Brace Yourselves, the IoT is coming.

The Internet of Things

Imagine waking up to your favorite alarm tunes being played, one for each day of the week . The number of miles you jog every morning is updated to a cloud service, which monitors your health and fitness. As you get ready for a shower, the smart water heater has already been triggered by the sensors in the alarm clock, which correctly estimates the time required using the data accumulated over a period of time. The smart oven has prepared your breakfast by the time you are dressed. The car has been put into ignition mode after the garage door is triggered by your smartphone. When you drive, real time data obtained using other ‘smart’ cars, lets you know the best possible route to your destination, helping you avoid traffic and other stoppages. Don’t bother locking your house, as your smartphone has done it, not before turning off the lights and asking the thermostat to lower the temperature for efficient energy usage. No, this is not part of the script from one of those futuristic Hollywood movies that are churned out at regular intervals. If things work out well, by 2020 this could be our way of life.

When Kevin Ashton coined the term Internet of Things(IoT) in 1999, he might have very well judged the impact of his proposition, in the foreseeable future. What had actually started as a bunch of sensors communicating and exchanging data has now evolved into this potential juggernaut that recommends an overhaul of our lifestyles. Technology surely does evolve at a rapid pace. The 21st century is a testament to that fact. But when technology evolves faster than the pace at which we can cope, it presents a unique problem. The IoT is one such disruptive technology. Disruptive, since it will possibly encourage a dramatic shift in consumer tastes with the promise of a smarter and technology driven lifestyle.

A technical perspective

Without delving too much into the technical jargon, it would suffice to say that IoT comprises of a huge set of sensors embedded into a wide range of devices. Over a period of time, the IoT has evolved into a much complex and messy system, interconnecting a variety of domains, protocols and communication systems. Imagine fitting every single electronic device in your vicinity with a bunch of sensors and assigning an IP address to each of them. The sensors exchange data over a network with a standard protocol, making use of a wireless ‘mesh’ network. In simpler terms, a ‘mesh’ network is a network topology where every node(read device) is connected to every other node. Data is exchanged between the nodes in real time, thereby turning the rather dumb devices into ‘smart’ ones. The philosophy of the IoT is to essentially connect every single device on the planet across a standard set of protocols, to make the isolated electronic devices smarter for an efficient lifestyle.

It is estimated that there will be 26 billion devices in use by the year 2030, a threefold increase in number considering the current 7 billion devices which are up and running. It essentially means that every individual will own at least 3.3 devices, all of which are of course part of the IoT.

Big Players warm up to the IoT

Less than two decades ago, the IoT was confined to paper presentations and the practical implementations seemed far fetched and unlikely. But the emergence of better semiconductor technology combined with massive infrastructural progress has given a necessary boost to the IoT community. Most importantly, the multinational corporations have been party to such an idea and their R&D investment and expertise has definitely helped. When Google acquired Nest Labs, a home automation company, in early 2014 for a massive 3.2 billion, it was further proof that IoT was gaining prominence among the biggies. Very recently, Apple launched Homekit, a framework for controlling home devices by automation. It is an addition to its newly released iOS 8, taking it a step ahead in terms of practical implementation.

For bigwigs such as Google and Apple, IoT is a jackpot. Google largely earns from its advertising service and now with the possibility of sensors being ubiquitous, every smart house is an information goldmine. A recent report suggested how targeted ads could appear on your refrigerator screen, prompting you to choose the local store to buy items whose supplies are running low. For Apple, it is part of a long cherished dream to make its devices at the center of an IoT universe. Back in 2001, it was reported that Steve Jobs wanted Apple devices to be at the heart of every home automation system. With the new features in iOS 8, it is a step towards achieving that goal.

Problems Galore

Although IoT has made significant progress over the past decade, it would be silly to assume it is well developed. The primary concern that bugs every security analyst is the little or almost no security in an IoT environment as most of the devices will be low key home appliances. Indeed lack of progress in security and privacy mechanisms is a hindrance to IoT’s evolution. Some of the devices like heart rate monitors and health monitoring devices might deal with acutely private data, which raises significant queries over its storage and protection.

