EXPERT ADVICE

The Incredible Shrinking Technology

We are constantly moving. From a morning meeting to a lunch date to an afternoon conference call, we are always on the go and so are our technology devices. They are with us every step of the way, acting as our personal assistants, communicators and life-savers.

As we progress closer to a world where HUVr boards aren’t a hoax and technology no longer fits in the palm of your hand but on a node in your brain, one trend is apparent: We are shifting from using static, desktop devices to portable devices in order to accommodate our lightspeed lifestyle.

In the ever-evolving technology landscape, we are beginning to witness the next wave of embedded and portable technology — a complex focus that might very well send the static device, like the desktop, to its grave. Wearable devices do it all, and they are being adopted at a rapid pace because of the ability of portable to integrate and interact with the human body.

While this fairly new feature becomes more essential in any portable device, there are several others that allow us to see pretty clearly the switch from static to portable technology.

Size Does Matter

Consumers need to be able to take their devices with them whereever they go, which is why the size of the device matters significantly. Tech devices that are miniaturized are all the rage and have been for quite some time. We see devices get smaller and smaller hardware-wise, yet faster and faster software-wise. In keeping with this trend, we see that static devices like the desktop and television don’t necessarily fit this mini mold.

Technologists are supplementing bulky hardware for quicker software, utilizing technologies like 6LowPAN (low-powered IP sensors), which enable devices to function a long time off one battery charge, often for several years. This is important, because for embedded devices used in the medical field, 6LowPAN is essential to ensure that patients won’t be put at risk because of a dead battery.

As devices continue to get smaller and more powerful, these seemingly insignificant innovations have a substantial impact on the application of tiny technologies in real world, mission-critical scenarios.

Predictive Technology

Another trend that has consumers moving away from fixed to portable devices includes prediction. After all, the whole instantaneous information thing is becoming kind of pass; immediate information just isn’t fast enough anymore.

At our current rate of technical innovation, the speed of information transfer is infinitesimal, meaning there’s always room for improvement. Enter predictive technology — the latest and greatest in portable devices.

Devices today are wired to learn users’ habits over time and adjust accordingly. The plethora of smart cars with intuitive GPS is one such example. Consumers desire devices that think for them and make their lives easier. Whether you want to avoid traffic accidents with or learn about changes in the stock market before the rest of the world does, portable devices are no longer living in the present time, but helping us plan and prepare for the future.

Transformative Capabilities

We want smaller, faster and more sophisticated thinking portable devices — and we want them to be transformative. Who needs to talk on the phone when we can throw on a smartwatch or pair of smart glasses to do so?

Technologies on the market today integrate with the items we already use on a daily basis (glasses, watches and rings) in order to enrich the human experience and on-the-go lifestyle. Consumers seek a fluid way to access everything they need to know without friction and the bulkiness of hardware — which is why static devices aren’t necessarily the best fit for today’s demanding consumer.

The next logical progression goes one step further beyond rings and glasses, to implanted microchips and processors. It seems like a page out of a sci-fi novel right now, and most consumers aren’t quite ready for that level of invasiveness. However, as wearable technologies go from convenient to bulky, and users become thirsty for even tinier tech, what we now consider science fiction will become reality.

Through the adoption of these trends, consumers will be able to get information without having to stray too far from their normal face-to-face communication. With embedded portable devices, opportunities to access information anywhere, anytime are infinite. This technology change is already under way, though consumers can expect the pace of the transition to accelerate considerably over the next five years.

Static devices like desktops simply are not capable of meeting consumers’ demands to communicate on a more personal level, fit in our pocket, predict circumstances automatically, or transform into wearable fashion. We also can look forward to new portable tech innovations created for the greater good, to assist individuals with disabilities, aid the elderly, monitor and control bodily functions, and much, much more.

We already are seeing the medical industry making a big transition over to embedded technology. As these devices become more acceptable and less sci-fi to most people, the awkwardness will go away, and it will become more available to the general public. Meanwhile, we will continue to see decreasing need for static devices like desktop and even laptop computers.

John Basso is CIO of Amadeus Consulting.

2 Comments

  • There are six drivers in computing device technology: Intelligence gathering, combat, medicine, exploration, business and gaming. Intelligence requires raw computational speed and power. Combat and medicine require specific functionality and reliability. Exloration requires above all else reliability. Business requires specific functionality and user friendliness, and again, reliability. Gaming requires sensual impact, and low latency.

    All of these different requirements drive different segments of the industry and different form factors. Reliability demands above all else proven technology. That’s why you see "high tech" vehicles like the Mars rovers using computer technology that is a decade or more old.

    Business was the first to adopt the "smart phone" form factor. Cost is always less of an issue with business, functionality and convenience being the drivers. If the technology improves productivity, it will flourish. If not, it will wither on the vine.

    I suspect that if wearable technology and what lies beyond that, is really going to take off, the first adopters are going to be business, because the products will be less obtrusive and more convenient to use.

    Gamers will still be using static computational devices for a long time to come. I don’t see consoles replacing the flexibility and power of the desktop format when it comes to games like MMO’s.

    People have been predicting the death of the desktop for a long time, but they are the muscle cars of personal computing devices, and I think they still have a strong appeal for a significant market segment. And if you look at the actual desktop form factor, it has actually gotten physically bigger over the past decade, even while computational technology has become smaller and faster.

    So I guess the points, I don’t see the market going exclusively in one specific direction. The desktop is proven technology, and it is still going to be used by gamers, and by business as well for workstations that don’t require smaller and less obtrusive form factors. Wearable technology is going to be important in combat, as it already is, but it won’t be the same wearable technology used by business, or uber geeks. The actually computer technology is going to be simpler, older, and more reliable.

    And for immersive gaming, safety is going to be an important issue. Immersive sensual experiences require a stationary platform that won’t allow for inadvertent wandering into traffic or off the edges of high buildings. Someday perhaps immersive gaming will be a virtual reality that interfaces directly with the brain, where the body is immobilized. But that is a long way off and even in that safety and health concerns will be an issue.

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