And, they will be everywhere! The world is going to sensors in a big way. You currently interact with 50-100 daily. By 2020 this will be something like 1000 or so. Impossible you say. No, actually this is happening. Semico Research is estimating that 30 billion will be shipped in 2017. Welcome to your Brave New World.
There comes a time in every SoC designer’s life that the marketing guys start complaining that they are losing sockets to the competition, because the chip that you designed no longer has enough performance. Nothing lasts forever and this is especially true with electronics. What is state-of-the-art today is destined to be your Momma’s electronics, and sooner than you think. The performance demands for electronic applications increase at a constant rate. This is due to the combination of more stuff being added to applications over time, the convergence of functions from multiple devices into one device and the natural tendency that we all have to be less tolerant of slow functionality the longer we use a product. Oh yes, and the constant demand by marketing that engineering increase performance because they can’t think of anything else to do to beat the competition.
Last March (yeah, time flies), I attended Sensorscon in San Jose. The event was insightful, with a wide variety of participants and speakers. The consistent theme of the speakers was that sensors will proliferate and broadly penetrate our lives. I saw some pretty big numbers there, such as a $19.5B market by 2016, and sensors in each smartphone approaching 20 by 2015. There are many driving factors behind these numbers, such as ubiquitous data collection through sensor networks, better health through lower cost consumer medical devices, and improved user experiences on our consumer electronics devices.
Sensors are becoming more prolific and changing the way that you interact with your world. That smart phone in your pocket is a good example. A lot of what you can do with it is the result of sophisticated sensors that are built into it. For instance, the accelerometer inside determines the orientation in which you are holding the phone so the screen can switch making it easier to read. It also makes games that you control by moving the phone and applications like a bubble level possible. The accelerometer is actually a very sophisticated piece of technology, which is true of many of the sensors that are being developed today.
I few months ago, I posted a blog (“Bringing Order to Chaos”) about the inherent power of our hyper-connectivity to bring order to potentially chaotic situations. This hyper-connectivity is the result of the dramatic increase in processing power that we are realizing with microprocessor technology and is giving us the tools we need (we know where you are, how many are in an area, and can get you information at the push of a button) to instantly modify behavior through the proliferation of information.
We are moving from the “Mobile Revolution” – the revolutionary advance that is allowing everyone on the planet to connect to everyone else, all the time – to the “Internet of Things.” This latest revolution will be profound because not only will we be connected to each other, but our stuff will be connected too. Our cars, refrigerators, light switches, cameras, and every other device we interact with will become intelligent and will connect seamlessly to other intelligent devices to make life easier without our even having to pay attention.
Texas is experiencing one of the worst known droughts in its history this year. Drought brings fire, and the fires have certainly arrived. Wildfires have destroyed nearly 1,400 homes so far this year in Texas, and the fires continue to burn. “Some residents needed no urging to leave because they saw the flames lapping at the trees. Others heard from friends and neighbors, while still others found a sheriff’s deputy at their door or heard firemen rolling down the street with bullhorns. In most cases no one had to be told twice” according to CBSnews.com
Touch screens and the associated gesture control as introduced in smart phones and tablets have changed the way we interact with our devices. Tap-and-swipe touch-screens are fun and addictive to use, but touching tends to make the screen smudgy, and there are rising concerns on health and hygiene aspects. After all we want to be able to and do use our devices everywhere and anytime, right?
If you are British or are an aficionado of British TV, you will be familiar with the TV series ‘Doctor Who’. If you’re both, and like me, of a certain age, you may recall a childhood of watching this show from behind the sofa. It’s the longest running science-fiction TV show in the world and it’s scary. One of the key props in the story is the Tardis, a time-machine disguised as an old-fashioned Police Telephone Box. (It’s a long story why it’s a rather incongruous Police Box.) The Tardis allows the good Doctor to travel back & forwards in time. As I look at the Embedded Software industry today, I was thinking, what if I accompanied the Doctor back to ten years ago. How did the industry look compared to now? How would it look ten years into the future?
Apple with the iPhone and iPad, and Google with Android, revolutionized the way we interact with our portable devices. They commoditized touch screen display technology, making it possible for us to control our ‘PCs-in-our-pocket’ more conveniently than we can control our Desktop or Laptop PCs with a mouse. Besides the plain ease of use, there is something irresistible about swiping with your finger across a screen and enjoying the astonishing effects that this triggers. And, being able to control your mobile device while walking, really adds to the whole mobile experience and sense of freedom when you are on the go.