The emerging technologies in this article have been limited to a simple seven (7). A lot of these technologies have already emerged – but are not yet found in wide use. The items listed here will impact our lives initially over the next 1-2 years and then set the table for lots of useable technology products and services to come over the years ahead.
If you believe other emerging technologies should be included in future articles, please let me know. Stuff like virtualization, cloud computing, and web 2.0 should be monitored by accountants to determine when there is something that makes good sense to use and integrate within their business operations. The chosen 7 are:
1. Cellular Telephony Getting Better
2. Wireless Charging by Induction
3. Picture Taking Goes on a Diet
4. Smart Cards Get Bigger and Smaller
5. GPS Getting Connected
6. Video Adapts Intelligence
7. Printed Words are Being Reengineered
1. Cellular Telephony Getting Better
Telephones are everywhere. They are replacing landlines every day and becoming standard equipment for children, teenagers, adults and seniors. In many nations there are more cell phones then there are people. Indeed, cell phones are ubiquitous as more than a thousand mobile phones are being activated every minute.
Soon after you read this, Apple will announce version 3 of its iPhone. With over 40,000 applications already available, it is clear that all future telephones that rely on cellular technology will embrace useable applications.
An important development that enhances cellular calling is the “Femtocell”. A Femtocell is a small cellular base station designed to be used in a home or small business environment. The Femtocell connects to a broadband provider’s network and can support 2 to 5 mobile phones. In this way, signal coverage can be expanded throughout your small office or home. This is especially useful where you roam around inside the home or office.
With a Femtocell, the digital phone signal is routed through the broadband IP network coming into your residence through cable or some other network. The signal is transferred to the Femtocell device which, in essence, is a short-range repeater, also known as a wireless cellular signal booster. The signal is then amplified and retransmitted locally, with a much stronger signal. Vendors have chosen their own names for femtocell, such as: “home base station”; “access point base station”; “3G access point”; “small cellular base station”; “personal 2G-3G base station”. However you call it, know that getting better cellular coverage at home and work is a good thing.
Another wireless accessory is from Verizon and called Mifi. The MiFi is a branded version of the Novatel MiFi. Other carriers will be soon selling their own brand name. This is a tiny (a very thick credit card), battery powered EVDO modem which can be located in your briefcases or pocket. The MiFi converts the incoming 3G cellular signal into a small Wi-Fi network, enabling direct connection with a laptop, netbook, or Smartphone. It is a personal wifi hotspot that can be shared with 4 other users. The MiFI battery goes for 40 hours in standby mode and five hours of continuous use. The hotspot extends in a 30 foot radius.
The Verizon MiFi 2200, costs under $100 depending on what rebate you can get. $40 per month allows for 250MB of data transfer, $60 raises that number to 5GB. Each additional MB costs ten cents. Three is also one day pass for $15. At that price the MiFi will cost over $200.
Smartphones to replace laptops as the road warrior’s key carry along. This will include better connectivity between Smartphone and your data – on office/home computer or in cloud floating high. With Femtocells and MiFi, there will be much better signals to make connections faster and more consistent.
2. Wireless Charging by Induction
How many power cords are lingering around your boxes, drawers, desktops and shelves? Can you remember which cord goes with what device? Power induction has been an emerging technology for many years. It is a wire-free way to recharge all the portable devices such as laptops, iPods, iPhones, cell phones, handheld games, GPS devices, headsets, digital cameras, etc.
One such device comes from Powermat. This product has various sized wireless charging mats that can charge up to six mobile phones at one time. The mat has one electrical wire and plug which delivers all the power necessary to engage its magnetic induction capabilities. The charging speed in initial testing is equal to or better than the electrical charger attached to the device.
Another company, eCoupled offers a similar induction mat. Ecoupled appears to be focusing on custom installations such as kitchen and work bench applications. Both companies are stating that their induction technologies can be placed under a counter or desk and power devices, lamps, coffee makers, clocks, etc. Powermat’s different sizes and capacities sell for between $100 and $200.