Another inevitable problem associated with IoT is the heterogeneity in device manufacturers. It is quite obvious that each manufacturer will prescribe to his preferred mode of protocols. For instance, there are many wireless technologies in the market, most of them fairly new. Z-wave and Zigbee technologies have been around for a few years, but they are not yet compatible with each other in terms of communication. A new entrant, Bluetooth Smart boasts of better features than the above mentioned technologies, but is again isolated with very little compatibility. There is an urgent need to level the playing field by standardizing the wireless technology to be used.

An abstract view.

An abstract view.

With sensors invading every possible space available, the amount of data generated per day will be massive. Structuring and utilizing the data for use will require both infrastructural and capital investments. For a startup wanting to cater to the needs of IoT enthusiasts, it is bad news.

Another issue that might be instrumental in IoT adoption is the impact on environment caused by a massive overhaul of infrastructure. When millions of new devices flood the market, the non-degradable junk leftover by the old devices will be hard to manage. A non-smart device might be valid for several years but smart devices need constant upgrades which render them obsolete after a period of time. The costs incurred periodically might put off potential customers, who might classify them as an unnecessary expenditure.

A brighter future

Though IoT might receive its share of criticism for privacy and security violations, it is still a very good technology to bank upon. Yes, right now it is literally half-baked and messy, but then every emerging technology is such during its development. Technology has always found a way to refine itself over a period of time and IoT will possibly follow suit. The promise the IoT holds for better and efficient living is just too good to ignore.

 

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Google and the art of disruption

The giant of Silicon Valley

There are very few companies that have changed the way the world works. Ford Motor Company was one such company in the 20th century. It introduced low cost cars to the American market with stupendous success. At a time when owning a car was a luxury beyond the reach of the average American, Ford’s Model T bridged the gap and started a new era of affordable automobiles.

On the same lines, in the 21st century there have been certain technology based corporates that have altered the way the system works. Google is one such immensely powerful company. It is the world’s most visited website with an ambitious goal to “organize the world’s information”.

Disruptive Technology

Wikipedia describes disruptive technology as:

an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

Google, in its capacity as one of Silicon Valley’s giants, has been at the forefront of disruptive innovation. Google does not think and function on the same lines as that of an average tech based company. The concept of disruption has been at its core business strategy. Does it sound far-fetched? Not really. Let us analyse.

Adwords

As of 2013, the net revenue of Google was USD 59.82 billion. Around 90-95 percent of it was derived from Adwords, its golden goose in terms of revenue. In the past, when search engines like Yahoo were charging potential advertisers with hefty amounts to publish ads, Google came up with an innovative idea of Cost Per Clicks. According to this method, an advertiser has to pay only when his ad is clicked by the internet user. This idea sounded the death knell for many upcoming online advertising portals and effectively ended Yahoo’s reign as the most popular site for advertising.

Not only the C-P-C method sounded fresh and economical, it also contributed to the aesthetic look and feel of the search results pages. While Yahoo and other sites looked ridiculously cluttered with flash banners and popping ads, the clean interface of Google was refreshing. Since then, Adwords has grown on to become the primary source of Google’s revenue. This has allowed the company to be financially secure and constantly experiment with path breaking ideas.

The important aspect to note here is Google’s strategy to eliminate competition by introducing a risky yet disruptive business model. Though it is an altogether different issue that the model clicked perfectly, it highlights the way Google thinks.

Android

On August 17, 2005 Google acquired Android, a mobile software company for USD 50 million. Two years later, Google offered to give away the newly developed operating system for free to device manufacturers. A consortium of companies called the Open Handset Alliance was formed and the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) were exempted from paying any royalties for using the Android software.

Considering the market situation back then, it was shocking and sounded insane. Why would a company invest millions on a product for two years and yet give it away for free? During that period, Symbian and windows mobile operating systems were the dominant market players and were very well established. Competitors like Nokia and Microsoft shrugged off the impact of Android’s introduction and its threat was considered as null. Yet, Android is the most widely used operating system in the world today. For every iOS device being activated, in comparison there are three Android devices in the world. It has also pushed the once popular Symbian operating system into complete oblivion. As of 2013, Android owns 78.9 percent of the market share, a huge lead over Apple’s iOS, which is a distant second at 15.5 percent.

