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Tracking the Disruptions of Technology Convergence

When I was a child, I heard the term “think tank” from my father. I asked him what that was, and he said it was a place where people think up new ideas for businesses.

As a kid, I had this picture in my mind of a big room where people sat in a circle in leather chairs just thinking. No one talked. Every once in a while, someone would stand up, point an index finger into the air, and say, “Eureka!” Even as a seven-year-old, I thought this would be a good job. I still like the idea of just sitting around and thinking. I do that a lot.

Nowadays what get the juices flowing are ideas that come to me for converging technologies. Product ideas just flow out like water, and then I will see or read that related research is already under way. This week, I spent some time reading about new technologies deployed in up-and-coming products. Here are just a few that come to mind — with an added dash of my own imagination as to where they might be used in the near future.

How about a device that can read a fingerprint up to six feet away with a scanning resolution of up to 500 pixels per inch? You hold your hand up in the air while facing a lens, and every groove is viewed in perfect detail, scanned, and recorded in real-time. A product by IDair does just that. It uses the same technology deployed on satellite imaging objects. One possible application is allowing secure entry without leaving prints that could be copied. This would also be handy for clean rooms and other areas susceptible to contamination.

Next we have a pill that registers on your mobile device. A 1mm integrated circuit in the pill delivers a chemical mix that reacts with stomach acid to generate a 1.5V signal that a dermal patch can detect and send via Bluetooth to a cellphone equipped with the appropriate app. This is great news for caregivers who can't watch a patient 24/7. The FDA has approved such an innovation; the best estimates say it will be out in about two years.

Liquipel offers an invisible water-resistant coating for mobile phones. You send the company your phone. It places the phone in a chamber for 30 minutes. A carbon-based hydrophobic gas gets inside the phone and coats the components and the printed circuit board, protecting the internal components from electrical shorting due to moisture incursion.

The turnaround time is about two days, and the service will set you back about $59. When I called Liquipel and asked about other coating characteristics, I was in nondisclosure territory, so I backed off. It can treat other products, like printed circuit boards of various sizes. I asked if it could do a 12-inch-square board, and Liquipel said yes.

The Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle from {complink 9356|Northrop Grumman Corp.} is a helium-filled nylon balloon (about the size of a football field) capable of precision maneuvering at an altitude of 20,000 feet. When equipped with cameras, it can stay aloft for 21 days of unblinking surveillance. This is going to be deployed in Afghanistan this week. Look up and say, “Cheese.”

Speaking of which, look up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's an obstacle-leaping robot. In fact, a 26-foot jump will allow it to clear most walls and get a good look at what is on the other side. Reconnaissance robots have been used by the military and police forces for some time, but now Boston Dynamics is introducing the Sand Flea for urban surveillance. It sports an 11-pound camera and a gyroscope to keep it level in the air. Models based on hummingbirds, cockroaches, and flies are under development, but this little robot is just a radio-controlled platform with a lift piston that will fire after analyzing a proposed trajectory. Isn't this fun?

I'd like to take the core technologies and converge them together to come up with my own product. We have advanced optics, water resistance, mobility, invisibility at 20,000 feet, and Internet connectivity. Let's send our product out into the rain at night to take pictures from anywhere at any height with the resolution clarity of a fingerprint.

7 comments on “Tracking the Disruptions of Technology Convergence

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 8, 2013

    Life would be a lot simpler if the technologies we already have devices for — audio, video, photo, phone, computing etc. would converge on one device. They eventually will. From the manufacturer's standpoint, selling three devices — a cellphone, tablet and PC — generates sales. From the consumer perspective, it generates e-waste (and maybe debt.) The form factor for such a device is still missing, though, we'd need something around cell-phone size.

  2. dalexander
    January 8, 2013

    @Barbara…Great point. It would be fun to imagine what an all-in-one product would look like and the user interface. E-Waste would be cut way down and this is a concept worth its own blog. Very cool idea.

  3. FLYINGSCOT
    January 9, 2013

    Liquipel sounds interesting.  I wonder if they offer a guarantee on their “waterproofness”.  I imaging not.

    I believe today's thinktank is a gloabl organism consisting of billions of people logging on to the web and exchanging ideas and learning new tricks.  Our growth in all things novel should really be exponential compared to what it was 40 years ago when comms were not so prevalent.

  4. Wale Bakare
    January 9, 2013

    The truth about the ongoing disruptive task of technologies seem very limitless. The only thing left for the investors now to think ahead, they are numerous emerging innovations for money makers especially now that both the poor and rich becoming technology cracy.

  5. dalexander
    January 9, 2013

    @Flyingscot…I called them and they did not want to claim waterproofing but water resistance. In fact if you drop the phone in the water, they have a booklet that tells you how to dry the phone out before turning it on again. My daughter dropped her phone in the water and even though she did not have a Liquipel treatment, she buried her phone in a bowl of rice overnight and then was able to use the phone the next day. I think the web may have a list of various materials for this purpose, but Liquipel has conducted lab experiments that increase the phone's water resistance such that the phone can be used in the rain without incident.

  6. Vegas_Martin
    January 14, 2013

    Actually, FlyingScot, Liquipel announced its new guarantee last week during CES. I'm not sure how to easily insert a link here but if you just Google “Liquipel guarantee” for News, you'll find plenty of stories on it.

  7. dalexander
    January 14, 2013

    @Flyingscot…Liquipel demonstrated an iPhone submerged in water to show how robust their process 2.0 is. As this is an advance over the previous process, it looks very promising as the conformal coating is not visible to the naked eye and seems to add no appreciable weight to the product being treated. I imagine they will be approached by several OEMs who want to sell off-the-shelf water resistant products.

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