We all know that sound: whenever you hear static and rhythmic beeping on your radio’s speaker, a nearby smartphone has probably just received a text message. This kind of interference used to be a common occurrence, particularly in the early days of cellular phone networks. It would happen whenever two devices—a cell phone and a radio, for example—accessed similar radio frequencies.
It’s annoying when an electrical appliance briefly interrupts your favorite radio broadcast. But some of these disruptions can be dangerous as well. Could, say, a Bluetooth connection cause machines in a hospital intensive care unit to shut down? Can a vehicle’s Brake Assist stop the vehicle abruptly under the influence of public Wi-Fi? And why do you have to turn off your smartphone on airplanes?
Eiji Akiba is not troubled by questions like these—not because he worries less than other people, but for professional reasons. Every day, at TÜV SÜD’s electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing laboratory, the largest of its kind in the world, the 38-year-old test engineer works to prevent interference between electronic devices from becoming dangerous.