TV, but not as we used to know it
The screen has become the central hub of all media activities in the home as it is the source of the TV, image, video, audio, and computer status information that needs to be displayed. This is why IP connectivity has been a must in the recent Smart TV, with the added benefit of improving user interface and image quality. Ultra High Definition is emerging with 4 K definition (3840x2160 Pixels) and, even if 4K local sources are not yet available from Broadcast nor Blu-ray, the up-scaling function is so efficient that early adopters can start to invest. This higher definition means higher data rate thus forcing TV, either to adopt a display port or the new HDMI 2.0 standard. In the future, we foresee UHD enabling more efficient glasses-free 3D, which seems to be the only way for 3D TV to be successful. Although 3D TVs did not find their market, the technology enabled new ‘dual play’ or ‘multi-view’ functions respectively for gaming and for watching different programs on the same display! Finally connectivity, with its various accessories like cameras, microphones, remote controls, headphones or glasses, is offering additional functions for social media usage as well as for gaming and entertainment.
No more cables
Audio systems continue to be as popular as ever among consumers, but more and more modern hi-fi systems now include networking features. One such feature that is of growing interest to end-customers and offers a whole new set of possibilities, is the wireless speaker, a loudspeaker that receives wireless audio signals and only requires connection to a nearby power source. The fact that the audio signal is transmitted via a radio interface removes the need for cumbersome speaker cables (which are often quite thick as wider diameter cables increase the sound quality at higher frequencies). Depending on the design, an audio stream can also be transmitted throughout the entire house, or a mobile device (e.g. a tablet or smart phone) can be used to stream music to a wireless speaker in individual rooms or parts of rooms or even externally in gardens and sheds. Many techniques are available from proprietary to Bluetooth with audio compression and Wi-Fi for higher quality.
Noise cancellation & beam forming
From the aviation sector into the home entertainment market
Noise cancellation is particularly useful when audio needs to be played back in noisy environments. Noise-cancelling headphones are the best-known example of this, having triumphed first in the aviation sector and now in home entertainment. However, there are several other applications in this area. When recording using a microphone, beam forming can be employed to achieve especially pronounced virtual directional characteristics. This is particularly interesting when the sound sources are not close to the microphone, e.g. in Skype TV application. This process involves the use of a special chipset, in conjunction with the microphone array and compatible software, to create a highly effective directional microphone.
STBs, IP Gateway and OTTs
The solution for many TV sets
Although TV sets are becoming increasingly intelligent, often to the level of smart TVs, there are still a large number of televisions for which the signal source (e.g. satellite) needs to be adjusted to the TV, e.g. analog TVs via a SCART socket. Moreover, Pay TV is usually only available via specific hardware. It is in these applications that set-top boxes (STBs), which are usually larger and located underneath the TV, and over-the-top devices (OTTs), which are usually smaller and placed on top of the set, are used. OTT will be a Box bringing IP connection and service to the TV (for example the Skype Box). The STBs and OTTs are more often than not rented by operators with specific security system (Conditional Access System, CAS). These security features are either integrated into the STB with additional smart card interfaces or into external CAM modules via the CI+ interface. STBs and OTTs are equipped with various turners, receiving broadcasted signals (front ends) like IP, DVB-T, DVB-C, DVB-S, analog RF-modulated signals, etc., on the input side, and with HDMI, SCART and/or DVI, Display Port, VGA, etc., on the output side. In the case of an IP TV source, the video stream comes from an IP gateway via Ethernet, Wi-Fi or power line modem, called Home plug AV. This IP gateway itself is offered by a telecom operator that communicates with the external world with fibre, cable or telephone line (xDSL). The connectivity and accessories trend seen for TV is of course also valid for STBs.
Consoles & RFID, the combination for the future
Thanks to an expert combination of sensors, software and electronic evaluation systems, a whole new spectrum of gaming experiences is now available. Modern games consoles offer a taste of what the future holds for this field. The field of sensor technology in Europe is seeing exciting developments that may also be of value to the consumer sector. One currently emerging market is the integration of RFID technology into games consoles. This involves selling a physical game token containing an RFID chip, either in-store or online. When this token is placed on a plate equipped with an RFID reader, the system not only detects the presence of the specific token but also its history, including previous high scores, experience collected, skills learned, etc. When the token is removed from the RFID reader, it is taken out of the game. However, it can then be used for a relevant game on another console, for example at a friend's house, allowing all of the information stored on the RFID chip to be used. As an RFID reader is capable of reading several chips at once, it can be used for additional tokens, or even accessories such as tools and pieces of equipment. Board gaming is also preparing for a revolution as lower cost systems enable recognition of the position and angle of each "piece" on the board thus introducing infinite new possibilities, whether or not you are connected to a tablet, smart phone or PC.
