Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Show Report on the 2015 Santa Clara Symposium on EMC & SI

Whenever I missed an EMC show I always wished there was some sort of report I could read to get a feel for some of what I missed. To that end, here is one on Santa Clara. I have tried to make it informative and fun for non-attendees and attendees alike.

This is a major event with a lot of presentations happening in parallel, and I could only attend a short time, so I apologize in advance to those speakers / vendors I did not get around to. I took a lot of notes and have much to say, so this first excerpt will talk about the show in general. Further excerpts will follow.

I decided to attend the show Monday afternoon, the entirety of Tuesday (day and nighttime events), and the first half of Wednesday.

The Travel Experience

To me, travel is always an important part of the symposium experience. At 11am on Monday your intrepid reporter stepped off an airplane at San Jose International airport, hopped on the free airport flyer, and then for the princely sum of $2, took the modern light rail system (tram lines along main arteries and on the city streets), which in no time at all, dropped me right outside the Santa Clara Convention Center. All went without a hitch.

The picture shows the Light Rail Train that whisks you to the Santa Clara Convention Center

So getting there was simplicity itself. What about the show and the hospitality events that surround it?

The Venue

The Convention Center is a modern affair made of several interconnected pyramids all covered in tinted glass-curtain wall. The Center is attached to the Hyatt hotel, its own walls clad with the same colored glass in keeping with the Center d├ęcor.

As you walked through the main doors of the Convention Center you were greeted with bright yellow EMC&SI 2015 registration counters. A cacophony of bleeps and beeps emitted by a bunch of forklifts to the right told you where the exhibit hall was, and arrows directed you to the many meeting rooms on the left and on the second floor. Dotted throughout the lobby, and later on inside the exhibit hall, there were many easel-mounted placards announcing various events and highlights.

One placard of interest welcomed 12 new exhibitors, an indication that the show might be growing. Sometimes an apparent reduction in booth numbers is in fact just consolidation, where a company buys up smaller companies to create synergy (the total effect of the union is greater than the sum of the parts). A case in point is TESEQ buying up MILMEGA and IFI, and TESEQ in turn being bought up by AMETEK. The MILMEGA and IFI booths did not go away as such; they just joined the large island booth that is AMETEK.

The picture shows the list of new companies.

On a more somber note, one placard was dedicated to two EMC engineers no longer with us.

The links go to the respective obituaries:

The Keynote Presentation

The keynote presentation took place at 8:30am on Tuesday. It was well attended and took place in a hall so large that two screens (one on the left of the stage, one on the right) were required. Dr. Lee showed how the explosion of wireless services and internet connectivity has increased our dependence and how the sudden loss of these would create a catastrophic standstill. Then came a history of Carrington’s discovery of the connection between major corona discharges and high voltages on telegraph lines, how in the 1960s Hawaii felt the effect of an experimental high-altitude nuclear detonation, and a recap of the 1989 blackout in the Northeast due to a major corona discharge. He then reminded us that the technology of today is far more prone to these phenomena.

Rounding up, Dr Lee was of the view that the EMC industry was ideally equipped to come up with solutions to deal with corona discharge / HEMP related issues.

The speech was very interesting but did not go into the depth I hoped for as it only lasted 30 minutes or so, not the 90 minutes duration as posted.

The pictures show the keynote presentation placard and Dr. Lee speaking in the distance

The SAE-46 EMC Subcommittee Meeting

This was a four hour meeting covering several topics but the principal reason I was there was my recent interest in HEMP, and the keynote speech by Dr. William Radasky on HEMP/IEMI/Geomagnetic storms and their effect on the Electrical Power Grid. We were greeted with a lunch courtesy of Elite Electronics Engineering, Fischer Custom Communications, CST of America, and Universal Shielding Corporation.

Dr. Radasky really knows his stuff and actually pointed out some factual inaccuracies in Dr. Lee’s speech. I suspect Dr. Lee’s speech was originally penned for a student audience and therefore has not benefited from expert feedback.

I cannot do the entire speech justice here, but in a nutshell, Dr. Radaski relayed the following:

• The practices used in EMC translate across to HEMP protection
• The susceptibility of key subsystems on the power grid should be fully characterized, that is test field levels should be increased slowly until the actual failure level is established
• Videos of the high altitude tests of the 1960s are now declassified and can be viewed on line (Post Meeting Note, I found them by searching youtube for ‘high altitude nuclear tests’)
• In the main, intentional electromagnetic interference is used by criminals to disable security systems. There is little evidence of its use outside this sphere
o Check out the Diehl Device and the JULTI12A Generator (see
• The Ethernet is prone to IEMI

The picture shows Dr. Radasky addressing the G-46 Subcommittee

There were other interesting topics at the subcommittee meeting and I will report on these in future excerpts.