The important question to ask is : why did a search engine giant invest so heavily in delivering a mobile operating system? For starters, it wasn’t because they wanted to diversify their sources of income. It practically gains nothing from Android when compared to its other income sources.

Here comes the interesting part: Google realized that the world was swiftly transitioning towards mobile based searches. The percentage of users using mobile devices for searches showed an upward trend and this was a worrying factor for Google. It wasn’t imperative that a mobile user would always access the Google website for a web search. Google would lose huge amounts of search related data that is necessary to generate user specific ads. It needed a native application on the phone to facilitate quick and hassle free web searches and also accommodate its growing number of services such as Google Maps.

Thus, the entry of Android into the mobile hemisphere was significant. With an open source API and a large base of developers contributing to its app store, Google could lure users into buying android based devices and yet subtly enforce their services upon them.

Protect the golden goose

The final equation in every move Google makes ultimately strips down to one single entity: the web search. All said and done, Google is an internet search engine company and majority of its revenue comes from search based advertising. With the wide usage of Android devices, at Google’s disposal is a huge database of user data that can be used to generate user specific ads and deliver better results to the advertisers. With location based and personal data about each user being recorded at Google’s servers, it is literally an information goldmine. The more accurate the user specific ads, better the advertising performance and ultimately better revenue.

It is fascinating to know the lengths to which Google can go to safeguard its principal entity : the web search. In order to maintain dominance in the area of web searches, it has even launched the flagship Nexus brand of smartphones and tablets. An attempt to demonstrate the power of Android and reinforce the faith in potential customers.

Not just Android, potentially every move Google makes is to safeguard its dominance in the area of web searches and advertising. Be it Google Maps, Google Docs, Google News or the other multitude of services that are offered for ‘free’, they all add the enticement factor and keep the users hooked onto their ecosystem. This is market disruption to a new level. A stroke of genius driven by astute business thinking and strategy.

But then again, Google was never your average tech company and it never will be. To quote an article headline:

Disruptive innovation is not a tactic. It is a mindset.

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Are you stuck in the Filter Bubble?

As a social human being we are seekers of information and knowledge. Though we may not like to be contradicted on our ideologies, we sure would like to know the viewpoints of others. We care for not only relevance but also challenges. A filter bubble though, ensures that we remain isolated and ignorant of the world around us.

So what is this filter bubble?

It all started in 2011 when Eli Pariser, an internet activist released a book called THE FILTER BUBBLE: WHAT THE INTERNET IS HIDING FROM YOU and gave a talk at a TED conference on the issue of web personalization and the filter bubbles.

According to the accepted definition, a filter bubble is “a result state in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as past click behavior, location and search history)”. Simply put, the search results received by a user will depend on his past clicks and location and it is worked out by an algorithm that uses the database servers to identify the user’s interests. Even if a user logs out, the servers have plenty of archived information related to the user which will be used to produce user specific content. The algorithm works in the background and is most certainly “invisible”. The consequence is that the users or to state rather implicitly, we, become ideologically isolated in our own cocoons or in this case our own ‘bubbles’.

According to Eli Pariser, web personalization is being done by many internet firms who strive to generate revenues based on personalized user generated content. Corporations such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Huffington Post are some of the bigwigs who are at the forefront of web personalization. As an experiment Pariser had asked two of his friends to send him screenshots of their respective google searches on a specific topic. Interestingly the results were vastly different. Then the concept of filter bubble came into existence.

Pariser says so, but does it really exist?

Consider the pictures below:

 

THE FIRST SCREENSHOT

THE SECOND SCREENSHOT

The author of this post did a small experiment to determine if the filter bubble really exists. And yes, it does. A google search was done on ‘India’ at google.com and google.co.in simultaneously and the results were as above. The google.com website returned news articles with content mainly focussing on the upcoming general elections while the google.co.in website returned news articles only based on cricket.

