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EEs will be part of a decade of change

Posted: 01 Mar 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:next-generation electronics? electronic engineers? telecommuting? new-age design? magma design?

The days of hallway conversations to work out design specifications of an electronic component are drawing to a close, says Rajeev Madhavan.

Rajeev Madhavan is president and CEO of Magma Design Automation Inc.
The next 10 years will bring monumental change in the pervasiveness of electronics and the electronic-engineering profession. Communications will branch out into new frontiers, allowing people to do things more quickly and with a global reach. As we see on a small scale today, everyday life will soon incorporate more and more electronics.

The electronics engineer will be at the heart of this change.

The networking industry will follow the computer industry's path. Just as room-size computers shrank to PC size and then to handheld PDAs, monolithic networking systems will be reduced to small networking systems used everywhere.

These changes will enable businessessmall or largelto become more global and will help bring together a worldwide electronic-engineering community. Today, this community is faced with a severe people shortage and limited access to broadband communications. Pockets of resources exist in the Bay Area, Austin, Boston and elsewhere, of course. Competition for these scarce resources is fierce.

With widespread access to broadband communications, companies will be able to hire across multiple locales, rather than in one central place. Telecommuting, a concept first explored in the 1960s, will let organizations employ engineers in far-flung locations. Working from home will be the norm in this century.

Electronics gadgets, designed and developed by electronics engineers, will make this possible.

In another sweeping change, there is a renewed, grass-roots interest in research in primary engineering areas. Research is what enables fundamental gains in electronics. While many people believe the Internet is a new mode of communication, it is in fact a 20-year-old technology originally funded by the U.S. government. A savvy researcher in the early 1990s figured out a clever way to locate resources along the Internet highway to explode this technology and accelerate adoption.

In the future, home appliances will offer features and capabilities unheard of today. Television screens are still clunky and unwieldy. Soon, LCDs or plasma monitors the size of a large mirror will replace the tube at an affordable price.

Again, the EE is driving the R&D effort, enabling the acceptance of electronics in our lives.

This bright outlook should be viewed with caution, however. Successfully managing an organization of telecommuters is no easy feat. The current process of communication must change to a more formalized approach. The days of hallway conversations to work out design specifications of an electronic component are drawing to a close. Organizational processes will be put in place to manage the widely dispersed team. The successful companies will be those that can do it. Those that cannot will be left behind.

Thanks to the global electronics revolution, the next 10 years will see more and more Silicon Valley millionaires churning out their work in remote locations. I consider this to be the decade of the electronics engineer and hope you do, too.

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