Hospitality Events

Welcome Reception

As usual, the welcome reception was held on Tuesday evening when the exhibit hall closed. Finger food and hot dishes were provided in the large hall, and a soft-rock band played for the two hours we were there. It took me a while to realize that it was not actually a professional band playing, and that all the players were EMC guys. They were pretty darn good. You are furnished with two drink tickets and, given it was St Patrick’s Day, there was free dyed-green beer on tap. The atmosphere was great and I met up with Ross Carlton of NI who is toying with the idea of organizing a Texas EMC Fest, and talked with Bob Skully about me giving a talk at NASA on the Elephant in the Test Room christened ‘Underperforming 3m Chambers’. The project is moving on nicely and the intention is to present the 3D EM software analysis results obtained to date.

The St Patrick’s Day ‘Disco’ and the EMC Bowl-A-Rama

As soon as the reception event finished there were two competing follow-on events vying for your presence; the HVT St Patrick’s Day Celebration ‘Disco’ and the EMC Bowl-A-Rama hosted by Haefely Hipotronics, AE Techron and Advanced Test Equipment Rentals.

I admire companies that put their marketing dollars where their mouth is. Too many companies, large and small, are niggardly with their marketing dollars, or too entrenched in where marketing dollars are spent, and then wonder why their market share slowly evaporates or never grows.

Getting back to subject at hand, I opted for the EMC Disco, mainly because it was on-site and this gave me full control as to when I called it a night. The bowling event sounded tremendous fun but required a shuttle bus and I had an early breakfast meeting commitment.

To get into the events you needed ‘badges’.

The Disco badge was a flashing clover leaf that you wore on your lapel, and the Bowl-A-Rama was a beer mat on a lanyard you wore around your neck.

You had only to follow your ears to find the ‘Disco’ in full swing just off the hotel’s main lobby.
Lots of people were there and part of the entertainment was the opportunity to wear a costume and have your photo taken with pretty girls. I met up with a bunch of friends, the list is long but includes Donnie Gray of TDK, Jerry Meyerhoff of JDM Labs, the indefatigable Harry Hodes of BACL, Owen Wiseman of N4L, Jim Baer of Comtest DMAS, and Leo Smale and Cindy Catlin of Lionheart Northwest (soon to be wed). The host company HVT has taken a brave new direction since Jason Smith joined them as head of sales and marketing, and I see the Disco as one example of the determination to succeed in winning greater visibility and market share.

The first picture shows Jim Baer of Comtest DMAS at the ‘photo opportunity’ wearing despicable me goggles. He is pretending he is there under extreme protest. The second picture shows the soon to be married Leo Smale and Cindy Catlin of Lionheart Southwest ‘getting on down’ on the Disco floor.

As an aside, they say that before a potential customer has the confidence to place business with a new company, or even solicit a request for quotation, they must have been exposed to five impressions. Impressions are things like a product alert, company press release, advertisement in a journal, booth at a show, a placard showing your logo because you are a sponsor, etc. Well, to my mind, HVT just made one heck of an impression.

The Interference Technology Breakfast

On Wednesday morning the Interference Technology team hosted a breakfast for those interested in content marketing.

I sat with Andreas Barchanski of CST and we tucked into a hearty breakfast as we went through the progress of the 3D EM Software simulation of 3m chamber ‘hot wall’ design permutations. Graham Kilshaw of ITEM then stood up, welcomed everyone, and held up a sheet of paper with the single word CONTENT written on it. Graham went on to explain what Content is and why it matters. Content is the buzz word given to useful information. I am paraphrasing Graham here, but one key reason Content matters is that it gives a motive to someone with an equipment or service need, to visit and stay on your website. Without Content, a website, generally speaking, is simply a list of products. Content educates potential customers, helps them make informed buying decisions, and as a bonus, helps search engines find your site.

Then Graham talked about the EMC-Live series of educational webinars coming up this April, the sponsorship opportunities they create (yep, that’s one of those impressions), and introduced the content creators present at the breakfast. These were Ken Wyatt of Wyatt Technical Services, Cherry Clough of Cherry Clough Consultants, and Yours Truly, me, Tom Mullineaux of Lionheart Southwest. I already have one potential customer very interested in my creating and presenting an EMC-Live webinar for them.

To practice what I preach on the 5 impressions rule, here is a proposed website banner.


To be continued…………

-Tom Mullineaux
Lionheart Southwest

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spectrum Supportability Risk Assessments – Where’s the Beef?

Ideally, an initial spectrum supportability risk assessment is generated in the first phase of the DoD acquisition process. Early identification of spectrum and EMC related regulatory and technical issues allows program management personnel to focus attention and resources on critical spectrum issues in the remaining acquisition phases. The SSRA’s author uses inputs from several sources:

• Technical and regulatory information is obtained from DoD data bases, specifically the:
  •  System Certification System (SCS) data base is used to generate lists of co-band and adjacent band DoD emitters, providing an overview of other systems sharing expected electromagnetic environments. Basically, you’re looking for the J/F-12 and frequency assignment data
  •  Host Nation Spectrum Worldwide Database Online (HNSWDO) data base is used to identify host nation comments on previous systems in the same frequency band and with similar technical parameters as the system being acquired.
  • US and non-US tables of allocation, which can be obtained in many cases directly from the internet.
• The latest pertinent Host Nation supportability comments are obtained by the Program Office from the Combatant Command (COCOM) spectrum managers. The COCOM spectrum managers will forward any resulting comments to the authors of the SSRA.

