Tech Savvy: The year of the peripherals
Hi-ho there Tech Savvy fans! I’ve been thinking a lot this week about technology in general. It wasn’t on purpose but as I was looking through more and more tech info, I kept finding that a lot of the buzz is centering not only on the devices but also on the accessories that you can get for them.
Not to say that there isn’t significant buzz about devices — HTC has announced their new flagship, Samsung has hinted at a new Galaxy model, Nokia continues their Windows drive and the proverbial boy-who-called-wolf Apple is continually fueled by speculation of the latest iPhone. However, it is becoming more and more evident that the accessories, and particularly peripherals, are becoming much more important and I wanted to spend a little time looking at those.
Tomato vs. Tomahto
Aren’t accessories and peripherals pretty much the same thing? Yes and no. To me an accessory can be just about anything that you can use with your device — cases, adapters, docking stations, etc. On the other hand, I see peripherals with a much more specific purpose, where peripherals function as more an extension of the controls for your device. This would be something like a Bluetooth keyboard, a headset, speakers or a mouse. With that in mind, let’s focus on the peripherals themselves.
Peripherals seem to go hand in hand with tech and they have steadily advanced through the years. Remote controls used to be wired, now they are IR, RF or wireless; telephones used to be nailed to the wall, now they can be carried all over your home and beyond. Keyboards and mice used to be connected to your computer and now we can be so advanced to use our mobile devices as mice to control our computers.
To me, the big question is: Since tech has advanced so rapidly in the last few years, why hasn’t the peripheral side of things been more prominent?
What We Have
Here is a Lack of Communication!
All peripherals need to communicate with the device they are working with. If you use your TV remote to adjust your volume, that remote has to be designed to relay those commands to your TV. The same is true for all peripherals. We have had, seemingly, a bit of a gap between the technology that drove our devices and the technology that drove our peripherals. What I mean by that is, while devices have realized some of the fanciful concepts, like capacitive touchscreens, camera recognition software and super-processors in an itty bitty chip, many of the peripheral concepts have remained only concepts with no proof of existence. This is where things have begun to change.
Do you remember the first time you heard Bluetooth mentioned? It was years ago, probably longer than you realize and when it first came about it had severe limitations. It was still cutting edge technology but range was limited, connection consistency was intermittent and the real issue was that not many existing devices had Bluetooth capability.
We are now on the fourth generation of Bluetooth technology and it has come a long way. Connecting, or pairing, a device is a snap and takes far fewer steps than it did. The number of devices has increased dramatically, virtually every single mobile phone that can be bought on the market today has Bluetooth capabilities and, most importantly, Bluetooth has become commonplace enough that it is recognizable.
Something I find myself saying often is that your overall progress can only move as fast as your slowest moving part. If you are running, you can swing your arms as fast as you like but if your feet are only walking that’s how fast you go. For the most part the same is true for a lot of technology. Until the mainstream catches onto an idea it will be nothing more than a fad. Think of it this way; remember when the first iPhone was released? There was a tremendous clamoring for it and it became the single greatest influence, in my opinion, that changed the way we look at mobile devices. At that point in 2005, when people saw the iPhone they felt comfortable using it and the features made a lot of sense — email, text, internet browsing, all the things that make an iPhone great. Do you remember all the other “smartphones” that came before the iPhone though? Palms, Treos and Blackberry? While Blackberry had, by far, the most features of the rest, this transition showed that the general public was ready to accept smartphones into our daily lives.
Bluetooth and other peripheral technology is now experiencing that same thing. When Bluetooth headsets first came out you had two camps — those that thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and others that thought it was just a waste of space and why would anyone want to wear that in their ear.
Now in its fourth generation Bluetooth offers faster, more consistent connection and that has opened up new opportunity for developers to rely on Bluetooth for communicating with their devices. Combine that with the fact that all smartphones have Bluetooth capability and you can now create peripherals that work with your mobile device and your home system.
In addition to things like smart watches there are headphones, speakers, remote controls and keyboards that you can now use to make your lives a little easier.
Because of the advancements in connectivity and peripheral technology, I need to amend my Top Ten list for tech to watch this year and I want to encourage everyone to keep their eyes open for new peripheral tech this year.
For an idea of some of the peripheral technology I’m thinking of, check out these two websites for an eye-opening introduction to things that are coming in the near future. The Leap Motion sensor, www.leapmotion.com, will be shipping to those that pre-ordered in the very near future. Another massively impressive peripheral is the MYO armband, www.getmyo.com, which is hoping to be shipping by late 2013 and they are taking pre-orders now for what is, so far, the most innovative piece of tech I’ve seen in 2013 that is on a production schedule.
The use that is envisioned for these two devices is great insight into what developers are imagining for which we can use our new technology. We are quickly freeing ourselves from limitations we had in the past and forging a new era where the sky is the limit.
I was at a seminar a little while back attending a session on new media in advertising. At this session the presenter went on and on about how great QR codes are and how everyone should have a plan to implement a QR strategy into their business model. Don’t get me wrong, I use QR codes frequently, but I was alarmed that this “expert” was proclaiming them as new and cutting edge. QR codes, along with about a dozen other 2D barcodes, have been around for years, first gaining in popularity in Asia and eventually making their way here. Did you know that in addition to QR codes, there are also Datamatrix, Beetag, Aztec and many other types of codes? QR just stood the test of time — on a technical level the Datamatrix codes had better readability after degeneration of the code and performed better across platforms but QR ended up being the golden child. Remember VHS and Betamax? My point is that you have to identify there is a difference between cutting edge and publicly accepted. While QR is popular right now, Near Field Communication (NFC) is gaining popularity and has many more uses. That being said, NFC is not widely integrated in the U.S. with our smartphones so it fails the “publicly accepted” portion. But to give you an idea of what I might call cutting edge, check out the MYO (www.getmyo.com) or this fun video that show how Coke used tech to innovate in Japan at http://youtu.be/3MnDAWlhegw.