Even until way into the nineties, a lot of people were convinced mobile telephony was nonsense. Goes to show how terrible we are in predicting our needs. And here we are now looking ahead to the era after the smartphone. Jan Rabaey, distinguished professor at the University of California in Berkeley, takes us to a world of amorphous/disintegrated mobile devices and elaborates on the consequences for system- and semiconductor technology design. He also describes how we will increasingly be able to build our own technological devices. Will everyone be an engineer in 2035?
The disintegrating smartphone
Anyone attempting to formulate forward -looking projections on the role of IT in society should base these on the ubiquity of technology. Just look at today’s abundance of sensors and cameras integrated in new cars. This gives a glimpse of how our entire environment will become injected with sensors and actuators. Also we, as human beings, will increasingly be connected. The era of the smartphone has introduced a number of irreversible changes that will just not go away.
However, a smartphone itself is a far from optimal device. The microphone is not close to your mouth, but next to your jaw. The wireless signal from the antenna suffers from the interference by our heads and brings a radiation source next to our brains. To be able to operate your smartphone, you must remove it from your ear, so you cannot simultaneously have a conversation. Not surprisingly, many people no longer keep their smartphone to their ear. They hold it in front of them, with their caller on the speaker.
It is therefore not entirely unthinkable that in the future the smartphone will disintegrate. Where it is now an all-inclusive device, the functions will increasingly split up. A smartwatch for part of the user interface, an earpiece for the sound, the microphone as a crown over your tooth, glasses or contact lenses for the images and the antenna woven into the textile of your jacket or backpack. In a well-orchestrated symphony these individual devices will work together to give you an optimal user experience.