Trade shows and conferences are a part of our industry, and as the industry changes, so do the shows of interest. While I am sure many of you are aware of the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference, (San Jose, CA, April 3-7), there are many other specialty events out there.
I personally like to also go to tightly focused, niche events that are related but not necessarily mainstream to our industry. It's at these events where I expect the unexpected, and see things I did not know existed, see clever adaptations, or get ideas for developments that may affect what we do. For example, the annual meeting of the Materials Research Society is a good way to gauge the latest in nanomaterials, specialty material, and related production and test equipment (Question: how to you test the physical properties of these microscopic particles? Answer: with great difficulty!)
Since their website, unfortunately, doesn't have information on the book-sized device, I'll quote from their brochure: “The PARD is a small stowable radar retro-reflector with a frequency-selective surface driven by a waveform generator…allowing an isolated person behind enemy lines to communicate his location, identification, and status to rescue forces without any emissions that could alert an enemy. The person on the ground programs the PARD using a PDA…the PARD then subtly modulates the electromagnetic characteristics of its surface so that an appropriately equipped radar can detect and extract a message….[other] radars could not detect PARD as being anything other than ordinary clutter.”
Now there's something to stimulate your interest in out-of-the-ordinary applications! This sort of “aha!” is what you get when you go shows and conferences that are out of your comfort zone.
Bill Schweber , Site Editor, Planet Analog