It’s that time of year again. For those in the microwave and RF industry, the IEEE International Microwave Symposium (IMS)—with all of its conferences, workshops, trade show, and exhibition offerings—is something we look forward to all year long. This May, IMS returns to Phoenix, Ariz., where the show was held during a sweltering week more than 10 years ago.
At that time, the cellular industry was taking the industry by storm, with most companies de-emphasizing the military side of their business as they chased commercial telecommunications deals. It was before the bottom dropped out in telecommunications, due to a bad economy and overzealous predictions. Forecasts then indicated that the industry would have to support people upgrading their cell phones as often as four times a year. Among the biggest names at the show were Motorola (before Freescale was spun off) and Philips. Obviously, many things have changed since then. But many also stayed the same. Here’s a basic checklist to ensure that you get the most out of your IMS experience:
1. Who says engineers are stereotypically not social? For some, IMS is the one time each year to see longtime friends, partners, customers, and acquaintances. Leave time to say hello to people, catch up, and make new connections. The amount of intelligence and expertise at IMS is staggering, which leads to key networking opportunities.
2. So-and-so is where now? Part of the fun every year is seeing someone you know, but being very surprised to find them in a different booth or wearing a different company’s logo. This is a specialized industry, which means there’s a lot of career movement between different companies.
3. Did you see what they have at that booth?! IMS is an event at which many major technical advances are unveiled, from the smallest semiconductors to the largest systems. Look to test and measurement companies for breakthroughs in wireless communications, electronic warfare (EW), and more. Many of the bigger booths will be showing correspondingly big breakthroughs.
4. Did you know that Company X has done such-and-such?! Or even better: Have you heard of Company X? Don’t let all your time be taken up at bigger, flashier booths. The IMS exhibition floor is teeming with smaller companies, and there are always some real game-changers among them. Keep an ear out for what people are talking about and you’ll hear about those too.
5. Who knew that so many companies really are investing in these buzzword applications? Beyond the expected focus on Fifth-Generation (5G) cellular and the latest radar and EW applications, you’ll hear hype about the Internet of Things (IoT; aka “connected everything” from your home to smart cities); automotive applications—especially driverless cars, which are expected to eventually result from today’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADASs); medical applications; satellite communication (satcom); and countless others.
6. What fruit has a particular merger or acquisition produced? It often takes a year or more to see the company and product roadmap results after a merger or acquisition. Given that rule, Qorvo (formerly RFMD and TriQuint) should have some messaging and information about its plans and strategy at the ready. Also, keep an eye out for any hints from Analog Devices on its Hittite acquisition and any gossip surrounding NXP’s pending acquisition of Freescale. There are many others that bear watching as well.
In addition to the above checklist, keep an eye out for STEM-outreach efforts, as MTT-S increasingly looks to attract students to the industry. Per tradition, a very impressive conference offering has been assembled including smaller, high-quality technical meetings like the Automatic RF Techniques Group (ARFTG). So check the weather, be prepared for high temperatures, wear comfortable shoes, and have plenty of business cards at the ready. Enjoy the show!