6 December 2011
BOSTON–If you think about it, there's a huge new paradigm that's emerging before our eyes (or maybe it's not so visible because so it's so behind-the-scenes).
Technologists have done a fantastic job in the past 50 years making computing faster and vastly more accessible. They've done exactly the same thing with communications. The nexus of those two brings us fantastic, productivity-enhancing devices, such as smart phones.
There's another nexus that's juussst starting to come together: computing, communications and cognition. Billions of sensors populate the world, yet they're largely dumb–dumb in that they don't interface with the computing "cloud" in an easy way. We generally capture sensor data and do something with it, but it's almost manual.
The nirvana is a cognition-aware world that takes that data and uses it automatically with little or no human intervention. For example, the grand vision of renewable-energy fans is a smart grid that can pull your stored energy (an EV battery when your car is sitting in the garage) into the its mix when it needs it and when it has your permission.
But transformers are dumb today. Solid-state transformers are in the works, but years away from widespread deployment. That's a big-infrastructure example.
There are others that are closer to reality. I visited with Peter Riendeau, a longtime sensor-technology observer and now general manager at Melexis, at Embedded Systems Conference Boston to ask him what he thought would transpire over the next few years: