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April 16, 2010

Way beyond wires – Design by Community

5. Week-round-upGLOBAL – Imagine a world without wires. If you find it hard, just ask kids today. I often think about the time where I’ll be explaining to my kids (ages 7 and 5, now) that at one time, we had to plug our computers into the phoneline to access the internet, and even, at one point in my lifetime, we didn’t have an internet. Hard to believe that it’s only been around for less than half of my life. Worse still, that we used to have to sit in one place to make a phone call, typically, in our house. I saw that change when my Dad got a carphone in 1987 and thought that Hollywood had arrived in County Cork (weren’t carphones the things we saw in sci-fi movies?). Connectivity sure has come a long way.

The topic of this week’s Design by Community project is one of the more geeky ones we’re covering. Let’s be fair, do regular folk really care what standard their WiFi complies with? They just want it to comply, right? I know I do. And I want it to be smarter. Not just to be compatible, but to connect automatically, without me intervening. To switch WiFi off when I don’t need it – my device should be doing all this without my intervention. And we should have open standards for everything, so everything just works. Without effort.

If that were the case, and we lived in a world where there was reasonable reliance, and always available access (whether at home, in the office, or out and about) to the cloud, would we then no longer need to worry about things like USB? After all, if our content is floating seamlessly between the cloud and our device, then surely our other devices (namely TV, desktop and laptop) should be in the same boat (answer to that is most likely yes, if they’re all running MeeGo!). Why do I need to plug my phone in to move content around then?

Earlier this week we saw Mikko Uusitalo, a principle researcher at Nokia Research Centre told us about what his dream device would contain. He wants it to not be there, but to just help him. Going beyond what our devices do right now (make calls, take pictures, help us find our way) his dream device throws connectivity right out of the realm of WiFi standards into a world of much greater sophistication. His dream device would connect with his house or office, to let him in. It’d be his passport, his wallet and act as the token to enable a raft of different aspects of his life happen.

It’s like connectivity on steroids.

If we think we’ve already come a long way when it comes to getting and staying connected, Mikko’s ideas tell us that we’re only scratching the surface. Right now we’re connecting things wirelessly which previously used a piece of cable. In the future we’re talking about connecting things which right now aren’t even connected. Am I the only one who finds that insanely exciting?