Category Archives: Technology / Innovation

Technology & the elusive next BIG thing

Looking back about 10 to 15 years it’s easy to see that technology has taken a great leap forward and the big companies of the world are looking for the next big thing that going to give them the kudos they need – along with keeping their shareholders happy that things are going to keep moving forward.

This is where this post is going to look at – the big question on everyone’s mind  is:

“What is the next big thing for Technology?”

In order to even have a clue about answering this, let’s look back 10 years at two garganutan’s of technology – Apple and Google. Two companies with two different approaches. Apple had just released the first iPhone and Google was the biggest search engine going and had bought YouTube and we had Google Maps introduced to us. In a nutshell Apple had put a supercomputer into an MP3 player and had advanced this to the point where we now had a supercomputer in a phone and Google was making sure that whatever anyone searched for they could find it with a Google service.

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As we move forward these two giants move ever forward to colliding, Apple continues the iPhone advance and then creates the tablet computer. Google however is moving outwards, creating a web browser, then an open source operating system based on this and then comes Android. At this point the giants collide as every electronics company in the world can now have the rights to an operating system for mobile devices that is on a level with Apple’s IOS.

 


 

The basic movement has been the advancement of bringing the internet to everyone with mobile devices and searchable content. This now means that we have supercomputer’s everywhere, in your phone, tablets and wrist. Why do I say it’s a supercomputer? Because believe me they are, they have more processing power than the MET weather supercomputers of the 1980’s. These devices wouldn’t be possible without this kind of processing power in such a small package.

In more recent times we’ve had Google glass, which wasn’t the great success it was looking for and now the world is looking at cars that could drive us around without assistance. The key to this revolution is the term ‘smart’ smart phones, smart watches and ultimately smart cars that will drive us about. Smart is about enabling devices to do what they couldn’t do before by giving them a computer that can access the internet. This is happening now and things are at the stage where they’re struggling to find things to make smart, we even have things like heating, and basic home functions being driven by devices to make them ‘smart’.


 

This brings us to the future – what is next? Is the next big thing going to carry on the principle of making something smart? Or will it be something else? When will it happen?

When we look back the iPhone / Smart Phone gave us something we never had before. That’s why it was big, sure it’s essentially a retrofit of existing technology but it was really cool that’s why it was big. The smart revolution is over the way I see it, as it stands we’ve almost reached saturation point in terms of what it can give us in terms of new features or things we can enable.

So smart isn’t the next big thing and it can’t be. The only exception I hold to that is if they start embedding or attaching smart devices actually in / on us so were integrated with our devices. But there’s also an ethical and technical can of worms with this. From the point of view of the everyday user we’re likely to enter a period of time where we don’t see much advancement, it’s going to be broadly speaking a slightly better flavour of the devices we’re using now. They’ll get better and more compact and more efficient, but the same old thing. This is much like a period of technical stagnation that took place from the late 90’s to 2006.

Why is this?

Simple – the rest of the world needs to catch up. This kind of technology needs to reach other sectors like medical and defence where things have stood still for a while and this is starting to happen now. The consumer market has been the guinea pigs to test these technologies and their robustness. Sure, some genius may come up with another clever gadget that will be loved but it’s likely to be a fleeting wonder.

There are two other things to note, we are using more energy now than ever before. This is to the point where the infrastructure struggles to cope. A catch up period is needed to make energy more available and whatever does come next will need more computing power and that needs to also become available. This is exactly the kind of thing that happened with virtual and augmented reality, the technology has been around since the 1990’s but it never took off until the computing power needed for it became available.

As for what it will be next… my gut feeling is that whatever it will be it will free us to some extent from the physical constraints of having to touch a device to make it do what we want it to and perhaps from the limits of screen size to a completely immersive experience that we see before our eyes or maybe in our minds? Who knows… we’ll have to wait and see. The likely hood is that while we might know what the next big thing might have, no one has yet dreamed up the device.

Simon 🙂

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Dyson’s hot air for its hair dryer

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I cannot hold back about this any longer! I expect many of you have seen the advert for the Dyson hair dryer and I seethe at this advert for two reasons:

  1. They claim it uses a digital motor.
  2. Selling the microprocessor control.

Why does this have me seething – I’ll tell you! First things first – no motor is digital. It uses magnets which are inherently analogue. Dyson say this about the digital motor:

 “Dyson digital motors use digital pulse technology, spinning at up to 104,000 times a minute”

To many this sound pretty digital, but in engineering speak this sounds very similar to Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) technology which in’t in any way new and is used in almost every power supply or charger in your home. Pulsing a motor to control it’s speed is very, very commonplace and does not make it digital! Ok, so it’s fast, very fast and they might have developed a really fast motor but again there are devices out there that use fast spinning electric motors, this is not a new thing.

Now onto the second thing, the microprocessor, this also isn’t new. These devices have been around since the 1980’s and these days you can get really good ones for a few quid. I’m not sure how good it needs to be as it’s controlling speed and maybe temperature. This is basic stuff and won’t need anything cutting edge.

Then there’s the ultimate thing that makes me angry – the price! At £299 this is a damn expensive hair dryer! I have no idea how well it works becasue funnily enough I haven’t bought one. But at the end of the day if it blows hot air out it’s going to dry your hair isn’t it?


 

This kind of over priced, over sexed technology smacks of Apple’s approach to it’s products, those of you who have been around my blog long enough know how much I love that!

If anyone buys one of these or has bought one – let me know how it works. I would love to know.

Simon 🙂

No ownership claimed on image – Credit Dyson

Protecting yourself from camera hacking

We sometimes hear about camera hacking – how big a problem is it and how do we prevent it?

