With the bubble bursting in the home market, talk of a recession is everywhere. Remembering the telecom burst of the not-too-distant past, it is easy for people in the microwaves industry to get concerned. During that downturn, microwave companies did suffer tough losses of both profits and personnel. Yet few were wounded deeply enough to not be able to perform well in their areas of expertise. By concentrating on their strengths and focusing on relationships with key customers, the companies managed to rebound. The industry should make it through this slowdown even more gracefully, thanks in large part to the greater variety of markets that it currently serves.
Many of the companies that were spawned by the defense market made major expansions into the wireless industry during the 1990s. With the telecom-bubble burst, the events of September 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq, though, they quickly reinforced their core competencies in designing and delivering components and subsystems for aerospace and defense. The companies realized that they could easily parlay those strengths into something that would suit homeland-security and nextgeneration warfare needs. The result has been a plethora of innovations that seek to improve battlefield and public-safety communications, detect a variety of threats, and more.
Telecommunications also came back as the carriers shifted to third-generation technologies. In addition, many RF and microwave companies made the leap to broadband technologies like WiMAX and new wireless application areas, such as automotive and medical. In the medical industry, for example, Bluetooth just made national news for the help that it is giving to two Iraqi War veterans. The double-amputee veterans are relying on prosthetic legs that use Bluetooth technology. Each leg has transmitters and receivers to communicate with the other leg, sending signals to the motors in the artificial joints. In doing so, they ensure that the knees and ankles move in a coordinated manner. The two legs also are in tune in that they know if the other one is moving, standing, etc.
By working in diverse wireless areas as well as defense, today's microwave companies have succeeded in living by the old expression, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket." This approachwhen combined with the expertise and knowledge of today's RF engineerswill help the industry rebound once again. The excitement of creating life-changing developments, such as the Bluetooth-enabled prosthetic legs, also will inspire the industry to create future innovations. No matter what the economic situation turns out to be, this is an industry comprised of many great minds. We can figure out how to weather any storm.