Maxwave Micro is one of the innovation success stories that has been coming out of China’s tech sector in the last few years. In spite of being a relatively young company, formed at the end of 2018, it has rapidly risen to the top of the integrated circuit (IC) industry. It specializes in designing and prototyping high-performance, high-reliability, ultra-lower-power IC for Internet of Things (IOT) applications and industrial intelligent manufacturing.
CEO Andrew Li has been a large part of Maxwave Micro’s success. Born and educated in Shanghai, China, Andrew came to the US to continue his studies, and obtained his Master’s and PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Florida (he’s still a Gators fan!).
Andrew’s love of circuit design showed in his work for several top semiconductor companies like Qualcomm, in his decision to found Maxwave Micro, and in the fact that he is still heavily involved in his company’s circuit designs and R&D initiatives. As if that isn’t enough, his favorite reading material still includes technical manuals, particularly those related to circuit design.
Recently, we had an opportunity to sit down with Andrew and chat about Maxwave Micro, RFID technology, and what the industry needs to move forward.
- When did you decide to start Maxwave Micro, and how did you get into RFID?
About 15 years ago, during the financial crisis in the United States, I was able to travel back to China often to work on circuit design, particular for TV tuners. I enjoyed that work immensely, but about four years ago, I met some people in China who were working in the UHF RFID area. I thought that it was a promising technology with its ultra-low power requirements, and it inspired me to change how I designed circuits, from high-power to low-power. That was when I started Maxwave Micro.
Right now, we design chips for ambient internet of things (AIOT), that have a range of a hundred meters or less, including UHF RFID chips.
- What makes Maxwave Micro unique?
I think it’s our innovation capabilities and our rapid iteration of product upgrading. There’s a lot of risk in taking on your own R&D, but we think it will be worth it.
UHF RFID could be used in much more applications than it already is, so we want to add value to this technology and make it more attractive to people.
We’re also expanding our circuit design to other areas, beyond traditional UHF RFID technology. We’ve been working on chips for AIOT, which is somewhat like the RFID tag chip, but it’s based on a cellular system. AIOT works by using a cellular base station to send a signal to the tag chip. We had success with this last month; we used a very big base station, and it could read out our tag. We believe this is a global first.
- What is the biggest challenge today for companies like yours in the RAIN RFID market?
Gaining more market share. Right now we are being used in retail, especially fashion, but if we could be used in packaging and logistics as well, then this technology could have ten times the monthly share. The technology is very promising, so we want to discover all the potential new ways in which it can be used.
- How will the RAIN Alliance enhance your organization’s current efforts?
Maxwave Micro has been a member of the RAIN Alliance since 2019. I joined because it just makes sense to ensure that each other’s products are compatible across RFID technology.
I think that RAIN is very important in this industry, because we enable different areas of the supply chain to come together in order to make the market bigger. RAIN Alliance members are our customers and partners, so in a way I work with the RAIN Alliance almost every day.
- What do you do in your spare time for fun?
When I was young, I really enjoyed playing basketball. These days I’m more of a watcher: especially NBA and NFL games — and I’m a Celtics fan. In spite of my busy schedule, I do my best to stay in shape with regular workouts.
I like reading with Amazon Kindle. I divided my Kindle books into several categories, and my favorites are history and technical. If I have to pick one favorite book among them, I will go with “Guns, Germs and Steel”.
I also love watching the Marvel movies with my kids, and we’ve seen most of them.