What Will They Think of Next for Mobile Tech? Plenty

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Innovations that Could Change the Way We Live, Work and Play

This idea connecting the two topics of this post - wearable electronics and an advance in the way mobile device displays are engineered - is a bit of a stretch but, ultimately, justifiable: If developers think hard enough, there are big issues and big opportunities on topics that the rest of us don't spend much time thinking about at all. It's an important thing to keep in mind.

First, about displays: Corning manufactures the lion's share of the glass used in mobility. Here is the company's list of devices that feature its Gorilla Glass. The company now has introduced Lotus Glass, which, according to a nicely written explanation at Extreme Tech, seems to be more of a complementary than a replacement technology. The piece describes Lotus Glass as a substrate containing the circuits that control pixels on the display screen. Imprinting these circuits requires extreme heat and cold. That is where, according to the story, Lotus Glass comes in:

These polar opposites in climate place strain on the substrate, and if not monitored and balanced, can cause it to warp and disfigure. This is where Lotus Glass comes in to save the day. Corning has engineered its newest offering to withstand high amounts of heat, exactly how much is not known, but enough so that manufacturers could have some extra protection when producing touchscreens. The cost of the Lotus Glass could outweigh the waste that inevitably comes when substrates succumb to the temperature stresses placed on them.

This is a complex subject, obviously. The question that immediately comes to mind is whether the new approach is impacted in any way by the emerging generation of flexible displays.

The other item is that AT&T is getting behind technology that follows people's vital signs using sensors implanted in their clothing. The company provides the wireless network for the BioHarness, a product from a company called Zephyr. The possible uses are almost endless. For instance, a senior who falls would experience great change in several bodily measures. These could be picked up by the sensors and sent, via a combination of wireless and wired networks, to first responders. Likewise, more subtle changes that point to problems, such as high blood pressure, would be noted and tracked.

Wearable electronics - in the form of sensor arrays and power generation (from specialized footwear) - is not a new idea. AT&T, according to a story at InformationWeek, thinks its time has come, according to comments made by Glenn Lurie, the president of the carrier's emerging devices division:

In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Lurie said he believes "the stars have aligned" for these kinds of products. As compared to 10 years ago, when "connected clothing" first became available, he noted, the prices of clothing sensors have come down; Wi-Fi and wireless networks have become ubiquitous; and mobile apps have become vastly easier to design and simpler to use.

The wearable computing category seems to be gathering momentum. For instance, Physics World reports on advances in South Korea in the manufacturer of "memristor," which is cotton with the ability to store information that flows through it. News on advances in the computerizing at Cornell University is offered by TechJournal.

This also is an interesting and complex area. The stories don't discuss the impact of such advances on the need for IPv6, but clearly the success of such initiatives would accelerate the need for the new address protocol.

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