Are you ready for the next transformative technology? Way back in January 2004, Carly Fiorina, then CEO of Hewlett-Packard, gave a speech at CES in which she suggested processes and content were becoming digital, mobile, personal, and virtual. Certainly other people saw this progression, but perhaps she assembled these words first. Thomas Friedman referenced this in his book “The World is Flat” (2005), listing these as factors that are accelerating the “flattening” of the world.
For instance, Fiorina said “Every time one of us walks into a Starbucks, hears a song we like playing over the sound system, pulls out a laptop, and downloads it wirelessly for less than a buck – the digital revolution is more real.” Wow, we could do that back in 2004? Without an iPhone?
So, how accurate were Fiorina’s predictions, and how has this new paradigm changed the scope of possibilities in electronic products?
Digital (content and processes can be digitized and therefore shaped, manipulated and transmitted) – All good electrical engineers know the world is (and always will be) analog at its foundation. Sure, an increasing amount of analog data is easily treated as digital, but analog issues like noise, signal integrity, electromagnetic fields, and power and heat considerations will always be part of good electronic product design. Stilwell Baker has extensive experience in analog design, for example the Erickson S-64 helicopter Automatic Flight Control System and a picoamp current measurement project. However, embedded systems with microcontrollers and digital communications are the bulk of our electronic design services.
Mobile (data can be processed anywhere, anytime by anyone) – No contest here: there are about 6 billion mobile phones in the world. Most of us are connected all the time; we never miss an email or a text no matter our location or activity. In addition to cellular technology, there are many other wireless devices and applications like Zigbee, WiFi, wireless HART, and RFID. A recent Stilwell Baker product development project included a Microchip IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver module (MRF24J40MA) that is a handy building block for a mobile product.
Personal (digital content is created by you) – Another area with tremendous change in the last 10 years.
You are more involved in creating and sharing content – think Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. Some processes are more personal such as self-checkout lines at many stores, or ordering videos by computer instead of in a local store. But technology is moving past the personal and on to Machine-to-Machine (M2M), the Internet of Things, where real-time digital data is created and shared without those pesky humans in the way (can you say “Skynet”?).
Virtual (digital processes are so fast it looks automatic and easy) – With today’s faster CPUs, graphics processor units (GPUs), and lightning fast download speeds, digital processes are fast and easy. Virtual reality is moving from science fiction to science fact. And virtual teams are all the rage, particularly in electronic design and manufacturing, as groups of geographically dispersed individuals (or companies) work across time zones and organizational boundaries with fewer technological barriers than ever before.
What do you think the next transformative technology will be? Are you ready?