Elektra 2012 Product Innovation Award – Readers’ Choice

This is your chance to shape the destination of an Elektra 2012 Award. We are looking for readers’ votes in the Product Innovation category, which is sponsored by Avnet Electronics Marketing.

There are five products involved, from: Neul and Carlson, FlatFrog, Thales, Tobii Technology, and HTC. Read the entries below and cast your vote!


White space radio system

The first commercially wireless communications system to use the TV white space spectrum from Neul and Carlson is called RuralConnect, is designed to offer broadband communications with a bandwidth of 16Mbit/s on each available vacant TV channel.

“This is a major milestone in the realisation of white space technologies, which have been in development for a while,” commented Luke D’Arcy, v-p of marketing at Cambridge-based Neul.

White space radio takes advantage of unused TV channels as we switch from analogue TV to digital TV. Signals in these frequencies can travel long distances and will penetrate walls. 

In the UK there is up to 150MHz of high quality white space spectrum available. For comparison, typical nationwide 3G networks operate with a mere 30MHz of spectrum, and while 3G spectrum has licensing costs, white space spectrum will be available free of charge.

Touchscreen that uses scattered light

Swedish start-up FlatFrog has an in-glass touchscreen that uses scattered light to provide multi-touch.

“The capacitive technology used in most competing screens reacts to electronic fields in the screen, hence it responds only to fingertips,” said FlatFrog. “Planar scatter detection [PSD] reacts also to thick gloves, plastic, rubber, whatever you want to use.” Claimed performance is: 40 simultaneous touch and drag points, detected without delay, or blurring or jitter of the image; with coordinates as dense as 400dpi, resulting in movement detected down to 63µm.

The screens can be mounted in tables or walls, be placed upright or hung like a TV. The technology can also be adapted for consumer products like laptops or smartphones.

Its first product, launched at the ISE Trade Show in Amsterdam, is a big one: the high-definition 32in LED-backlit Multitouch 3200, which is 55mm thick.


Gesture control screen for in-flight entertainment

In-flight entertainment (IFE) systems will soon do away with touchscreens and handsets if a prototype under development by Thales makes it through to production.

Looking like the webcam built into most of today’s laptop screens, an infrared camera linked to the standard seatback screen is capable of reading a passenger’s hand gestures to select IFE content and even control games.

For passengers, the trick is to imagine a touchscreen hovering in mid-air at chest level.

Traditional touchscreens are expensive and suffer a lot of wear and tear, so a simple infrared camera – which in the future may be replaced by an even cheaper webcam – should cut costs.

And as the entire IFE delivery system resides in the seatback installation, costs and overall maintenance are cut, and upgrades are simplified.

Also, eliminating the touchscreen, or other manual controller, cuts the risk of disease transmission, which should make the technology attractive in other markets, ranging from medical applications to automated teller machines.

PC eye control technology

Eye tracking interface technology for laptop PCs Windows 8 has been developed by Sweden’s Tobii Technology.
It works by the user looking at an application on screen and taps the computer’s touchpad to launch it. The tracking technology is housed in a sensor along the bottom of the screen.

Infrared lights illuminate the viewer’s eyes, then rapid-action cameras take pictures – about 30 per second – to build a 3D model of them.

“Once we know where the eye is looking, we can treat it like a cursor or a pointer,” says Tobii spokeswoman Barbara Barclay.
In a demo the technology worked surprisingly well, although having to tap the computer’s touchpad to launch applications – but not to navigate the screen – felt unnatural. The eye tracking conflicted with the urge to swipe the touchpad to move around.
Eye tracking won’t replace traditional computer controls, Barclay admits, but there are niches where it will be considerably better suited.

HTC One X smartphone

HTC’s One X smartphone is notable because of its 4.7-inch, 720p HD screen fabricated from contoured Corning Gorilla Glass.

The phone’s quad-core Nvdia Tegra 3 Mobile Processor runs at 1.5GHz. It also has a 12-Core Nvidia GPU.

The case is made from polycarbonate which is both lightweight and rugged.

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