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Polishing the Old Crystal Ball Once Again

Feb. 3, 2021
Yes, it’s Microwaves & RF’s 2021 Technology Forecast issue, in which we once again attempt to peer into the future to predict things to come (and hope that we’re not veering into fantasy).

It’s that time of year again, when multitudes of prognosticators elucidate visions of marvelous technological progress and we in the B2B media eagerly snap up their scribblings. Why? Because “that time of year” is “Technology Forecast” issue time, and the January-February issue of Microwaves & RF will offer up its predictions for 2021.

I’ve been in this business for quite some time, much of it spent with our sister publication, Electronic Design. And as such, I’ve been in the middle of a bunch of Tech Forecast issues. It’s fun to talk to industry luminaries and get their thoughts on where things may be heading in the coming year and the years to follow.

But even experts don’t always get everything right. I recall a Tech Forecast article I wrote in the early 90s timeframe when I was Electronic Design’s Components and Packaging technology editor. In an interview with someone about laptops and how engineers would deal with burgeoning thermal issues, I learned that by the mid-1990s, microprocessor clock speeds would have reached the lofty heights of 400 to 500 MHz. The problem with that, my source said, was heat, lots of heat dissipated by that mighty CPU. So much, in fact, that you wouldn’t be able to use it in a laptop unless it also contained an elaborate liquid-cooling system.

It turned out that he was right on the clock-speed prediction: DEC’s Alpha 21164A CPU ran at 400 to 500 MHz in 1996 (CPUs running at that clock speed wouldn’t be common until the late 90s). But the liquid-cooling part? Well, it’s only recently that ASUS announced its ROG GX700VO, which it claims as the world’s first liquid-cooled gaming laptop. I guess fans and heatsinks held up pretty well.

I have higher hopes for Microwaves and RF’s 2021 Forecast issue. No one’s talking about liquid cooling at all. But rather, we have some rather sober and well-grounded thoughts about the direction of things like smart homes. Look at “Can CHIP Make the Seamless Smart Home Real?," one of the features in the January-February issue. Qorvo’s Cees Links ponders the fragmented nature of disparate smart-home ecosystems and how they might finally come together through the efforts of the Zigbee Alliance’s Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) Working Group.

But, if it’s far-reaching forecasting you seek, the Jan-Feb issue’s cover story, “6G: Fantastic, Yes. Fantasy? Not So Much,” will probably scratch that itch. The article is realistic in its understanding that we won’t see 6G in the real world for a good long time. Indeed, 5G has a long way to go before it reaches its own potential. However, it paints a picture of a truly revolutionary technology that will take advantages of future advances in AI and machine learning paired with insane data rates and immense bandwidth. I only hope I’m around to see it!

There’s a lot more Technology Forecast than we could fit into this issue, so visit here for an augmented Forecast experience.

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