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Part I: Today’s Technology

Part I: Today’s Technology

Today’s technology includes a wealth of products and services that are often even more amazing than some of the gadgets we see in the movies. These products and services are also readily accessible to us as consumers, often as close as our nearest electronics store or a few clicks on the Internet. Although we are well familiar with many of these products and services, such as digital cameras, smartphones, and personal digital assistants (PDAs), many other products and services are less familiar or are used by just a fraction of the population.

Examples of items gaining visibility and strong interest among consumers include in-car telematics systems for safety, information, and entertainment; global positioning system (GPS) receivers and personal locators for determining your location or the whereabouts of your kids; satellite radio stations providing commercial-free CD-quality programming; high-definition televisions providing high-resolution images free of distortion; digital video recorders providing the ability to fast-forward through commercials; multiplayer online games taking video gaming to the next level; tablet personal computers providing increased mobility and ease-of-use; and various wireless devices for more convenient payments while we are on the go.

Part I of this book aims to walk you through the highlights and benefits of this broad and diverse collection of today’s consumer technology, from the basics of services such as broadband Internet and wireless local area networks, to the wide range of devices and services available for online collaboration, working with digital content, and conducting electronic commerce in the home, at the office, and even in your car.

We start off with a look at how to get connected and explain the pros and cons behind broadband Internet and wireless local area networking for the home or office. For the frequent traveler or mobile professional, we look at some of the latest PDAs, smartphones (which blur the lines between mobile phones and PDAs), and world phones, which allow you to keep one number across the globe.

Next we look at how to secure your connections by using advanced techniques such as biometrics and single sign-on, technologies that employ devices such as fingerprint readers, facial recognition systems, and services such as Microsoft’s .NET Passport for managing your online profile. If you need access to a remote computer when away from the office or traveling, the discussion on remote-control software for your PC will be of interest. Other communication-related coverage includes using voice-activated services with your mobile phone, communicating via instant messaging, receiving alerts and notifications, using voice over the Internet, and video conferencing with your PC. In this section, we’ll look at various offerings from companies such as Sprint, Nokia, Microsoft, Groove Networks, and WebEx.

Our section on location-based services includes a look at services such as OnStar from a safety, security, and information and entertainment perspective, and also examines the offerings of companies such as Thales Navigation and Wherify related to GPS positioning. These GPS devices allow you to determine your location to within a few meters at any point on the earth. They can also be used to help monitor the whereabouts of your kids should they become lost or require assistance.

Our look at digital content includes sections on the benefits, usage scenarios, and considerations related to digital photography, digital video, camera phones, peer-to-peer Internet file sharing, making digital recordings with CD and DVD recorders, digital music and MP3 players, satellite radio, digital television, digital video recorders, and multiplayer online gaming. Some of the companies covered in this section include Nikon, Microsoft, Sprint, Kazaa, Apple, XM and Sirius Satellite Radio, TiVo and Xbox. We also look at how digital content such as documents and images can be printed and faxed directly from wireless devices by using services such as ThinMail and PrintMe Networks.

Part I concludes with a look at the new breed of tablet PCs and some of the electronic commerce mechanisms available to make online or physical shopping more convenient. Tablet PCs may one day replace the traditional laptop and provide a superset of the laptop functionality that we enjoy today. They offer increased ease-of-use and portability, allowing the tablet PC to accompany us while on the road and in meetings, and to support a wider range of ways to interact with our machines by using digital pen and ink. On the electronic commerce side, we take a look at the ExxonMobil Speedpass, the American Express Blue credit card, various forms of digital wallet that simplify purchases made via your mobile phone, and the self-checkout registers appearing at many of our familiar retailers.

By the end of Part I, it should be clear that today’s technology is transforming how we collaborate, how we capture and exchange information and multimedia content with one another, and how we conduct business and go about our daily lives. The convergence of all these devices and services is already happening, and you’ll see many examples of cameras that are also phones, phones that are also PDAs, entertainment systems that are also computers, and much more. This look at the latest in today’s technology will help to prepare you for Part II of the book, which describes some of the even more exciting gadgets to come.



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