A clear explanation of the environment in which this experiment was performed is necessary to understand the way personalization works. When this search was performed, a cricket match between India and Afghanistan was underway. While a user who uses the google.com website might be an international user, the one who uses google.co.in is most definitely an Indian user. Hence the algorithm personalized the news content in such a way that it focussed on “what the user might be willing to see, at that point of time”, in this case, the cricket news.

The first screenshot actually maintained some required heterogeneity in showing two general news articles and one cricket related news article, but the second one completely ignored the general news articles, which is alarming.

Although the results were contrasting with only subtle variations it states an obvious fact: that personalization is the order of the day.

Why should it bother us?

The problem with personalization is that it restricts the free flow of information and is degenerative in terms of virtual freedom. The essence of a network is in encouraging wide range of opinions and a healthy exchange of information. Restricted access to information is akin to being forced fed content, rendering our wants to access variety of information obsolete. Social media sites like Facebook have added a whole new dimension to the concept of personalization by designing algorithms that control the display of updates in a user’s news feed. Based on the interests and click rate of a user, the future updates are controlled. When quizzed on this issue, Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying:

A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.

Personalization is hugely profitable to the internet corporations who will be able to target consumers, aided by the huge amount of personalized data at their disposal. While personalization could help a user in accurately identifying local based queries like restaurants and florists, according to activists like Pariser, it is too risky a proposition in the longer run.

A user might believe to be among the huge internet fraternity but in reality he/she is actually being ‘bubbled’ into a space where interest specific content will be generated for him/her. This leads to isolation, encouraging ideological complacency and dissent to opposite viewpoints.

What do the experts have to say?

Though the concept of filter bubble has been around for about 3-4 years now, the Internet   community is still divided in terms of opinion. Experts from Harvard have concluded that the impact of the filter bubble has been ‘light’ while analysts have suggested it is good for the consumers in general. Activists like Pariser though, seem to be apprehensive about it.

What about the internet user?

The general user though has no say in the policy implementations of the corporations. But as a consolation, every user can opt out of it by deleting the web history and cookies. Search engines like DuckDuckGo prevent tracking of users which ensures that restrictions are not implemented on the search results.

Also, the user can ensure he is not being ‘stereotyped’ by deliberately clicking on random clicks.

And as a last resort the user can use the ‘incognito’ window to prevent search engines from accumulating data about him/her.

So, a filter bubble or not, it finally depends on the user. But the fact of the matter remains that, by default, the filter bubble is here to stay.

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The Ultimate Escape-Challenge 1

So used to the idea of safety on Earth we are, we seldom think about its vulnerabilities. Doomsday prophecies from time immemorial, the recent Mayan scare, predicted asteroid hits…we haven’t seen the last of them and the threats and predictions will continue. At any random moment, an asteroid, comet or some other unwelcome extra-terrestrial material can barge into our home, safe home, Earth and wipe out all that is there, and will be, in one debilitating stroke. The worst case scenario is a neutron star* spinning its way to us. It’s the worst case scenario because “you cannot blow it apart, you cannot steer it off-course, you get out of its way or you can suffer the consequences of being in its path”. So, in this most extreme of scenarios, where we have no choice but to escape for our survival, can we really evacuate the Earth with the technology we have now? This is the answer we seek in the 7 part series, The Ultimate Escape.

The first question that would arise is—where do we go when we evacuate Earth. The nearest Earth like planet, where the scientists place there safest bets is the star system around a star called the Bernard’s star. The problem—it’s a little less than 6 light years away. Imagine taking a little more than 7 round trips around the earth along the equator in a second. Travelling at that speed will take us 6 years to reach the planet. It’s going to be 40 trillion miles away. We obviously cannot use the present space shuttles considering the fastest man-made object in space is the voyager craft which travels at 0.006% of speed of light. We need to find a method of propulsion that would take the craft to a considerable percentage of speed of light.

