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Smart Connected Systems Owe Much to RF and Wireless. These Experts Know Why

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RF and wirelessly connected systems have impacted 5G, IoT, THz, AI/ML, quantum computing, and more.

There were many exciting topics at this year’s IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium event. Key subjects included smart and connected solutions, millimeter-wave sensing, a transceiver roadmap for 2035 and beyond, 5G, integrated design systems, and more.

To learn more about these subjects and trends in the RF and wireless spaces, Design News reached out to the General Co-Chairs for this year’s event, Steve Kenney and John Papapolymerou. The following is a portion of that discussion.

Design News: What RF-Wireless trends have emerged from the post-COVID world?

Steve Kenney/John Papapolymerou: More than ever after the pandemic, we have seen an increased need for expansive broadband and processing that 5G is poised to facilitate. Put simply, 5G will revolutionize the industry and unlocks levels of connectivity and interaction never seen before. With speeds of up 20 Gbps, machine-to-machine interaction, and the processing of currently incomprehensible amounts of data, the power that 5G holds is a true game-changer. You’ll see applications in robotics control, self-driving cars, AR/VR, and asset/people tracking. Right now, 5G is the most critical trend for which industry leaders are capitalizing on developing products.

Design News: Do engineers have the proper development and testing tools for the RF-Wireless semiconductor spaces?

Steve Kenney/John Papapolymerou: There are issues with 5G connectivity right now that inhibit the highest possible speeds, and engineers are working to solve it. Millimeter-wave technology and massive MIMO is where the bulk of product development lies right now. Lack of availability, poor reliability, inadequate bandwidth, unequal application standards, a lack of automation, and inaccurate location tracking are all areas that need to be improved upon to move 5G from a nascent stage to broad adoption. We have existing approaches we’re building on, tests being run, and dedicated teams to new process development - all working to optimize 5G performance. But the next few years will prove critical in the tools we develop in the name of 5G.

Design News: Are there new RF-Wireless standards/compliances we should be watching? 

Steve Kenney/John Papapolymerou: The 3GPP Release 16 is up and running, and Release 17 is scheduled for Q2 2022. A key feature of R17 is ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLCC) for industrial IoT.

Design News: How have RF-Wireless technologies impacted (or been impacted) by 5G, IoT, THz, AI/ML, and quantum computing?

Steve Kenney/John Papapolymerou: RF-Wireless technology development is being seen through the lens of the immediate needs of today, with 5G and IoT, but also with an eye toward the future with THz, AI/ML, and quantum computing. You have on one side research into how we can develop technology that can bring 5G, IoT, etc., to its highest potential, and a longer-term view of research to develop new technologies to allow advanced applications. Sensorization, data collection and processing, and edge computing are driving the industry's development of RF building blocks as we move to more specific product development for 5G networks and IoT applications. In parallel, new active device technologies, such as carbon nanotube transistors, open a new spectrum in the THz range for advanced sensing, imaging, and communications.  

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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