Powerless Electronics

Ideas Sep 30, 2020

I can say that we have stepped into a stage in consumer electronics development where we are not actually innovating.

What is innovation? Is it the development of the concept of high screen estate electronics? Is it the addition of features such as facial recognition or fingerprint authentication? Is it the updates of existing operating systems?

Neither, I would say.

Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone 4 in San Francisco on June 7, 2010 Photograph by Ryan Anson/AFP via Getty Images

Since Steve Jobs, a "legend" who combined "smart" with "phone", "window" with "interface", and "market" with "personal computer". He renewed the software industry by thoroughly designing a perfect user interface that laid the path for millions and millions of apps to come. Revolutionized the phone industry by making a phone actually smart, not just a simple Nokia that we still see nowadays.

That is a sudden revolution for electronics.

Of course, gradual changes also exist like how electronics are personalized or how phones are mass distributed, or how they become wearable and smart. But these can all be categorized into one category: technologies becoming mature. Mature technologies cut down costs, and that makes certain pieces of tech more affordable, and thus more widespread. The improvement in condensing circuitry and transistors; improvement in the performance of chips of the same scale; commonness for a variety of sensors: these all make widespread and the level of consumer electronics go up, but there is no actually “revolution”.

Say you are a baker and you are baking better and better tasting toasts everyday. Your products are certainly getting better, they might even be the best of its kind. But, is it revolutionary? Is it surprising? No, you are making a toast of the same category. You might have made the toast a little sweeter, a little more tasty to the touch, or maybe bigger with less ingredients. But you are still making a toast. On the other hand, if a new bakery opens right across the street and they presented a new form of bread. I don’t know, maybe something like a break that’s hollow, that is made out of healthier materials, or it could even be cold instead of hot. That attracts peoples’ attention, customers start to gather to that shop instead. Are your excellent toasts abandoned? Of course not, people still buy them, but they are no longer the mainstream.

This might not be the best example to see what the new age of tech looks like, but it is definitely a great example for bread. Just kidding xD.

At this point, you might already be asking, then what is special. I get that you just think nothing is spectacular these days, but what?

Wait, there’s more.

What Do You Want

Look at your phone that might be in your hands right now. What is its purpose? You don’t use it to make calls anymore, you use it to do all sorts of things: its an all-in-one package. You pay with your phone, you view documents with your phone, you do business talks with your phone, you listen to music. etc. etc. —— This is Steve’s invention.

He made it so that everything can be done in a small package. Exactly what people wanted. We always ask for more, more of this, more of that. We are never satisfied. So think now: what are some things that you wish your mobile devices are better at?

This could be a list:

  • Faster, smoother, more capable
  • Generate less heat [while doing intensive tasks?]
  • Transferring files is easier
  • Knows me better
  • while being secure
  • Connection between apps become more fluid. [like all the different interfaces work together]
  • etc.

That is just a list that popped into my mind, but it could be anything. These are possible prompts for an idea for a new “invention”.

These can make up a new kind of bread, a new “iPhone” at the time.

What is Possible

Alright, after all that background and random thought, let me step into what I think could be the possible future...

But, let me put this here: I believe nobody know exactly what the future is, even by super logical/intact predictions, unless visionaries truly exist of course. Everyone can have a firm belief in what it will be, but nobody knows if it will be correct. They work for that goal, trying to make. it come true, and it will either have a super positive, positive, neutral, or negative response from the people. If the response is super positive, it probably defines the close future. We work towards it nonetheless.

Here is my interpretation, influenced by the passive actions of some companies. [It’s somewhat / basically their belief (Haha, media is everything, ideas are never completely original, you just add something to it. It’s so funny. Let’s leave that talk to another day shan’t we.)]


As you know, there is a company called Huawei that grew rapidly in recent years.

They made great progress, especially in 5G technology that started to populate recently. Other than telecom, they also manufacture smartphones that are top tier and true flagships in performance, camera systems, and so on...

As of many discussions on why China, regardless of all its innovations in the recent years, is not considered a true nation leading in technological development. There is the lack of precision manufacturing, the lack of advanced chip design, and the lack of profound software (OS, programming languages, etc.)

Huawei was cut from the chip manufacturer TSMC and thus has to find a different path.

The most straightforward path is improving the skills of manufacturing and make it possible to manufacture chips up to something like 5nm. But, that is simply not plausible. And so, there comes the second path.

Operations in the Clouds

Huawei started to work more on its Harmony OS. To say HarmonyOS directly solves the problem of manufacturing high-performance mobile platform chips is far from the truth. In fact, it can be best put as Huawei trying to combine cloud computing with local computing.

