The Best Wireless Device Ever Invented

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Commentary on the best wireless technology.

Think about it.  What wireless device or technology would you say is the very best ever?  I have my opinion which I will reveal later but first let’s take a look at the likely candidates for this honor.

Other than the invention of radio itself, thanks to Tesla and Marconi, I nominate TV.  Television was initially, and still is, a wireless service.  While only about 10% of the U.S. population gets their TV over the air, it is still there and being used.  Not a bad choice considering the impact television has had on all our lives.

The cell phone certainly deserves a nomination especially the smartphone.  Wow!  What an influence this has had.  Totally.  In fact, most of you probably think the smartphone is the winner here.  It is a winner for sure but not my top choice.

What about Wi-Fi?  Surely this deserves a mention.  Who does not use Wi-Fi today?  Most of the world now has a Wi-Fi router at home and we are all near an access point or hotspot at any time during the day.  Furthermore, all our gadgets have Wi-Fi built in like laptops, tablets, smartphones, printers, and other devices.  Definitely a top choice.

 But other wireless technologies probably deserve a mention.  Take Bluetooth for example.  It is b y far the most widely implemented wireless method as it appears in all our smartphones, headsets, and now many medical and fitness monitoring devices.  Billions sold.  More than Wi-Fi.  And soon you will see Bluetooth watches that link to your smartphone.  Maybe it will become the best wireless device.

How about satellites?  There is a significant wireless technology for you.  Satellites deliver TV, distribute data, and perform surveillance worldwide.  There is satellite radio, weather satellites, and high speed Internet satellites.  And the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites have definitely carved out a place in our lives.  Certainly worth a mention.

Then there is radar.  It won World War II for England and the U.S. and is still doing its job in the military as well as for domestic navigation and safety.  Soon most vehicles will incorporate radar for automatic braking.

Drones are on my favorites list.  You can’t have a drone without its remote control wireless and its telemetry as well as surveillance capability.  A killer wireless application literally and figuratively.

All two-way radios deserve a mention.  These are the forgotten wireless devices as they are used everywhere in the public safety arena by fire, police and government agencies.  Aircraft and marine radio are big sectors as well.  Then there is the consumer side of wireless like CB, Family Radio Service, ham radio, radio-controlled models and the like.

RFID definitely deserves a mention here.  As far a volume goes, RFID tags may be the big winner with billions deployed in hundreds of diverse applications.

The garage door opener has got to be included here.  Once you have one you cannot live without it.  Who wants to get out of the car to open the garage door, especially in the rain?

And that leads me to my top choice of all time.  The TV remote control.  The “clicker”.  It started out in the early 1970s as an ultrasonic device but soon became an optical wireless device.  TV and other remote controls are still mostly infrared (IR) but many are switching to RF using ZigBee or some variation thereof.  Can you imagine the inconvenience of having to get up off the couch to change channels on your 500 channel cable box?  You all take for granted you can flip channels, surf and change the volume with the push of a button.   You should not.  Be thankful.

What is your all time favorite wireless device?

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Sep 6, 2013

I will second your nomination for the remote control. Heck, its deft use should be an Olympic event.

I was a futurist type conference in San Francisco, and it may have been George Glider pointed out that the tiny slice of analog cell phone bandwidth has made more revenue than all the TV ads in US history. So as far as brown envelopes that buy politicians, the cell phone tops the TV by far.

I myself refuse to pay cable rates and use an antenna here in Sunnyvale, so I think TV is the greatest wireless technology. I had a professor say that if you understand a color TV, you understand about 95% of electronics. The last 5% would be understanding helical scan and a couple things in a VCR. Yeah, it was a long time ago.

on Sep 8, 2013

Wireless devices all use antennas, and beyond the antenna are circuit specifics tailored to the desired application. The difference in technology is really in the modulation technique used. So I'll state both my favorite device and modulation technique.

My favorite wireless device would be the LED cellphone (special mention to the Nokia 3210). It lasts long and its screen does not break when subjected to extensive impact. Longetivity of life span and number of cycles till fracture were my priorities in judging.

As for the modulation technique, my favorite is Amplitude Modulation(AM). Why would I choose a method of transmission so vulnerable to noise? Because the circuitry required is simple and cheap and the consumption in bandwidth is low. My priorities this time are economy and simplicity, but not reliability. But of course, this doesn't mean I prefer AM radio over FM radio.

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Lou Frenzel

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications...
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