Thoughts on Gadgets in 2013 - a mobile first world

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10 April 2013
Craig Beattie
I had the good fortune to attend Gadget Show Live this year - a day off secured on the proviso I wrote a blog post. There were a few things that were a surprise to me that I thought it worth sharing here. What's running computers... In terms of presence of platform Android won. There were a few phones on display but this was a small subset of the total Android estate. There were many tablets including a good proportion from small vendors I hadn't heard of. There were set top boxes that ran Android and doubled as a media player, a games machine, a social media engine. Finally Android is still making it's way into cars through the app-enabled in car entertainment systems. In all you could find Android devices in all shapes and sizes. Windows 8 was present and getting some attention but these machines seemed over engineered and almost out of place. Funnily enough, despite it's absence there were lots of things that hooked up to iOS devices. Not the Internet of Things, it's Internet of People... The Internet of Things or connected devices was a theme at the show but it was eclipsed by another theme - the quantified self movement. Quantified self is the practice of individuals capturing digital data about themselves over time to improve their health, compete with friends and well, because they can. There were devices here for measuring brainwaves, oxygen levels, heart rate, breaths per minute, stress levels, activity levels, body fat, weight and I'm sure other metrics. There must be some data of use here to the life and health insurance industries? These devices came in all shapes and sizes from bracelets on your wrist, widgets you plug into your iPhone to connected scales but one thing was common - all of these new sensors were mobile first. The devices primarily connected to phones and tablets or the cloud, not desktop or laptop computers. 3D printing in all it's glory There were multiple vendors, sizes, types and even different materials on offer. All were printing interesting designs, often downloaded from thingiverse there before our eyes. Prices started from around £850 for a 3D printer designed one or two years ago. My friend suggested that, "Next year you'll be able to buy these for £30 from any [electrical goods supplier]". Perhaps a little optimistic but the stands got a great deal of interest as well as sales from what I could see. What has been a geek or "maker" trend is shifting in affordability and accessibility. 3D scanning made an appearance at the Microsoft stand where I witnessed a 3D printer printing something scanned using Kinect style technology. Finally - TV's and the new 3D The Gadget Show followed the trend at CES - 3D TV's so hyped up in 2012 were dead or absent in 2013. Intriguingly even in the high end gaming areas the conversation simply wasn't there about the latest 3D TV's. 4K TV's were there in abundance and even some novel technology to upscale Blu-ray titles to 4K resolution - the mere presence of which highlights the big deficiency here, there's no content in 4K and arguably UK bandwidth may not be up to it. New 3D? Well I was surprised to see a few stands selling modern hologram technology. On asking one of the reps at a stand if holograms were dead since we had 3D TVs he replied, "the test of true 3D is if you can see it with one eye". There were some very interesting displays of what the technology could do and how it could be used for education and visualisations of data and architectural designs. So what of all this for insurers? None of this is relevant to insurance though, right? A few things stood out for me with potential to disrupt our industry:
  • We're in a mobile first world - desktops and laptops take second place
  • The number of sensors and capability of the sensors is increasing
  • That means a wealth of structured data in the near future...
  • Doctors no longer own measuring our health

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