Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Interesting Technology Developments Throughout History

I had an interesting conversation today with an industry contact who reminded me that he's been waiting for the inflection point for his company's solution to occur for about ten years now! It's a reminder that even the most-promising of technologies can take years - and even decades - to reach their full potential. Look at Wi-Fi as an example. Although it seems that wireless networking came out of nowhere to infiltrate every coffee shop, development of the actual 802.11b standard took years, and not many folks gave it much thought as a consumer-facing solution (it was viewed more as an enterprise or vertical market fit inititially). For even longer developments, look at the home controls industry. We love to bring up the early home controls initiatives, characterized (literally) by basement-sized computers. After 50 years of experimentation, home and lifestyle management looks to be on the rise.

Last night's History Channel program Modern Marvels is another case in point on how technology developments can sometimes take surprising turns as they mature over the years. The "70's Technology" showcase on Modern Marvels featured everything from Mr. Coffee, the Microwave, the Pontiac Trans-Am, and the Concord. In addition, there were a couple of TI people interviewed about the use of DSP technologies in calculators and the “Speak and Spell” toy. They also referred to how the early work in LEDs for calculators eventually found its way into the TI DLP solution for high-definition televisions! I actually had a Speak and Spell as a kid – it was a cool educational toy!

At our recent CONNECTIONS conference, we were reminded that the DSP actually has its roots even further removed from bell-bottom pants and bad disco music! The original implementation was for submarine detection! So, yes, there are always a few surprises in this space.

Greg Jones from TI was a keynote speaker at this year's CONNECTIONS conference. Jones serves as the General Manager for DSP Systems Strategic Marketing, and he highlighted the importance of the DSP in building a wider array of needed consumer solutions, noting that DSL services as completely enabled by DSPs.

Jones sees a larger role for DSPs in the future across a wide array of emerging consumer applications. Digital entertainment, he noted, is obviously going to be a key area, as digital signal processing will be a needed ingredient for managing bandwidth use and encoding and decoding for the many different video codecs and formats that require processing. Jones said that there may be 30-40 different codecs to manage.

Beyond entertainment, Jones brought up interesting examples of where signal processing will play a role in improving learning and communications (instant translations during phone calls) and transportation (the nearly-automated automobile). He also mentioned digital healthcare applications as an opportunity for TI to expand its role. Finally, he discussed how DSP technologies will help service providers offer a higher-quality of services by measuring and monitoring traffic and applications with PIQUA solutions.

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