Look no further than this week's Mobile World Congress for working examples of this next-wave wireless design trend and its inevitable outcome.
Increasingly, what we think of as the Internet of Things is, in actuality, the ‘Wireless Internet of Things’ with more and more engineers and product designers eschewing wires for waves, especially for data transmission, interconnection, and communications, much of it over Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wi-Fi live, and other wireless protocols.
Look no further than this week’s Mobile World Congress for working examples of this next-wave wireless design trend and its inevitable outcome.
At an MWC press conference Monday, Sony announced its new ‘smart earbud,’ Xperia, which is said to work with Android smartphone. The device represents a new category of wearable devices pundits have dubbed “hearables.” One observer sees “earbuds going totally wireless” in just a few short years.
Earlier this year the German company Bragi began shipping what has become one of the most popular wireless earbuds which were designed and developed through a Kickstarter campaign.
This ‘cord cutting’ trend in consumer listening devices is just the tip of the iceberg. “Going totally wireless” for electronic data transmission, interconnection, and communications is the wave of the future for virtually every device, whether it is connected to the Internet or not.
In a world so driven by invisible wireless communications, from broadcast radio, TV, and satellites, to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee networks, it’s easy to take wireless communications for granted.
The basics of what we know as ‘wireless’ have not changed since Maxwell’s equations and Marconi’s first experiments. It starts with the physics of a mutually re-enforcing electrical and magnetic fields being generated perpendicular to a wire when a current flows through it. From there, “everything boils down to controlling and detecting the electromagnetic (EM) field as it propagates,” according to the whitepaper: Cavity Choice is Critical For Stable Wireless Communication.
“On the transmit side, this control includes switching the EM emissions on and off at various frequencies, controlling its power levels, and shaping the wave to encode useful information. On the receive side, the waves need to be to selectively detected (tuned into) and the encoded information extracted.”
It’s upon those seemingly basic principles that entire industries have been built, starting with how to most efficiently oscillate the electrically charged particles (electrons) required to generate the EM field. From there, sophisticated means of controlling an EM wave’s propagation have been devised that maximize information transfer in the face of both naturally occurring obstacles and wave absorption, as well as other powerful man-made interferers.
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A word about this column: If you're like most engineers, you are forever on the lookout for fresh ideas and smart solutions. You have or are building your library of technical papers, documents, data sheets, products, technologies, standards, and applications for future and handy reference.
My goal here, and in future columns, is to explore some of the day’s greatest IoT design challenges—such as low power micro-computing, signal conditioning, wireless communications, sensors, actuator control, more efficient power sources and the man-machine interface—and pass along some useful resources. I hope you will find them valuable enough to archive or share.
Most important: It would be great if we could collaborate. Send me (firstname.lastname@example.org) relevant knowledge resources that you may have found so that we can compile them for easy access.
--Richard Wallace is a former editor in chief of EE Times. He has followed and reported on electronics, technology and design for 40 years, most recently as an independent journalist, online. You can reach him at email@example.com.