The very basis of “propelling” something is Newton’s third law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Conventionally, when a rocket is launched, the exhaust from the chemical combustion of fuel is shot out of the rocket and the reaction force propels the rocket. Thus, the faster you can shoot out the material, the faster you travel. But for our new spacecraft, we cannot use this way of chemical propulsion. To achieve really high speeds, you need to shoot out materials faster which would mean more fuel. But if you use more fuel, you would need to shoot out materials even faster to propel the space craft with the extra weight. This is essentially a “cat chasing its tail scenario”—the more fuel we use, the heavier it becomes, the more fuel we need to move the space craft!

An entirely different idea for propulsion is the solar sail. Just as the wind drives a sail boat on the seas, a solar sail can drive the space craft in space. The only difference is, in a sail boat, it is the reaction force of the sail on the air molecules as they strike the sail in the form of wind that impels it forwards. In case of the solar sail, it is the radiation pressure—the reaction force of the photons in form of solar energy—that drives it to very, very high speed. The problem however is that as the craft moves farther from the sun, the solar intensity decreases, and hence the increase in speed goes on decreasing so that by the time the space craft reaches the orbit of Neptune, it does not acquire sufficient speed to cover the rest of the distance to the destined planet in a feasible time.

A solution that might appear to be straight out of science fiction is the use of anti matter—mirror image of matter. When anti matter and matter come into contact with each other, they annihilate, releasing energy equal to 10, 000 times the energy obtained by chemical combustion. However, this energy is extremely difficult to control and can be contained only by strong magnetic fields in a vacuum chamber.

The most feasible answer is, surprisingly, not new. The idea is to propel the space vehicle by nuclear bombs. If big plates of shock absorbers are fitted to the back of a large space craft and nuclear bombs are exploded at some distance behind the shock absorbers, the pressure would accelerate the space vehicle to high velocities. The space craft can achieve speed equal to 7% that of light with continuous such explosions every 3 seconds for 10 days. This idea called project Orion is 60 years old. A working model was made and it was a success. However, nuclear ban treaty was introduced and the research was suspended. We can just pick up the research from then and design our new propulsion system.

Now that we have found a way to reach our destination, the next important thing to consider is the conditions inside the craft itself—at the speed achieved with the help of our new propulsion system, it will take us 80-100 years to reach the new planet Earth2. Gravity, light, air, water and food are what we need.

(The article is based on a National Geographic series: Evacuate Earth.)

*When a star much more massive than our sun (more than 10 times the mass of the sun) runs out of its fuel of hydrogen, its outer core collapses causing a supernovae explosion, hurtling colossal amount of matter at enormous speeds. The core that is left behind is extremely dense and made of neutrons. Barely 10 kilometer in diameter, even one spoonful of this matter would weigh as much as Earth. Its immense gravity tears apart and pulls in everything that comes into its way.

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Initial condition : Reading this

Wait! You made a decision just a moment ago! And what was it?  To read this article of course.  Did you know that the decision you just made might change your life? In naive terms this decision might make you come across a new word in this article- you might use that new word in your interview- the impressed HR might hire you- your passion might increase towards writing with you starting your own blog- your readership might increase or you might even become an author by interest. Did you know that the decision you made might have such a big confluence of events knitted to it ?

Butterfly Effect- graphical method

What I am trying to arrive at is that, every single step we make in this ether, ever single thought we grow, every single action we take and every single idea we have can transform things around like nothing you have seen before. I am taking about the Chaos theory often known as the butterfly effect. Chaos theory states that a small change in the initial conditions can trigger an entire new trajectory of events. To help you surmise I would like to give you a simple example. Consider a small pendulum with a bob attached to its end. Let’s presume you have given a push of 10 units to this setup. The pendulum might follow a trajectory – A. Now change the initial conditions by providing a push of 5 units. Now the trajectory of this pendulum will be B. I hope this example justifies the importance of initial conditions to trigger any event. Corollary to that, so do the ideas you chose to bring out of your mind into the universe cause.

The chaos theory is applicable in all walks of life including, educational subject like biology, physics, engineering and even advanced subjects like philosophy itself. The next time you feel stuck with a visage of anxiety in a kerfuffle, just close your eyes and smile because you never know what it all means in near future!

