Interview with Christian Neulinger about his participation in the IEEE Automotive Ethernet Task Force and future trends in the automotive industry
The automotive industry is undergoing its greatest transformation since the invention of the automobile. The fast and reliable transmission of data plays a central role and is driving the automotive future. An important part of the “connected car” of the future is the early detection of trends and new standards. This is why MD ELEKTRONIK is a participant of various international organizations collaborating on new technological developments. One of the most important is IEEE. The aim of IEEE is to collaborate on ideas that leverage technology for a better tomorrow. IEEE has over 409,000 members in more than 160 countries (Source: www.ieee.org). MD ELEKTRONIK has been a participant since 2013.
Tech Talk is an interview series that introduces you to some inspiring characters inside and outside MD and the world of tech, innovation and beyond.
In this second episode of Tech Talk, we sat down with Christian Neulinger. We talk about his position as Manager Radio Frequency and Simulation at MD, the IEEE organization and why it´s important for his work to participate in this network as well as the future and trends in the automotive industry.
Christian, I’m excited to hear about your efforts within IEEE today but first let us start with some personal information. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Christian: My name is Christian Neulinger. I’m 37 years old. I live close to the MD headquarters in Waldkraiburg, upper Bavaria and I started off my career with an apprenticeship as an electrician. After my A-levels, I studied electrical engineering, majoring in Communications Engineering. My first job was as a test and development engineer for high-speed data transmission products at a connector manufacturer. I have been working at MD since 2019. First as a development engineer and as an expert for radio frequency and data transmission. My current position is Manager for Radio Frequency and Simulation.
Thanks Christian, can you please tell us about your daily business and share some of your endeavors with us?
Christian: I’m responsible for a team of RF and simulation engineers. Currently, my team and I are working in development projects for new cable assembly products. We support the members of the projects with RF knowledge and results of simulations. Additionally, we conduct RF measurements for new developments. Consequently, we evaluate measurement results and prepare presentations for project meetings or for the coordination with external partners. Moreover, I also work with new developed cables, mostly shielded differential pair cables for our applications. These are mainly used for automotive Ethernet or other high-speed systems. My colleagues and I also participate in several standardization groups. For example, I’m a participant of the IEEE Automotive Ethernet Task Force for copper-based technologies. In this capacity, I attend weekly sessions and other meetings of this group.
Awesome, Christian, thanks a lot. You’ve mentioned that you are part of the IEEE Automotive Ethernet Task Force. Since this is the main topic of today’s Tech Talk, it would be great if you could explain what IEEE stands for and what this organization is all about.
Christian: Yes, IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It is the world’s largest technical professional organization. There are many different working groups within the IEEE. I’m a member of the Ethernet Working Group. Ethernet has existed for more than 40 years and standardization has also taken place within the IEEE since then. Therefore, the group consists of long-standing and very experienced participants. The majority of the 250 participants of this working group are OEMs, chip manufacturers, PHY developers, cable and connector manufacturers. Under normal circumstances, face-to-face meetings are held six times a year. The meetings take place four times in America, once in Europe and once in Asia. In principle, participation in the working group is possible at any time provided that the professional and personnel requirements for working on the standards are met. Each participant attends as an individual that is affiliated with the company or works independently. The Ethernet Working Group is currently working on 16 projects, three of which are specifically for automotive applications for copper-based and optical automotive Ethernet.
Thank you, Christian for shedding light on these four letters and giving us a glimpse of the work within IEEE. Let’s have a deeper look into the development of standards within the working group. How is a standard developed in this circle of experts?
Christian: If a new data rate is needed in the industry or a need is detected, a group of supporters can start a so-called “call for interest”. If this proposal receives broad support, it will be accepted and the study group will be formed. So, basically several criteria for standard development have to be fulfilled, and the objectives have to be defined. After this is completed, a task force is formed where a standard for the data transmission with the defined data rates and reach is being developed. In total, the process for a new standard takes around four years from project start to the publication of the standard. And if the data rate is supposed to be developed from an already existing standard, this can of course be used as the basis for developing the new one. However, progress depends on the participants’ contributions on the technical content, all members of the group are supposed to give input on technical properties of new components for connecting the system’s cables or transmission systems. You do so by giving a formal presentation on your new insights.
Christian, thank you for these details. Can you please give us a short definition of standard for all non-techies?
Christian: Yeah, sure. Standard in this context means a specification for the structure of a transmission system, its properties and specifications. A specification that is recognized in the industry, which consists of manufacturers and customers, the number of pages and thus the scope of the standard for Ethernet currently consists of 5,600 pages. The standards for automotive Ethernet are part of it, and are integrated again and again in continuous cycles.
Wow, a lot of work that is actually hidden behind a standard. Thank you for the explanation. Why is it so important for MD to be part of this working group?
Christian: I think it is important because of several reasons. If a new speed rate is needed, first talks start within the IEEE, so we as a participant can gain early knowledge of this and meet with the experts for the development. Moreover, we can represent our interests technically and strategically for new products by our own contributions in the network. In addition to that, it will help our interests to network with partners, customers and suppliers at this early stage and at this high level of expertise. And last but not least, it is possible for us to co-design the standard right from the beginning, because we can influence the RF properties of the Link Segment technically, which consists of a cable and connector system. To sum this up, this is relevant because these standards form the technical basis for the future, the development of our production facilities and processes.
Thank you, Christian, let’s have a look at our customers. How is the work with IEEE and the automotive Ethernet working group also benefiting our customers?
Christian: I would say early participation or early knowledge of certain framework properties of a new data transmission standard allows us to carry out prototypes of new data transmission solutions in our technology center or at our production sites. Also regarding OEM or Tier1 requests for samples for initial pre-validation research, we are able to provide the appropriate cable assembly requirements faster than competitors not being a member of IEEE. Participation enables us to remain a strong partner for our customers in these critical first phases when new technologies are introduced or developed. Our role? Well, a standard is important for the flexibility of the customer and creates security for the supply and purchasing strategies.
Christian, thank you very much for this very interesting interview!