Just Under the Radar: A More Connected Future Drives Need for More Microwave Technology and Spectrum
By Bob Pinato, MPD Editorial Advisor
CES, the greatest electronics show on earth, is growing into more than just the place where the latest gadgets are announced with great fanfare and software, where an Apple or Microsoft will make the latest greatest announcements. A place known for the introduction newest and greatest whiz-bang product or system to wow the consumers and light up the imagination of the next generation of young consumers. In 2014, we do see some of what we have become accustomed to in the past; however this year had a new, somewhat far reaching focus. Call it a more connected theme.
The theme is actually a culmination of past technological achievements, building upon the years of mind blowing personal use gadgetry, to show off how they can now seamlessly meld their way into the one of the last remaining bastions of solitude. The interconnectivity built into the systems architecture of the car, to seamlessly link home, business and everyday life while one is on the road in this once vastly impenetrable mobile fortress. Using the one tool that we have allowed into this bastion of solace, the mobile connectivity devices and networks.
While the hype at CES focused heavily on the connected automobile and how it will eventually check traffic, download maps, call for help and even provide the 4G to Wi-Fi connection for you as part of the integrated experience (one wonders how the systems will also eventually be a window for insurance companies and the local constabulary to view how one has been driving…not to mention mom and dad), the leading edge factor, which is the signature style of CES, was also present and it was an over the top, great presentation this year. But this is but only one of a few of the key areas of buzz surrounding the show.
You may remember we discussed the future merits and potential of the 3G printers a couple of years back in this column. It was nowhere more evident than at CES that this new “tool” has captured the imagination of many engineers, the product marketers and the average artistically enabled consumer at heart. In that article, we discussed how the future of 3D printing would become a key enabler for the small business owner, job shop and prototype developer, even becoming a tool of low volume production for small businesses who need and differentiate themselves with the flexibility of doing creative and challenging designs, wanting to protect IP, and at the same time, be a player or successful competitor to the larger development houses and even machine shops. This year we see evidence of the potential explosion into the market stream, all which is resulting from the evidence point towards the dynamism surrounding the many new and various types of 3D printers. From fully flexible multi-head, multi-color, multi-material (not just ABS and polymer plastics) fully out of the earth product creation machines, to others that has singular functionality for specific industries. There are 3D printers which can use sintered metals or ceramics bound by polymers and then baked out to result in a product which is not only 3D, but in a material which can be used as a functional prototype. What beautiful works of art we saw popping out of these specialized 3D printers. And yes, in some cases, a fully functional replacement part for some obsolete or impossible to find product. Just think what antique car enthusiasts can do with this machine and even side step the costly method of going to a machine show to do a one-off product. But the upside is also for the supplier who can turn these replacements quickly now.
There are quite a few versions of highly accurate material placement 3D printers using genetic materials, aka skin cells, which have found their way into the medical community and are being tasked with creating replacement body part, starting with ears. Even moving into internal organ growth. A whole new industry is being born. Other newer versions with multiple nozzles are tailored for use in the cooking community, by which chefs with artistic dreams can spin out colorful and intricate candies and decorative sweets from sugar, caramel and other food bases.
The wireless industry is still in significant play at CES. Not only for the latest, cutest and most adaptive handsets, pads and televisions, of which there were plenty, but also for the more advanced home uses of wireless connectivity such as wireless HDMI systems. Using frequencies above 60 GHz and selling at prices undreamed of only five years ago, due to the lower cost of the MMICs from aggressive open foundries and new startups which have turned the potential volumes for the mmW radio market on its ear. This is a home consumer product that will deliver wide bandwidth throughout the home with no wires and very high definition broadcasts. A future must-have for any home.
But what makes every American’s heart go pitter-patter more than the? The sexy, beautiful, roaring hunk of metal and raw power that we have all grown up with and spend more time in than our own living rooms. A product which still has cachet, but is evolving in a way which will have most of our home’s accommodations and connectivity (minus the microwave oven and fridge), but move away from the roaring raw power and noticeably take on a quieter roar, or none at all, on the road. BMW was kind enough to offer free test drives on its all-electric i3, which provided a real adrenaline rush and kick in the pants acceleration. This car had so much torque I found myself being pushed to the back of the seat with the slightest touch of the accelerator (guess it can’t be called the GAS pedal any more) and found the car pushing 80 mph in just seconds. With a car like this, with over a 120 mile range, multiple power saving options (full power, selective power/shift modes, and saving mode), quick 15 minute charging stations, and also a home four hour charging system, all coming our way for $41.5K USD, the “connected” electric car will certainly finds its way into our lives before too long.
It is very obvious the future is changing quickly and that connected automobiles are the wave of things to come. Maybe not in the next five to ten years, but for sure after ten years, we will see more connectivity, traffic monitoring, Wi-Fi, and an interactive system, which is leading us into the future.
One thing CES shows us all each and every year is that there are a lot of creative, imaginative and resourceful people out there who are inspired by what others have done before them and inspiring to chase their own dreams to share with us all. The 3D printers will enable a whole new range of entrepreneurs who will build their own creations, dreams and prototypes for others to build upon. Not only engineers, but artists, cooks, doctors, homemakers, repair shops and the students, who have unbounded creative energy and unfettered boxes from which we all try to transcend, will have a quick solution to bring their dreams to reality. It will become a future unlike any envisioned before. Just think of an easy bake oven version of the 3D printer for our children and what it will do as an add-on for making their own versions of toys.
The connected car will be an extension of the connected home and the connected YOU! Maybe something we may not say we want today, but something we will cherish once we have it. Not unlike the inner conflicts we fight today with the use of the smart phones, that mini-computer which connects us to everything whether we want it to or not. Only three to four years ago these machines did not exist for most, other than the few business people who could not live without it. Today they have quickly become the tool of choice for many, and we all have that love/hate relationship with them even as we use them to find a restaurant and then map our way to an unknown location in a new city, or book flights, and the like. Similarly, these cars in ten years will have many features, which will attempt to make our experiences better, safer and more enjoyable.
CES is but one of the key conferences we visit throughout the year. Each has a slightly different theme or focus, but all have grown due to the time, creativity, ingenuity and engineering talents which you, our Microwave Product Digest readers, have developed over the years. CTIA for its systems focus and MTT/IEEE for the technology and papers, among a myriad of other defense and technology conferences, all in the USA. In the rest of the world there is CommunicAsia in Singapore for the international flavor it brings to systems and broadcast, as well as PT Expo in Beijing and the domestic systems providers and local suppliers it brings to China.
As you can see there are many international firms now exhibiting at CES, as well as at other key shows in the USA, Europe and Asia, which are beginning to establish their presence and touting their names for branding in the USA. While the big names in the past came from Japan, Europe and Korea, we can now see the oncoming presence of the Chinese competitors. At CES this was no exception. While innovation by USA firms is still what drives the tempo and creates the thrill that makes the heart skip a beat, there is no lack of foreign presence and competition for the minds and dollars of the consumers. This is the stage where all see the best the world has to offer and the results of the technology developments that have come out of the minds and souls of technologists from all across the USA -- and now the world.
ICCS Global LLC. is a multinational consulting firm with offices in the USA, China, Hong Kong and associates in Korea, India, Singapore and SE Asia.
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Photos by Daniel Kong.
MPD Editorial Advisor
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