The future of wireless power is for bigger devices like flat-screen TVs installed on a wall without wires and extra holes in the wall. For the office, the advantage is the increased ability to support charging devices with so many extra power plugs and wires snaked everywhere. Another anticipated development is the capability to transfer data to devices over the induction connection efficiently and with no electrical interference. In this way, recharge and sync can be accomplished at the same time.
Better batteries will come along, however there will continue to be a need for recharging all the mobile devices that are essential to the mobile world. Wireless power distribution will impact many things that we use. From office to car to the kitchen we can only imagine a life without wires. Wire free is like the impact of wi-fi on computer networking and cellular on telephone lines.
3. Picture Taking Goes on a Diet
Portability is greatly assisted by size reduction and equipment going on a diet. The first “Portable Computers” from Compaq and IBM were tagged “luggables” because they weighed close to 30 pounds. Almost everything has gotten lighter and smaller.
This reduction principle can be applied to taking and displaying pictures. I used to carry an SLR and a lot of lenses in a oversized camera bag. My slide projector was a Kodak Carousel, requiring its own bag. Pocket sized cameras are now standard along with camera features in almost every cellular phone. Amazingly, projectors have also been reduced to pocket size. A pocket projector is not a joke.
Various sized projectors, are standard equipment in offices and training centers where PowerPoint and movie-watching reigns supreme. These devices sit on a desk or hung from a ceiling or within some cabinet or closet. A pocket-size projector changes all the rules. Using a smart phone and a Pico supports a business or personal presentation for almost any reasonably sized audience.
The minimum distance for this small projector is eight inches from whatever you choose to use as a screen; the maximum distance is 8.5 feet. At this “long” distance, you can get a 65-inch image. Do remember to dim the lights or a reflective movie screen. Audio is only fair. The built-in speaker is typically smaller than cell phone buttons.
Two projectors are Aiptek, PJV11X PocketCinema V10 Portable Projector, and from Optoma, the Pico MBP200. The Projectors are about the size of a Smartphone, weighing 4.2 ounces. The Pico projector supports instant presentations for those last minute, did not think this was going to happen events. The Pico Projector supports PDF and Microsoft Office standard file formats, while support for microSD allows the device to display content independently.
The world of scanning has also gone on its own fast reducing regimen. The DocuPen, from Planon, is a completely portable cable-free color-scanner, which is capable of scanning letter size pages with text and photos, at a high quality resolution. A less expensive version, the 700 is a black and white scanner.
Other small portable scanners are billed as business card scanners with sizes in the range of 9 x 2 x 6 and weigh around 1 pound or less. These devices come from CardScan, CSSN, and IrisCard. In these units, images up to 4x6 can be scanned. And yes, they are most often used to scan business cards.
Projectors and scanners are available on Amazon for less than $400.
Display of video movies, pictures and live TV at a campsite, on the beach, along a moonlit trail for a small or large crowd. Conferences and committees will be able to easily share one computer screen without having to set up a multi-computer shared network. A good idea is to label each small device with name and email as they can be dropped or sprout legs and walk away. And watch for 3M who has an ultra-compact, LED-illuminated projection engine that is designed for integration within a range of mobile devices.
4. Smart Cards Get Bigger and Smaller
Typically, digital means things getting smaller and capacities increasing. In my lifetime music was played on vinyl records that spun at 78, 45 or 33 1/3 rpm. Long playing records held 8-10 songs on a side. CDs came along, holding 600k, lots more songs on 1 side. DVDs advance that with 4.7 GB (single-sided single-layer), to 8.54 GB (single-sided double-layer). More data content has been squeezed into an ever shrinking space. We measure capacity of memory and disk storage with numbers a lot larger than k. (remember that k = 1,024 bytes). Now we talk about megabytes (M) and Gigabytes (G). With even more compression on the way, it will be reality that the entire contents of the encyclopedia, bible and classics illustrated will be placed in a space equivalent to the head of a pin.
