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Having evolved from Motorola’s Smart Networks Developer Forum (SNDF), which ran from 2001 to 2004, the Freescale Technology Forums (FTFs) began in 2005, following the spin off of Freescale from Motorola the previous year. All FTF events include technical training sessions, keynote presentations and an interactive Technology Lab. The annual four-day FTF Americas has become a flagship event, which, over the years, has featured such noteworthy keynote speakers as CNN’s Jeff Greenfield and moon walker, or more precisely, astronaut, Neil Armstrong. Red carpet entertainment has been provided by such big names as the Barenaked Ladies and Sheryl Crow.
Outside the US, the company has identified and targeted key and emerging markets around the globe where technology is being developed and where there is a market for innovation. As a result, in recent years, the Freescale Technology Forums, in their one or two-day format, have extended their reach to Bangalore, India; Tokyo, Japan; Shanghai and Shenzhen, China; and Tel Aviv, Israel. The established European market is important too and there are normally two Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region FTFs each year with Paris, Milan and Munich having been venues in recent years.
The latest FTF EMEA in Munich in October was of specific significance as particular emphasis was given to the industrial market, where the company has recently realigned its marketing organisation. Prominence was also given to RF applications, not only in the conference sessions but also with the unveiling of new RF product.
The importance of the industrial market was highlighted during a Round Table session where it was identified as being made up of a very diverse set of segments. Several key shift changes are currently occurring driven by environmental concerns and economic pressures that are changing the market as a whole. Three of the main underlying trends shaping the future market are conservation of resources, connectivity and increased control of processes.
Conservation of resources is of particular significance in Europe, which has ambitious plans to cut its energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020. This is an attempt to reduce dependency on imported oil and gas and slash Europe’s energy bill by an estimated €100 billion per year, with total potential electricity savings in excess of 200 billion kWh in 2015.
Electrical motor control solutions, energy efficient lighting, low standby current power supplies and the implementation of building automated systems are all considered means of providing energy efficiency. Technological developments that would help achieve such goals were not only highlighted during the Round Table, but also throughout the 70 or so technical sessions held over the two days.
The seminars were split into five categories — Industrial, Networking, Enabling Technologies, Automotive and Consumer. Sessions were pitched at three different levels: basic, intermediate and advanced, to cater for all levels of interest. Over a third of attendees were hardware/systems engineers, just under a quarter were engineering management, around 20 percent were software engineers while strategy/marketing and sales/support professionals each accounted for around 5 percent.
While the technical seminar sessions focused in depth on specifics the keynote speeches that started proceedings on both days gave a greater insight into current activity generally and changing markets in particular.
In the first keynote speech Denis Griot, Freescale’s senior vice president and general manager, EMEA region, commented, “The semiconductor industry is maturing. It is becoming less cyclical, thanks in part to more effective supply chain management, as well as consolidation among electronics OEMs. With semiconductor revenue crossing the $300 B mark, we see a growth rate that will be increasingly in line with the overall economy.”
Outlining the drivers behind this growth, Paul E. Grimme, Freescale’s senior vice president and general manager, transportation and standard products group, highlighted three key influences. “First, there is the global movement to green everything," he said. "Energy conservation and carbon awareness are not only becoming business mandates, they are at the heart of technology’s social responsibility for earth-friendly living. Second, there is the aging population and the special needs and opportunities this presents. And third, the impact of broadband and constant connectivity is creating vibrant new social communities and new business and consumer behaviours around the world.”
He continued, “As these powerful trends are converging in the world around us, there is another form of convergence taking place. Embedded intelligence, networking and wireless technologies are merging in everything from transportation to consumer electronics… from factories to homes… from avionics to medical equipment. These three core technologies are increasingly being combined to create new and exciting synergies. Applications that once stood alone are becoming connected and sharing information for more efficient operation. Simple things are gaining intelligence. And extremely complicated tasks are being solved by more simplified, system-level designs.”
The strength and depth of the automotive industry in the Munich area meant that automotive technology featured significantly at this FTF. Technical sessions emphasised the development of safety systems and also the emergence of in-car infotainment. In his keynote speech on the second day, Armin Sulzmann, senior manager system application Daimler AG, commercial vehicle division/truck product creation, advanced engineering, outlined the latest in automotive development. And if the film of current work being undertaken that was shown is to be believed we may all soon have traded the steering wheel for a ’joystick’. This may come as a shock to older members of society but will, no doubt, be embraced enthusiastically by the computer game generation.
The seminars and keynote speeches provided insights into the latest technological developments and stimulated debate, while the Technology Lab provided a platform for the practical demonstration of that technology. Both Freescale and around 30 FTF sponsors offered attendees direct access to product and technology demonstrations.
In particular the Lab provided Freescale with the opportunity to showcase its new 50 V RF power LDMOS power transistors to a European audience. The portfolio has been expanded to include three devices. Delivering peak RF output power of 1 kW, the MRF6VP21KH and MRF6VP41KH devices are intended for broadcast, public safety and pulsed applications, while the MRF6VP2600H device delivers peak RF output power of 600 W CW and is intended for industrial, scientific and broadcast applications.
However, this FTF was not all intensive seminar sessions and hard work as the coffee and lunch breaks, along with the evening receptions on both days presented the opportunity for networking and socialising. All helped along by musical entertainment, good food and wine and, of course, Bavarian beer.