News Feature | January 26, 2023

Back Channel — High-Performance EW And Open Standards, Jordan Inks F-16 Deal, Unlocking Exosuits' Potential With Wearable Sensors, And More

John Oncea

By John Oncea, Editor


Back Channel presents the most captivating news and innovations in RF and microwaves. This week, we look at if the semiconductor market is hot or not, guiding lightning with a high-power laser, and more.

“Prior to the promulgation of the SOSA [Sensor Open Systems Architecture] framework, systems integrators based their designs on a standard such as VPX, VXS, or VME, and declared their open architecture,” writes Robert Normoyle for Military Embedded Systems. But the backplane, board interfaces, and data protocol interfaces were proprietary. As a result, interoperability, scalability, competition, faster refresh, and lower cost were often unobtained. Normoyle writes, “This disconnect was even more prevalent with high-performance electronic warfare (EW) systems since the coordination between components and systems is expected at a nanosecond scale and extreme frequency coverage.” He goes on to question if the standards support interoperability and if they don’t, can they support high-performance EW requirements.

Semiconductors: hot or not? Gartner reports worldwide semiconductor revenue grew 1.1% in 2022 to a total of $601.7 billion, up from $595 billion in 2021. “2022 began with many semiconductor devices in shortage resulting in extended lead times and increasing pricing which led to reduced electronic equipment production for many end markets. As a result, OEMs started hedging themselves from shortages by stockpiling chip inventory,” said Andrew Norwood, VP Analyst at Gartner. “However, by the second half of 2022, the global economy began to slow under the strain of high inflation, rising interest rates, higher energy costs, and continued COVID-19 lockdowns in China, which impacted many global supply chains. Consumers also began to reduce spending, with PC and smartphone demand suffering, and then enterprises starting to reduce spending in anticipation of a global recession, all of which impacted overall semiconductor growth.”

eeNews Europe, citing the same Gartner report, writes that, “Samsung Electronics maintained the top spot although revenue declined 10.4% in 2022, primarily due to declines in memory and NAND flash sales. Intel held on to the No. 2 position with 9.7% market share. The company was hit by the significant decline of the consumer PC market and strong competition in its core x86 processor businesses and revenue growth declined 19.5%.” eeNews Europe notes that Memory “was the worst-performing device category, experiencing a 10% revenue decrease.

Despite the less-than-stellar 2022, eeNews reports, “The downturn in the semiconductor industry is well underway and will turn the corner later this year.” This is according to Malcolm Penn, CEO of market analyst Future Horizons. “The correction is a process but we will overshoot and we expect there are two quarters possibly three before the market rebalances,” said Penn. “It takes about four quarters to rein in capital spending and that’s what causes the overshoot. There’s still a lot of overcapacities.” Penn predicts, “We are looking at the trillion-dollar year in 2034, maybe 2033.”

Jordan’s royal air force has signed a multibillion-dollar agreement with the U.S. to buy new F-16 fighter jets to replace its older versions, reports The National. “This agreement is part of efforts to boost the defense capabilities of the kingdom and increase the level of combat readiness and joint operations with the U.S.,” the Jordanian air force said. “It also aims to strengthen the framework of cooperation between the two countries, support joint efforts to combat terrorism, and promote stability in the region.”

Not everyone who dons a wearable robot can immediately reap the benefits from the assistance according to University of Wisconsin–Madison and Harvard University researchers via the National Science Foundation (NSF). But now, thanks to unique, wearable sensors that measure the force on tendons, the technology is more useful than ever before. According to NSF, the researchers employed a unique wearable sensor called a shear wave tensiometer that is easily mounted on the skin over a tendon. The tensiometer enables researchers to directly assess tendon force by looking at how the vibrational characteristics of the tendon change when it undergoes loading, as it does during movement. “Different people are going to react to an exosuit in different ways, so we can't assume that there is a one-size-fits-all exosuit controller that is going to work for everyone,” says Dylan Schmitz, a UW–Madison mechanical engineer, NSF Graduate Research Fellow and co-first author of the paper. “This research highlights the importance of taking direct measurements of muscle and tendon forces to ensure that an exosuit is causing the expected biomechanical changes.”

A European consortium consisting of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), École Polytechnique (Paris), EPFL, the School of Engineering and Management HEIG-VD, and TRUMPF scientific lasers (Munich) has, according to EPFL, developed a promising alternative: the Laser Lightning Rod or LLR. After testing the LLR on the summit of Mount Säntis in Appenzell, the researchers now have proof of its feasibility. The rod can deflect lightning over several dozen meters, even in poor weather. “From the first lightning event using the laser, we found that the discharge could follow the beam for nearly 60 meters before reaching the tower, meaning that it increased the radius of the protection surface from 120 m to 180 m,” explains Jean-Pierre Wolf, UNIGE professor of physics and the study’s last author.