From wireless sensor networks to new plastics to energy harvesting, the array of technologies of interest to the design news community is advancing at a pace we haven't seen in years.
Our friends at EETimes put together their list of the top 20 areas they see as big movers in 2012. We've pared out the EE- and silicon-specific stuff like white-space radios and 4G communications networks to come up with our selection of the cutting-edge spheres to watch. All will offer both challenges and new options in the upcoming 12 months.
Click the image below to view our gallery of the top 12 hot design technologies of 2012:
MEMS is really six or seven sub-domains, many of which have products with high growth numbers.
They include: environmental sensors such as pressure and humidity sensors and silicon microphones; inertial sensors including accelerometers and gyroscopes; inkjets and microfluidics; microactuators including micromirror devices and displays; RF MEMS; micro-opto-electromechanical systems (MOEMS); bioelectronic probes and substrates.
Shown in the picture is MEMSIC's no-moving-parts MEMS accelerometer, which uses a heater to raise the temperature of a central column of air, while thermocouples around the edge indicate acceleration as a change in temperature.
Great look ahead at some pretty amazing technologies that have the potential to dramatically change the landscape of how we work, live, and play--albeit, not necessarily in the 2012 timeframe. A couple of things stand out to me: The idea of plastic, hence biodegradeable, electronics seems like it could have some profound benefits long term given the heaps of disgarded equipment we see littering the landscapes of third-world nations. I'm also intrigued by the idea of organic LEDs. What makes an LED organic and what's the upshot of that?
I'm struck by how closely the picks in this article written by our colleagues at EE Times dovetails with what we've been covering all year long here at Design News. So that says that we've been on the money, but more than that that these "hot" technologies are actually moving very quickly into the mainstream. For some, I see this and it's been obvious for a while (say, MEMs and photovoltaic cells). However, for others I'm a bit surprised to find the uptake might be quicker than I've been assuming. Here the key example is energy harvesting, which I guess is being goosed by its ROI.
I am wondering the same thing about organic LEDs, Beth. Also, do organic LEDs have a similar lifespan of inorganic LEDs? Does one have advantages over the other? I'm definitely looking forward to learning more.
What a great, diverse of collection of technologies and applications. If I were a bettor, I'd put my money on the Internet of Things. It's doable and will have a lot of big, motivated players behind it. Even though it has great potential, I think it will emerge quietly, with many of us not even knowing its there.
The near field communications is an interesting technology. It's being tested in some markets. Quite of number of phone makers and financial companies are investing in it. Apple is lining up patents to use it at Apple stores.
Good point on the Internet of Things, Chuck. I remember a lot of talk about this during the early dot com days. Then it kind of disappeared. Nice to see it revived. A lot of the technology is already there. It's a matter of deploying the technology in useful ways.
My top-of-the-top votes would be for MEMS, which are amazing enablers and now come in so many different flavors, and energy harvesting, which is not only a good idea but may become more necessary in the search for alternative energy sources. I'd also vote for PV solar cells for the same reason. Organic LEDs took me by surprise, though--what a great idea.
One high-rofile application of MEMS is in Holywood movies, such as Iron Man. The MEMS-based suits enable actotrs to do amazing stunts and we're going to see a lot more applications of the technology in the next few years.
In answer to your question, Beth, the "Internet of Things" is what I'll admit is an unusual term to describe the coming of 'Net connectivity to commonplace items. The biggest example would be, all appliances, from coffee makers and blenders to refrigerators, will be connected to the Internet. This will enable remote control, energy saving, and automatically pushed-down software updates. On the flip side, Internet of Things opponents worry about privacy (sucking down data about users' habits). Asia (particularly China) seems to be the nexus of initial activity of the Internet of Things, which may be why it's kind of a non-idiomatic English coinage. Intel, for one, sees a huge market selling processors which support the Internet connectivity of all these devices.
Festo's BionicKangaroo combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology, plus very precise controls and condition monitoring. Like a real kangaroo, the BionicKangaroo robot harvests the kinetic energy of each takeoff and immediately uses it to power the next jump.
Design News and Digi-Key presents: Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX, a crash course that will look at defining a project, selecting a target processor, blocking code, defining tasks, completing code, and debugging.
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