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Digital Jewellery

Tejas Umesh | IE – E&C

Mobile computing is beginning to overcome barriers that otherwise tether us to our desks. In the next age of computing, it is predicted that wearable technology will defeat desktops and laptops. Researchers are looking to change the perception of jewellery being merely ornamental by producing iconic fashion jewellery with embedded intelligence i.e. digital jewellery.

Digital jewellery, a predictably unknown concept at this time, solves inconveniences such as identity and security badges. They may also contain personal information like passwords and bank-account information. According to howstuffworks.com, “The manufacturers place millions of transistors on a microchip which can be used to make minute devices that store tons of data.” Digital jewellery has the potential to be an all-in-one replacement for the many things we keep safely tucked away – credit cards, health insurance, and loose cash. It may so happen that in the future, cell-phones won’t retain its form at all. Instead of a single piece of hardware, it will be broken into various components and sold as digital jewellery. Each piece of jewellery will contain a part of the cell phone and together, the digital jewellery-cell phone will function as a regular one. This will also provide a model for creating separate modules.

One such example is IBM’s prototype wherein the components of the cell phone including a microphone, touch pad, and battery (among other things) will each be a wireless piece of digital jewellery and work together. It’s quite possible that Bluetooth connections will be predominant while newer and advanced connections may be developed to be used by this promising industrial product.

The segregated parts of IBM’s computerized-jewellery phone include earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets. Users will talk into the necklace’s embedded microphone, and the speakers attached to the earrings will be the phone’s receiver as claimed by IBM. They have also added that the bracelet will have a VGA display relaying real-time information to the user. Equipped with LED’s that flash to indicate an incoming call or a notification alert, the ring can be programmed to flash different colors to identify a particular caller and indicate the importance of the alert as well.

In the coming years, the mouse and the monitor could disappear almost entirely with companies like IBM and Charmed Technology working on prototypes to shrink the mouse to the size of a ring. IBM has claimed to be developing a mouse-ring that will use the company’s TrackPoint technology. One might probably be familiar with TrackPoint as the little button in the keyboard of many laptops. On top of this ring sits a little black ball that users will operate to move the cursor. This TrackPoint ring will be valuable when monitors shrink to the size of a watch (or even smaller).

Displays will no longer be restricted to desktops or wall-screens. Instead, one can wear the display like they do with a pair of sunglasses or a bracelet. Researchers are overcoming several obstacles facing these new wearable displays, the most important of which is the readability of information on these tiny devices. “The technical aspects of these devices consist of a screen, most likely comprising a 7-16 segment, dot matrix LED’s or other technologies such as electro-luminescent material. The display fits on the face of the device, which is enclosed in materials like plastic, metal, crystal etc.” External switches and buttons exist, and a micro-controller on a PCB with resistors as well as capacitors form the internal hardware of the device.

Charmed Technology is already marketing a modern eyepiece display as it has claimed. The company says that the device could be ready for the mainstream market within the next few years. They also said, “The Communicator can be used as an MP3 player, video player, and a cell phone as well. It runs on the company’s Linux-based Nanix operating system.”

While this technology hordes vast potential, only time will tell if it can successfully break into the market. The idea behind digital jewellery is to increase convenience in connectivity and always be accessible at any point in time. We are moving towards a generation of computers that are even more easily portable and miniaturized.

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