The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

A new dimension of sensing for smartphones?


molecule2.pngIEEE Spectrum had an interesting article about Tricorder-like Mobile Phones Enabled by Nanotechnology. It the article it describes how spectrometer-like capabilities could be built into it. For some people, it could change the whole view of the value of the smartphone.


Similar to phones having special modes for sports or low light photography, they could have modes for sensing the ripeness of fruit based on the gases given off (Ethylene). They may even be useful in detecting illnesses, like diabetes. There is even an Xprize in this space. HP labs did some work on this kind of sensing as well.


Now if you only had the battery life to make it through the day.


NanoTech and new ways to compute

I recently came across an HP labs video on the excitement of one of the researchers on next wave developing to compute and gather information.



It shows some of the efforts to be more efficient and yet more powerful. Innovation’s role is in resolving conflicts like this, and that’s exciting.


The whole industry is at a tipping point where new generations of capability will be arriving simultaneously for computing, storage, networking and sensing… which should allow for a novel, innovative dimension of applications and services to take advantage of the new abilities and generate new levels of business value.

Relays instead of transistors?!

This month’s IEEE Spectrum had an interesting feature about the use of MEMS switches instead of transistors for low power computing.


“It turns out that the best way to design a digital relay circuit block is to take a page from the first half of the 20th century, when large discrete relays were still used to build computers. Instead of grouping the nanorelays into discrete simple gates, as you would do with transistors, the best approach is to arrange many of them in series and in parallel to make as few gates as possible. If all the devices can be arranged into one single gate, all the nanorelays can be switched simultaneously, and the time required to perform any function is reduced to a single mechanical delay.”


They are not nearly as fast, but they consume significantly less power, one of the constraints that prevents putting computing and sensing into many situations. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

What happened to Nanotechnology?

I was in a conversation the other day with a large organization and one of the leaders said: “What happened to Nanotechnology? I don’t really hear about it anymore.” I immediately came back to a comparison to software development in the 80s. If you remember back that far, there was all this excitement about object oriented development. I remember going to a large organization in the UK right around 2000 and the CIO said “What ever happened to Object Oriented techniques? I don’t really hear about it anymore.” I went on to explain to him that we don’t talk about it anymore because “it’s just in there.”


Granted nanotechnology is not quite that ubiquitous, but it is getting closer all the time. I talked with him about some of the current work in the sensing space within HP labs that is using nanotechnology.


The area where it is becoming common is in the materials space. That was brought home to me again this morning by this Solve for X video about “low power wireless everywhere” spray on antennas. If you’ve not seen it and are into radio and related areas, it is quite interesting and appears to be generating some buzz.  



The innovation uses nano-materials as part of a commercial product. Work has been going on in this area for a while but this appears to be the first spray on antenna you can buy. I believe the ham nation podcast will be doing some experimentation with it at some point in the near future.


These nanomaterials are cropping up in products everywhere, to the point that it is no longer marketed as “nano” directly.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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