This infographic on the issue shows some of the shocking examples of hacking going back a number of years and how we can protect ourselves from it. The link to the full article is:

https://www.vound-software.com/blog/ten-tips-to-avoid-camera-hacking

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Infographic credit to Kaylee White – thanks for contacting me.

Simon 🙂

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD – Amazing Value or Exuberant Con?

A little while ago my trusty Lenovo Yoga tablet was destoyed, as was my little LG. I was more than a little gutted. With not much budget to replace them with I bought a 7″ Kindle Fire HD.

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When I first turned it on I have to say I was impressed. Great screen with  easy to access functions. There’s all the popular apps available like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and WordPress in the app store so things started out well. But then when I got to look a little closer, many of the applications I need and in a way would expect from a device like this were unavailable. Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Keep, Google maps, Google Chrome… Spotted a theme? Yup – no Google!

This wasn’t all – Firefox is not available which is a pin as I use this as my default web browser and all of my favourites an history is synced to it. Then I found out that while I can install Netflix – it doesn’t work! Semi popular apps like Pinterest and StumbleUpon are also not available. So within minutes of unwrapping my sleek new Kindle Fire I feeling a tinge of disappointment. At this point I can hear cries of ‘so what? It’s just Amazon’s operating system right?’

No – this is where we really get to the heart of the issue and here’s why:

Amazon’s Kindle is Android based. That’s right, Amazon has taken Google’s own Android OS, hacked and fettled it to make it their own and in the process have kicked Google off it at the same time. I have to ask myself why this is, does Amazon hate Google? Maybe, but it’s a bit hypocritical to take the stack OS from a company you hate and then use it while locking them out. Or have Amazon wanted to make it their own? I’m not sure on this, in a way this makes Amazon worse than Apple for being technically introverted. The only thing that saves it a bit from this is it’s use of standard USB and Bluetooth. This though is marred by the fact that I can’t see a way to use my Google Chromecast with my Fire HD, which is another disappointment.


 

For me a clue to what’s going on and in some ways eases the confusion is when the power button is pressed and the standby screen comes on. This is annoying, every time you turn on the Kindle there’s adverts for anything Amazon. Books, Films, special offers, every time there’s something different.

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What this means though is that whatever else the Fire HD is, primarily it’s a selling platform for good, apps and services. This can also be seem with Amazon’s Fire TV stick where games, token and films come at a pretty heft cost. The touch screen is responsive and it feels like a quality Android 7″ tablet, there doesn’t seem to have been much penny pinching with the build quality over a device that costs twice the price.

When you turn it on for the first time you notice is that Amazon have kindly set up and linked the device to the Amazon account that it was bought from, all of the books, music and films you have bought are instantly available.

The Fire HD works just like any other 7″ tablet and while the different home screens set up by Amazon give it a custom feel you don’t have to dig deep to find the Android roots. The stock web browser that come with it is called Silk – however it’s fooling no one becasue when the user signs into any accounts you the annoying security email comes it clearly thinks that it’s being signed into by Chrome.


 

The whole thing is still confusing to me, it’s good at what it does, but there’s so much it doesn’t do and does a reduced price tag make up for it? It all depend on how a user looks at it I think – if you’re a cynic that thinks Amazon is trying to get of Google then it’s crap tablet. But if you’re after something to read your books on, browse the internet and get you’re emails, then it’s an incredible e-book reader!

Simon 🙂

 

Circuit Mechanix – March 2017

Welcome to the first issue of Circuit Mechanix this year! A little later than expected this issue focuses on flexi and flex rigid PCB design and manufacture. This issue also looks at the National Physics Laboratory soldering defects database and we get a new feature – The PCB Mechanic. Every issue will now […]

via Circuit Mechanix – March 2017 — circuitmechanix

What annoys me about Technology

Unless you have the awareness of a hibernating hedgehog as a ready of this blog you will know that I’m an engineer. Engineer’s work with technology and therefore I should love Technology. 

Err… No.

Actually let me clarify that, I like technology up to a point and even then it annoys me. For the most part technology annoys me because marketers and accontants have decided to get involved in the design and messed it up in the way it works or…. The dreaded bug is ever present and I have to work around it.

But even when things work perfectly technology still annoys me and here’s why:

Technology is meant to aid us in our lives by taking away the tasks we find hard or boring to to or even to do things we simply cannot do. Washhing machines, cars and jumbo jets fall into this category. What makes technology work for us is that it is NOT in control, it is meant to do the things we want it to do!

Where this goes wrong is when technology is trying to decide what we want. I’ll give you an example – automatic windscreen wipers. Nothing is more annoying! In light rain or heavy fog it just doesn’t get it, it either doesn’t wipe or wipes like we’re driving through a typhoon! I can handle a control with loads of setting because I decide what speed I want, but this automatic wiping needs to stop! I know this will touch a nerve with American readers, but the same goes with an automatic gearbox. I’m sorry, I just can’t do it! I’ll decide what gear I want and that’s  that!

Now we have smart technology too, based on what we’ve done before it can suggest where we might like to go, or who might be our friend. This means that everyone that has been to my school in the last twenty years must be a friend the same goes for anyone who visited the taj manual in town or the supermarket. I’m sorry, but none of these people are friends and I have no idea who they are!

I understand what these guys are trying to do, they are trying to reduce the need for searching. But is it really that bad? It’s much better than looking through a telephone directory, but I guess we need jobs for data analysts and other such clever clogs to make this kind of stuff happen. But my view is simply that we should be the masters of technology and not the other way around.

Simon 😀