Future ready

milesStaying one step ahead of the consumer technology bubble

“Everything you see here today will be totally obsolete in four years.”

Those words of wisdom came from Bill Gates, spoken to Alberta-based technology commentator Steve Makris just before Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft.

“Count on everything changing every few years,” said Makris, whose reviews and analysis of consumer technology can be found in Postmedia newspapers, on Global TV and at techuntangled.ca.

“The cycle of technology, even smart technology, arriving to consumers and disappearing altogether is getting shorter.”

So what does that mean to you if you’re trying to set up your home with technological devices and systems that won’t be obsolete tomorrow? Do you want the 2017 equivalent of a closetful of numeric pagers, VCRs, dial-up modems and dot-matrix printers piling up after a year or two?

Unless you’re an early adopter – a fanatic about being one of the first people to have everything new – it’s wise to hold off on your purchases, says Makris.

“Don’t be the first to buy, but if you sense from research and observation that several companies are quickly launching similar products, then make a note and put it on your list,” he said and try to get a thorough understanding of the technology’s benefits before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Makris says there are some warning signs a product may not live up to its marketing hype. If major technology retailers aren’t carrying it, if there are spelling and grammar errors in the product description or packaging, and if it’s only available online direct from the manufacturer, it may be unproven at best. At worst, it could be a straight-up rip-off.

Don’t be the first to buy, but if you sense from research and observation that several companies are quickly launching similar products, then make a note and put it on your list.

There are certainly exceptions, as many products start out small on sites like kickstarter.com and then make their way into the mainstream, but read reviews and be aware of what you’re buying.

As for making your home future-ready, Makris says the ideal is to have large-diameter conduits (at least four centimetres) with no sharp corners inside the walls of your home, accessible from all the home’s key areas. That way you’ll be ready for whatever type of wiring the next generation of devices might require.

Also, don’t invest, either financially or emotionally, in coaxial cabling.

“Do not bother pre-installing coaxial cable throughout your home, as it is surely giving way to IP-based private network TV delivery technology,” said Makris.

Wired connections, whatever the wire looks like, are still superior to wireless, especially in an era where TV programming is moving to increasingly data-intensive formats such as 4K, 8K and beyond. Still, wireless networking is aggressively advancing.

“Mesh wireless networking is the next big thing for consumers,” said Makris. A mesh network is one in which several Wi-Fi routers spread throughout a home automatically feed off each other, giving you consistent connection speeds in every nook and cranny.

At this point, mesh networks are becoming common in Internet of things applications, such as lighting systems, where a signal to activate or adjust is sent from a central hub only to the very nearest lighting units, which then relay the information out to the entire system.

Mesh systems for home Wi-Fi are costly today, although Makris says they are worth the money.

 

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