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The Age of Innovation

As long as consumers continue to crave electronics and designers continue to dream big, high-tech companies will have their hands full as innovation keeps accelerating at a startling pace.

What was considered futuristic a decade ago is fast becoming standard. In the automotive world, self-parking technology is no longer seen as anything other than ordinary, for instance, and driverless cars are no longer limited to James Bond movies.

The smart car is only getting smarter. Today's car of the future drives itself using software, cameras, and a scanning laser to detect turns. Software plots a route through Google maps, which helps the car reach its destination. It's aware of speed limits and traffic patterns and known obstacles. (See: Get Used to it: The ‘Smart’ Car Will Get Smarter.)

{complink 2294|Google} last year began showing off its driverless car on the streets of California and racked up more than 100,000 miles in just months. Google says the car is not intended to replace drivers, but rather help them. It may seem like an unusual project for Google, but the concept could have major benefits in the long term, especially for people who cannot physically drive themselves, such as the elderly or the disabled.

Google has also initiated a race into space where teams of engineers have been asked to design software that will take passengers on commercial flights into orbit. Think about the type of vehicles the concept will spur in the future. The Jetsons no longer seems like a cartoon.

And if that wasn't enough, Google and the X Prize Foundation last year initiated a $30 million competition for the first privately-funded team to send a robot to the moon; travel 500 meters; and transmit video, images, and data back to Earth. The teams were picked last month.

Another company draws its innovative dreams in glass. {complink 1356|Corning Inc.}’s company video touting the wonders and possibilities of glass has gone viral on YouTube, getting 8 million views in just one month.

In the video, a commuter holds her smartphone, equipped with near field communication (NFC) technology, up to a map and, just like that, is able to download the directions she needs. Corning informed me via tweet that “No specific company products are represented in #Corning's video, but @Microsoft is working with multi-touch technology.”

If Corning's vision for glass is realized, the electronics industry will need to support a plethora of new components and wireless innovations in cars, homes, office buildings, and more.

Another vision for the future is to serve up coupons to consumers' mobile devices, based on their location. This would allow the consumer to walk into the physical retail store and show the electronic coupon to the merchant. Or, a consumer finds a product equipped with an NFC chip in the store; the phone reads the chip and produces the coupon on the mobile device. The merchant then scans the coupon with a special reader when the consumer checks out.

Of course, it will cost hardware manufacturers thousands of dollars to create these platforms, and it will cost retail companies millions of dollars to install the point-of-sale (PoS) software and cash machines.

Visions are nice, but what will it take to make them a reality? And do high-tech and electronics companies have the resources?

20 comments on “The Age of Innovation

  1. Jay_Bond
    March 15, 2011

    This is an excellent article that really sheds light on some of the great innovations that are currently happening or will happen in the near future. I am personally looking forward to all these great innovations taking place.

    I do have a correction for you. You stated in your article that Dow Corning is showing a great video on the future of glass. As an employee of Dow Corning I can give you a little better direction. The company that develops great innovations with glass is Corning Inc. Dow Corning is a worldwide leader in silicone technology. Dow Corning is a joint venture of Dow Chemical and Corning Inc. This is also interesting because Dow Corning is the majority owner of HSC (Hemlock Semi Conductor), which is another world leader in pure silicon for electronics and solar panels.

    All in all the future is looking very bright.

     

  2. Laurie Sullivan
    March 15, 2011

    Thank you, Jay. And, thank you for the clarification on Dow Corning vs. Corning. Perhaps that why @corning responded to my tweet. 

  3. Mydesign
    March 16, 2011

       Google the king of Internet search and advertising has now researched into a unrelated tech area self-driving cars, an artificially intelligent car that drives self. They have been secretly working on self driving cars and are now finally giving them a road test in the open.

       But before we dreamed for owning one, Google team say it’s at least eight years away from reaching consumers. That means by all accounts, a truly driverless vehicle that could safely navigate the roadways remains many years off.  Ultimately the major hurdles for having fully automated vehicles hit the road will be consumer acceptance and regulatory approval. Self driving cars can double road capacity as robots can drive at closer distances from one another. Robots can theoretically react faster than humans and with the right sensors, can see the road from a 360-degree perspective.

       Accordingly, Google envisions a time when drivers as well as passengers can fully make use of a “fourth screen” in their vehicles. Google revealed in a blog post over the weekend that its under-the-radar initiative has already logged more than 140,000 miles (225,000 kilometers) of human-chaperoned, automated driving by seven cars throughout California and into Utah.

