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Over the last decade, technology advances have led to the rapidly growing use of consumer electronics, connecting millions of people as never before and changing the way we operate in everyday life. Until now, the emergence of all these intelligent devices has had one drawback: proprietary charging systems, meaning millions of chargers and cables that add to the already huge pile of e-waste throughout the world.
In our smart world, a huge number of devices are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), or becoming so, many of them integrated with our homes, cities, manufacturing or transport systems and infrastructures. Added to this, a growing number of connected consumer devices, appliances and systems are able to carry out many human daily tasks in the home or workplace, whether for healthcare or entertainment. Research by Gartner forecasts the number of connected things will reach 20.8 billion by 2020, of which 13.5 billion will be from the consumer sector.
For the first time in history voice recognition has reached a level close to human understanding. This opens up new opportunities, notably in replacing the smart phone as a ubiquitous interface. The sensorization and digitalization trends of previous years are now leading to adaptive automation and highly specialized applications that fundamentally transform the user experience. Last but not least augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are entering the real world of business.
With the steady increase in energy demand from developing, emerging and developed countries, the recent drop in oil prices as well as national or regional regulations to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the oil and gas sector needs to explore new avenues to expand productivity and at the same time cut down costs. One way to achieve this is to embrace smart technologies.
Smartness has become a way of life. Today most of our activities are – at least in part – smart. Whether you work, drive, sleep, enjoy an idle moment, it is most likely that smartness is part of it. We also keep our energy consumption in check with smart appliances and meters. Even our pets now have their own smart devices and apps, allowing us to track their every movement. All this smartness has one common denominator: electronic components and in particular sensors.
In our mobile world, portable smart devices keep us connected and able to access information anytime, anywhere. The healthcare industry has also embraced connected technology in the form of medical wearables and portable devices. These offer accurate real-time monitoring, diagnosis and tailored treatment of conditions, such as some types of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Smart and connectivity are two of the words that probably best describe our society in the 21st century. Everyone and everything is connected nowadays. Cities, buildings, transportation means, mobile devices are becoming smarter. Even the most mundane objects – the smart frying pan is a good example – have their connected version.
Take the 169 countries in the IEC family, the 20 000 technical experts who work in standards development, the many Certification Bodies (CBs) and Test Laboratories (TLs) in the IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems, and add to the mix the rapid pace at which technologies are evolving today and you have hundreds, if not thousands of stories that can be told within the IEC community.
Many innovations deployed on the global stage at the 2016 Olympics will find their way into the next generation of smart sports and fitness devices aimed at the consumer market, especially wearable technologies. This sector is enjoying very rapid growth, reflecting underlying trends in technology development and uptake. Improvements in activity trackers have accelerated the trend of moving beyond wearables that monitor just a few vital biometric signs, like heart rate or calories burned, to tools tracking activities specific to particular sports.
Information and communication technologies pervade our daily lives and all economic sectors. The way we access and use information has changed. We view, send and receive documents and images for work and leisure on our smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs, whose screen quality continues to improve. Additionally, virtual and augmented reality applications are being used by more industries, from broadcasting, sports, health and tourism, to manufacturing, marketing, real estate and construction. Their innovative, interactive features personalize the user’s experience and can improve safety and efficiency.
Many items we use on a daily basis require battery power, such as tablets, laptops, medical devices, toothbrushes, gaming hardware or power tools. They enable our ever-increasing mobility - batteries power e-bikes, the starter, lights, and ignition systems of electric and fuel powered vehicle engines, and they start the engines or auxiliary power units of planes.
Mobile technology is affecting almost every facet of our lives, at home, in the workplace and everywhere in between. The emergence of smart devices in the last decade has also had a major impact in the healthcare sector.
Do we have a better life with the thousands of connected devices that we have at our disposal today? Do inventors and designers create new needs in customers when they bring a new device to market or are we the ones seeking new experiences and requesting new monitoring and measuring tools to help us go through the day?
Following a number of requests by attendees at the IEC 2012 General Meeting in Oslo, Norway, the IEC has developed an app that allows readers to access e-tech magazine online in a smartphone and tablet-tailored format and save it for reading offline as well.