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Technology trends – what is happening in consumer electronics?

Ian Trudgeon of thinkingbricks brings architects up to speed on the latest trends in consumer electronics.

Ian Trudgeon
of thinkingbricks brings architects up to speed on the latest trends in consumer electronics.

The pace of change in technology is difficult to keep up with. With large electronic companies all trying to “out-tech” each other, and their boffins in white coats looking at the next development, the number of new developments can be staggering.

It helps just to focus on some key aspects that will effect how your clients use technology and the impacts that can have for a project – be it a new build or refurbishment/renovation.

The term convergence refers to the use of a device by a number of different technologies.

Take the humble home computer. With internet access and email as standard features, many users are now looking to watch TV programmes, download movies and play music on their PC.

And the equally popular TV screen is now feeling the power of convergence. Companies like Intel and Yahoo are working with TV manufacturers to build in internet access via the TV.

This has coined the phrase “Widget TV” – a TV with a connection to the internet and a series of ticker tape icons available on screen, which link straight to websites, broadband newsfeeds or social networks like Facebook and Twitter (top).

These new Widget TVs can also access and download movies on a local network straight to the screen. Future developments will involve saving the film or TV show onto the users’ network for viewing later or straight away, via the TV. This is genuine Video on Demand. And in high definition too.

Multitouch devices
With the advent of multitouch devices, it’s time to throw out the mouse and ditch the keyboard.

You will be using your humble finger to navigate and select from a touchscreen. You may already have experience of multitouch devices: a tablet for architectural design, or perhaps you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch?

You will know that these multitouch devices use a series of gestures, with one finger or finger and thumb. These movements on the touchscreen are used to scroll through your music or make the image on the screen larger or smaller. This type of interaction is now also available on some PCs.

Larger table sized devices allow users to sit and review content, as well as interacting with devices placed on them, for example a mobile phone. If you receive a text while the phone is resting on the interactive table, or an appointment appears in your diary, the text shows up full screen on the multitouch table. Scary…Google “Microsoft Surface” to find out more.

Green tech
In the past there has been criticism of the electronics sector when it comes to standby power and subsequent carbon footprint.

Many manufacturers are now part of a variety of eco-friendly trade incentives, rewarding those with the most efficient power ratings, similar to the ratings for white goods.

Several manufacturers now have TVs which will use less power than a standard 60W lightbulb in operation, and less than 1W in standby.

Sky set top boxes have a auto-standby mode programmed into them. There are also a number of gadgets that will turn of all other equipment, linked to a master device.

Look out for these symbols highlighting a greener TV.

Ian Trudgeon is project director with thinkingbricks. He is offering RIBA-certified CPD courses on all aspects of home technology.