From the August 2012 Digital Issue.
Technology tools enable us to serve our clients better, work fewer hours to accomplish the same task, net more revenue to our firm and shareholders, and help with world peace. OK, maybe not that last part, but pretty much everything else can be accomplished if technology is managed right. In most columns, a single focus is chosen, but for this article, we are going to surf the technology to watch or that is coming soon. 2012 is a notable hardware year, setting us up for software gains in the coming years.
Low level changes
The following items will not have an immediate impact on your use of technology, but taken together, will make for notable changes in the speed and usability of hardware produced by all vendors. The fundamental building blocks of hardware are taken together to construct a whole solution.
Items to watch include:
- Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) - The Basic Input Output System (BIOS) specification has been with us for more than three decades. Windows 8 will see BIOS, as we know it, go away and the emergence of UEFI. UEFI is essentially the next generation of BIOS. It’s a system that potentially offers new and more advanced control of the boot-up process.
If your PC is less than two or three years old, chances are that it already has UEFI capabilities. Chances are very good that you didn’t know that, because the hardware manufacturers have been carefully keeping the old BIOS interface as your default boot system. The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. UEFI is a more secure replacement for the older BIOS firmware interface, present in all IBM PC-compatible personal computers, which is vulnerable to bootkit malware.
The original EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) specification was developed by Intel. In 2005, development of the EFI specification ceased in favor of UEFI, which had evolved from EFI 1.10. The UEFI specification is being developed by the industry-wide organization Unified EFI Forum. UEFI is not restricted to any specific processor architecture and can run on top of, or instead of, older BIOS implementations. But that will change with Windows 8 when UEFI becomes the default boot system.
- Intel’s Ivy Bridge Technology – the third generation of iCore Generation of Hardware has been released. Ivy Bridge is the codename for Intel's 22 nm die shrink of the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture based on tri-gate ("3D") transistors. Ivy Bridge processors will be backwards-compatible with the Sandy Bridge platform, but might require a firmware update (vendor specific).
Intel will release new 7-series Panther Point chipsets with integrated USB 3.0 to complement Ivy Bridge. In February 2012, it was reported that Intel would postpone the launch of the dual-core mobile CPUs (not desktop CPUs or quad-core mobile CPUs) to June 2012 to allow more time to sell surplus inventory of Sandy Bridge CPUs, which accumulated due to slower than expected computer sales. This in fact has now happened.
- Processors from other companies like ARM or Marvel will appear in more phones, tablets and specialized products. These processors require less power, but can provide ample horsepower to run applications for mobile use.
- Thunderbolt - Thunderbolt is a standard type of connection that might be used by any number of different kinds of devices. Generally, it refers to the types of cables, ports, and connectors used to connect Thunderbolt devices to computers. Thunderbolt is considered a potential replacement for USB, FireWire, PCIe, SCSI, SATA, and other forms of data transfer methods.
Considering the potential applications of Thunderbolt, it could eventually reduce the types of connections available in computer devices. Thunderbolt supports a data rate of 10 Gbit/s in both directions. Visit www.thunderbolttechnology.net.
- Bluetooth 4.0 - Bluetooth low energy (BLE) is a feature of Bluetooth 4.0 wireless radio technology, aimed at new, principally low-power and low-latency, applications for wireless devices within a short range of up to 50 meters or 160 feet. This facilitates a wide range of applications and smaller form factor devices in the healthcare, fitness, security and home entertainment industries.
- Solid State Drives (SSD) - SSD and Hybrid Hard Drives (HHD) drives have performance benefits over Hard Disk Drives (HDD), such as boot time and response, but the quality varies as does the life span of the drive depending on the type of work you do. With boot times of under 21 seconds and fast I/O, SSD will pay for itself.
One estimate puts the life expectancy of SSDs at 50 years, another at less than four. No one really knows for sure…yet, so you should still back up frequently. Expect SSDs to last for several years. Since there are unexplained failures, though, test your SSDs with the free utility http://ssd-life.com/.
- Gorilla Glass – This Corning product promises to give us more durable tablet and phone screens. Less prone to breakage, and more sensitive to touch.
- Multi-touch mouse pads are just one of the new ways to navigate (Mouse and Keyboard vs. Touch and Motion). When you reflect on touch in phones, tablets and other products like the Microsoft Surface 2 or on motion used in capture, gaming or gestures, we can’t help but reflect on the change in using technology over the last three years or so.
From Kinect for Windows to gestures and the art of being Tap-able, we will all be doing more Pinch, Rotate, Two Hand Pinch, and Spread. (I’m reflecting that my Grandma wouldn’t be happy to see that last sentence in print!). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-touch_gestures for more gestures.
- 3D Printing or Solid Materials Printers - 3D printing is a phrase used to describe the process of creating three dimensional objects from digital file using a materials printer, in a manner similar to printing images on paper. “Physibles” are the files that drive Additive Manufacturing or the ability to print 3D solids. Though the group who made the physible file format popular had its share of troubles – its four founders were recently sentenced to fines and jail time due to copyright infringement – The Pirate Bay continuously manages to reinvent itself.
The Pirate Bay service recently tickled our imagination by announcing a new category of files, which let you “download” physical objects or physibles; more accurately, files meant for 3D printers. Can you imagine? Consider the ability to scan a person’s mouth, send the 3D image to a third party and have the dentures cut from a 3D printer and have the denture mold printed from a 3D printer. Or how about taking an MRI image of a knee joint and printing a new knee. Recently a heart value was printed on a 3D printer. We are just entering the third wave of manufacturing.