Wireless markets have yielded little excitement in recent years, due largely to the slowdown in cellular infrastructure sales and the "commoditization" of products for wireless-local-area-network (WLAN) systems. Still, the curious came this past month (March 8-10) for the 12th running of the annual Wireless Systems Design Conference & Expo, held for the first time in San Diego, CA. Although the crowd was small, the technical program held their interest in a variety of different areas.

The San Diego conference featured multiple conferences within a conference. In addition to the expected wireless technology/applications presentations, the event featured a small program devoted to military electronics and a first-time program sponsored by sister Penton publication, Machine Design, called the Industrial Wireless Applications Summit (IWAS). Each event featured its own Keynote Speaker, with Dr. Henry Samueli, co-founder and chairman of Broadcom Corp. (Irvine, CA) tackling the task for the Wireless Systems Design Conference. Broadcom, founded in 1991 and taken public in 1998, is one of the bright spots in a struggling wireless industry, having diversified into wired and wireless markets for semiconductors in a variety of applications, including cellular, cable, satellite communications, and WLANs.

In a talk entitled "Wireless in Everything: Life in a Fully Connected World," Dr. Samueli foretold a future where wireless technology could be used in almost all things electronic. He emphasized that this future would be made possible by low-cost wireless transceivers (including controllers) on a single chip.

On the military side, Dr. Ronald E. Reedy, founder, vice president, and chief technology officer (CTO) of Peregrine Semiconductor (San Diego, CA) offered advice on supplementing sagging wireless business with higher-margin military business. He detailed in particular an elegant Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver module for the military that brought the company the added benefits of scaled-down versions of the module for commercial sales.

The third of the trio of Keynote speakers. Robert Poor, CTO and co-founder of Ember Corp. (Boston, MA) spoke on the industrial side of wireless. He emphasized that a healthy wireless market is one that does not rely on just one business segment (cellular), but is diversified into such areas as medical and industrial applications.

A great deal of thanks and appreciation are owed to the Keynote speakers, workshop hosts, and presenters who not only made the journey to San Diego, but gave so generously of their time, as well as to those attending the 12th annual meeting. For those who missed it, next month will carry a highly condensed summary.