IEEE Experts Predict What to Look for in 2012

Members share their thoughts at the annual Consumer Electronics Show

9 April 2012

Technology professionals from around the world flock to Las Vegas each January to examine the latest gadgets at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Looking a bit ahead, several IEEE members at the show—expert in connectivity, cloud computing, streaming video, and other fields—discussed what we’re likely to see this year. Here are highlights of their predictions, videotaped by IEEE during special interviews.

It won’t be enough just to carry around smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and laptops. Now consumers want to connect these devices to each other, according to IEEE Fellow Henry Samueli, chief technical officer at Broadcom Corp., in Irvine, Calif.

“The year is going to be about connecting everything,” Samueli says. “Television sets, set-top boxes, tablets, smartphones, computers, and laptops will be connected, and you’ll be able to seamlessly share content.” Eventually, you’ll start watching a movie on one device and finish watching it on another. Several key advances are making that possible, including the development of Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets and faster networks.

A technology that will become even hotter is cloud computing, the experts say. People want to access their content from anywhere and from any device. “Cloud-based services are able to process and access information that would otherwise be impractical to achieve on a small, underpowered device,” says IEEE Fellow Stuart Lipoff, an electronics industry consultant. “By taking advantage of powerful servers and the wealth of information in the cloud, the little battery-powered device in your pocket takes on the power of a supercomputer.”

And cloud-based computing is developing its own new wrinkles, according to IEEE Senior Member Thomas Coughlin, president of the data storage consultant Coughlin Associates, in Atascadero, Calif., and vice president of operations and planning for the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society. The society sponsors the IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics, held in conjunction with CES.

“We’re starting to see more cloud-based services that can analyze content and give you information,” Coughlin says. One example is Siri, the voice-recognition software that the Apple iPhone 4S uses to answer questions by connecting to the cloud.

Coughlin says to look for devices that automatically aggregate and generate the location, time, and other metadata from user-generated content such as photos, audio, and video.

“The device [a smartphone, say] will capture precisely where and when the photo or video was taken, and the format it was taken in, for quick and easy access,” he says, noting that automated metadata will be more prevalent as still larger storage capabilities become available in the cloud.

Learn more about cloud computing and IEEE members, like Coughlin, involved in the field in TI’s special issue on the topic, coming in June.

Many of us already stream movies from Netflix, Hulu, and other services, but 2012 is expected to be a tipping point for streaming content, according to IEEE Senior Member Richard Doherty, cofounder and director of the market researcher Envisioneering Group, in Seaford, N.Y.

“Streaming video started only five or six years ago, but the majority of us will enjoy streaming on big-screen TVs for the first time in 2012,” Doherty predicts. “More than half of all households will have access to it.” What’s behind the popularity? The widespread availability of Internet-capable televisions and other devices, including video game consoles, Doherty says.

Streaming video is already popular in areas around the world where there’s a strong broadband connection, he notes. “Many parts of Eastern Europe and Asia have better broadband than North America,” he says. “So even in places where TV antennas and transmitters aren’t established, streaming video has now become the standard video method.”

Read about other tech trends IEEE members predict we’ll soon witness, and weigh in on what you’d hope to see in the comments section.

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