Archive for March, 2007

Mar27th

If the pundits are to be believed

If the pundits are to be believed, we are finally entering the era when the optoelectronics market will “go ballistic”, with huge growth in demand brought about by the growth in fibre to the home. It’s just unfortunate that so many of the UK pioneers in this area didn’t hang around long enough to profit.

The so-called “cabling of Britain” during the late 1980s and early 1990s produced a fibre infrastructure that was the envy of the world. However, it appears that was a drop in the ocean compared with the global deployments planned for the next few years.

A report from US researcher CIR - see (Link) - predicts that the market for optical networking components will grow from approximately US $2.8 billion in 2007 to $7.9 billion in 2012. The report, which will be officially released after this week’s OFC/NFOEC exposition in Anaheim, California, points out that “bringing optics closer to the customer is enabling volume opportunities for components manufacturers that simply have not existed in the past”.

Announcements this week at OFC will no doubt indicate those companies that will be best placed to profit from such growth, and a quick scan of this week’s additions to the Electronicstalk website show the likes of Bookham, Pirelli Broadband and Finisar lining up for their share of the bounty. Try searching the site for “OFC Anaheim” to get the latest news.

And to make life a little easier (and acknowledging the size of the market) we’re in the process of improving our coverage of the market by recategorising our Optoelectronics section into smaller more-manageable subcategories, so you will be able to browse for LEDs, lasers, transceivers, fibres etc without ploughing through the full optoelectronics listing.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mark the passing of an old friend. After 80 years at the end of this week the venerable BT run transmitter at Rugby will cease to transmit the UK’s national time standard, used by emergency services, mobile networks, banks etc and of course relayed by the BBC as ‘the pips”.

However, it isn’t the end of time! The baton will be passed to VT Communications, and a transmitter on a Ministry of Defence site in Anthorn, on the west coast of Cumbria. So it isn’t just daylight saving: the times really are a-changing.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

Mar20th

The annual bunfight that is CeBIT never fails to throw up a few surprises in among the latest wave of consumer gadgets

The annual bunfight that is CeBIT never fails to throw up a few surprises in among the latest wave of consumer gadgets. My own particular favourite this year comes from Austrian company Emporia - www.emporia.at - whose designers must surely have read my editorial from a few weeks back.

The emporiaLife, you see, is a mobile handset made for the 50-plus age group. And while I don’t join that particular demograph for a couple of months yet, I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone among 30- and 40-somethings in appreciating the design of this particular cellphone, with its extra-large buttons and big screen. But don’t go looking for an MP3 player or camera. Instead, the emporiaLife has a loudspeaker and a large red alarm button that can be programmed with up to five emergency phone numbers.

All it will take is a few ads in the Readers’ Digest, and massive sales are sure to follow.

Meanwhile, this week on the Electronicstalk website we’ve had more than the usual level of news from UK companies on the expansion trail looking to recruit. Below - in this week’s industry news - you will find links to three such stories from Cambridge Consultants, Arrow Electronics and RF Engines, which are looking for wireless designers, passives/electromechanical experts and systems designers, respectively. And there are even more on the site this week.

This speaks volumes about the health of the UK electronics sector, and is probably a far better barometer than any published market statistics - but then we’ve got plenty of those as well.

Finally, a big thankyou to all those of you who went online and donated to the Leukaemia Foundation on my behalf. The beard did indeed come off as planned. However, what was not planned was the demise of the Marchini household camera (complete with the pictures taken during the shave)!

Still, at least I got a good deal from my local retailer for buying a new camera and an electric razor. The pictures will follow shortly.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

Mar6th

Where there’s muck there’s brass

Where there’s muck there’s brass, or so the old Yorkshire saying goes, and now the United Nations is spearheading a major initiative to spread the word worldwide.

So while European manufacturers and legislators are still struggling to come to terms with the full implementation of the EU WEEE Directive, tomorrow (7th March 2007) sees the launch of the StEP initiative, aimed at Solving the E-Waste Problem.

The problem is of course well documented. There has been much publicity in recent years highlighting illegal dumping of e-waste in the third world - often under the guise of second-hand technology exports.

In its favour, StEP is not only global in its coverage, it begins with extensive support from both industry and the public sector, with high-tech manufacturers joining UN, governmental, NGO and academic institutions, along with recycling/refurbishing companies as charter members.

The initiative aims to address the two sides of the e-waste coin: the recyclables and the disposables. And while there are already many smaller schemes that aim to extract valuable components from e-waste, there remains a need to address the disposal of often toxic non-recyclable waste both safely and economically.

Importantly, the initiative aims to increase extraction and recycling of many of the rarer elements used in electronics manufacturing in addition to the obvious gold, silver and palladium. And recent price rises of elements such as indium, bismuth and ruthenium mean that recycling is not only desirable, it is an economic necessity.

If it does succeed in creating a globally replicable system for dealing with e-waste, StEP could prove to be the most important initiative in the history of our industry.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

About the Author

Electronicstalk and this Editor's Blog are edited by Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini began his career in the electronics press with the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1980, cutting his teeth on a variety of learned and member publications, ranging from IEE Proceedings to Electronics and Power. He moved on to join the launch team of the innovative weekly Electronics Express in 1986, and became Editor just 18 months later. Sadly, Electronics Express lasted just four and a half years, wound up by the infamous Robert Maxwell. However, Laurence had already jumped ship and joined the world of electronics PR with the agency of the 1990s, Smith and Jones Communications. It seemed Laurence was lost to the world of journalism. But after 11 years we managed to lure him back as launch editor of Electronicstalk. Laurence is married to Sally and has a young son, Alexander.

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