Welcome to our second annual Best Electronic Design issue, in which we select and honor some of the most innovative designs of the year. The pace of innovation continued at an astonishing rate in 2006, and this issue highlights some of the technologies you readers have chosen as significant to advancing electronic design. It also gives us the opportunity to honor some of the outstanding end-product designs you have produced in the last year.
This issue puts 2006's top innovations into perspective with the year's key events too, courtesy of Roger Engelke's Year in Review. Roger's recap got me thinking about the year and considering some of my personal editorial benchmarks for 2006.
My summer visit to Picatinny Arsenal gave me a chance to see design in progress for the latest electronics being readied for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the significance of the Iraq war to 2006, it was interesting to get a look at the electronics our troops rely on in the field (see "Picatinny Arsenal: R&D Home Of America's Lethal Firepower" and "No 'Failure Of Imagination' Here In Stopping Terrorism").
Another highlight was my tour, along with Analog/ Power Editor Don Tuite, of GM's Advanced Vehicle Technology Center. That's where the EV-1 had been developed and where the team continues to innovate the electric motors essential to GM's hybrid and fuel-cell powered cars. Driving a fuel-cell car was cool, though it was a bit nerve-wracking to be behind the wheel of a prototype worth millions of dollars.
And I think 2006 will be remembered, due to soaring gas prices, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and other influences as a watershed year for awareness of global warming and the need for alternative fuels (see "Alternative Fuels Look To Solve Petro's Plunder"and "Breaking The Fossil-Fuel Addiction: GM Readies Fuel Cells For The Masses").
Another high point was my interview with Ray Kurzweil, inductee in our Electronic Design Engineering Hall of Fame, about his development of a portable reader for the blind. Kurzweil's integration of advanced optical character recognition technology with off-the-shelf PDA and digital camera technologies created a new and affordable life-changing device (see "Interview With Ray Kurzweil").
CHOOSING THE BEST
This issue opens with our Best Technologies columns, where our technical editors choose the products and solutions they feel had the greatest impact on design this year. They look at the key technologies covered in our pages and online during the year, and they also consider your reader feedback. The field of candidates begins with the hundreds of briefings and demonstrations our editors participate in each year.
Next, we look at the Best Designs in the leading vertical markets. We solicited nominations from you readers, and our editors selected the winners. The year has proven to be a solid one for technology innovation, with demand for new electronics strong across all the top markets.
And, you selected the most significant Leapfrog and the Best Design Briefs. We started with a slate of the most popular stories ranked by Web page views. Then, we put the top contenders up for a vote to determine the Leapfrog with the most impact on design as well as the most helpful Design Brief.
In the Best Leapfrog, Roger Allan takes a second look at Akustica's single-chip CMOS microphone, which will see some mainstream applications in the months ahead. Meanwhile, Robert Schell's op-amp frequency mixer was the top Design Brief. Congratulations to our winners!
I want to encourage all of you to keep sending us your Design Briefs for publication. We pay $150 for each one we use, and when you submit, you're automatically entered into the Best Design Brief contest. The year's top design earns an additional $500, and the two runners up each receive $250.