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The majority of attendees (65 percent), spread fairly evenly across all three industry sectors, were clearly in the three-year camp with respect to the “visual analyzer,” which focuses on the camera phone’s ability to take a picture and to subsequently interpret patterns within the image—either in the device itself or through a remote server—and enable specific actions as a result. Examples include taking a picture of a bar code on a product and initiating a payment to purchase it, or reading an iris or thumbprint and passing it on to request a security clearance. Larry Lesley, senior vice president of consumer imaging and printing at Hewlett-Packard, offered this tantalizing concept, “One next step is text recognition. This means if I’m traveling in a foreign country I can point my camera phone at a sign that is in a foreign language, take a picture, and the camera phone will automatically translate the text for me.” This kind of application takes the value of images as information to another level; 25 percent of respondents believe one year will be sufficient to attain this level of performance, while only 7 percent believe that it is here today, and only 3 percent believe that it will never happen.
Finally the most varied range of opinions was expressed with respect to the visual phone, a device that allows equal, easy, and instantaneous use of voice and images in a conversation—whether videoconference or real-time transmission of images or both—such that language and visuals combine to deliver the most effective person-to-person communication. The majority, 56 percent, believe this capability will be available within three years, and significant minorities of 13 percent and 17 percent, respectively, believe it is here today or will be within a year; another significant minority of
14 percent believe the visual phone to be unrealistic, the only evolutionary path to rate that degree of skepticism.
WIRELESS STANDARDS EXPLAINED
The camera phone is obviously the device that’s captured global attention—it’s the market that has all the scale, growing by leaps and bounds. But clearly, the concept of mobile imaging or visual communication without wires is not limited to the camera phone. A massive amount of development is going into wireless networks using technology such as WiFi and Bluetooth. All kind of devices, from digital cameras and printers to PCs and projectors, are going wireless. With the latest generation of WiFi- or Bluetooth-enabled data projectors, you can run a PowerPoint presentation from your phone, beam it to the projector, and have it on the screen for everybody in the meeting to see. Office buildings, coffee shops, hotels, airports, fast-food restaurants, and even entire cities are installing wireless networks so that, wherever you go, you’re essentially connected.
Wireless connectivity is appearing seemingly everywhere these days. The goal is to connect everything—MP3 player, car, TV, wallet, navigational system, printer, corner kiosk, universal remote control, camcorder, stereo, checkout counter, DVR, car audio system, portable video player, headset, garage door opener, digital camera, cell phone, PDA, laptop, and of course your PC—at home, at the office, and on the move. The promise of wireless is to eliminate the wires and let all our electronic gadgets talk to each other and exchange information and content automatically and seamlessly. Because there are so many wireless technology terms bandied about in the press these days (e.g., Bluetooth, WiFi, GSM, ZigBee, WiMAX, UWB, CDMA, infrared, and 3G), we thought it would be helpful to provide a basic glossary of terms, and we asked Tony Henning to decode the alphabet soup of wireless standards.
230 GOING VISUAL
Wireless transmitters and receivers all communicate by using signals that travel over different slices of the electromagnetic spectrum, different radio frequencies, like the stations on your radio dial. The following technologies are categorized by how far the signals can— or are intended to—travel.
Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN)
A WPAN operates in a bubble that extends up to 10 meters (about 33 feet) from the device. The radios that serve this personal space are generally low power and low cost. The wired equivalent is a short cable, like the one that connects your headphones to your stereo, for instance.
• Bluetooth is the one most often bandied about these days. Bluetooth was developed by phone companies to let your earphone connect to your cell phone without plugging it in. The initial specifications were developed by Scandinavian telecom firms, which may help to explain the odd name. Bluetooth gets its catchy name from Harald Blatand (Bluetooth), the first Christian Danish king who united Denmark and Norway in the tenth century. The name was chosen because Bluetooth is supposed to unite the worlds of computing and telecommunications, just as old Harald Bluetooth united Denmark and Norway. After years of hype, the technology is finally starting to achieve significant market penetration—more than 2 million Bluetooth-equipped devices now ship every week. The primary weakness of the technology for visual communications is that it is relatively slow, capable of transferring just 90 kilobytes of data per second. Using Bluetooth (at its maximum theoretical data rate), it would take about 3.5 seconds to transfer a highly compressed 1-megapixel (1,024 X 1,024 pixels) image.