What is the next technology?

Every generation has it’s own music. Ours
is Information technology or IT. It is now becoming unpopular to study at
University without mentioning IT. 
Various disciplines in addition to their regular study plans include
applications of computer science. Others go as far as formulating IT out of
thier disciplines. Examples are BioInformatics, Business IT (BIT), Geographic
Information Science (GIS) and so on. In Europe,
there is hardly any desk without a computer. Some of these computers perform
the roles of human and effectively. Gas stations operate at any time of the day
without human supervisions. People can survive for months without seeing or
holding cash. If cash is required, needless going to bank. Cash machine such as
ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) does the work. It gives any amount in the same
manner that a bank cashier would do. The only requirement is proper
identification of the customer. ATM and Internet banking have been in Nigeria since
2006. After the introduction, Mama Chuks problems with ‘book-me down until
banking day’ became a thing of the past and she is happy. Market women that
ride on Ekene Dili Chukwu from Onitsha to Lagos no more use cash as
diapers, leaving highway robbers out of business.

  A
few years ago, and in this same amiable ikaworld, I published an article
relating to how UN targets a connected world by 2010. That is, a world where
all villages and individuals, irrespective of height, position or color of skin
can exchange ideas without stress through the International Network
or Internet. It also described a scenario where Chukwudi would be
cruising from Norway to Sweden in an
elegant and gigantic love boat, picks up his cell phone and exchanges greetings
with his old pa down the hill in Ahima forest. It did not get to 2010 before
all these happened, at least in Nigeria.

 After facsimile or Fax was invented, the
technology was viewed as the peak of data communication. Then came the mobile
technology, first with voice operating on separate channels, (being a step
ahead of walky-talky). Walky-talky uses only one channel for both talking and
listening. The channel is opened to talk and closed to listen. Mobile phone
technology uses two channels, one to talk (caller) and the other to listen to
(receiver) and as such, they can function at the same time. Each of these
channels is assigned a unique phone number and carried in SIM (subscriber identity module)
card.  The popular mobile technology in Africa is based on GSM (Global System for Mobile
Communication (English) and originally Groupe Spécial Mobile (French)). Others, especially in America are
based on similar but different systems. On top of these systems came the SMS
technology that enables text messaging, first for a limited amount (120
characters precisely), and later evolved to GPRS for richer data transfer that
can include heavy items such as pictures, emails, videos, etc. Pictures are
good describers of scenario. With pictures, Chukwudi is able to show how his
apartment looks like in Norway,
and his old man can send pictures of an antelope strangled in his trap. All
these are attainable over some well-defined communication protocols beyond this
article.

 In
the world of mobile development, 5 years is an eternity. If you were told in
1999 that by 2005 you would be riding on Okada and make a phone call to your
mother selling garri in Surulere market, you will ask “I bi Abiola pikin?”. No!
You are who you are. The emergence of high speed internet jester poses to the
fact that either the laptop computers are obliterating the mobile devices by
becoming smaller, or the mobile devices are pushing away laptops by simply
getting bigger memories, data saving systems, more elaborate data input
devices, well managed power saving system and so on. The big players (Visafone,
Nokia, Siemens, SonyEricson, Apple, Samsung, name it) are really at it. The
initial limitations on handheld devices over laptops which mainly point at
input buttons are being suppressed by touch-screen technology. The question is,
what is next? You may ask. Let us begin by asking ourselves same question. What
else do we want after all these? To us, it may take a while to come up with
suggestions. This almost implies that the technologies at our reach are
ultimate. I ones asked a friend, how he would perceive using his mobile device
to trace the location of his misplaced car keys? So many people have been late
at work due to misplaced keys. If my dad would read this article, his first
reaction would be, ‘that technology will be good for my careless son’.
Engineers have pursed and pondered how this would be possible. Is it similar to
going to the moon? Far from it. Just simple. The word Location was
intentionally introduced to braze us up for the underlining technology. In
2003, I delivered a lecture where I proposed the inclusion of GPS (Global
Positioning System) to Mobile phones. A challenger suggested having two
separate devices, GPS device on right hand and mobile phone on left hand. My
response was a NO! THAT IS WHAT I DON’T WANT! Blackman imposing on white
audience?  I guess by today, you will
tell him that my idea is a possibility. I called him a few days ago to ask whether
his opinion was still valid?

