Current Challenge in RF Application

This is my opinion, based on my current experience in this field.

  • Hardware

In 1980s-1990s, most RF based applications were designed using discrete components (transistors, coil, caps). They were heavily influenced by the PCB layout. Hence only the master can do the black magic art in this kind of application.

Recently, with SoC technology progress, the need for a specialist to design RF-application has been reduced significantly. The RF SoC chips currently are more immune to PCB layout, since the chip designers have moved most of the critical path in RF design into the chip.

How easy is it ? As the rule of thumb, RF-base band determine the level of PCB layout design difficulties. Using SoC and high base-band RF (2.4GHz or more), PCB layout design rules are almost negligible. Using 415Mhz, 815Mhz, and 900Mhz, there’s special PCB layout guidelines that need to be followed (but it’s as easy as reading the SoC’s Application Note).

I have to say that most idiots nowadays can design RF application devices better than PhD students in 10-20 years ago. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the challenge in RF hardware is over. The challenge in RF hardware now has moved into chip level (or to be exact : ANALOG IC DESIGN level).

  • Firmware

With the hardware progress, the bottle neck currently lies on the firmware side.

What good is it the RF application that works point-to-point ? The customers demand more intelligent devices. They demand devices that can talk each others. Plus, as always, they demand cheaper price.

Well, with the current trend, the RF hardware is cheap enough to fulfill customer needs. However, the firmware vendors for these markets are limited in number. Hence, the total cost reduction cannot be achieved significantly in the customer side.

So, whoever solve this problem, will become the next Bill Gates, because RF application devices will be ubiquitus that everyone on this planet will have it (with your firmware inside of it, of course).

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