It could be that the ZigBee wireless networking spec is just the ticket for those who want to use technology to simplify every aspect of their lives. The 150-plus members of the ZigBee Alliance tout all sorts of applications for IEEE 802.15.4, which was finalized last year. There's been an onslaught of chip unveilings since then. Some predict those chips will see their first usage in industrial applications, while many predict that consumer products from lamps to refrigerators will be the first big market.
Alliance Chairman Bob Heile is in the latter group, feeling that consumer volumes will help give industrial users the assurance that the technology is reliable. Among his many predictions for new products, he thinks the trends toward exotic footwear and health awareness will prompt the creation of ZigBee shoes that send information to an exercise monitor. They will factor in distance and the terrain being traversed to give serious runners instant input on heart rates and calorie counts. ZigBee could even provide an incentive for completing the workout. "The shoe could send a message to the refrigerator when you return home, locking the door if you haven't completed your workout," Heile jokes. www.zigbee.org
There is currently much discussion around the term "platform," which may be preceded by the adjectives "mobile," "wearable," "medical," "healthcare," etc. However, regardless of the platform being discussed, they usually have one key aspect in common: They tend to be wireless. So, why is this one aspect so fairly universal? The answer is convenience.
Everyone has a MEMS story. For most of us it’s probably the airbag that saved our lives or the life of a loved one. Perhaps it’s the tire pressure sensor that alerted us about deflation before we were stranded alone on a dark muddy road.
Bioimimicry is not merely a helpful design tool -- it also encourages designers to think not only about how to solve design problems by imitating nature, but how to make the products, materials, and systems they design more ecologically sound and nature-friendly.
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