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January 12, 2012

At CES, Ericsson Demonstrates 'The Network Is Me'

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

A quick show of hands, how many of you remember the famous Sun Microsystems (News - Alert) tag line, “The Network is the Computer”?  For those of you unfamiliar, here is a link to a 2007 video that will fill in the blanks, but it looks very cloudy to me.   After watching Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg’s (News - Alert) keynote at CES which was chock full of insights into game changing things that devices will be able to do over next-generation networks, it seems like a new tag line in the form of, “The Network Is Me,” could be in the near future.

Watch the video for excerpts from Vestberg’s address. Toward the end, he demonstrates a new technology called “capacitive coupling.”  Vestberg puts one hand on a photo on a standard Android (News - Alert) phone and his other on a magic box in front of a screen. Then using only his body as a connector, the photo is transferred from the phone to the large screen on the stage without using radio signals. “Ultimately, we are the network”, he says.  

While this research project is still in the early stages, it makes the mind wander.    Ericsson (News - Alert) says it’s “Connected Me” of which this is a part, is aimed at enabling all of the possibilities that this and other technologies are allowing for which will help to make devices more functional and utilitarian in terms of executing our volition. The opportunities do appear to be endless.

Ericsson says we are moving from stage one of the Internet era, where companies built networks, into the early part of stage two. In this stage, it is all about what can be delivered over current and planned ubiquitous broadband networks. 

As stated above, Ericsson’s vision is encapsulated in the “Connected Me” concept. However, when you combine “captive coupling” with the eye-tracking interface for Windows 8 called the Tobii Gaze , the gesture technology already popular in game boxes, and voice recognition like Apple’s (News - Alert) Siri, it seems like mice may be headed from the technology dumpster along with a whole lot of other stuff.   As Beatle John Lennon, whose biography is a must read, would have sung, “Imagine.”

Futurists are fond of looking at the date when the distinction between humans will start to blur and their focus tends to be on the neural aspects. What CES showed in terms of man-machine interfaces is that maybe embedding robots with more human intelligence or humans with more computing is a goal toward a more connected and responsive “quality user experience,” but the fuller leveraging of a more tactile engagement of all of our senses to control the world around us may quickly emerge as an important step down that path. 

We are the network as well as the computer, and oh by the way we also are us. You have to love CES, because it makes you wonder what the parameters are going to be in the long term and how far and how fast we are going to go to get there.     

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest and best known brands, and has served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein
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