The red queen’s race

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD



Working in the industry, we live very close to the developments that are advancing our technology and the systems based upon them. We see nascent science turn into rough prototypes and then into finished products on a regular basis. We are familiar, even if not comfortable, with the rapid pace of progress and how it is fundamentally changing our society and how it works.

This fourth (and possibly last) industrial revolution is a logical result of convergence, the unseen hands of market, technology, and opportunity pushing different core technologies to address the same application spaces from different directions. A good example can be found in our industry at the point of load (PoL). Once upon a time power supply companies made supplies, passive companies made passives, and semiconductor companies made transistors. Today, that PoL converter could come from any one of those manufacturing verticals. The walls between the bins are crumbling.

This convergence is no more visible than in the consumer-oriented industries. Beyond the internal technical convergence that had been going on for years, once the Internet lit the fires of functionality convergence, the world has seen an explosion of devices and services all vying for the lucrative niches in the marketplace as animal species fill an ecosystem. This competition pressure in an environment of advanced wireless, computing, and sensor technologies has created a plethora of solutions based upon often widely-divergent core tech.

This is a double-edged sword, for this fast-paced churn is both good and bad for the industry. On the one hand, we need to go through multiple iterations and generations of products to refine them and evolve the marketplace. On the other we have a market full of rapidly-changing devices and solutions that the end user often struggles to keep pace with. Add to that the ongoing evolution of the Cloud and IoT and you have a recipe for as much confusion as development. This only helps those who profit from chaos.

In Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Alice meets the Red Queen, who takes Alice on a series of adventure, one of which involved running as fast as she could to just stay in the same place. In the Queen’s words, “"…it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" This is the situation many find themselves in as consumers in this disruptive marketplace. They find multiple solutions from multiple providers, often based on different core technologies, and struggle with the task of understanding and evaluating them.

We in the industry can help this by being as educational and informative in our presentations of technology to the public, and cooperate on industry standards that will reduce confusion in the marketplace by reducing the number of unnecessary variables presented to the consumer. A myriad of user interface protocols, confusing industry jargon, and proprietary approaches will not help move the industry forward.