Then and now: Wired mess to wireless bliss

Technology has gone from tangles to wireless in the blink of an eye

The wire is becoming an increasingly small part of everyday life as technology moves to do away with tangles forever. Credit: Martin Poole

The wire is becoming an increasingly small part of everyday life as technology moves to do away with tangles forever. Credit: Martin Poole

Technology is updating at exponential speeds, making it difficult for experts to accurately predict where the world is headed, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Theoretical physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku has long heralded the rise of technology and how the newest discoveries will revolutionize humanity well into the future. Social commentators, on the other hand, have focused on immediate technologies and trends, including Google Glass and the Internet of Things.

Consumers, however, often overlook the wire until we have to go a day without Wi-Fi or forget our phone chargers at home. The wire is becoming an increasingly small part of everyday life as technology moves to do away with tangles forever.

Electronics users also forget how quickly the wireless age hit technological innovation. An entire generation in many developed countries is growing up without knowing how to connect a computer to a phone line or even having a phone with a curly wire connection.

Now that you’ve been hit with nostalgia about the “good” old days, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see just how far (and how quickly) wireless has grown.

The dialup tone is no more

Dialup Internet defined the 1990s with the need for second landlines and the annoying dialup tone. The 2000s rolled around and a new sort of technology was forming, a technology that the Economist reported as being “a short-rage technology that will never be able to provide the blanket coverage of a mobile network.”

The same report also attacked Wi-Fi use in the home, speculating that the bandwidth-hungry machines of the future will require more than Wi-Fi has to give. The world of the Internet has obviously changed, with wireless hotspots now essentially a requirement for coffee shops, libraries, universities and bookshops.

Now, Wi-Fi is going to receive yet another upgrade, potentially tripling Internet speeds in homes, offices and businesses. Qualcomm has announced a technology that will offer 1.3 gigabits per second of speed. Compare this to the theoretical 54 megabits per second projected in 2004, according to the same Economist article.

There’s electricity in the air

Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) are meanwhile pushing the boundaries of wireless charging, having developed a power transfer unit that can charge devices up to five meters away.

“Just like we see Wi-Fi zones everywhere today, we will eventually have many Wi-Power zones at such places as restaurants and streets that provide electric power wirelessly to electronic devices,” Chun T. Rim, professor of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering at KAIST, said in a press release.

The KAIST team was inspired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s introduction of the Coupled Magnetic Resonance System (CMRS) in 2007, capable of transmitting over a distance of a little over two meters. The CMRS is powered by the same magnetic principles employed by a charging station developed by WiTricity.

The CMRS is limited in its distance capabilities, however. KAIST researchers have developed a Dipole Coil Resonance System (DCRS), capable of powering a 40-Watt fan and a LED TV located five meters away, at the same time.

The DCRS creates a magnetic field between two coils, allowing for more electricity to travel greater distances. The coils, similar to the problems the CMRS faced, are sensitive to weather and human proximity. This challenge has yet to be solved by researchers.

Norman Rozenberg
Norman Rozenberg, based in the New York metro area, keeps up with the dynamic world of development, innovation and public health. He has also contributed to Txchnologist, an online technology magazine.
Norman Rozenberg
Norman Rozenberg
Tags: Gadgets & Devices,Tech Culture,Technology