       The vehicles “use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to 'see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps to navigate the road ahead and with satellite navigational aids. The blog stated that Google's motivations are to “prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions.”  Google's team has not made technical details available as yet

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    March 16, 2011

    I agree with you Tom on the fact that the smart car will have to go through consumer acceptance and regulatory approval before we have them on our roads.

    I aslo feel the operation of this smart car depends on a lot of factors that must be considered before they are ever released to consumers.

    One of the factors I think is the level of technology to handle them. I mean a central system that can monitor these cars and their behaviours.

    Moreover, we are not too far from it anyway afterall, we have autopilot in most of the modern aircrafts

  5. DataCrunch
    March 16, 2011

    Hi Laurie, I recently learned of a company called Shopkick ( http://www.shopkick.com ) that seems to have started to implement exactly what you mentioned when it comes to mobile coupons for consumers.  I have not used the Shopkick mobile application yet, but from what I have heard, it rewards consumers who actually walk into a store.  They provide stores with sensors, so that they can determine if a mobile user running the Shopkick app actually walked into the store.  This is a little different than other location based mobile rewards applications that currently only rely on GPS technology, which can be imprecise as to the exact location or if a user actually went into a store.  As you can see from their website, they have already partnered with some major retailers (Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Sports Authority). 

    I thought their approach in interesting and a little different than some of the other mobile coupon/rewards applications out there.

     

     

  6. saranyatil
    March 16, 2011

    This is really an interesting post, when we are talking about innovation especially in consumer goods there is so much space still left to explore. the crowd today is always expecting for something different even with respect to small things. Software is enhancing hardware to such a great extent. for the innovation of Corning to materialize will not take too long because of the revolution seen in the semiconductor as well as software today. With demand going up price will definitely surge down and this can be used in wide applications.

  7. saranyatil
    March 16, 2011

    Good point Adeniji,

    The idea of automated car is WOW!!!, but the series of test it needs to undergo will be tremendous these reports and trial runs will create a great level of acceptance from the consumers and will build large amount of confidence.

    With addition of electronics onto the automobile industry, which can convert phones into  smart phone will convert cars  super smart cars where by using gestures and speech to control the central system of the car drifting from touch screens and so on.

  8. Ariella
    March 16, 2011

    Getting coupons on mobile devices really appeals to me. I like the savings of coupons but hate the hassle of clipping them and remembering to bring them to the store, where I have to search to find the one I want to use.  Having it stored neatly on a device is a great improvement.

  9. KHC
    March 16, 2011

    The references to “Dow Corning” have been replaced by “Corning.”

    Thanks for the heads-up, Jay_Bond.

  10. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 17, 2011

    All this advanced innovation seems to be concentrating on just the mobiles and cars. Because it is felt that, that is where the major consumer spending is happening . But there could be other areas , where such innovations are much needed and will have much more value addition. Take for example the health care.  If we can have an automated doctor – It would automatically diagnose  your medical condition and prescribe the right medicines or recommend the kind of surgery you need to undergo.  It will save those hours of waiting at the doctor's waiting hall with empty stomach. An automated chef in your kitchen will prepare food based upon your order by automatically handling all the kitchen gadjets to make the recipe of your choice and serving it to you while you leisurely watch your pet soap.  I am waiting for some innovators to take up such innovation projects also.

  11. Laurie Sullivan
    March 17, 2011

    Hello prabhakar_deosthali, thank you for taking the time to post. Yes, I agree, many of the innovations today occur in automotive and mobile because that's where the money is headed, but healthcare offers incredible possibilities. Can you point us to any of those innovations to which you refer? I remember years ago Intel built a medicine cabinet and sensor network to help remind those stricken with Alzheimer  to take their medications or remind them of other routine things that many of us take for granted as everyday actions. 

