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MEMS: Are We There Yet?

Technology can be a wonderful thing, if properly applied. The history of this industry is rich with new technologies that were touted as "the next great thing," but never quite changed the world the way early adopters thought it would. Those old enough will surely remember how superconductors would fuel the world's fastest signal analyzers. And how gallium arsenide (GaAs) would be the chip of choice in everything from portable radios to military aircraft. Both technologies are still around, but not in the dominant roles projected for them during their formative years.

Every technology has advantages and disadvantages. For it to last, there must be at least one application for which it is THE ONLY answer. Microelectromechanical-systems (MEMS) devices are well embedded as air-bag sensors and in other automotive and medical applications, but have been looking for the right fit in a high-frequency application. That day may be rapidly approaching, as fabless MEMS developer WiSpry has entered into an agreement with cellular giant NTT DOCOMO to jointly develop tunable filters for mobile telephone applications, based on WiSpry's MEMS technology. Given the number of bands and multiple functions in fourth-generation (4G) phones such as Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices, this could be the high-frequency market that MEMS has been waiting for.

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