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Goodbye, Little Light Box

Only 90s kids will get this is one of the more common edicts pillared across the internet. Image macros of Walkmans, Swat Kats, and the ever menacing Furby dolls stay true to ensure the integrity and legality of this rule of law. Video clips of NSYNC and Seinfeld are regularly circulated just so that the internet reminds itself that yes, it is indeed, the 90s kids who get it. The fondness for the decade, which was well endowed with parachute pants and a thinner Mariah Carey, stems from a multitude of good reasons apart from the two listed previously in this sentence. Keeping today’s society under the lens, it’s easy to note that the majority of the workfoce-without-work enjoyed the best years of their life during the very same decade. The ill-fated children of the baby-boomers saw their lives head up the roller coaster, up into the clouds, at the very precipice of the steep fall that was to come.

Recent studies, however, indicate that the last of the most loved decade ever is now 14 years past the present day. As natural trends would have it, it is not long till a new generation, with their own tribulations find themselves reeling and yearning for the days of old.

From what is known, this has probably begun.

Just as floppy diskettes eroded towards mainstream obscurity and VHS morphed into a rare collector’s item, the point and shoot camera has become no more than an unnecessary electronic home and travel appliance, if it’s ever bought that is. With a growing industry of mobile photographers and an already established network of DSLR enthusiasts, the need for an intermediary photography unit is at a steady decline. From a purely technical point of view, the only visible intermediary per se would the toxic combination of teenagers, SLR cameras and Facebook accounts.

The point and shoot digital cameras were a marvel in its heyday as they provided casual means for photography. It was lightweight, compact, travel friendly and easy to use. It provided amateur photographers such as your every day Japanese tourist a way to make a running gag out of themselves on the internet. The first few camera phones, as hyped as they were, proved to be very diminutive competition for the little light box. The grainy VGA cameras embedded in the phone’s body accomplish very little as far as compelling a consumer to give up their cameras were concerned. At the same time, the market was rife with activity, innovation, and vaguely made advertisements as Sony-Ericsson and Canon began to launch high end point and shoot units.

Japanese Tourists
Courtesy Yuval Haimovits

And then, entered the duopoly of Android and iOS, putting an end to the peace and stability. They weighed even lighter, were more compacter, more travel friendly and easier to use. The effects of the two operating systems were not exactly as direct as one would imagine. The pictures taken with these phones were initially quite underwhelming but the amount of things that could actually be done with the pictures allowed the smartphone to claw its way up the technology ladder. As the quality of the pictures got better, the idea of networking with them surfaced. People could now take a picture, add some filters onto them as they please, put them up on a social network or just intimately send it to a friend. The traditional 2000s camera could take the first of the above steps and it would just as much end right there.

The trusty point and shoot was once a staple for capturing the happy moments of birthday parties, casual family nights, road trips and general every day events. Now though, this little light box is something which only the ‘00s kids will get.

 

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Enigmatic 89

I woke up this morning and could only instantaneously relate to a dream that I had a few days before the announcement of my twelfth standard results. Back then, I had dreamt about a middle-aged teacher with a number of answer scripts and I could see the number ‘89’ in red ink on the topmost paper, with such graphic detail. Two days later I found that it was the exact score of mine in my English paper.
What are dreams? They are messages that come from the unconscious part of the mind. The mental body, or our mind, is the basis of all of our desires, feelings, and emotions, having many memories from our life. Spiritually speaking, this mind can be divided into the conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious mind. The conscious mind comprises of nothing but our thoughts that we create, while the sub-conscious mind is more about intuitions, the sense of unexplained knowing.
The third division, the unconscious mind, is that which we will invariably be unaware of. It is this which contains so many details that are stored in such an impervious way owing to their power. The impassable nature of the unconscious mind is explained by the notion that the details it stores are too powerful and overwhelming for a person to be able to freely access.
Dreams are simply the doors to this unconscious mind that do not remain open for a long time. Dreams are known to give solutions, give inputs to make decisions, explain a cycle from our past or even answer the questions we put to our own mind, with the contents of its unconscious division.

