Q: How about advances in other countries or areas, such as Europe or China? A: If need is there, then the Chinese will go for it. Right now, they need to work on building the infrastructure (e.g., foundries) to support the technology. Regarding ultra-wideband phased arrays, ultra-thin low-frequency antennas, reconfigurable ground planes for low-frequency applications, and reconfigurable antennas, the Europeans are working in these areas. This information is also published, and so we can research where Europeans are going.
Q: Are you seeing really interesting publications and new innovative concepts outside the United States? A (by James Armitage, attendee): When it comes to who is producing the most, then it is China. However, although quantity is high, quality is not there yet. At the same time, the Chinese are catching up and will eventually be at the same level as we are; many Chinese working in this field went to school in the United States. They are going home and applying in China what they learned here. Don’t underestimate computing resources outside the United States. The Chinese are building foundries like crazy to feed the auto industry worldwide. It is all money driven and requires large investments.
Q: What countries around the world are doing this type of work—China, India, Russia, Israel, France, Germany? A (by James Armitage and Gilman Louie): We need to watch where the money is going. We have been spending more money, by orders of magnitude, than other countries in developing these types of technologies. Now, when we are not spending as much, and other countries decide to make heavy investments, they will catch up quickly. Most of the professors in China received their PhDs in the United States. Now they are going back to China to teach the next generation of engineers. This also applies to other regions of the world (e.g., Europe and India).
Sebastian Rowson, chief scientist at Ethertronics, was the speaker. His privately held company manufactures million of antennas per week (e.g., for cell phones, laptops, medical devices). They have moved from simple designs and manufacturing challenges to active, reconfigurable antenna systems defined and optimized for commercial applications. “Active antenna systems technology applies to any wireless device. Mobile device data throughput increased (46 percent increase demonstrated in an access point).” Challenges are numbers of applications supported and very small volumes (e.g., 2 cubic centimeters with active antennas). Ideally, active and reconfigurable antennas can adjust automatically to changes in the environment enveloping the device (e.g., when a hand is on a phone).
For the future, Rowson noted that a goal is to integrate everything inside the phone; the antenna is the link to outside signals. If switching from different base stations can be minimized by optimizing for only one base station, effort and resources can be freed up. Associated challenges involve development of new software to support the antenna. Again, the aim is to design everything together and have elements that adjust “on the fly” so as to achieve more capability with these systems.
Q: Where have you seen more gain in technology advances? A: Probably in filters. Already a lot of work has been done on power amplifiers, but there are still opportunities for improvement.
Q: How transparent to the user is a change in modes? A: It is very fast; the user does not know it is happening.
Q: Are any of these things dependent on materials? A: Mostly on design, but in some cases they are dependent on new semiconductor technology.
Q: How about jamming? A: The hope is that the FCC is keeping others off these frequencies. We’re not looking closely at jamming.
2Unless specifically stated otherwise, the speaker answered all questions.