Electronics Production | December 28, 2009

A truly global explosion of technology

The last ten years have been defined by a truly global explosion of technology, especially in networking, entertainment, energy, and communications. Products like the iPod, iPhone, TiVo, and the rise of social networking, have influenced our lives to such an extent that they’ve become integral to the way we conduct business and interact collectively.
The Multimedia Player or MP3 Player began a steady climb in popularity in the beginning of the decade and has since cemented itself as a cultural and technological icon of the 2000s. This is most apparent in Apple’s iPod, which released in October 2001, came to define an entire generation of music fans in the oncoming years.

It’s innovative, easy to use design combined with what has become a social status marker for the current generation has led to market domination since October 2004, with over 90% of the market for hard drive-based players and over 70% of the market for solid state memory players in the US. In tandem with this, the concept of the iTunes “playlist” has spread far from just music and entered the popular lexicon, while the cross-platform, web manager/store has literally shifted the music industry towards a purely digital format, leading to a huge decline in physical music formats. Together, the iPod and iTunes has become the successful model for the powerful interaction of hardware and software.

The mobile handset, which was put in general use as far back as the early 1980’s, has developed into the most widespread technology on the planet, with mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide reaching approximately 4.6 billion by the end of 2009 according to the International Telecommunication Union. And while low end cell phones now effectively reach even some of the poorest consumers in the world, it is the idea of the “Smartphone” which has most shifted the ability for a handset to do more than make voice calls and sending text messages.

This includes blurring the line between phone and laptop PC with a myriad of applications like GPS navigation, MP3 functions, video streaming, built-in cameras and camcorders, games, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, and Internet web browsing. Ultimately, the explosion of mobile phones in the 2000’s has created a truly mobile world culture that is more informed, connected, and culturally innovative than ever before.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Apple’s iPhone, released in 2007. Much like the iPod becoming a status symbol for MP3 players, the iPhone altered the idea of mobile phone ownership. Consumers the world over have begun to identify themselves by and would rather own a new, stylish, and technologically advanced cell-phone verses the latest clothing fashion or state of the art computer. Additionally, the wireless capability, innovative touchscreen, and design as a sort of all-in-one media, networking, and information center has led to numerous imitators and has ushered in the era of 3G and (very soon) 4G.

Other products that have redefined technology in the 2000s, such as Digital Video Recorders or DVR, have simply changed the way we enjoy and experience television programming. Beginning with TiVO in late 1999, DVRs allowed consumers the ability to record their favourite shows onto an internal hard drive to later be played back.

This provided consumers the convenience of saving favorite programs for later, limit mature programming for children, the ability to rewind a program instantly mid-broadcast, and (much to the chagrin of television advertisers) provided the ability to skip through commercials in a recorded program.

In response to this, advertisers had to change the very way they do business, with some speculating that commercial interruptions may one day be eliminated altogether and replaced by advertising in the TV shows themselves that includes product placement, corporate sponsorships, or even what is referred to as banners or logo bugs where the ad overlays the bottom of the TV screen.

Home console video game systems have existed in some form or another since the Magnavox Odyssey introduced in 1972. However, ever since its inception, the home console has been seen as merely a children’s toy, or at best, an entertainment computer. It took Japanese video game giant Nintendo, who single handedly resurrected the home video game market in the late 1980’s with its genre defining Nintendo Entertainment System, to once again re-define the idea of the home video game.

With the launch of the Nintendo Wii and Wii Sports title in late 2006, Nintendo proved that gaming could be highly interactive thanks to the motion capture technology located in it’s “Wii-mote” controller. Using this controller, players could now accurately simulate bowling, golf, boxing, and more. What’s more, with the introduction of Wii Fit in December 2007, players could now utilize the Wii to get exercise, increase flexibility, lose weight, and also track BMI and calorie loss.

Its status as the second best selling game title of all time shows a massive change in public attitude towards home gaming as more than just “kids entertainment”. It has set the bar for future generations of gaming consoles. What is more, the accelerometer located in the Wii-mote design has entered into numerous popular electronics designs even outside the world of gaming.

Global Position Systems (GPS) have been in place for military and navigation applications for some time now, however when the United States discontinued a feature that deliberately degraded GPS signals available to the public in 2000, civilian users of GPS devices instantly could pinpoint locations up to 10 times more accurately than before. Soon after, a burgeoning market for voice-enabled consumer GPS products exploded, led by Garmin, and populated by numerous competitors including TomTom, Magellan, Mio, and Navigon.

Also, the majority of GPS receivers today are found in converged devices such as laptop PCs and mobile phones, allowing for anywhere/anytime directions. Today’s consumer GPS devices commonly show interactive street maps, points of interest, route information and step-by-step routing directions, making travel for business and pleasure far easier and more enjoyable than was possible with traditional paper maps. It has allowed owners to keep track of pets, parents to ensure better safety of their children, and has saved lives by allowing rescuers to locate the lost or injured.

Aside from new technologies, the 2000’s were also defined by the public, government, and private sectors’ growing concern over dwindling fossil fuel resources and mankind’s effect on climate change. Nowhere was this seen more than in the realm of hybrid gas-electric automobiles. Although the technology has existed for a while, it was the Toyota Prius, which first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and was subsequently introduced worldwide in 2001, that became the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle.

In May 2008, global cumulative Prius sales reached the 1 million vehicle mark, and by August 2009 it had doubled to 2 million worldwide. The strong sales have demonstrated the shift in values in the 2000’s, as sales of inefficient SUVs have fallen, consumers began to seek better fuel efficiency as the price of gas increased. The hybrid vehicle has become an example for politically liberal environmentalists, as well as a fashion statement about modernism.

This latter reason has become a major motivator for sales. Also, businesses and governments had begun to offer consumers credit, rebates, or other incentives in order to further stimulate hybrid-electric car sales. Ultimately, as a result of the Prius’ popularity, the 2000’s have shown that consumers are more aware, and more concerned, with the environmental impact their automobiles had on the planet.

Source: Databeans
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