2012 was an Olympic year, a political year, a jubilee year (at least in the UK); a year of celestial aspirations and turmoil back on planet Earth. It was a year spent vacillating between tepid and propitious economic forecasts. In business, the year offered opportunities and challenges – and no lack of uncertainty thanks to the European debt crisis, a potential course-changing election and looming fiscal cliff.  Altogether, the economical, political and global security issues of 2012 will undoubtedly impact the pace and direction of technology funding.

For microwave technology, it was a year in which GaN and CMOS devices (switches and power amps) increased their respective market penetration, DPD and envelope tracking techniques continued to gain interest and the need for spectral capacity provided opportunities for small cell data off-loading and carrier aggregation, while over-the-air testing became essential to validating the benefits of MIMO. And at the Journal, it was a year to advocate for global growth with the launch of Microwave Journal China and EDI CON (Beijing, 2013).

Reaching for the stars was a common theme in 2012. The United States set the bar high with a successful Mars rover landing, a challenging feat portrayed in a NASA video, “Seven minutes of Terror,” that went virile. For North Korea, the dream was slightly out of reach as its long-range Uhna-3 rocket carrying an observation satellite exploded 80 seconds after launch. The attempt was viewed by the U.S. and its allies as a poorly-disguised missile test. 

Fairing considerably better, a Shenzhou-9 capsule carrying three Chinese astronauts successfully docked to an orbiting space module, which China had launched the previous year. The space module is to be replaced by a permanent space station around 2020 as China hopes to be the third country to send an independently manned space station into orbit. Returning from space in style, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumped from more than 24 miles above the Earth to break the speed of sound along with the record for highest free-fall. This interest in space bodes well for future commercial activity and the microwave industry.

Back on Earth, Global security continued to be a growing concern. One year after the Arab Spring, the region’s democracy movement struggled to establish stable governments in Egypt and Libya, leading to attacks on American diplomats, while an escalating civil war in Syria, fighting in Gaza, and a belligerent and defiant Iran served to demonstrate the continuing need for embedded intelligence gathering and stealthy, rapidly deployable security forces to operate beyond the limits of defense systems designed for conventional warfare. Asymmetrical conflicts continue to drive the need for more sophisticated spectrum monitoring, cognitive and coherent radio technology, ad hoc communication networks, wireless sensors, miniaturization and low-power electronics.

Infrastructure, safety and security were put to the test in a number of circumstances from the blackouts in India that left over half a billion people without power, to the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Storm hardened infrastructure and a smarter electric grid should be the investors’ take-away from these events. Meanwhile, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and its impact on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant alerted many to the risks associated with natural disasters and potential disruption to the global electronics supply chain. Mitigating this risk with manufacturing centers in Germany, the United States and Singapore, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, a foundry business launched in 2009 through the integration of the former manufacturing arm of AMD and Chartered Semiconductor, became the fastest growing semiconductor company in 2012. GLOBALFOUNDRIES is poised to address the demand for outsourced semiconductor manufacturing and the high-volume production of wireless semiconductors.

With the prospect of future wireless connectivity exemplified in this month’s cover story, and the ensuing need to drive down component and system costs, many companies took steps to strengthen their technology offerings. Considerable merger and acquisition activity took place in 2012. RFMD acquired Amalfi Semiconductor, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in CMOS RF, Gaas Labs acquired Nitronex to add to its portfolio of communication semiconductor companies that include M/A-COM Technology Solutions. Device modeling was on the minds of several test equipment manufacturers as Agilent acquired Accelicon Technologies (a device modeling company from Beijing) and National Instruments strengthened its position in RF design and active device modeling expertise by acquiring NMDG. ANSYS expanded its multi-physics simulation portfolio to include embedded software development with the acquisition of Esterel Technologies.

EMC emission and immunity testing system provider, Teseq Holding AG, added two leading amplifier manufacturers to its organization with the acquisitions of IFI and Milmega, while Teledyne made big news by acquiring LeCroy. Agilent expanded its vast array of test solutions with the acquisitions of AT4 Wireless Test Systems and Centellax’s test and measurement business (BER testers and signal generators), while Rohde & Schwarz addressed QoS testing in wireless networks with the acquisition of SwissQual. Dragonwave acquired Nokia Seimens Networks’ microwave transport business, API Technologies entered into a definitive merger agreement with Spectrum Control, Mercury Computer acquired Micronetics and Thales acquired Tampa Microwave.

The industry continues to morph and grow in support of the systems that define our changing world. The editors at the Journal look forward to covering your achievements in 2013 and being among the first to say, “well done.”