  12. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 18, 2011

    Hi Laurie,

    As far medical science and healthcare is concerned, continuous innovation is happening there also but it is not under the limelight. Slowly the general public is becoming aware of the newer techniques used in surgery, diagnosis, patient information management and healthcare record keeping. The use of Electronics, computers, new sensors and communications is ever increasing in this area also. Harward business review of 2010 (blogs.hbr.org/innovations-in-health-care ) has pointed out 10 areas of inovation in healthcare – Robotic surgery, Tailor made medicine based upon the patients genetic profile are two things that are worth mentioning from this report.  The remote diagnosis of patients in far away hospitals by expert doctors , using robotic cameras and associated sensors is helping in dianosing the patients by expert doctors without the need to travel and be physically present.   All these kind innovations are possible because of the advancements in Electronis, Computing technologies and communications. Such innovations are not just for fun or leisure but many times they are saving the precious human lives. Tomorrow's smart phones are likely to be equipped with sensors to measure persons vital health parameters -pulse rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and automatically send this info to their family doctors based upon which the doctors could prescribe the right medicine by SMS . Well the list is endless…

  13. Laurie Sullivan
    March 18, 2011

    Beautiful prabhakar_deosthali. Thank you very much for taking the time to share. 

  14. Anand
    March 18, 2011

    Laurie,

      NFC is exciting technology for sure. But the bigger question is this technology safe enough ? The more the mobile phone is used for payments (as a “wallet in your phone”) the more it becomes a target for attackers. NFC is easily susceptible for phishing, fuzzing, and spoofing attacks. I hope these obstacles are  overcome soon so that this technology can be used by the masses.

     

     

  15. Kunmi
    March 21, 2011

    Hi Prabhakar-deosthali,

    I really like your idea, we all want everything to happen without lifting a pin. Healthcare industry is huge and the use of electronic devices are advancing everyday. I works in the clinical diagnostic areas and the work had been simplified by the use of technological devices. You can easily diagnose diseases with no stress. There are so many growth opportunities in the use of technolgical devices in the healthcare fields. I am hoping that a time is coming when the inventors will have a second look on how to develop a world-wide healthcare innovations that will be accepted like internet and cell phones. 

  16. stochastic excursion
    March 21, 2011

    Mobile technology has been encumbered by the lingering limitations in signal reception.  Modern society heretofore has been accustomed to robust communication schemes where a message, once sent, always found its receiver.  Now a relatively large percentage of communications are marred by connection failures, making mission-critical usage of mobile technology a dicey proposition.

  17. eemom
    March 21, 2011

    All these innovations are absolutely wonderful and they provide a great view into what our future will hold.  The big disconnect in my mind is when do today's capabilities as well as tomorrow's advances get integrated into our education system.  Maybe some schools are more advanced than others but I see kids relying on technology without understanding its negatives as well as its positives.  I see kids (by kids, I mean middle school and high school) learn through the same old tired techniques of rote memorization, quizes, tests, projects that do not aim to educate, etc.  Some school make use of smart boards and virtual learning, but not enough is being done to advance our education system to where our technology is today.

     

     

  18. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 25, 2011

    eemom, you have raised a very valid issue here. For ages , our education system is lagging behind all the innovations coming into our day-to-day use. Even the computer courses in todays colleges (except for a few reputed institutes) teach some age old computer languages which are no more used on any of the computers . As you have rightly mentioned, the education sector has to wake up to the availability of the latest technology which can make the education a more rich experince which every kid would love to have, away from those age old techniques relying mainly on memorising things by heart. The true education comes by experimenting and experinecing the things and that freedom to do the same  is available with todays advanced technology.

  19. Kunmi
    March 27, 2011

    We are currently looking into the mirror of future generation. A point is coming when 50-75% of workforce will be working from home. Tech is modernizing the world beyond measure.

  20. Tim Votapka
    March 28, 2011

    You know, it wouldn't take that much effort to improve our youngsters' education. The technology is available. The data is in abundance. Teachers are better trained now than they were in the past. So what's missing? Application. Memorization was never a great way to truly learn something. No. The ability to learn and truly duplicate information is based entirely on how one handles three primary barriers to study: 1. misunderstood words, symbols or phrases; 2. steep gradients 2. lack of mass.

    The next time you see a student (or even a co-worker at a conference) look sleepy or yawn, you can bet they've just passed a word (spoken or read) they don't truly understand. That will block or dilute any further understanding of the topic. Oh, you'll get denial, but if you persist and go back w/ your student to the last moment they felt bright on the data, you'll find they've passed over something they didn't really get or perhaps dubbed in a definition that may be partly right.  Clear the word up thoroughly and you'll see an alert individual again.

    If teachers and educators thought and operated with this, they'd have a remarkable upswing in grades and scores.

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