Classifications of electro magnetic state of brain

The fascination with dreams is because it’s mysterious and gives access to the inaccessible. A fascination so clearly shown in the vigorous studies into the cognitive neuroscience of dreams. The importance and attention given to psychics and ‘dream interpreters’ is a whole new story.
But why did I in the first place, even relate to the dream about my score in the English paper that I had two years ago? Because I woke up this morning after I had a dream where I jubilantly returned home in a Porsche with a boxes of pizza stashed into the backseat, so excitedly calling my family to see what I had got, before the car rolled down the slope into the lamppost and the pizzas tragically plonked onto the road. Am I going to buy a Porsche? Am I going to get some pizza? Or am I going to drop the pizza I might be bringing back home? Or hey am I really going to forget the brakes of my Porsche and watch it ram into a lamppost? I sure would love the services of a dream interpreter!
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Curves: Here To Stay?

This year in the Consumer Electronic Show of Las Vegas, curves were aplenty. Although the concept of a curved digital display has long been on the drawing board and even tried and tested by many a top brand, it still seems to pack a punch. Both Samsung and LG came out with ‘curved TVs’ monster-like sizes and specifications. Is this just a marketing gimmick or is there more to the curved display?

The first type of flexible displays created was flexible e-paper.  In 1974 Xerox PARC designed the first bendable e-paper display. Considered an experimental initiative rather than anything else, it was never in their wildest dreams they’d expect phones and televisions to sport such technology.  The pioneers of the mobile industry, Nokia brought flexibility to mobile platform in 2008 with the Morph.

The Nokia Morph

The debate is on about the curved displays, especially for the televisions. They claim to ‘wrap around you” and you a holistic viewing experience. A screen with a curvature seems to provide a much better field of view as compared to their flat counterparts. What the manufacturers fail to mention is that curved panels are inefficient for sizes lesser than 42 inches. Neither household dimensions nor family wallets suit large screen TVs. So it’s very apparent that this range is aimed at those who have cash and want to flaunt it.

Samsung’s own

Also, curved displays distort the video to large extents and cut off the viewing angle at the fringes to the left and right. So when you’ve got the popcorn ready and are all jam-packed on the couch you can expect the guys on the extreme corners to have some technical difficulties. In fact worse than in flat screens.

The curved TVs are expected to be damp squibs in the market. Experts however believe that the mobile market can make better use of the technology. The future can only tell us what’s in store.

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Paranoid (about the) Android

Of late, we have companies like Google currently trying to connect every household device to the Internet. It has made news in recently by acquiring a company called Nest, which specializes in home automation. While Google may touch upon an interesting concept of appliances which interact with our surroundings and make our living more comfortable, at the same time it presents a scary picture of an organization which literally ‘knows’ people based on the data collected by the appliances. Soon, every little detail about your life would be recorded onto Google’s servers either anonymously or openly.

 

Science fiction is an interesting medium to produce double edged analysis of technology. On one hand, it presents a very vivid image of how wonderful a world of advanced technology would be like. On the other hand, certain works show an inherent distrust and fear of technology. Works in writing and film include the Space Odyssey trilogy, The Terminator series, The Minority Report et al. Some quirky stories feature household appliances being a major threat to the human race. Interestingly, in some cases, reality imitates fiction. Such is the case of the SPAM refrigerator.

Would you like some malware with that?

Weird as it is, it is a real incident involving a fridge which had been infected by a virus which proceeded to send roughly about 750,000 malicious emails. It was apparently a smart fridge which had internet access. This enabled it to be compromised easily by an attacker targeting it. When investigated, it was revealed that it was a part of a much larger network of compromised Smart TVs, routers, Media PCs and home computers. This shows how any internet connected device can be exploited by a hacker. In fact, this scenario has been parodied in Grand Theft Auto 4 where a security expert is killed by an electric shock from his toaster which had been hacked. Even though it was a tongue-in-cheek joke, it could very well reflect the future of technology.

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