Unplugged

Wireless technology is arguably the next stage in the evolution of IT and consumer electronics. As the emphasis on mobility grows, Matt Grainger looks at what it is likely to bring in the future and highlights some of the products available on the marketplace today?
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Personal wireless technology has transformed the way IT works in our everyday lives. Although wireless devices have been with us in one form or another for over a century, it is only in the last few years that the technology has been available to the everyday consumer for such a wide variety of uses and it has quickly become embedded in the social psyche of the nation.

As with many of the more recent innovations, the driving force behind the growth of wireless has been the mobile phone, which has done more to normalise the concept of mobile technology than any other device. The rising popularity of the mobile PC has also had an influence, particularly in the business world, where time away from the office no longer has to be unproductive thanks to the world's growing network of Wi-Fi nodes.

"Wireless is the future of computer technology," states Saitek's national account manager Greg Hartill. "Wireless is already the standard. A business executive can be lying on the beach in Barbados, or fishing in the Lake District, but be a click away from his business if the need should arise."

It doesn't just mean that business executives don't have to leave the beach, wireless technology means convenience to many people. Laptop users don't have to carry around a variety of leads with them, and IT administrators have found that wireless networks are considerably easier to adjust or maintain than cable. Remote access even means that software issues can be resolved without having to work via computer illiterate users.

Sandberg's product manager Anders Petersen concurs: "I'm sure that more and more devices will become wireless as it gives the user so much more freedom. Wireless USB is around the corner, and wireless HDMI is also ready by now – some are even talking about wireless power. Additionally, wireless transfer speeds are increasing rapidly so, in my opinion, wireless has come to stay."

Wireless data transfer will not be the only technology to emerge in to this growing market. Last year's Intel Developer Conference featured a working prototype of a wireless power transmitter with the catchy moniker of wireless resonant energy link (WREL), which uses attuned magnetic fields to transmit energy with 90 per cent efficiency at ranges of three feet. The intended end market use for the technology is remote recharging of mobile phones or PCs, and will be installed in everyday items like desks, coffee tables or picture frames.

Although WREL is unlikely to be market ready for at least four years, it's a good example of how wireless technology will continue to revolutionise computing and the way in which we use it. Wireless has also been one of the key components in bringing the Cloud Computing model in to the collective awareness of consumers around the world. "Wireless technology touches so many different areas of modern life and is likely to do so even more in the future," continues Hartill. "One example of this kind of penetration would be the internet. One of the great benefits of the internet is the way it brings people together, be it for gaming, conversation, sharing photographs or video conferencing of business meetings. Wireless technology can only expand these benefits and I think the market reflects this."

At the moment, while wireless does bring the value of convenience to the market, the possibilities for the convergence of wireless technology and the data cloud seem like the stuff of science fiction. It is quite possible that in the not-too-distant future, everybody will carry a single mobile data device that will be able to access the internet for any reason, from any location. Indeed, we are currently seeing a number of vendors, such as Apple, Acer and Nokia, jockeying to position themselves as that future device.

Whatever the future brings, wireless is definitely going to be one of the sectors worth watching.

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