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How Mobile Is Accelerating Hardware Innovation

How Mobile Is Accelerating Hardware Innovation

Feb 6 2014, 1:43pm CST | by

Much ink has been spilt on the recent renaissance of hardware . The Pebble Smartwatch raised over $10m dollars in 30 days, more than 10 times its fundraising goal, Ouya launched a $99 game console...

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24 weeks ago

How Mobile Is Accelerating Hardware Innovation

Feb 6 2014, 1:43pm CST | by

Much ink has been spilt on the recent renaissance of hardware . The Pebble Smartwatch raised over $10m dollars in 30 days, more than 10 times its fundraising goal, Ouya launched a $99 game console , and Nest recently sold to Google for over $3.2bn. At Hipmob we work with a few companies on the forefront of mobile enabled hardware, and we see three big trends accelerating this renaissance; the display, the cloud, and the commoditization of sensor components.

Smartphones Become The Input And Display

One problem that long plagued hardware design is the need for a display of some kind. Displays provide feedback indicating you’re using a device correctly (or not). As a result, in addition to building highly functional devices, manufacturers also had to build a display of some kind, which meaningfully increased the expense. This led to tons of tradeoffs. In “The Design Of Everyday Things” (1988), Donald Norman writes:

“. .if you are not careful in your selection, ‘you could wind up with a VCR that brings out fear and loathing whenever you try to change the channel resets or set it up to record a program when you are away.’ It does not take much examination to discover the reason for the difficulties: there is no visual feedback. As a result, user (1) have trouble remembering their place in the lengthy sequence of required steps; (2) have trouble remembering what next needs to be done; and (3) cannot easily check the information just entered to see if it is what was intended, and then cannot easily change it, if they decide it is wrong. The gulfs both in execution (the first two problems) and in evaluation (the last problem) are significant for these VCRs. Both can be bridged by the use of a display. “

Smartphones solved both problems: of input and display. Now, instead of building a large, complex display, manufacturers in hardware/wearables settle for a small one (or none at all), and send data wirelessly via wifi or bluetooth, to a nearby, pre-authenticated smartphone or tablet. This is most obvious in wearable computing (Misfit Wearables, Basis) and home automation (SmartThings, Lockitron). But the trend is spreading to other, non-consumer use cases as well. For example, Senic is developing a laser distance meter that uses a mobile device as the input and the display. These devices rely on the display in every users’ pocket. By forgoing the cost of building a display into the devices, the hardware can be smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper (which can be passed on to buyers), and manufacturers can iterate faster as a result.

The Senic uses a smartphone as input + display

Heavy lifting is done on the Smartphone or in the Cloud

“. . proliferation of ever more affordable cloud computing allows us to offload some of the power hungry processing that you would have to do in the device, to the cloud. As a result, we can offer the user something far more insightful and interesting than what the actual sensor could have done by itself”
- Jeff Holove – CEO, Basis Science />

Smartphones brought both computing power, and persistent bandwidth to cloud based servers with infinitely more computing power. This means that end devices an be pretty dumb – all they really have to do is measure and transmit those measurements to the smartphone. The smartphone not only handles the display but can take care of any computing. In machine learning cases such as Nest, which aims to optimize your home temperature based on your habits, that heavy lifting is often handed off to servers.

Sensors Become Commoditized; Smaller, Faster, Cheaper and more Reliable

” . . really recently, over the last 2 years, sensors have gotten really small, affordable, available, can now be put in small form factors with reasonable battery life”
- Jeff Holove – CEO, Basis Science />

The widespread use of sensors as varied as GPS, accelerometers, gyroscope, proximity sensors, and others in mobile devices since the launch of the iPhone, have brought economies of scale to sensor manufacturers that wasn’t possible before (what other reason than iPhones and Android phones would you need to manufacture a billion proximity sensors?). As sensors have become cheaper and smaller, they’re more likely to show up in more devices. This means that even manufacturers of devices that don’t require displays (the Shine by Misfit Wearables , or the Myo by Thalmic Labs , benefit from lower prices, increased sensitivity and greater reliability of sensors.

The Basis SmartWatch has 5 sensors, and does heavy computations in the cloud

In light of this, the news that Apple is meeting the FDA about potential mobile medical apps , and staffing up in medical sensor experts bodes well for the cost of health sensors such as pulse oximeters.

The range of sensors included in mobile devices today have thus far mostly enabled consumer use cases – better navigation via GPS, gaming via accelerometer and gyro and so on. If the rumors are to be believed , then the next wave is likely to include more (and more invasive) biosensors, from pulse oximeters to blood chemistry monitoring devices. If the trend continues, you can expect to see more sensors embedded in smaller and smaller devices, ranging from consumer hardware to specialized tools (for medical professionals, building trades and so on. The potential impact can’t be understated.

Source: Forbes Business

 
Update
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6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was told tod ...
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6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the Dewan Rakyat tod ...
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6 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Mini ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

6 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocation of RM20 mi ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara Damansara Skyway (Ki ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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