Back To Basics: Future Technology To Be More Robust But Less Apparent

New Delhi: | Updated: May 19 2003, 05:30am hrs
Consumer electronic giants such as Philips and Sony, and computer biggies like IBM are all strategising about the future technology that will transform our lives.

Heres a synopsis of what theyre planning.

According to Philips strategists, the future home looks more like the home of the past. Reason: Wires and bulky equipment will be phased into the surrounding environment. Also, while future technology will be more robust, it will actually be less apparent.

Take for instance the iPronto, the latest in the family of universal remotes from the Philips stable.

What is iPronto By utilising WiFi (802.11b) wireless technology protocol, Internet connectivity has been added to the remote. With the help of this new technology, iPronto can control devices out of its line of sight and gives it an always on Internet connection, so that consumers can access their email or news from anywhere in their homes, according to information at

The iPronto builds on the core functionality of the Pronto as a universal remote, controlling home theatre components, lighting, security cameras, home networks, climate control and other IR/RF/Ethernet home applications, says the company spokesperson. Adding the value of Internet connectivity extends the product line to complete media and home control, the company states. This is in line with the companys vision of Ambient Intelligence.

Ambient Intelligence refers to a world where electronic devices are embedded in the fabric of our homes, providing us with information, entertainment, security and a peaceful home environment, according to a senior Philips official.

He said the potential next gen technology for the connected home would be an interactive user interface called Window on the World of Communication and Entertainment (WWICE). WWICE consolidates home devices into a single system for managing typical digital activities such as recording a voicemail, watching a video or listening to music from any room in the home. WWICE is one of the technologies that Philips is currently studying at its new research facility, HomeLab.

Networked Home Entertainment:

Then again, Sony and Philips are joining Microsoft and its partners in the market for networked home entertainment products, according to a BBC Online report. While Sony is upbeat on its Network Media Receiver, Philips is high on its Wireless Digital Multimedia Receiver. Both products are designed to transport PC-based digital music and video to a living-room friendly device.

Sonys living room box is a small grey device which connects to a television and, if required, a stereo amplifier. The PC which stores the music and video or streams it from the internet does not have to be in the same room, but does have to be a Sony PC running Sonys software.

The receiver, which has a remote control, displays a menu on the television screen of what all is on offer. Although wired Ethernet cabling provides the connection to the living room, it can be plugged into a wireless access point also.

On the other hand, the Philips unit is like any other stereo. But, it connects to an audio amplifier and a television to provide an interface to the audio and video stored on the PC, using a wireless link, states the BBC report.

Now, Digital Recording For Cops:

Outside home too, theres lots happening to change the way we live. Take for example, IBMs innovation on the traffic security front. The company has developed a digital recording system for police squad cars that will capture sound and video from traffic stops and arrests, states CNET News. The technology is geared to replace the videotape-based systems used by about 40 per cent of police agencies in the US, it says.

The compelling piece is not about digitizing video, but about making it easier to manage the video, said Gary Crowell, principal consultant with IBM Global Services in its public safety and security division.

This is how the system will work. The digital-video system has a PC, a removable hard drive, and software to record the video. At the station, a large server with up to 3.5 terabytes of storageabout 5,000 hours worth of digital videowill hold all the video collected by police. Police will check out a hard drive at the beginning of their shift, insert it into the PC in the squad car and then return the hard drive at the end of their shift.

PC Key To Home Convergence:

On to another kind of traffic management. Peter Lewis of the Fortune magazine says Microsoft sees the PC as the brain of the converged household, acting as traffic manager and control hub for all sorts of digital media that are shuttled, either wirelessly or over wires, to various other devices at home. This was in the context of a seminar, Convergence Devices of the Future, organised recently by AOL. And the topic being deliberated upon was: What appliance wins out as the centerpiece of the living room of tomorrow: the television, the computer, or the gaming station

But sums up Mr Lewis that convergence has been a popular word in recent years, applied to everything from giant company mergers to the mingling and melding of consumer products. There seems to be an irresistible human urge to converge things despite ample evidence that most successful products should simply be left alone.