 Navigation outdoors is becoming a roadside
technology. 70% of Europeans and about the same percentage of Americans use or
have used GPS to find their ways. It is almost 100% among militaries. Nearly
every newly made vehicle comes with inbuilt GPS. The personal-pocket ones are
available in the market. Since 2008, mobile phone manufacturers have included
GPS as a parallel unit in their mobile devices. One of the home video actresses
(name withheld) just bought an Alpha Romaro 4.0. She wanted the quickest way
from her Iyano Ipaja residence to Ikoyi office. She pressed one of the buttons
on the steering and a little screen emerged with map of Lagos. A voice from her radio asked for
destination and she highlighted Ikoyi. Of course GPS already knew where she
was. Next voice was “We drive to Ikoyi now! Turn left after 2Kilos. At the
roundabout, exit  2nd turn”,
and the voice continued with the guide to Ikoyi. She was so excited that it became
the pep talk for that day.  Don’t mix GPS
with GPRS. The later (General
Packet Radio System) is the advanced form of SMS
technology based on GSM. GPS or Global Positioning System is a product of
Department of Defense of the US
originally designed only for military use. After realizing the importance, it
was extended to civilian use (but with some reservations, beyond this article).
The system reflects microwave signals from space-based satellites. These
signals are used to compute coordinates of points on the globe through an
uncommon mathematical form known as trilateration. This is based on the fact
that every point on earth has a unique X, Y and Z values. In geography, these
values or coordinates are referred to as Longitude, Latitude and Altitude.   If three points are related and the coordinates
of two of them are known, the coordinates of the third point can be computed.
The major set back in this technology is that, there has to be direct contact
of the microwaves signals and as such, there must be a considerable amount of
line of sight (LOS , see me I see u). 
This is similar to the way our domestic remote controls work. When
signals from the satellites are blocked by trees or houses, they go off and GPS
is down. At this moment, we have to contend with this setback. Another source
of doubt for the future of this technology is that, it is almost private to the
US.
In other words, supposing the US Government decides to switch it off tomorrow,
we won’t be able to use it. Russians have their own GLONASS. The Europeans are
still developing the Galileo, which is similar to GPS.  When it comes to searching and finding, GPS
remains the ultimate. Oil exploration companies cant do without GPS.
Construction companies rely on GPS for effective positioning of their huge and
sophisticated structure and as well, the proper verticality of sky-scrappers.
If Hi-Tech used GPS to position Orogodo bridge, it may have stayed.  GPS was used to position the bridge at the
Express extra carriageway, and it stays. Pilots use GPS for their automatic
piloting (that is, your airplane can fly for hours without pilot. Are you
terrified?).

GPS signals travel at speed of light
through several atmospheric layers and different air pressure. During this
travel, the signals can be distorted and what actually gets to us is intelligence
with impurities (noise) that result in some errors. These errors make a search
point shifts a bit. To common users for way finding, these errors are
inconsequential. To the oil companies, construction companies and military for
specific targets, the errors must be taken care of. Many nations and interest
groups have gone to improve upon these erroneous signals from GPS by creating
augmented systems to achieve Assisted GPS (AGPS) or Differential GPS (DGPS).
Europe and Canada created
EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigational Overlay Service);
the US
civilians created WAAS (Wide Area Augmented System)
and the Japanese made MSAS (Multifuntional Satellite Augmented
System) while Nigerians are coupling AK 45 for night use only? I have
proposed AGNOS (African version of EGNOS) and the development can be heralded
by Nigeria.
The fear is that, before AGNOS materializes, GPS technology may be obsolete.
Several things are happening up there in space, and we can’t afford to slack.
When the China-made Nigerian Telecommunication Satellite (NigerianSat-11)
disintegrated in space and spread the pieces of metals, many farmers the world
over reported these pieces as UFOs. I hope Nigeria does not make similar
mistake in future? Location system is also possible with GSM technology. Police
can trace where you are through the mobile phone in your pocket. If you are a
criminal escaping with your mobile phone, note that you are already in police
net. Such a mobile phone has to be registered anyway, and I strongly recommend
that all mobile phones are registered. Also, the Police can reduce car theft if
these car registration plate numbers reside in a common database that is
accessible through mobile devices. How do you imagine a Policeman on a normal
patrol pulls over a car, and before the driver comes down, a device with the
Police says the owner is Alhaji Umaru Bala, only to see an Iboman alights from
the car?  Or a Peugeot 406 brown in color
says to Police that the car is a Toyota Corolla metal blue? A report from a
Bank raid in Akpakpa street
shows on a GIS system, a rapidly moving away mobile phone heading towards Warri
and the tracking systems follows until the mobile phone rests in Ughelli? GPS
is also able to show buffer zone on a GIS with time. Within a certain period, a
touch of a button can show area of search. A GIS can show that a desperately
escaping armed robber from Lagos can be in Abuja within a certain
time. We must look beyond barriers. Radio technology does not require line of
sight. This is why we can listen to Delta Broadcasting Service in our farms. At
the same time, signal generators and the signal receivers usually posses the
required technology for this purpose. Keys come in different forms and
according to individuals. This suggests that our mobile phone and keys should
be similar in technology but this might not be, hence the serious challenges.
How can we power our keys? What if we attach the device to the bunch of keys or
the other way round? Close to it. As the big players envisage the significance
of the setbacks in GPS, Bluetooth technology came into existence and it is now
available in most mobile devices, laptops and desktops. Briefly, Bluetooth is a
wireless technology based on the free ISM (Industrial, Science and Medical)
frequency wave band and was developed by the SIG (Special Interest
Group pr Several Interest Group). It is free and as
such, any one can have it without any cost. If I have your phone number
registered in my phone (not in SIM card) and my number registered same way in
your Bluetooth device, we can actually exchange data even without credit. The
name Bluetooth was adopted by the developers after the Danish King Blåtand (Bluetooth in
Danish) due to his roles in the unification of Scandinavian countries being
similar to the way the software, hardware and system developers got united
under the SIG. Presently, Bluetooth works by exchanging
data with devices that also have Bluetooth and are placed within 10 meters or
33feet. Exactly 8 Bluetooth devices group together to form a network known as
Piconet. In the Piconet, the sender is the Master, the rest 7 act as Slaves to
receive data from the Master A Piconet teams up with another Piconet to form
Scatternet. Like other wireless technologies, it does not depend on Line of
Sight and as such, no fear of interruption to transmitted signals. The symbol
used in representing Bluetooth is the wire-like B. Others in this family are
the Wi-Fi (Wireless-Fidelity) from which one can be connected
wirelessly to Internet or WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network).
If you have Wi-Fi in your laptop, you can take it, pretend you are resting on a
coconut tree near an Internet café and do your browsing provided the café has
the tentacles switched on. This is why we can place our computers in our
bedroom and use it to operate printers in sitting room wirelessly. Can we also
remote control our kitchen electronics from our bedroom or toilet? If yes, can
we also extend it to other units if they can respond to the commands from our
remote controls? Key finding is a direct function of location. In the previous
idea, one can only instruct key to make sound, glow light or vibrate to catch
attention. All these are not sufficient to make it a breakthrough technology
because glowing light in a covered cage makes no meaning. This goes with
vibration in wool enclosure. Also, making sound in a vacuum is the same as lost
keys.