SDXC (SD eXtended Capacity) memory cards is demonstrating that a whole lot of storage can be placed inside a really small form factor. The physical dimensions are approximately 0.9 inches x 1.3 inches x 0.1 inches. This card holds 2 Terrabytes (T) of whatever you want. This huge capacity can translate to the following:
• More than 4,000 RAW images
• 3.6 million 300 Kilobyte images
• 100 HD movies
• 60 hours of HD recording
• 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica
• Ten Terabytes will hold the print collection of the Library of Congress.
The first batch of these cards is in stores now. With read/write speeds up to 104MBps in unknown capacities, though certainly less than 2TB on day one.
Within the next few years, there will be new cards with an even larger capacity that can carry entire libraries, video collections and more. This will be an alternative to data backup and data transport. This includes carrying the entire life history of each grandchild. For future reference, advancing capacities will soon go past Terabyte to a Petabyte, approximately 1,000 Terabytes or one million Gigabytes.
• 1 Bit = Binary Digit
• 8 Bits = 1 Byte
• 1000 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte
• 1000 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte
• 1000 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
• 1000 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
• 1000 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
• 1000 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
• 1000 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte
• 1000 Zettabytes = 1 Yottabyte
• 1000 Yottabytes = 1 Brontobyte
• 1000 Brontobytes = 1 Geopbyte
5. GPS is Getting More Connected
GPS (Global Positioning Systems) are a feature in almost every new device from the communications industry. Looking for the nearby Starbucks, gas station, or friend, GPS location capabilities are involved. The new Latitude from Google can track friends and others on your map display. Connecting means never being away from the things you need to locate, whether a person, ATM or cappuccino.
Most civilized places on earth have now been coded and inserted in mapping data files. We now have street and topographic maps of every size and color and language. This includes the capacity to guide you from where you are to the next destination.
The generation of GPS devices coming onto the market has more capacity to be connected to more data and linked to current information like traffic. There are four main benefits of having a connected GPS:
1. Map updates can be gathered from and transmitted at one time to a large number of GPS units concurrently.
2. Updates for device operations, like its OS and utilities can be sent to the unit on demand or scheduled.
3. With increased bandwidth, traffic reports are better and more frequent due to the network flexibility and that each unit can be a source of data for others to use.
4. Better connectivity with the internet translates to more search and interactivity of the unit with whatever resources are accessible on the host end. (directions, weather, sights of interest, et al)
It needs to be noted that the market for portable navigation devices (PNDs) is being changed as you read about it here. Companies such as TomTom, Garmin, Navigon, and others are experiencing declining sales. A lot of the downturn is due to low-cost competition and the ever expanding impact of the Smartphones with their own map applications. However, the features of connectedness will not go away as they will continue as features of all devices provided GPS navigation support.
While companies struggle to find answers to counter a worldwide economic meltdown, strong competitors like Google are swooping in to offer similar services at no cost to battered consumers.
Better and more accurate data alongside the mapping display. This will include data about resources and points of interest along the way. And, if you decide to take the road less traveled, the system will guide you back to the point of direction error.
6. Video Adapts Intelligence
The days of my brownie camera are long gone. First they replaced black & white film with color. Cameras and lenses got bigger and better and expensive before the film was replaced by the capability of capturing images digitally. Surprisingly Kodak is surviving the crisis of film’s demise and is still reinventing itself as a provider of equipment and services.
There are likely more digital cameras then there are people within any family and community. As new features arise, there is a price point that says to the consumer, buy the new one and either hold the older (1-2 years old) for backup or donate the camera to some charity or child. It is not just still pictures but video that is driving the constant push for more camera sales. For example, a brand new digital video camera from the folks at Genius illustrates this fast advance. The G-Shot HD520 has a resolution of 11-megapixels, weighs under 6-ozs and costs just under $150. It is high definition in a small form factor.
