President's Message

My seatbelt is fastened; my seatback and tray table are in their upright and locked positions. As the plane pulls back from the gate, a voice comes over the loudspeaker above my head, "At this point we ask that all portable electronic equipment, cell phones and two-way pagers be turned off and stowed until we reach our cruising altitude."
Just what exactly are they trying to tell me? Hasn't every part of this aircraft been fully tested and found to comply with FAA specifications? Hasn't it been exposed to emissions sources a billion times more powerful than my laptop? Isn't this plane capable of withstanding direct lightning strikes and fields strengths greater than a thousand volts per meter?
As an EMC engineer who's familiar with aircraft EMC design and testing, I'm one of the first to power off my laptop. True, it's very unlikely that my personal electronic equipment or anyone else's will interfere with critical systems on a commercial aircraft. However, it can happen and has happened. As EMC engineers, we're aware of just how vulnerable electronic systems can be. Current EM susceptibility tests subject hardware to pulses or CW signals with uninteresting modulations. A relatively weak signal with the right frequency and the right modulation can be much more damaging than a strong pulse. Now that intentional EMI is becoming a greater concern, I suspect that our test procedures will have to change. One of the greatest things about the EMC profession is that there's never a shortage of new challenges.
Speaking of challenges, the IEEE Signal Processing Society was recently forced to cancel their flagship conference due to concern about the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The 2003 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP) was scheduled to be held April 6-10 in Hong Kong. Other conferences have also been affected by SARS, by the economy and by the war in Iraq. This includes the 2003 IEEE International Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility in Istanbul, which is being co-sponsored by the IEEE EMC Society. Although more than 500 papers were originally scheduled to be delivered at this conference, the attendance is currently projected to be lower. Nevertheless, it should be a good conference. We'll provide a summary of the conference activities in the next issue of the EMC Newsletter.
Arrangements for the 2003 IEEE Symposium on EMC in Boston are proceeding on schedule. Boston is one of my favorite cities and August is a nice time of year to visit. Despite the recent world events, this symposium promises to be one of the biggest in our history. The opportunities for EMC engineers are not the same as they were a few years ago, but they are still numerous and the technical challenges are as exciting as they have ever been. The Boston symposium will showcase many of these new challenges and provide an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas. I hope to see you there! EMC

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