With Asia quickly becoming the largest market for high-tech products, vendors flocked to this year’s Computex Taipei, in Taiwan, Asia’s largest computer show. Besides the usual fare—products with better hardware, higher speeds, and industrial-grade durability—there were a few interesting entrants aimed at customers who want better connectivity and more control over the technology they already have.
Asus’s ME173 MeMO is a 7-inch-screen tablet that is built for mobile calling and computing. But it also comes with a small handset called a MeMic, which is a basic Bluetooth receiver for the tablet. A user could stow the tablet in a briefcase and put the MeMic in a pocket, where it’s just right for receiving calls, reading text messages, and playing music. The handset has a simple design with a transparent screen and side lighting instead of the usual backlit LCD. A sales representative said the company chose not to backlight the screen in order to save battery power. The bare-bones MeMic might be just the thing for those tired of carrying heavy phones and tablet computers—and subscribing to two data plans to cover both. Asus plans to release the MeMO in October.
As technology proliferates in our homes, so do the number of remote controls we need to handle all the devices. LivingLab Development Co., in Taiwan, has developed a relatively inexpensive way for users to control all their remotes by computer. The company’s most basic system, called RoomService, costs US $100. It comes with a sensor device that records infrared frequencies of different remote controls, and a transmission device that can beam signals to gadgets anywhere within a 12-meter radius. Both devices connect to a computer via USB. Users can also download software to control the system with their smartphones. This product is now available only in Taiwan, but LivingLab is looking for distributors overseas.
Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is working on a prototype system that tracks the total electricity consumption of all of a household’s electric appliances. The system’s software, called Power Messenger, can read the power signatures of ovens, electric kettles, lamps and a host of other appliances. Using a ZigBee wireless transmitter that relays data from a smart meter to a computer, Power Messenger tracks the amount of electricity each device is using and calculates its contribution to the monthly bill. Researchers are working on a cloud-based system that will compare power consumption of each appliance with the average consumption of that specific product model. So if a household’s refrigerator is not working properly, Power Messenger can report exactly how much power and money are being wasted. ITRI is currently collaborating with a company to mass-produce the ZigBee modules. The institute is also looking to deploy its technology with a utility company and to sign up appliance manufacturers to collect power signature data for building a cloud-based system.
A torrent of tablets stole the fire from e-readers at Computex this year. But Delta Electronics is pushing its QR-LPD e-reader technology beyond e-books and colorless Web surfing. The company is hoping to replace paper-based displays, from billboards to supermarket price tags, with cheap e-paper tags that can be updated wirelessly. They offer a production process that makes displays quickly in four different sizes; the displays are specially programmed to the customer’s specifications. For example, if a supermarket chain wants 2000 updatable price tags, Delta not only manufactures the displays but also handles the software and Wi-Fi installation to control them wirelessly. Delta claims it can fill an order 30 to 50 percent faster than anyone else in the market. Energy savings is a factor as well: The company’s 4.1-inch version can go for a year and a half without recharging.
Today’s buses, trains, and airplanes can be wired with cutting-edge surveillance, data collection, and security equipment. But running these systems can be a nightmare, especially if each device transmits its signals with a different type of connection. Korenix, a Taiwanese subsidiary of Sweden’s Beijer Electronics, simplifies this process with its newly patented 6-in-1 JetBox technology. The JetBox is an embedded computer that can connect to six different types of devices. It has Ethernet ports for networking, power over Ethernet outlets to run video cameras, serial ports for remote devices, digital input and output outlets, USB ports for connecting to a wireless router, and a Linux operating system to communicate with other computers. The JetBox aggregates data from the different sources and transmits it in one package, either to the driver of a vehicle or to a stationary command center.
About the Author
Lin Yang is an American freelance writer and editor currently living in Taipei, Taiwan.