With everyone taking pictures, stills and video, we are becoming an image only culture. There is a rush for every cable news channel, local news broadcast, talk shows, newspapers and more to gather volunteer reporters and photographers to deliver visual images of whatever is happening today. CNN is reinventing itself to be a user delivered news medium, rather than good reporters delivering content and opinion.
Currently, video is a one view medium – we see it and independently interpret what the images mean. Is the picture an accident, someone’s birthday party, a snowstorm, or people breaking into my office at 2 am. The way this interpretation is handled today is to hire personnel to watch the video and report on what they see. Security guards guard the video image. Another way to enhance security is to install sensors that can identify movement or noise or some other event. What is being added to today is the capability to have the means to interpret the video image and report on events.
Technology is helping again with the ability to interpret and cause an action based on a system’s view of the video images. Archerfish is a video analytical tool created by Cernium Corporation. This application, when connected to a video camera, incorporates intelligent software to the process of video collection. The software collects the images from the video camera and interprets the image with specific rules. With its roots in the security industry, Cernium has brought advanced video analytics capabilities to the protection of scores of facilities.
The Archerfish software supports true multi-tasking, enabling you to be in one place – main office, vacation home, visiting friends – and receive interpreted information about events in another part of our world.
• Storms break a hole in a window or roof.
• Fire and smoke cause damage and threaten the entire premises.
• Packages are delivered and left outside, unprotected.
• Someone is attempting access to another property.
• Someone is sharing the premises uninvited.
• Children playing in the backyard leave the premises.
Standard video monitoring can relay images, assuming that there is someone to watch the camera as the event is occurring. There are lots of security camera applications that do this - banks, retail stores, office buildings, etc. The Archerfish system enables interpretation of the video signal based on rules and criteria established by the user. When an alert situation occurs, a signal is sent to a cell phone, email, police, and others. This happens without user intervention or a person interpreting the event.
Better security applications to enable owners to be in two or more places at the same time. We can also anticipate increased use of video as a means to deliver marketing, newsletters, training, presentations and more.
7. Reengineering the Print World
For several decades, the paperless office has been spoken of in many mystical, mythical ways.
The very old joke about paperless office appearing after there is a paperless bathroom is way too old. However, we need to explore what is happening as equipment and money are being applied to the delivery of digital information rather than paper.
For example, the magazine you are now reading, “The Progressive Accountant” is in digital form and does not have a paper edition. Other magazines and newspapers are starting with a digital version and reviewing the potential of no paper as a business model. PC Magazine has stopped printing a paper magazine. The NY Times and Wall St Journal have very successful online versions of their publication while the number of readers and subscribers to their paper versions are declining dramatically along with their ad revenue.
On the equipment side, there is the Amazon Kindle which is proving to be a viable platform for a community of readers who are willing to read books and magazines through this digital medium. The latest Amazon announcement of a bigger page (9.7 inches) Kindle DX is a clear indication that sales are going well. There are plenty of rumors of other vendors working on eBook readers. The hottest rumor is collaboration between Sony and Microsoft.
EBook readers like Kindle are leading the way to more accessibility to digital books on demand, magazines, newspapers, research papers of all kinds and any document that is part of a larger file cabinet(s). In these cases, the reference is to everything printable – text, still pictures, digital video, graphics, charts and drawings. Kindles are doing very well with a black on white display, not color yet.
The world of Smartphones provides yet another platform. Amazon has provided its Kindle reading software for the iPhone. Mapping applications reduce the need for training workshops on how to unfold and refold paper maps. Of course, having a little extra paper for notes, starting campfires and other complimentary activities will not be replaced by digital readers.
CPAs are already using paperless process for audit workpapers and tax returns. These applications can only grow. Another expanding area is the wide range of manuals for procedures, policies, operations, training courses and more. It is about time that we stopped printing these manuals and worrying whether or not each manual has all updates, revisions and added chapters. Reading digital books inside a paperless office is within our grasp.