Multiple new functionalities for device of daily use
Since the 80’s remote control has not really changed, being basically an ultra low cost solution with one battery, one chip for the button control and an infra red LED. Nowadays RF remotes are removing the need to be in the line of sight. Looking to the future, the new trends are demanding solutions to facilitate the way we use TV in combination with social media, the Internet, running applications and even gaming. This is why EBV promotes sensor MEMS (movement, audio), touch keyboards, gesture recognition, camera, and even ultra low power Wi-Fi for those applications. Finally, all those new features will increase the power consumption to a point that wireless charging will be a must, removing the need to change the battery.
Robot entertainment & toys
Electronics is not only for grown-ups
The home entertainment sector extends to toys and robots as well. Toys are not the exception, embedding more electronics every time to perform a number of tasks such as flying, gaming, interacting, and so on. Additionally, humanoid robots, puppets and pet-toys are able to imitate realistic behaviour to train and entertain our children. With regards to robots, the ‘Phantasm’ of R2D2 might become a reality sooner than expected with all the necessary video capability and connectivity to watch movies, pictures or communicate with our friends.
Integrated projectors, head-up displays, 3D images, and cameras for the glasses of the future
One of the most exciting products of the near future is smart glasses. Some, with integrated projectors, display useful information directly within the user's field of vision. Indeed, a certain American company, perhaps best known for its search engine, has already developed a product of this type. Glasses that use a type of integrated head-up display while still allowing the wearer to see the real world, overlaid with the projected information, are examples of 'augmented reality' devices. Pure projector glasses, with which the user sees only a projected 3D image, are also being developed. Many new use and functions will result from the adoption of smart glasses. For example, with additional cameras and connectivity you will get face recognition and information about the people you are talking to!
Wearable computing devices marketed as "more than a cell phone"
In the past, watches were used simply to display the time. Later, they started to include additional features, such as showing the temperature, air pressure and similar information. Today's smart watches offer GPS functionality and may even include GSM modules and MP3 players. In the field of satellite-assisted navigation, EBV provides customer support not only for the more established GPS systems but also for GLONASS and Galileo receivers. The GPS and compass functions are particularly interesting for pedestrian and outdoor sport activities. But more often the watches of tomorrow, which are currently being designed, are super remote controls that are capable of communicating with tablet computers and, smart phones , allowing you to see your social media notification, consult your messages, filter calls or even take your call, without having to take the master device out of your pocket. Additional functions like cameras are also found, but the most useful can be the ‘find your phone’ functionality: if you know your phone is around but you just don´t seem to be able to find it, simply press a button to activate an alert and locate it! You will also be warned if you lose the Bluetooth connection, helping you not to forget your phone again. Of course those entire features will increase the power consumption making rechargeable batteries a must. If you want to avoid the micro USB connector, wireless charging could be considered.
Best equipped headphones as a standard
The number of headphones equipped with integrated noise cancellation systems, microphones and Bluetooth receivers is continuing to increase. EBV Elektronik supports its customers with the design of the electronics required for such applications with innovative solutions from its suppliers.
Accessories that make communication from car to car, to satellite or Internet access possible
A speed camera tracker is a very good example of car accessory using high tech solutions. Based on a community of users updating the system in real time whenever they notice an event on the road, the devices will alert you about road works, accidents or speed cameras. Recent models are equipped with touch screens, GPS and cellular phone connectivity.
Sports equipment & textiles
Growing consumer interest in ‘smart clothing’, as technology itself becomes quite fashionable
When analysts said that electronic is pervasive it means it will go everywhere! Soon we will see electronic sensors, LEDs and connectivity in all sorts of sport accessories: bikes, balls, rackets etc. The basic idea will be to get information such as acceleration, spin and why not position? In the future everybody will want to compare their performances to those of their friends’ but also to professionals. Also LEDs will be widely used in textiles and bikes for fun but also to increase visibility and security. LED lighting in sport accessories is already very popular and higher efficiency LEDs always offer longer battery life. In general for all those applications, wireless charging will be the key to getting sealed devices and avoiding humidity coming through the USB connector or even removing the need for a battery lid. Then, energy harvesting has the potential to feed all the electronics in such equipments and thus avoid the use of any battery pollution.