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A look into extreme mobile device features

Posted: 06 Jan 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smartphone  tablet  password pill  display-cover  Biomedical sensors 

As smartphone and tablet manufacturers desperately explore points of differentiation, they will try to push the limits of performance on several fronts to extremes. The password pill and the display-cover display are two of the stranger extreme features on the way.

Extreme inter-connectivity is one of the more useful features that are appearing in new products. Phones will wirelessly link and sync with screens and sensors in the user's vicinity.

For example, there is already activity to equip phones with NFC in order to transfer data by tapping the phone to a set-top box or TV. More context-aware automatic wireless linking is coming too. In addition, giant e-commerce, software, and semiconductor companies are said to be creating Wi-Fi networks to compete with cellular services.

You can also expect extreme sensor support. On a more intimate (and bizarre) scale certain companies and universities are experimenting with tattoos to provide sensor and control capabilities for mobile devices. In the works are new kinds of proximity sensors, accelerometers, pressure sensors/altimeters, chemical sensors and more.

Biomedical sensors have lots of potential. For example, non-invasive glucose monitoring and vein mapping is being developed by a major cell phone maker now as a way to enhance fitness and health sensing. Vein mapping is already on PCs in Japan for user ID.

Another angle on human-to-machine interaction is the password pill presented by DARPA alums now working at a major cell phone maker. Once swallowed, the pill is powered up by electrolytes in the body to create a signal making one's entire body into an authentication token. When the user touches the phone, computer, car, or whatever, the user is thus authenticated into that system.

Watching the display-cover display
Prototypes of extreme screens are now available. These bi-stable, reflective displays used in e-books merge with wireless technology to create a type of external or secondary smartphone screen. The idea is to allow the phone to send an image like a map to a secondary screen.

Being bi-stable a secondary screen can retain the image without power so the user can refer to it while driving without having to turn on the phone again. The idea lends itself well to tablet covers which scream out for a dual purpose such as a secondary display, an extra battery, a solar panel or an external flat speaker.

Several smartphone makers have clear strategies to take photography to extremes. One company already has a 40 megapixel camera on the market. Others are using detachable lenses that connect wirelessly to the phone and tablet.

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