There so much computational power in the cloud most people are not even tangible with. Everything in Google's search engine is based in the cloud, many of the deep learning models are trained in the cloud. You can say there is way higher computational power compared to any mobile device that currently exists.

If you connect that computational power to any mobile device and supply it with that amount of computation, it can surpass many limits posed by mobile devices in certain areas of work. These may or may not include training models, video processing, learning, etc.

It sounds like a beautiful proposal. But, it comes down to one problem: connectivity.


Connectivity

Connectivity can be extended in many directions. There are two that I want to talk about here: compatibility and efficiency.

Compatibility

Let's say that you bought an Apple Watch, you are trying to connect it to a phone. Can you just use any phone that you own?

No.

You need an iPhone paired with iOS and the watch app along with Bluetooth compatibility. It is not as simple as dreaming that every device in the world magically works with another that is not designed for the first device.

This is one aspect of connectivity: compatibility.

You want your devices to be either as compatible as possible or as limited as possible.

One great example would be Apple. Apple, similar to SONY in the years, had things done in their own ways: own ports, own chips, own system. That makes their devices universally compatible in the Apple ecosystem but almost no where else at the time. Things have changed nowadays hence Apple realized the importance of allowing media to be connected to its devices (The type-c ports on iPads, "Files" app, etc.)

Owning control of almost everything related to Apple is a privilege, it allows for great compatibility within the ecosystem and thus allow different devices or modules within devices to run much smoothly compared to others. This also enables Apple with the underlying potential to pull new customers into their ecosystem OR selling additional products to those who are already partly within its ecosystem. Old users would want other devices in their homes to work seamlessly with their existing Apple products and thus want to replace those products outside the circle. Of course, the most important improvement of this is still great compatibility which in turn improves efficiency in all aspects - that is what customers want.

Efficiency

We talked about the importance of compatibility, now its efficiency. This is less conceptual but more technical, but most of it comes down to speed.

And with speed, different types connections matter and they are divided into wired and wireless connections. Wireless connections are best friends with mobility and are the predominant portion of devices that exist. (We can not ignore the importance of wired connections of course) Wireless connections are the ones that work most of the time with phones, not to mention the old ages.

We often call our age the age of information not only because there is much information, but all medias are expresses as these information and these information are made digital by modern developments. Digital information allows media to pass through the "wireless connection" medium. With the amount of information nowadays, we need a faster rate of transfer of these information. I mean, wayyyyyyy fasterrrrr. With that and wireless connections being said, you probably guessed what's next.

n-G Internet Connectivity

From 1x where we only make calls on to the dominant 4G - 4th Generation internet nowadays. Wireless data transfer have gone beyond the limit

Now, 5G

It is fast, I mean, realllly fast.

up to 20Gbps

that's a compressed movie in one second, almost just like Thunderbolt 3/4, but wireless. Of course, that is only the theoretical speed and in real-world operation, it would probably reach max 1/2 of its theoretical maximum. Other than the speed, there are also lower latencies, which is crucial in real-time data transfers.

That is efficiency, higher efficiency can possibly grant unlimited new ways.


Utilization

Why is that important?

Well Harmony OS tries to implement both of them.

Huawei Launches New Distributed Operating System, HarmonyOS
New Harmony OS Distribution Launch

There is compatibility with Harmony OS: it is supposed to be lightweight with its concept of cloud computing. That means that requirements in hardware for the devices running this operating system are far lower than systems like Windows 10 or macOS. And with this wide range of compatibility for the OS, it can open all kinds of interfaces for other functionalities. Things like pairing or data sharing is no longer a concern under a uniting OS. It makes new possibilities.

The efficiency in connectivity, where does that come in handy? Well, data transfers. We are trying to complete most computations in the cloud and that means the data needs to be sent as a request and results need to be received as a response. One of the determinants for the duration of such operation cycles is efficiency in data transfer.

As you know, Huawei has invested much into the research of 5G and have really made advancements. That information technology can be much utilized in connecting its Harmony OS enabled devices with the cloud, making the experience as snappy as devices that own calculation power within themselves.


So,

if this system that was just described can work, it might as well be the future of mobile devices and mobile computing. Although it is in the cloud, many technologies have made it more likely to reach that level where you cannot differentiate between a device running on the cloud and a device that computes locally.

To say there is one obvious obstacle in the path of making this system work, it is application compatibility: We are trying to make compatibility better in another section, but we have to link what we have done, to what we are doing.

Behold, we'll see.

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