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January 13, 2014

Pervasive Computing Counts Us In, Not Out

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:01 PM


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Until recently, there was an understanding in the computer world that chips would follow a fairly agreed upon path when it came to increased power and decreased size. By stacking chips on top of one another, however, we suddenly have a marvelous market disruption. Developments are going a lot more quickly. That's because a stack of 150 or so chips with enhanced connectivity and speed would be able to fit into a space of a mere two or three chips.

There are many in traditional industrial roles who are biting their fingernails in fits of anxiety. Might a stack of super-chips have the processing power and speed to replace them?

Throughout history, people have always regarded technological progress as a double-edged sword. The fact is, despite the tasks that a stack of super-chips could perform across industries and sectors, the preponderance of computing power has always translated into the development of new markets filled with new jobs. Take data scientists, game developers, and UX specialists as cases in point. Similarly, instead of limiting human potential, pervasive computing can complement it.

That's one of the reasons the national laboratory in Taiwan is spending upwards of $16 million over the course of a decade on what's coming to be known as Monolithic 3D-IC technology. According to a recent report, the laboratory is hoping that its discoveries can become commercial realities over the next five years. The expectation is that chip manufacturers will embrace the 'stackable' technology.

Pervasive computing is remarkable in that old-line markets that never had a need for computing power are now waking up to technology. It's sort of like an old man who sees his grandchildren busily doing homework on their tablets. He assumes he has no need for such a device. But when he buys a tablet on a whim, he discovers that his life becomes a lot more exciting and manageable. He also imagines what his business would have been like had such technology existed 30 or 40 years ago.

My prediction is that pervasive computing will result in several of us carrying around a small yet powerful microchip in the not-too-distant future. Not on our mobiles or even smart watches but on our persons. From that one chip our doctors can monitor our health levels. We can find our children when they stray in a crowded shopping mall. And we will no longer need a briefcase for important documents because we'll be downloading them onto those stackable chips from the ever-present cloud.

Therein lies the most appealing aspect of pervasive computing: It will become so powerful and all encompassing, we will forget it's even there. When a technology evolves to the point of seamlessness, it allows individuals and enterprises alike to utilize it without thinking about it. And that's when we can take a collective step forward and begin developing even newer technologies.

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