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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I agree Jerry. a lot of the Internet of Things is technology looking for a problem. Some things -- like checking the expiration date on milk -- are better done analog. Like the smart thermostat hat learns your patterns. Is it that hard to turn the heat down when you'll be at work, then turning it back up when you get home?
I just bought a new TV. It is internet ready to get netflix etc. I got a home entertainment system to go with it. It is internet enabled as well. I imagine almost anything that may want a software upgrade or other data from over the web could use connectivity.
To get completely silly on the Internet of Things, some dot com wizards envision connectivity that can keep track of expiration dates on food in the fridge and let you know when the milk's about to go bad. Some systems have already been developed that run home heating and cooling as a smartphone app connected to your thermostat. You can remotely turn your cooling and heating on and off remotely -- as in heat the house I'm on my way home. Another app is the Internet-connected surveillance cameras that let parents check on the babysitter via the smartphone.
One early role of the Internet of Things, Beth, is going to happen in retailing and in production inventory. If every product has a low-cost RFID tag, then it can theoretically report back to the Internet on its contents and location. That way, every item on the shelf at the grocery store or apparel shop is a known commodity, and can be inventoried by a computer, so that companies know when and where their products are consumed, and when they need to be re-stocked.
Tracking via RFID tags on consumer products is a potentially iffy proposition, at least if companies expect to track their products in people's homes. This is because some people tear off the tags as soon as they get the product home, due to privacy concerns.
Yes, it would have to be on a voluntary basis. Those who want to use the service would be motivated to make sure the tags stay in place. Privacy -- at least on some level -- is a generational concern. Facebook's Mark Zukerberg claims privacy isn’t important to people his age. He backed off that statement when attacked, but nonetheless, he revealed his view and he very well may be right.
That may change as kids get older and find out prospective employers have learned to examine the Facebook sites of candidates.
The internet of things does not seem to be taking off in the U.S. the way one would think, given its hype. I think in part this is the expense of adding Internet connectivity to small appliances, but more than that, it's a lack of Internet connectivity on the receiving (receptacle) end in legacy U.S. households. I don't know where the economic impetus will come from to fill in this hole. It's doable; you'd kind of need to deploy PoE (Power over Ethernet). But the numbers just don't work the way they did for, say, cable TV.
Taking that one step further, Alex, I don't think a lot of consumers see the need for the Internet of Things. I have wireless access in my house, of course, but I see absolutely no need for my refrigerator to be on it. I've seen the ads for those that can keep track of what you have, make shopping lists and download recipes, but I don't need any of that. And after reading all of the monkey-designed washer articles, I SURE don't want anything else for them to get their hands on.
I agree., I have no interest ijn having RFID tags on everything I own. I took a wireless security class, and one of the things mentioned was some theives were driving around with RFID readers trying to find homes with new televisions. Imagine if they could also hack into your home and shut off all lights before a home invasion? Just because it is possible to do something does not mean we should,
Steve - Did your class happen to mention the best way of dealing with those RFID tags? Are these the ones that are in the boxes to prevent shoplifting (so its just a matter of finding and destoying, or are these tags in the new TV's themselves?
Most items have the tags in the packaging. And Walmart for one, mandates supplies use them for inventory control. Problem is that I retain my boxes, at least until the warrenty expires. Of course, placing a box for a 60" TV out for trash pickup lets everyone in your neighborhood know who got a new toy.
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.
A middle school team from Rochester, Mich., has again nabbed the grand prize in the annual international Future City Competition, which drew students from 37 regions of the United States, as well as from England and China.
The word “smart” is becoming the dumbest word around. It has been applied to almost every device and system in our homes. In addition to smartphones and smart meters, we now hear about smart clothing and smart shoes, smart lights, smart homes, smart buildings, and every trendy city today has its smart city project. Just because it has a computer inside and is connected to the Web, does not mean it is smart.
Are you being paid enough? Do you want a better job? According to a recent survey Manpower released just before Engineers Week, employers and engineers don't see eye-to-eye about the state of US engineers' skills and experience.
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