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Looking For The Next Best Thing

Surveying the high-frequency industry from an editor's chair has its occasional benefits, including a unique, noncompetitive view of products and technologies that few can match. Often it is one of the first looks at sometime outside of the employees at a particular manufacturer, giving an editor who is willing to travel amazing insights into the trends that characterize the industry, and the new developments that may one day change it.

Suffice it to say that with wisdom comes responsibility and often, in knowing about a new technology or product, the confidentiality offered to a magazine editor also requires that nothing be said about that knowledge until the proper time. Still, one of the perquisites of the editor's position is a front-row view of emerging technologies and, given a little thought and patience, the opportunity to connect the dots to see where new technologies might take us.

As scrutiny of the Top Products of 2002 might reveal (see p. 100), the communications marketplace is not dominated by any technology in particular and some older technologies, such as CMOS, are still doing quite well even when matched against the "next best thing" such as silicon germanium (SiGe). On that Top Products list, for example, are two Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver (Rx) integrated circuits (ICs)—a fact that in itself should indicate that the embedded GPS market may be poised for growth. These two GPS Rxs offer remarkably similar electrical performance in terms of power consumption (although differing somewhat in levels of integration), although one is fabricated with CMOS and the other with SiGe.

One of the technologies on the list—the ultrawideband (UWB) approach used by XtremeSpectrum in their data transceiver—certainly could be perceived as a threat to more traditional homodyne and heterodyne Rx architectures. But system developers so far have been somewhat wary of the UWB technology perhaps for fear that it may not coexist well with other more established technologies and applications, including GPS. And the Berlin-based Nanotron Technologies ( promises to make "noise" among RF design circles later this year with their multi-dimensional-multiple-access (MDMA) technology which, like UWB, promises high data rates with negligible power consumption. Like UWB, MDMA is based on a technology once solely in the domain of military electronics.

Will one of these technologies become the next best thing in wireless communications? That would be telling. But for sure, such innovative technologies are what keep engineering interested in constantly striving for that next best thing.

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