaptive/Cognitive radar and commnication systems will go into real development programs.
  7. Millimeterwave frequency solutions will dominate the new backhaul and satellite communications deployments.
  8. SOI and SOS based switches will start taking market share from the traditional dominant GaAs markets.
  9. The confusion of the definition of 4G technologies will continue while someone will define and start using the term 5G.
  10. Microwave applications will see significant use in medical technologies to enhance cures for diseases such as cancer.

And here are my 2010 Predictions and Outcomes:

  1. The US Gov’t Broadband Initiative Stimulus money will be slow to come but even with the many hundreds of millions given out, it will have little or no affect on rural broadband access penetration (see our Oct 09 article on the Broadband Stimulus Program) - I would say this was right as millions were poured into the Broadband Initiative but it seemed to have little effect on market penetration.
  2. LDMOS and GaN will gain major market share in the power product applications and become the leading materials for high power applications in their respective frequency sweet spots (see our June 09 article on the Power Brokers) - I think this was pretty close as LDMOS has dominated the basestation and lower frequency high power products in several areas and GaN has taken a significant hold in many new military and other high power markets.
  3. We will see some control components integrated on GaN MMICs (i.e. switches, limiters, etc.) - I am doing well as at least 2 suppliers (Cree and TriQuint) released GaN switch products (See the end of the Nov cover story on Switches) so this one is also correct.
  4. Nonlinear characterization advancements in the last couple of years will take hold in the marketplace as widely accepted techniques (X-parameters, S-functions, etc.) - Well, I don't think this was totally correct as these new techniques did become more widely known, but I not sure how widely used that are but this year should complete the task. We plan on trying to have a panel session on this subject at IMS 2011.
  5. Several amplifiers with greater than 80% efficiency above 1 GHz will be developed as new high efficiency design techniques are exploited - This goes along with the previous prediction and while there are several examples of power amps over 60 and 70% efficiency, I could not find any over 80%. Have you seen any?
  6. LTE will make large gains in deployments but not come close to exceeding WiMAX in the number of users (in 2011 I predict LTE will overtake WiMAX) - LTE was all the rage in 2010 and will continue to be in 2011 but I was correct that there were far more WiMAX deployments than LTE by the end of 2010. In an ABI report in Dec 2010, it was stated that at the end of 2010, mobile WiMAX will cover about 8% of the world’s population, while LTE will cover about 2%
  7. SoC and SiP solutions will start to take hold in several applications where discrete solutions used to rule (WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, etc.) - see our Feb 09 article on SoC/SiP - There are several companies supplying single chip solutions for WiFi, Bluetooth and ZigBee so I think this one is mostly correct (TI, RFMD, BroadCom, SiGe, etc.)
  8. Wireless HDTV products will be released into the mass market and one protocol will distance its self as the leading solution of the 4 vying for acceptance (see our Aug 09 article on Wireless HDTV) - This market did not really mature yet (maybe this year) so I think I got this one wrong.
  9. RFID will finally take off and see significant growth in multiple markets including front of the store (POS) applications - Same thing as above prediction so this one was wrong also.
  10. As a result of the terrorists taping into our UAV video signals, new funding and significant resources will be spent on wireless encryption for the US military - This was somewhat true as there was emphasis to improve wireless security but I don't recall any major programs to do it so maybe I was only half correct here.
  11. As a result of the failed terrorist attack on the Detroit bound plane, there will be renewed interest and purchases of mmWave and Terahertz body scanners for airport security - This was a hot topic as several groups and many individuals made a big fuss about going through the mmWave and X-ray scanning machines as they were widely deployed so I got this one correct!
  12. As the military backs off the Future Combat Systems approach as being too expensive, advanced software defined radios will be demonstrated for near future systems - This was somewhat correct but again, I don't recall any major programs in this area so maybe it is only partially correct.
  13. Smart IED jammers will be developed that actively adapt to different frequencies via software control as IED attacks continue to dominate our attention (see our August 08 supplement article on IED Jammers) - I think this one was correct and a new program was just announced that BAE Systems will develop electronic warfare machine learning to jam enemy adaptive communications automatically
  14. A new military broadband satellite communications program will be proposed to ease the capacity crunch for bandwidth (see our August 09 article on the SATCOM Capacity Crunch) - I think this one was wrong as I did not hear about any such programs.

So if you count half points, I got 8 out of 14 correct!