Electronic Design

Notes From The Northwest

Almost everyone I talked to during a recent visit to the Northwest had something to add to the Wireless Everywhere scenario. For example, the test and measurement space has changed dramatically with the need to capture transient RF signals in real time, and the market is hot for real-time spectrum analyzers.

During my visit to Portland, I sat down with Tektronix’s vice president of RF Products, Richard King. We discussed how low-cost radios coupled with digital intelligence are bringing RF to many applications. Even a wireless dentist’s chair can provide multimedia distractions for patients under the drill!

On a stop at Fluke headquarters in Everett, Wash., Dave Postetter likewise explained the strong demand for arbitrary waveform generators based on the need to generate test signals equivalent to the sorts of events triggered in machine-to-machine communications. Machine-to-machine communications have very different test and measurement requirements, thanks to frequency hopping and the need to capture transient events and see measurements over time—applications like RFID and wireless sensor readings for tire-pressure monitoring.

Speaking of RF-ID, I met with William Colleran, CEO of Seattle’s Impinj, the first fabless chip company to produce RF-ID tags based on the new Gen 2 standard. (See Lou Frenzel’s article on RF-ID, ED Online 10270.) He said that Gen 2 chips enable reading up to 1000 RF-ID tags per second. Also, the standard allows for a “dense reader mode” where multiple readers can be lined up at shipping or receiving docks while keeping energy in narrow channels so there is no interference between multiple devices.

Stephan Schmidt, the general manager for LPKF Laser & Electronics in Portland, updated me on how his company’s Laser Direct Structuring technology is put to use to manufacture 3D-MIDs (Molded Interconnect Devices). The technology enables the incorporation of antennae and other circuitry directly onto the surface of 3D molded thermoplastics. One or more antennas can be integrated into a device’s mechanical structure.

Additionally, I stopped at Microsoft to meet with the Windows CE and Windows XP embedded groups. These operating systems are getting good traction in the wireless space because of their power-management advantages. The Windows CE OS is popular in warehouse management, bar-code, medical, and many other applications, including the Nevo remote featured in last issue’s cover story, ED Online 10958. Product managers Dan Javnozon, John Doyle, and Mike Hall showed me some new tools developed to get embedded applications to market faster and at a lower cost.

The importance of power management was echoed during my stop at CUI Inc., a company seeing strong interest in its V-Infinity power supply. Along with wireless applications, the V-Infinity switching power supplies are being used in data communications and industrial applications.

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