Posted on 27th February 2013
Carphone Warehouse has been at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, and today we had a look at the more unusual and little reported things you can do with wireless technology. In the next few years, if not months, smartphones and tablets will begin to be legitimately used for loads more features, both inside and outside the home.
Let's start with the home. New devices like the HTC One and the Sony Xperia™ Tablet Z can control your TV, DVD player, stereo, and pretty much anything else with an infrared port. With the HTC One the feature is HTC Sense TV, while on the Tablet Z the app is SideView. They offer slightly different functionality and look, with the Sony looking much more like the standard electronic programme guide you might get on your Sky TV and the HTC showing programmes in boxes, almost like the Tiles on Windows® Phone. But what they both do very well is let you search through what is on TV right now and select any programme, via your phone.
And that's not all. On the Qualcomm stand, the manufacturer that produces the increasingly popular Snapdragon chips found in phones like the Nexus 4, Xperia Z, HTC One, Windows® Phones and the new BlackBerry® Z10, they were a lot of examples of how wireless technologies can be utilised in the home. One interesting example, that will appeal to anyone who struggles to wake up in the morning, is the coffee maker. Using a specially adapted coffee machine, and a simple to use app, it's perfectly possible to control the type of coffee, how many sugars, and even set an automated timer so your coffee's ready for you in the morning. How about playing music? With the latest tech your music can follow you around the house. Just start playing a song on your device and when you walk from room to room the other compatible devices in your home will start playing the same song. So your Bluetooth speakers, TV, stereo and even your car's device will be singing the same tune.
We also stumbled on some very awesome wireless technologies built into vehicles. Something that really caught our attention was the Aston Martin One-77 bicycle. At £25,000 it's on the expensive side, but along with being made from carbon fibre, weighing only 9.5kg and featuring all the latest pieces of kit that include design and build techniques from sports like Formula One and MotoGP, it also includes smart technology. The One-77 can measure your heart rate, speed, distance, location via GPS, the humidity and temperate, the power being exerted from your left foot or right foot, your acceleration, and much more besides. The nice lady on the stand informed us that it will actually measure as many things as an F1 car itself. When you've recorded all this information, you can send it to your smartphone, computer or tablet via Bluetooth for proper analysis and storage.
And that's not all the items we saw that had wheels. The Ford stand showed the integration we can expect our cars to have with smartphones. Either connect your smartphone to your car via Bluetooth or simply plug it into the USB port (which will charge your device, naturally) and you can use Ford's build in controls. On the steering wheel is a small trigger button; press it and you'll enter voice activation mode. Say 'Dial John' and your Ford will find John in your phone book and ring him up. You can read out numbers too with the same result and, of course, if you receive a text you can tell the system to read it out aloud to you, or wait until it's safe to handle your phone. Ford also shared with us the rather startling statistic that it can take 40 seconds on average to change track on a smartphone in a car. That's 40 seconds spent not looking where you're going and quite possibly breaking the law (although Ford didn't go into details on this). With their system - that I'll go through next - it takes just 1.8 seconds. Just pull the trigger on the steering wheel and say 'Play Rihanna music'. She'll belt out her classics in an instant. And, should you be unfortunate enough to be in a crash, the car will know and immediately try and connect to the last 12 devices that were paired with it to contact the emergency services. It'll also send your GPS location with its built-in GPS receiver.
All this might sound like it's light years away, but it's already here. There's an app for iOS called Tesla Model S and it lets you control various features of the Tesla electric car. You can flash the lights, make it start charging, open the sun roof, warm the seats up, lock the doors and even start the engine, all from your iPhone and no matter where you are in the world.
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