Electronic Design

Wireless Systems Design Conference And Expo Heads South—To San Diego

A Crash Course In Wireless: Get The Low-Down On This Snowballing Technology At The Show

At last year’s Wireless System Design Conference, I asked an engineer why he was attending. He said his boss intimated that if he didn’t learn more about wireless, someone more knowledgeable could replace him. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Wireless is worming its way into almost all sectors of electronics, and electronic engineers are being effected by it more every day.

Many of you didn’t learn much, if anything, about RF or wireless in college. At most your program may have required an electromagnetics course. Now, with wireless popping up everywhere, a little more wireless knowledge could go a long way to helping with your career. The big question is: Where do you go to get more wireless-savvy?

This year’s WSD Conference, held in San Diego from March 8-10, should help you gain a foothold on wireless. This conference has both the breadth and depth to give you either a beginner’s tour in wireless or a way to update what you already know. Here’s a look at what’s available this year.

San Diego, Here We Come
WSD has been held in San Jose the past several years. Why the change of venue to San Diego? Mainly because of the good weather this time of year and the fact that San Diego is really a big wireless town. Who would have thought? The big wireless gorilla in town, of course, is Qualcomm, the home of CDMA. But many others are sure to be at the show.

The show kicks off on Monday, March 8th with a keynote by Dr. Henry Samueli of Broadcom. Dr. Samueli is one of Broadcom’s co-founders and the current chairman and chief technology officer. His talk, called "Wireless In Everything: Life In A Fully Connected World," is a favorite subject of mine. The newer wireless technologies and semiconductors give us chips that allow us to put a radio into almost anything at a reasonable cost. No doubt he will sum up the current status of wireless, but also give us a picture of wireless wonders to come.

On Tuesday March 9th, Ronald Reedy, PhD and founder, vice president, and chief technology officer of Peregrine Semiconductor, will give another keynote. We haven’t heard yet what topic he will cover, but his experience in both semiconductor and military/space sectors should make for an interesting wireless-related speech.

The keynotes are almost always worth hearing, simply to get the big wireless picture. But just as important this year are two key panel discussions that you don’t want to miss. One is a panel called "Where Is The Wireless Industry Going?" It will provide a glimpse of future wireless applications, the problems and potentials, as well as how companies can make money in the wireless business.

Another top-notch panel is "Using Poe To Empower The Proliferation Of Wireless Devices." PoE, of course, is the IEEE’s 802.3af standard for power over Ethernet. It defines how dc power can be delivered over common CAT5/6 twisted pair in Ethernet LANs. This has a great deal to do with wireless because it provides a solution to one of the ugliest problems facing network engineers as they try to expand their Wi-Fi hot-spot presence in public places and in the enterprise. This panel will address the potential of this new standard and guidelines for getting the maximum benefit.

What’s Hot In Wireless?
Just what do you want to know about wireless? Cell phones, needless to say, represent the largest sector of the wireless market. But the wireless-LAN business is a rapidly growing second place. The 802.11 standards and the Wi-Fi Alliance have made wireless access a practical reality, not only in enterprise LANs, but also in home networks and at the thousands of hot spots in airports, hotels, and other public places. Thanks to the newer single-chip, low-power Wi-Fi radios, you can also expect wireless to be in PDAs and other portable devices.

Several new short-range wireless technologies are expected to make an impact in future products. These include ultra wideband (UWB), ZigBee, and RFID. Ultra wideband is slowly emerging as having the greatest potential for consumer-electronics equipment networking. Because video lies at the heart of all consumer systems, high speed is absolutely essential. UWB promises speeds up to 110 Mbits/s at a range of 10 meters. And even higher speeds are possible over shorter distances. The standards for UWB are still being debated and formed, but you can almost be sure that this technology will be in real products by next year. So you’d better get ready.

While UWB is expected to be big, a new wireless technology with the greatest potential is ZigBee. This is a low-cost, low-power, low-speed technology defined for industrial networking and control. Its low cost also suits it for many low-speed home applications. ZigBee is a technology that will literally put wireless into everything else. Now is the time to get in-the-know about it.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID), the wireless bar-code technology, has been around for years. However, recent developments are making it more and more attractive. Radio-frequency identification tags are likely to end up not only on all product packages, but on virtually everything that’s stored or shipped.

All of these technologies will be addressed at the conference. You will come away with a bushel full of technological details, as well as a host of great ideas for your own work and career.

All Wireless Segments Covered
This conference covers all major sectors of wireless, and will perhaps illuminate some new ones to you as well. Here’s a summary table of the major segments and some of the specific session topics.

Workshops For Greater Depth: The WSD Conference also features some full-day workshops (at extra cost) for those needing more knowledge about selected wireless topics. On Monday the 8th, you can attend "Risk Analysis and Reduction for Hardware/Software Systems Development." Also on Monday is "Basic Statistics and Sample Size Determination." On Tuesday, you can opt for "Introduction to Adaptive Computing." You get 0.6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) of credit for each. If any of these workshops sounds like something you need, it’s best to register early because they fill up fast due to limited space.

Military Electronics Showcase: One section of the WSD Conference this year is the Military Electronics Showcase West. If your work involves any type of military electronics equipment design or testing, here are some sessions of possible interest;

  • The Evolution of Design Decisions for Military and Commercial Applications
  • Artificial Intelligence Aids Microwave Design for Wireless and Military Applications
  • User Frequency Selectable Miniature Transmitter Module for Military Wireless Telemetry Applications
  • The Design of a Single Card Telemetry Module for Smart Munitions Testing

The Industrial Wireless Applications Summit: Co-located with WSD this year is a complete showcase and program devoted to industrial wireless applications. Wireless is growing dramatically in most industrial plant, factory, and automation settings. Some hot topics include wireless industrial Ethernet, RFID, mesh networking, sensor networks, and the hot new ZigBee technology. This conference within a conference is bound to offer something of interest for any wireless aficionado.

The Expo: The exhibits are always a treat at any conference. It’s great to see so many companies in one place at one time. As of this writing, there are just over 100 exhibitors signed up for WSD. Factor in some time to see it all.

Decisions, Decisions
Like many conferences, this one gives you lots of choices. You’re sure to find something to take back and use the following week. Your big problem will be the frustration of what to leave out or what you don’t have time for. So decide to come for the whole show and plan, plan, plan.

For more information, go to the conference Web site at www.wsdexpo.com. You can get more details on sessions, speakers, exhibits, and workshops. In addition, you can register and get your hotel room secured. For more details on the Industrial Wireless Applications Summit, visit www.iwasummit.com.

I hope to see you at the show!

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