• The PMO defines the system’s technical parameters and intended operational deployment required for spectrum support, e.g. the frequency bands of interest and the intended worldwide development, test and operational areas and host nations. Other technical data might include:
  • Data Sheets from Developer
  • RF Modeling
    • Propagation
    • Interference Analyses
    • Selectivity Curves
    • Antenna Coupling
    • Inter/Intra Co-site data/modeling
  • Platform vs. EME at Key Locations
  •  E3 Test Data – Program Office
    •  EMI Test Plans/Reports
    • EMC Test Plans/Report
Coordination with the cognizant MILDEP Spectrum Management Office (SMO) is key to a successful SSRA. The SMO should be made aware of initial activities and be kept informed of major SSA developments. The PMO should provide the SSRA’s authors with copies of any DD Form 1494s sent to the SMO. The national and host-nation comments resulting from previous J/F 12’s submissions should be reviewed to see what comments may have been provided on earlier versions of the system.

The results from the regulatory portion of an SSA can be summarized for senior leadership as a “stoplight chart” where the colors of each box are an indication of the possibility of a system obtaining spectrum supportability in the US and selected host nations. Typically, reading the rows indicates whether or not the frequency band used by each of the program’s sub-systems will have major spectrum issues in many of the intended host nations by the color in that box. The colors result from a careful comparison of the radio service of each RF system with the technical and regulatory information contained in the databases and the host-nation tables of allocation.

Likewise, the results of the Technical and Operational analyses as previously discussed, will constitute additional input into an overall risk assessment. The technical component would focus on the RF engineering related risks associated with possible mutual interference with other systems in the same band and the operational would focus on the risks of possible mutual interference within its intended operational environment.

The major result of the SSRA may be that the PMO considers options such as: changing the system’s spectrum use or other technical parameters or beginning consultations with the cognizant SMO regarding possible courses of action. Typical courses of action include coordinating bi-lateral negotiations with individual host-nations or briefing the spectrum requirements of the system to groups such as the NATO Frequency Management Sub-Committee (FMSC), the DoD spectrum Summit or various COCOM spectrum conferences. All PMO involvement with these groups must be closely coordinated with the cognizant MILDEP frequency management office and DoD representative.

-Brian Farmer

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spectrum Supportability Risk Assessments (continued)…

Just One More Thing on the List!

Available expertise and the existence of service Spectrum and E3 related organizations notwithstanding, it is widely known in the DoD Spectrum Management community that program offices, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of understanding of the requirements and their importance, frequently avoid spectrum supportability considerations early in program or take them on belatedly at the expense of cost, schedule and operational capability. The General Accounting Office has documented a variety of issues related to the implementation of spectrum management issues in DoD acquisition systems over the years.

So what are the obstacles that keep program offices and acquisition personnel from complying with federal laws and DoD directives on RF spectrum use and instituting good engineering practices on control of electromagnetic environmental effects (E3)? Volumes have been written on the need to comply with the spectrum regulations but the list of infractions continues as does the list of radio interference issues, both during acquisition and operationally. Current requirements and methods for assuring that systems have spectrum access and electromagnetic compatibility are scattered among a variety of DoD Directives, Instructions, MIL-STDs and Handbooks; and they can be poorly defined with approval processes that are hard to understand, slow, subjective and inconsistent. These volumes of requirements documents, which currently define the processes for obtaining spectrum access, acquiring authorized frequencies and controlling E3, have created complexities that can inhibit successful implementation by program managers. Some of the requirements are technically daunting on the surface, yet technical experts are available within every military department to help as necessary.

In addition to documenting the requirement for SSRAs, DoDI 4650.01 also provides a great deal of guidance, in the form of suggested tasks, for the program offices to follow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide a specific approach to integrating the tasks into an overall SSRA product. Subject matter experts from the three services have developed more detailed guidance and well as acceptable document format and content guidance. Some current suggested guidance for Program Offices, Acquisition Managers, and system developers to follow include:

(1) Determine the spectrum required to support the mission and define the intended EME in which the system will operate.
(2) Ensure E3 control and SS requirements are addressed in JCIDS and defense acquisition system documentation.
(3) Apply interface standards such as MIL-STD-461 and MIL-STD-464 to ensure that the system and its subsystems and equipment are built to operate compatibly in the mission EME.
(4) Define E3/SS test objectives in the Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) and allocate sufficient resources to conduct test objectives.
(5) Verify and document SS and E3 control issues during developmental and operational test and evaluation.
(6) Conduct early E3 and SS operational assessments that consider the intended mission including single Service, Joint, and international deployments.
(7) Provide E3 assessments during operational test readiness reviews. Report the operational impact, system limitations, and vulnerabilities from unresolved E3 and SS problems.

-Brian Farmer