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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 15:28 GMT
The top technologies of 2008

There is so much new stuff on show at CES: new ideas, new devices, new services. And of course everything here is going to take off and be a huge success - according to the people trying to sell us on their ideas, that is.

We have picked out a few technologies which we think really are going to start making it big in 2008.

And you know how technologists love their confusing abbreviations? These new ones are all acronyms as well.

ULTRA WIDE BAND (UWB)

It would be great if we could free ourselves from all the USB cables we have lying around our homes. That is where the wireless USB adapter comes in handy.

It can create an invisible bubble around your favourite gear allowing them to talk to each other at around the same rate as the cable.

We plugged it into a laptop streaming pictures to a monitor, but we could have used it to send pictures to six monitors simultaneously.

But UWB can also be used to send movies from your laptop to your TV or integrated into smaller bits of gear.

Jeff Ravencraft, president of the USB Implementers Forum said: "You can display your pictures from your camera or your cellphone directly to a display. You can get rid of all those cables from your mouse, hard drives, any of those cables that are around your computer."

It is about twice as fast as wi-fi and 200 times faster than the latest version of Bluetooth which is why the Bluetooth tribe is eyeing up UWB for its next version: Bluetooth 3.0.

Now there are few disadvantages. It has a short range - less than 10 metres. So wi-fi might still be the ticket to home networking - but for getting rid of the cables around your PC or for hi-def streaming, this is a step up.


ORGANIC LIGHT-EMITTING DIODES (OLED)

Organic light-emitting diodes is a rather odd name for a new generation of displays. It promises better pictures, lower power consumption and thinner lighter screens - but it also comes at a price.

Sony's 11-inch OLED TV
Sony's 11-inch OLED TV is pricey

Current day televisions have come along in leaps and bounds over the last decade and offer a vast array of sizes and specifications.

But there are some problems: the images take longer to fade from the screen, occasionally giving a vaguely blurry feel and the ratio of light to dark areas on the screen - known as the contrast ratio - is not as good as it could be.

OLED on the other hand has manufacturers claiming a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 which is astronomical - the colours really are breathtakingly vivid - and the screens fantastically thin.

The image is visible from extreme angles - something else traditional TVs have trouble doing.

Here is the but: the 11 inch Sony screens are $2,500 (1,300) each and the company is tight-lipped about the price of its bigger screen.

Another OLED player is Samsung which has announced it will be shipping OLEDs soon; there is no doubt that these too are going to be expensive.


SOLID STATE DRIVES (SSD)

The solid state drive is the future of hard drives - unfortunately, it could also be the end of the hard disk.

A solid state drive could be shaken to an inch of its life yet it will still play a movie onto a screen; proving that unlike a conventional hard disk it does not worry about knocks and bumps.

A traditional mechanical hard disk would not be able to provide the data flow to keep the film going with that amount of agitation.

These drives are quite expensive at the moment - a 64GB drive could set you back $1,400 (700) - but prices will be coming down over the next year.

There is talk of a 128GB drive coming to market soon but the biggest we could find was the oddly numbered 72GB drive.


NEAR FIELD COMMUNICATION (NFC)

An NFC or Near Field Communication tag is the technology that allows devices to communicate with each other simply by being put close together and they are starting to be incorporated into phones.

When a phone with built-in NFC is near a Bluetooth speaker, also with NFC built-in, the two devices can pair and work together.

In some countries we can already buy tickets on the web and use handsets to redeem them when we get to the concert.

In Japan they already use this kind of technology to pay for things. The phone knows how much is in your bank - the transaction takes place with a simple swipe.

NFC chips in photo frames due out this year will automatically recognise a friendly phone and start the transfer of your pictures or print them out again without wires or the need to manually set up a Bluetooth connection.

"NFC isn't just about phones. Imagine being able to take your home remote control and touching it to all the different components you've got and all of a sudden you're miraculously connected," explained Deborah Arnold of the NFC Forum.

"Or the same thing in your home office, if you were to take your mouse and touch it to all your devices you have a wireless office. NFC is very intuitive."


WIMAX

We have already seen two short range wireless technologies - but now here is the daddy - Wimax is long range and it has been a long time coming.

Cyber Tower

If you saw last week's show you will know that in some parts of the world - like Mauritius - it is already here. Islanders use a Wimax modem plugged into their laptop.

In some ways Wimax is similar to wi-fi, in that a base station radiates a signal to a user's PC or mobile device, to give them high-speed internet access.

But wi-fi only reaches about 100 metres whereas a Wimax base station can cover several kilometres. So just a handful of these super hotspots can blanket a town or city making it a rival to 3G data services.

So what about the hardware? Some mobile internet devices and laptops will be sold with Wimax chips inside before the end of this year.




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