 The
insight into the development of this technology is the introduction of the Ipv6
(or Internet Protocol Version 6), which replaces the Ipv4 in the shortest possible
time. The Ipv4 is very limited but with Ipv6, every home can have up to 160 IP
addresses implying that our cooking pots, kitchen knives, pillows and of
course, car keys can as well be attached a device that has an IP address. This
IP address can enable Bluetooth technology or WLAN to operate in a Network with
the household items. Any item in a Network remains connected, and searching for
such an item simply means, going to the Network and identify the location in
the Network. We don’t need to be hysteric or paranoid about this technology. It
is just as simple as putting together like terms (items) only that they may be
connected by the things we can not see with naked eyes. However, we need energy
to power this system. In Nigeria,
power supply is never sufficient due to several reasons. The major one being
the absence of Hydro source of energy owing to lack of running waters to turn
the turbines. Nuclear energy is not permitted yet because of the fear of being
diverted to uses, but Nigeria
is not Al Quadious like Iran
or Iraq.
I don’t hope so too. Meanwhile, other sources especially in the hydrocarbon
area can be explored for the required energy. People are suggesting Solar but
this is quite unreliable due to environmental limitations. What then do we use?

 You
probably heard that Ofunorun Smart (the Mr Whitehouse man) is in town and you
want to pay visit. He is popular because he coal-tarred Baleke Street from old Lagos/Asaba to his
Whitehouse in Upper Imudia Street.
He must be a rich man and there is no doubt that he has all new technologies in
his Whitehouse. You borrowed daddy’s car, else you may not be welcome. As you
are ushered into the mansion, it is a shock. An empty sitting room, though with
a glass center table and a cozy cushion settings circumscribing the table and
resting comfortably on the white 0.7m thick walls. On the arm-rest of each
cushion is a remote control device. Call it universal remote control. You press
a button and a virtual screen appears on the wall directly at your view. It is
a virtual TV embellished with assorted menus including those you can find in
Windows 7 or Ubuntu 10.04. Is it a computer or a TV screen? You wonder. Never
mind. It is actually all you need. Probably still, you were friends at infant
and even as teenagers. You went to farm together, hunted birds and animals
together, but he had a hit and you are still battling with lecturers favoring
female students at your final year. He cant come down now says a strange female
voice. On the screen is a logo-captioned album. You cursor it, and behold, one
after the other, year-by-year, category-by-category, events-by-events, fotos
appear. A complete album. Coffee, you get. Beer, you get drunk. You are bored
and he is still upstairs. You probably forgot the remote device in your pocket
and say bye Ofunorun. He did not reply because he is busy and did not hear you.
At the door, you had a beep. Oh, a device in your pocket. Everything is
connected and any device leaving the network is alarmed. You go back to leave,
a different kind of beep. You forgot daddy’s key. Any device not in the network
is identified as well. This is not another James Bond movie.   

 As
soon as these technologies are adopted to our system, and very soon, every item
will be connected. Search and rescue missions will be carried out with ease.
Police chase will be a lot of fun. Fear of driving on our roads will be gone
and forever. Our keys will no more find hiding places. I will use my time on
more important things than searching for my keys.

By Ikhu-Omoregbe, Smart  Finland 2010.

 

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