What's New in Technology for October 2002

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The Amazing New World of Wireless Technology
During the next decade, the wires connecting our electronic devices to the Internet and each other will disappear. Telephone, computers, handheld devices, TV’s and music systems will all be connected via satellite, cellular transmission towers or small, wireless “hot spots” and communication hubs in neighborhoods, homes and offices. In the late 1990’s, many technology venture capitalists predicted that the world would be wireless by 2005. Now, since all the high profile telecom bankruptcies and the earnings meltdowns of other telecommunications companies, this will be delayed until at least 2010.

Nevertheless, pieces of wireless future are already available or will be soon. Some applications are already being used in Europe and Japan. In the US we can expect by 2010, the majority of telephones won’t plug into the wall. Tomorrow’s cell phones won’t merely place and receive calls or even be limited to simply E-mail messaging and the Internet. Technology already introduced overseas brings data, music, video images and graphics to a handset. This third-generation (3G) cell-phone technology will debut in the US over the next few years and will become widespread in the second half of this decade.

Europeans already use cell phones to charge purchases from vending machines. The phone is “swiped” to record the charge, which then appears on the user’s phone bill or is charged to the user’s credit/debit card. You will also be able to make purchases via handheld devices, such as those made by Handspring, Palm and RIM. Key fobs that transmit wireless signals are now being tested in the US to make similar charge purchases such as those tested at Mobil and McDonald’s. By 2010, key fobs linked to prepaid “store value” cards, and credit cards will be widespread. Instead of using an ATM to withdraw cash, customers will be able to use it to add value to a key fob.

By 2010, many home electronic devices will be online with wireless connections such as your personal computer, television, stereo system, DVD player, home security systems and even appliances. Many homes already have wireless networks that link computers to each other and the Internet. The next step is to expand the network to all of the electronic devices in the house.

By 2010, the majority of recorded music sales may no longer occur in stores. Everyone will collect music from the Internet legally and play it on home entertainment devices, based on subscription payments to music services.

What’s here now? You can access the Internet from selected Starbucks stores using wireless-enabled laptops. You can collect data on your handheld PDA wirelessly by merely aiming it at a transmitting device.

In the future, businesspeople at trade shows will be able to share business card information in an instant via PDAs and hospital nurses will be able to collect health data on new patients by waving a wireless wand over a biochip implanted under the skin.



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