Alix PaultreIn this episode, Alix Paultre and Kevin Parmenter discuss the coming year and some of the technical and industry issues that will be influencing it and the design community. From ubiquitous computing to the smart grid, this episode of the Tinker’s Toolbox covers many of the things that will be dominating the news next year.


Our guest for this podcast is:


Kevin Parmenter
Kevin Parmenter



 Metering – smart grid might be big, but metering is happening big time – reality is likely in the middle somewhere between the dumb iron core spinning around and the smart grid – gateway internet cable TV into the home over the power line dream.

Tablets – Apple created the category and others do knock offs. We saw this with the iPod – they invent the innovation, the category, then others make a generic MP3 player. It’s happening with Tablets. They will likely become the platform to build things on embedded uses – why build a embedded system for a portable bar code scanner? Its faster to buy a tablet and write some software and plug some USB peripherals into it and go to market.

Design chain- supply chain decoupling more and more – finding ways to support customers other than the web will be increasingly more difficult.

Phone players market share changing – HTC was nowhere in the US. Now they are beating Nokia – everyone wants to copy the iPhone interface and innovation.

I think we will see more products built out of store – less build it yourself going on for many applications.

Commoditization – the only way for the US to stay ahead is to innovate more and give less away. China is innovating and perhaps that's good from a world perspective. From a US business perspective, it's frightening.

Cloud computing – it solves lots of problems, security being one of them – if the bad guys steal a terminal it's useless. If they grab a PC, it has the HDD with info on it.

Security and authentication – identity theft is rampant – hacking wireless, wired communications and people's info. Validating people are who they say they are without privacy invasion is likely a big market – transactional verification – counter terrorism items making devices able to recognize misuse and shut themselves off. Cell phones are being used to set off IEDs. What if they had built-in technology to make them harder to use for that application?

The bad guys are good at using things never intended – alternate applications to do what they do for harmful purposes – planes as missiles, phones as detonators – perhaps we could innovate ways to make things harder to misuse? It’s hard to stop a guy who wants to buy a garage door opener transmitter and receiver from home depot and misuse it for mayhem. Engineers are best suited for this purpose. 

Secure computing to make sure if someone steals a PC from the mortgage company or clinic, they don’t get any information – secure hard drives, encryption, secure backup systems, secured cloud computing systems with biometrics could go a long way to security. All this talk about privacy and security with TSA scanners at airports – engineers can secure these (of course we were told the images could not be stored by the machines! ha!)

The wonton outsourcing of Americas (and to a lesser extent) Europe’s manufacturing and technology giving it to China.

Has it gone too far? The US lectures China on economic policy and they own us…maybe our business and government leaders will reverse it and innovate here more. Unemployment in San Jose is about 30%, caused by this trend – we should innovate more for the long term.

New term – in sourcing – some companies have had enough of ODM’s taking their technology and selling it to anyone else who will pay them – bringing it back to gain some control.