Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The Convergence of Convenience

We are, undeniably, living in an age of convergence. A convergence of ideas, cultures and technology which transcends even the most well defined boundaries. Practicality is the name of the game in the present environment where time is of the essence and every minute wasted is translated into money lost. In other words, time has evolved into a sort of a financial aspect which corporates keep tabs on owing to the cut throat competition. If your device takes more time than your rival’s to process a task, it is considered redundant and is substituted. There is no room for complacency because the minute you develop a piece of software or hardware, your rival will have developed a more efficient one. Hence the process of evolution is continuous and the consumer is left with a plethora of choices for his every need. Whether that’s a boon or a bane is a subject of debate. That technology today caters to almost every human need is a fact that needn’t be argued upon; yet there is always that longing for that elusive piece of the tech puzzle that would represent the ultimate convergence of human conveniences.

The humble Mobile Phone has gone a long way since it’s first, almost prehistoric, form. It no longer is just a device to make calls and send messages. Current mobile phones do so much more. No longer do you need a separate mp3 player or a camera or even a laptop, because the mobile phone of today is a convergence of all these technologies into just one, highly mobile and efficient device. Applications and software for smartphones have various utilities which further reduce the need for separate hardware. An array of operating systems are now being implemented on mobile phones and the dominance of Symbian Java is under threat by OS’s such as Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Linux, MeeGo, Maemo etc. The Android OS developed by Google features multitasking and is capable of running virtual operating systems, which is surely a great feature for developers and geeks alike. The 4G standards aim at providing the user with a data rate of 100 Mbit/s while the client physically moves at high speeds relative to the station, and 1 Gbit/s while client and station are in relatively fixed positions. This means that streaming of HDTV programming, video chat, MMS etc. will all be seamlessly available to the user on the move, with ease.

Laptops, which were once seen as the ultimate replacement for its bulky counterpart – the Desktop, is now under threat by Netbooks. Optimized for low cost and low weight, they are an ideal companion for the businessman on the move providing him with everything from business applications, Internet on the move, to entertainment; all with great battery life. Another competitor in this area is the Tablet PC. It is a laptop PC equipped with a stylus and a touchscreen which aims at providing a more-mobile and highly functional alternative to the laptop. It provides the user the choice of operating system that he prefers which further gives it an edge over similar devices. Yet the power of the Laptop is its saving grace. A high end laptop can easily compete with a Desktop PC and deliver the same if not better user experience in gaming, software development, animation etc.

Derivatives of the Tablet PC are PDA’s and eBook readers that are so in vogue these days. Even though they do not provide a choice of OS for the user, and are quite rigid in their application, these devices are battling for a chunk of the market share among computing devices. eBook readers are optimized for reading books in the digital format. A huge library of eBooks available online complements these devices. The recently introduced Apple iPad is the perfect example. It’s an eBook reader equipped with bluetooth, WiFi and 3G, truly representing a convergence of technologies. It’s competitors, the Adam tablet, HP Slate, Amazon Kindle etc. are great alternatives with better features at a similar and sometimes even less cost.

Among this revolution of mobile gadgetry there is a dark horse that is still putting up a fight. The Television is not far behind in implementing the latest technologies and integrating itself with various other devices. Notwithstanding it’s bulky nature, the latest HDTV’s, 3DTV’s, Plasma, LED and LCD televisions are still competing in the home entertainment market. The quality of picture and sound delivered by these televisions is currently unmatched by any laptop. Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a great example of one technology adapting itself to another. IPTV is a system through which internet television services are delivered over the internet and broadband Internet access networks, instead of being delivered through traditional radio frequency broadcast, or cable television. Coupled with complementary Satellite TV technology, the IPTV provides a new level of interactive services to the user with a huge range of channels to choose from every part of the world and features of live television, time-shifted programming, and video on demand delivered right to the users living room.

VeriChip's implantable RFID device

The next level of live, boundless, wireless human interaction with technology is the Microchip. A human microchip implant is an integrated circuit device or RFID transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being. An implant typically contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information. No longer would you need to carry a wallet containing money or a number of credit cards for shopping. The microchip would contain all information of your bank accounts and this would be used for all transactions. A device that actually resides in you and becomes a part of you. A true representation of convergence indeed.

But with it comes the hazards of the compromise of privacy. We have already granted access to our personal details, likes, dislikes to major websites through social networking and other means knowingly or otherwise. Imagine the near future where governments have  made microchip implants compulsory on grounds of keeping a continuous eye on its citizens. Coupled with data gathered from your Internet activity, every little  private information of every person would be available and then stored in databases following which every move of yours would be watched. An uncomfortable proposition indeed.

