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China gears up for more innovative design

Posted: 01 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:China Mobile? Lenovo Research Institute? Beijing Shouke Catch Electric Technology? TD-SCDMA? Sichuan Changhong Electric?

Although there is still a lot of work to be done in mainland China's R&D sector, there has been remarkable progress especially in the communications and consumer electronics front, says the 2006 China Design Techniques Survey conducted by EE Times-China.

The survey of 2,304 qualified respondents revealed that the Bohai Sea rim region, the Pearl River Delta (PRD) and the Yangtze River Delta still compose the epicenter of mainland China's electronics industry, with 37 percent of the respondents engaged in the design of various products including CE, 29 percent in communication systems, and 27 percent in industrial controls and security. Each engineer has an average of six years of electronics design experience, and has taken part in about five projects in the past 12 months. Moreover, 50 percent of the design projects were new and 43 percent were enhancements of existing designs, marking a decrease of 4 and 6 percentage points, respectively, compared to year-ago levels.

Stepping up
Innovation is a major challenge for many of the design engineers. When asked how they can best describe their team's current design efforts, only 14 percent of the respondents said they can complete the design on their own from conceptualization to realization, provided that there are no related products and systems existing locally and abroad. Almost all respondents blame the modest number of innovative designs on the poor design techniques of researchers and developers.

According to Wei Hongwei, manager for mobile terminal testing at Lenovo Research Institute, the biggest challenge for designers is how new functions and features tend to adopt uncommon design techniques. "A designer cannot at all lead a project brimming with innovation if he has weak R&D capability." In addition, funding, risk consideration, project design independence, demand and a mature development process are factors that can encourage or impede innovation.

Nevertheless, designers continue to either work on innovative ideas or make distinct designs. Survey results revealed that 63 percent of the respondents are looking into increasing system functionality to differentiate their designs. From the industry, this desire was expressed most strongly by the communication systems field (71 percent), followed by CE (67 percent) and automotive electronics (66 percent). This is understandable, since these fields are thriving these days, with fierce competition driving designers to innovate.

Asked about general design challenges, 41 percent of the respondents noted the need to understand technical trends, 37 percent pointed out the need to understand related standards, and 30 percent cited the need for advanced test equipment. These results, according to Shi Zhongdong, technical director of Beijing Shouke Catch Electric Technology Co. Ltd, "reflect the development level and technical strength of the entire electronics industry." Although China is still far from being technically sufficient, Zhongdong noted that the responses revealed how far China has progressed.

Meanwhile, 42 percent of the respondents admitted that the top technical challenge for them is EMI/EMC design, followed by RF design (33 percent), low-noise circuit design (30 percent), signal processing (27 percent), and power management design (24 percent). Results show that analog circuit design is the biggest challenge that engineers in mainland China face these days.

The lack of design experience, especially in analog circuitry, explains the difficulties engineers face. As much as 54 percent of the respondents have merely 3-5 years of design work experience. In addition, IC manufacturers continue to roll out devices that integrate all kinds of new features and functions, making it imperative for engineers to further their understanding of new devices and equipment as well as new electronic product design.

The year that was
2006 marked several milestones in mainland China's quest to further strengthen its position in the electronics design front and in other industries. In January, mainland China's Audio and Video Coding Standard (AVS) was approved by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) and was formally submitted to the National Standardization Management Committee for approval and implementation. Also in the same month, the MII announced that TD-SCDMA is the 3G standard that China will adopt.

In February, Sichuan Changhong Electric Co. Ltd manufactured "No. 1 Hong Xin" digital automatic convergence CMOS chips. The following month, the MII promulgated 25 electronics industry standards relating to DTV, including the popular HDTV standard. In April, "IGRS" signed an agreement with Japan's ECHONET Consortium and Korea's Home Network Forum standard organizations on the establishment of Asia Home Network Council (AHNC).

In May, BOE Technology Group Co. Ltd's signed an agreement with Shenzhen Julong Photoelectric Co. Ltd on an increase of capital and shares. June marked China Mobile's HK$1.278 billion acquisition of a 19.9 percent share of Phoenix TV, signaling the company's foray into the TV industry. Meanwhile, the China Video Industry Association (CVIA) announced the establishment of the China Digital Interface Industry Alliance (CDIA) in July.

In August, at the SG13 meeting of the Bureau for Standardization of International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T), five NGN standards proposed by China were passed, and later became international standards. In the same month, the Preparatory Committee of Work Council for Standards for High Performance Computer under the Chinese Electronics Standardization Association (CESA) was formally established in Beijing. August also marked the announcement by the National Standardization Management Committee of the formal promulgation of the transmission standard for digital terrestrial TV.

In September, Beijing People's Broadcasting Station launched the DAB multimedia broadcasting service. Apart from 12 sets of wireless digital broadcasting signals, the network will also transmit two sets of video frequency signals of Beijing TV Station and CCTV.

In October, RDA Microelectronics Inc. announced that it has completed the testing for flow detectors of the engineering samples of the TD-SCDMA RF CMOS chips it has developed.

- Vivian Tang
EE Times-China




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