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IMS 2010: A rich microwave ecosystem

by Peggy Aycinena

The 2010 International Microwave Symposium will be taking place next week, May 23rd to the 28th, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Conference organizers are expecting upwards of 10,000 people, with over 800 companies exhibiting. That’s a big event!

I had a chance to speak by phone on May 18th with the 2010 IMS General Chair, JK McKinney. We started with a brief sketch of McKinney’s own background.

After earning a BSEE from Georgia Tech, McKinney moved to California to work in the microwave field. For the last 16 years, he has served as President of Dura Sales of Southern California, a sales rep company specializing in RF, microwave, and optical devices and services.

McKinney started working on IMS as a volunteer back in 1984, and over the years has served in a variety of capacities: as Publicity Chair, as head of the committee responsible for local arrangements (a huge job!), as Financial Chair, and now as General Chair for the 2010 event.

I asked McKinney how he would characterize the particular subset of electrical engineers that attend the conference and symposium.

He countered, “I see IMS drawing in a broad range engineering disciplines within electrical engineering. In addition, IMS has a wide variety of tentacles that reach into the many different types of businesses and industries associated with the microwave industry.

“If you look at the exhibit floor, for instance, we will have 892 booths next week in Anaheim, representing over 556 different companies, all showing their products. We will have folks who do software, folks who do transistors, fiber optic devices, antennas, ceramics, connectors, cables, and cut metal -- among many different disciplines.

“These various areas all have different types of engineers associated with them, all coming together to build products that are relevant to IMS. It takes a lot of time, and multiple disciplines, to get to a useful solution. All of this will be available within the exhibit area.

“[In fact], that’s the beauty of IMS. A lot of people come to the conference to have the opportunity to exchange information and interact, to talk about their ideas and try to solve the technical problems that exit within the microwave arena. Not just brute force solutions, but solutions that are economically viable.

“When you come to IMS, you are face to face with the people who have made history in the industry, and those who are making history today. And, people are there who will be making history in the future.”

With such a rich ecosystem of people and technologies in place at IMS, I asked McKinney to indicate which trends in microwave are the most important today. He said, “There are actually a too many important things going on in the industry and at the symposium to list.

“I will note, however, that among those things is the RFIC group, which will hosting a keynote speech at their [co-located] RFIC Symposium on May 23rd. Dr. David Allstot from the University of Washington will be talking about, ‘RF Power Amplification: Can CMOS deliver?'

“A lot of people are working in CMOS, with SoC-type functions going through the roof. We’ll see a lot of these types of things coming onboard in the very new future. The IEEE 802.15.3c standard is important here, particularly with the 64-Ghz license [and its implications] in the commercial space through products like TVs, phones, repeaters, and distribution systems.

“I highly anticipate within our lifetime, to see 60Ghz connectivity in cellphones, cameras, notebooks, and a lot less cables from the TV to the set-top box or whatever you use to get the signal to your house. These solutions will be consumed by the 100s of millions, with cost structures you’ve never seen before to make it all work.”

These current and future issues, and much, much more will be on the program at IMS 2010 in Anaheim next week, according to McKinney.

Importantly, attendees should note that Zachary Lemnios, Director of Defense Research and Engineer for the DOD will be delivering the opening keynote at the IMS Plenary session on May 25th. That session and significant other parts of the week’s programming will be available through live streaming on the IEEE website.

I asked McKinney if IMS is always located in Southern California. He said, “No, Ma’am. It changes cities every year. Historically, IMS has gone to the East Coast, to the West Coast, and to the middle of the Country. We try to bounce it around.

“Nonetheless, there are four large hotbeds of microwave talent in the U.S. -- Northern California, Southern California, the New England/Boston area, and the Baltimore area. When we are in those cities, the exhibitions do very well.

“Of course, there are other places that have done well, including St. Louis, Dallas, Orlando, and Seattle. They’ve all done well, but have not typically had the concentration of RF microwave talent that the Big Four cities have.”

“We’re already planned out through 2017,” McKinney said.

Clearly McKinney’s 25+ years of involvement with IMS give him a seasoned perspective. He noted, “IMS is run by an all-volunteer organization -- a truly great group of people. My involvement since 1984 has provided me with the opportunity to know many of these people and to have great friendships.

“People often tell me they don’t have time to be involved with conferences. My response to them is, you don’t have the time not to be involved!”

Given the size of the show and the effort involved organizing all of it, is McKinney looking forward to the day after IMS 2010 is over? He responded, “If you had asked me that question 2 months ago, I would have said yes, but now I’m regretting that it’s soon to be over.

“After all of the years of planning that lead up to each symposium, I now know that in an instant it will all be over, so I’m trying to take my time at this point. Trying to slow down and really enjoy everything leading up to next week’s event.”

He added, “In everyone’s professional life, we need to remember that you learn, you earn, and you return!”

May 19, 2010


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