We stand at the cusp of a technological revolution. A revolution which in itself is evolving through our search for that decisive technology which would quench our eternal thirst for convenience. Let us hope though that this revolution sets us free instead of making us slaves to our own creations.


Facebook – Are you there yet?

Facebook came to me as naturally as crying to a toddler. The subtle levels of sophistication coupled with the blue and white backgrounds was indeed very appealing initially- a distant drive away from the masses. A breath of fresh air for the soul. But was it really? The idea was indeed very shortlived.

There were days when my mother whould ask for an residential address and note it meticulously on a notebook- till the last digit digit of the pin-code was in its proper place. In contrast- the other day, I asked for a friend’s facebook account rather than his cell phone number. My friend was in for a rude shock when I asked him if his account was under his own name or under some alias. Had I really stooped to such “LOW” levels of “Societal Norms” to even question whether a facebook account was under an alias?

Facebook has acquired some accepted levels of of sophistication – a fair parallel to the the society than we reside in. A society – that is demarcated along the lines of wealth or education. I prefer to call it the virtual demarcation. Socializing sites be it – Orkut, Hi5 cater moslty to the people, the virtual masses; a user having on an average more profiles than himself. Facebook, too has seen an exodus in recent times. With more people around the world gaining access to the internet, the number of Facebook users has quadrupled in the last 2 years. But the natural drive towards the higher echelons, the very zenith – to be aligned with the “bourgeoisie” of virtual society has never faded. Be it in the real world or the virtual: this inner drive towards alignment has brought about stark changes. Be it the drive to learn the English Language and construct proper sentences or to upload pictures that are more appealing and aesthetic.

Facebook, in a recent report, has had the most number of hits in the US. The figure stood at a staggering 7% of the overall US internet traffic., crossing its nearest rival – Google for the very first time. The radical Zuckerberg may have introduced into society something more than an irritable passtime. For a country like India, the radical has promoted to the betterment of the english language. But for the society – has minted a parallel society. the existing one where the teeming masses try to compete with each other in the real world. Another – the created: where the masses are presented with a platform to realign society sans frontieres.

Petabytes – What next?

The other day, I was merely browsing through an article on when I randomly came across a very unfamiliar term. It stirred up impulses within the numerous neurons within my Grey Mater. The foremost among the several being – What is a petabye?

Gone are the days when we compiled programs on GW-BASIC or TURBO-C++, where programs and codes would be to the order of 2 bytes or a couple more. Where Assembly Codes were just about 5 bytes. As the generations progressed, the level of Storage space quadrupled, as per the applications that were conceived with time. Data Cards these days store unimaginable amounts of memory. All for the that matter, the pendrive is also all but passe these days.

But Peta? No, I’m not talking about the same PETA with which Maneka Gandhi is well associated with. For all the readers with a non-science background, 1 peta unit is equal to 10 to the power 15. Thats 1 followed by 15 zeroes. So a petabyte is roughly 10 lakh gigabytes. Or, to state in very simplistic terms, thats memory contained withing 2.5 lakh 4GB pendirves.

But the ultimate question would then arise- what would a computer system do with such fantastic amounts of memory or processing capabilities?Surprising though it may sound, most contemporary cellular networks are accustomed to daily data transfers of a few petabytes. American Giant AT&T wireless transfers about 16.6 Petabytes of data a day! The Hadron Collider Experiment located high underneath the Swiss Alps will reportedly generate 15 PetaBytes of data from the Collision experiments that it will conduct by the end of this year. So a computer that will analyze such data will definitely possess comparitive processing speeds as well!

Internet Giants, Google too process more than 15 Petabytes of data annually, and their processing capabilites are too, on the rise. For the gaming fan,  World of Warcraft utilizes 1.3 Petabytes of Storage space.

Portrayal of Virtual Reality too consumes mammoth storage space. The advent of High Defition Media as well 3-D cinema has also brought to light the stark  necessities of storage and processing capabilities of such a large magnitude. The Oscar nominated “Avatar” has reportedly acquired 1 Petabyte of local storage as CGI rendering memory!

The final question that I propose to put forth. What next? Photo editing utilities such as Adobe Photoshop, are extending their brush and filter capabilities with every new version that theyintroduce  in the market. A petabyte requirement is definitely achievable within the few years. Astronomers are already processing a whopping 10 Peta Bytes of data each years. This adds another 10 to the multiplication – and voila, 1 Exabyte! The craze for data has brought us to unbelievable setups for data storage.

But the question remains- are we still prepared to soar into such unchartered territories this soon? Our networks are plagued by crashes and transmission losses. Fabrication of High speed OCDMA techniques are still within the confines of R&D. Another challenge that we must analyze before the advent of the ‘Exa’ stage id that of storage scaling and consideration in power utilization and outages. Once these problems are analyzed, Exabyte is just a breath away.