When the cellular phone was introduced, people were amazed at its ability to do one thing — provide voice communication without wires. The engineering pioneers who created the cell phone probably had no idea what the portable device would eventually become. While the list of required technologies for the initial handheld device reads like the index to this Trend Watch, the capabilities of today's cell phones include Global Positioning System (GPS) location, camera, MP3 player, memory storage, Internet connectivity, text messaging, Bluetooth wireless data and, of course, wireless voice communication. This is just for starters. What engineers have been able to cram inside a space the size of a deck of cards can serve as an inspiration to designers of many other products.
The sensing capability of cell phones is quite amazing. Global Positioning System (GPS) location is one obvious sensing capability. In 2013, ABI Research forecasts GPS IC shipments to reach 1 billion annually and many of the chips will be used in lower-margin devices such as mobile phones. However, cell phones also integrate accelerometers, Hall Effect and optical proximity sensors to provide additional features and implement power-saving modes. And don't forget the image sensor in the camera phone.
At one time, in the not too distant past, a two-car garage was a status symbol in the U.S. A home with more than one computer became commonplace before the end of the last century. Today, more than one iPod or iPhone could be the newest criteria for keeping up with the Joneses. To address the home playback needs of these proliferating iPods and iPhones, JVC introduced a dual iPod docking station capable of charging and playback options for two iPods or iPhones or one of each. To play back downloaded video content on an external display, the unit even has a video output.
What good is having a picture on a cell phone if the display is so small the picture can barely be seen? The OSTAR Projection SMT LED from OSRAM Opto Semiconductors solves the problem. The 5.8 x 4.7 x 1.5-mm unit can turn a cell phone into a pico projector. Other suppliers have recognized this opportunity as well, so cell phone projection is becoming a hot area.
This year could be remembered for a critical election, the year gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon in the U.S. and leapt to incredibly high levels in other regions of the world, a housing slump that stifled the economy or perhaps the year when more than 1 million of the latest iPhones sold in just three days.
The latest iPhone is certified for Wi-Fi operation, making it secure and interoperable with other Wi-Fi products. With Apple's new iTunes Remote application, a user's iPhone can control iTunes over a personal Wi-Fi network turning the unit into a Wi-Fi remote control. But wait — there's more.
Run Your Life from Your Cell Phone
There may be no place like home but with Hawking Technologies' new HomeRemote Pro System, a cell phone can now be part of a plug-and-play remote home monitoring system so you can somewhat take your home with you.
“The ability for someone to control and monitor their home with live video on their cellular phone is a very powerful and useful feature,” says Jason Owen, chief officer of product strategy and business development at Hawking Technologies. “Imagine being able to check whether you've left your iron or lights on and being able to turn it off directly from your cell phone, anywhere, anytime. Imagine being able to see your kids or pets at home at any time from your cell phone to see if they're safe or doing what they're supposed to.”
Still, this is just the beginning. On the coming-soon list: Voice-over Wi-Fi applications from third parties. What will they think of next?
With all of the things a cell phone can do, running on infinite battery life is not one of them. Solar power to the rescue! The S116, the first commercial solar-powered cellular phone recharges outdoors or indoors — even by candlelight.
This Electronics Trend Watch provides the heads-up on several of the latest technologies that could be used to create the next “wow” product or feature.