Electronic Design

How Do We Get Out Of This Mess? Try New Ideas

In this economic climate, the state of the industry depends on design innovation.

When we began to discuss the focus of this State of the Industry issue, we were in the throes of an economic recession the likes of which we had never seen before. In deciding what to write about, we picked a theme: How do we design our way out of these troubles? The economy has rebounded somewhat since then, but the answer to that question will determine the fate of many companies in our industry.

Looking for solutions, Contributing Editors Dave Van Ess and Frank Schirrmeister address the roles that programmable devices and virtualization, respectively, might play in their particular fields. Rob Evans of Altium Ltd., asking if designers have lost the ability to be creative, provides solutions for those who may face some “designer’s block.” Richard McDonell of National Instruments urges designers to take a hard look at their own personnel and processes. Finally, we turn the matter back to our own Analog & Power Editor Don Tuite, who examines how the industry designed itself out of previous recessions.

Embedded/Systems/Software Editor Bill Wong reports on the military’s continuing thrust to put robots rather than soldiers in harm’s way. While many robots are on the battlefield today, what about innovations coming down the military pike? Bill says that military robots are getting both smaller and larger—and are jumping in the water as well. Design engineers with expertise in embedded systems are paving the way for these robotic innovations and will hopefully do a better and better job of keeping soldiers out of danger.

Bill also tackles the consumer space by focusing on laptops, netbooks, and e-books. Netbooks have been the brightest star in the consumer computing universe in the past year, and these diminutive devices still have a long way to go. Bill writes about the many ways designers are making netbooks even more attractive, including flash drives, improved keyboards, and low-power processors.

In the medical arena, Contributing Editor Roger Allan gives us his purview on distributed healthcare. He writes that high-performance, low-power ICs are enabling the creation of new kinds of portable medical devices, which are in turn causing a fundamental shift in bringing medical care to the patient’s home.

Digital signal processing (DSP) is also set to play a crucial role in medicine via medical diagnostics. Roger points to powerful DSP engines that are already proving their mettle in advanced medical imaging, allowing healthcare providers to better identify and pinpoint maladies. Future DSPs, with even greater processing power, will open up new windows on the diagnosis of impending diseases.

In the automotive market, the key concerns are safety, the environment, and fuel efficiency as well as more mundane things like ordinary fun via infotainment. As bleak as the prospects of the automotive industry seem to be right now, there are probably few industries with as much technological progress and innovation. Roger writes that the underlying fundamentals of the automotive electronics industry are arguably stronger than they have ever been, with increased electronics penetration the only realistic way of meeting future environmental and safety requirements.

As for horizontal markets, Don Tuite looks at motor control, which has far-ranging consequences as engineers try to make motors work more efficiently than ever. He casts a special spotlight on the buzz-worthy automotive industry—specifically, the new engine in the Honda Prius and the latest developments in the Tesla Roadster. Meanwhile, check out his online look at the innovation that’s going in white goods, which isn’t as boring as you might think!

Communications Editor Lou Frenzel tackles smartphones and other popular devices, which are keeping the cellular business afloat. But he also cautions that companies need an infrastructure that’s powerful enough to manage the growing use of voice and data services. Lou says that virtually all carriers will ultimately adopt Long-Term Evolution (LTE) as their 4G technology, including those carriers that aren’t on the GSM/EDGE/WCDMA/HSPA path outlined in the 3GPP guidelines. That also includes those operators now using cdma2000 and its variants like Verizon and Sprint.

EDA and Test Editor David Maliniak covers his horizontal beats in this issue as well. First, David states that the EDA industry continues to create the tools and methodologies that enable design engineers to realize their conceptual dreams. And it’s a good thing, too, because as we all know, the electronics industry can sure use another iPod or BlackBerry. He gives his take on some of the newer tools that engineers will be using to create the next generation of must-have electronics.

And in test and measurement, David says that maintaining one’s competitive edge in this economic downturn can often come down to the tools used to get the job done. Test and measurement companies have the unenviable task of staying ahead technologically of an industry known for its technical achievements and performance breakthroughs. David offers a sampling of the different ways the industry is managing this herculean task.

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