To be or not to be ... wireless

It is amazing when you stop to think about how important wireless technologies are to our daily lives. Without even trying hard, I came up with a good handful of uses that we all probably take for granted:

  • Garage door opener
  • Keyfob for car doors
  • Cordless phones
  • Cell phones
  • Baby monitors
  • Radio-controlled cars/boats
  • And all your remote controls in your house!

These aren't the geek toys - these are everyday devices for most of the population. It is inconceivable that we would give up any of these, since they have become so integrated into our lives. And yet we seem to be just scratching the surface when it comes to gaining convenience through wireless devices. In the near future, many more indispensable gadgets will find their way into our personal lives, sometimes simplifying existing tasks and sometimes enabling new information and entertainment opportunities.

Here are some examples of technologies you may or may not have heard of - but chances are, all of them will play a big role in our lives down the road:

  • Wireless Keyboards/Mice - There seems to be no better opportunity for removing cable clutter than at the computer desk. Using radio frequency (RF), IR, or Bluetooth, the next generation of keyboards and mice will eliminate even more cords from the desktop, which you will likely find is one of those luxuries from which you can never revert back.
  • GPS - Global Positioning Satellites is the term used to refer to both the metal "birds" orbiting the Earth and the relative tiny devices we carry around or mount in our automobiles. The devices receive positioning information from the satellites and through the use of detailed maps, help you find your way across the country. Soon GPS information will be available in your cell phone so you will have no excuse for ever getting lost.
  • Bluetooth - Speaking of cell phones, an up-and-coming wireless technology called Bluetooth will let your phone do all kinds of cool things like synchronize your contact and calendar data with your computer, support cordless headsets, and share pictures with other phones - all without messy cables.
  • WiFi Networks - You have probably heard of "Hot Spots", those magical islands of wireless network connectivity that continue to spring up where the geeks gather to access the Internet, check email, or IM their friends from their PC or PDAs. Well these "spots" will soon give way to full, blanketed coverage as the Wireless Internet becomes a new utility offered by the cities and towns everywhere. It will become so commonplace that we will soon be intolerant of any gaps in coverage.
  • Wireless Game Controllers - There is no doubt that gaming is huge and the next generation of handheld gaming devices are offering multi-player modes where two or more players in the same room can join in on the same game without wires using Bluetooth and/or WiFi. Expect this to improve the entire gaming experience as complete strangers look to challenge their neighbors in airports, cafes, and classrooms!
  • FM Transmitters - As portable music players like the iPod take over the world, we are looking for new ways to enjoy our entire music libraries. In the car, for example, you can now play your favorite MP3 or CD player through the car's own radio by using a separate device to broadcast the signal from your player to an unused frequency. Simply tune your radio to the appropriate frequency and you will hear your own station coming through the airwaves! Pass around the iPod and give everyone in the car a chance to be the DJ.
  • Streaming Media Servers - A quiet revolution is happening in home consumer electronics market. I'm talking about new devices that live on your home network (which can be wireless!) and play your music, photos, and video through your existing TVs and stereos. They come in all shapes and sizes but are relatively simple to set up and provide a whole new level of flexibility and convenience for sharing your digital content throughout your house.

This is not to suggest that being wireless automatically makes a gadget cooler or more useful. I own a pair of wireless headphones which were supposed to let me "enjoy my music" in private but they are practically useless, reminding me of early cell phones where you once you found the right spot, you froze afraid to move for fear of losing the signal! That's not convenient.

Keep an eye out for the technologies discussed here and remember that just because it's new doesn't mean its bad. Think about how we used to have to unlock our car doors with keys, stay tethered to the phone on the wall, or get up to change the channel on our TVs!


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