How Electrical Engineering Has Transformed Communication

How Electrical Engineering Technologies Have Transformed Communication

Communication has always been a vital part of society’s development. Humans have been using various techniques to aid in work, war, and personal exchanges for millennia. The sophistication has accelerated in the last few decades thanks to new technologies. We now have more convenient options available, and the future is promising even better ways of staying in touch.

To learn more, checkout this infographic created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Masters in Electrical Engineering program.

Advances in Communication

Early Exchanges of Communication

The earliest communication tools show just how innovative humans are. People used drums and horns to alert their tribes about impending dangers, create puffs of smoke with their own codes, or use homing pigeons to deliver messages faster. The first tin-cup telephone was invented in 1672 but it would take a long time before the technology could mature. In 1790, optical telegraphs were used to exchange messages using arrays of pivoting paddies.

Beyond the Telephone Age

Electrical communication was revolutionized by Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the modern telephone in 1876. We have since progressed in astonishing directions. By the 1950s, nearly every household was equipped with a landline and in 1969, ARPANET was activated with funding from the US Department of Defense. This evolved into the Internet, which we depend on today. In 1973, Motorola was able to produce the first handheld mobile phone, a huge device that weighed 2.4 lbs. and only delivered 30 minutes of talk time after 10 hours of charging. In 1979, the first commercial cellular network was launched in Japan.

The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol was developed in 1982 and became the foundation of the email system. Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web to the public in 1989 and has grown exponentially since then. By the early 1990s, the second generation or 2G networks appeared and cell signals shifted from analog to digital. Encryption boosted security while data services like text messaging began to be offered. The very first SMS text was sent to the Vodafone CEO and said, “Merry Christmas.” This became a popular alternative to voice communication due to the clarity and discreet nature of the written word.

The start of the new millennium ushered in 3G networks, which promised faster speeds and wider coverage. Adoption was slow but steady. In 2008, 4G LTE networks entered the market surpassing 3G speeds by a considerable margin, which have improved the experience of mobile surfing, although data charges remain quite expensive.

Communication Today: How and How Much?

Current communication channels are more social. For instance, Twitter offers a platform that accepts a limited number of characters but allows embedded links and media. Public tweets could become part of global conversations about major events and breaking news, and they have certainly become hot topics in the 2016 elections. Facebook status updates can be much longer. These are posted as part of a personal profile that’s immediately visible to friends. Text messaging is still here with emojis and images being routinely added.

Voice calls can now be made over the Internet for cheaper communications over long distances. People from different countries can talk clearly without delays using mobile applications like Skype. They can even do video calls to enhance the experience. This is great for families that are scattered across the country. Chatterbots are conversational programs that can simulate human speaking behaviors. They are currently being used in customer service settings and NLP research.

The volume of electronic communication today is staggering. WhatsApp users send over 30 billion messages on a daily basis. There are about 500 million tweets posted on Twitter every day. As for Facebook, there are 293,000 status updates and 136,000 photos shared every minute. The rate of penetration among young people is high at 96% for those members in the 16-24 age range who use some form of text-based application. Phone calls and emails are still widely used as well.

Fantasy or the Future?

It is inspiring to look back on the rapid advance of communication technologies. Humans moved from hand signals to online messaging in just a matter of 200 years. Future prospects are quite intriguing given this fantastic rate of progress. Some things that were regarded as science fiction may become commonplace within the next decade. Examples of these are virtual reality and augmented reality. VR allows users to have an immersive experience of imaginary environments. AR, on the other hand, presents information about the surroundings that users can interact with. This can have a big impact on travel.

Game Changers

Virtual, augmented and mixed experiences have the capacity to move us from text-based communication to face-to-face conversations. Things will finally go full circle but in a more convenient manner. The market for dedicated AR devices is expected to reach $660 million by 2018. Meanwhile, the market for VR devices is projected to reach $408 million within the same time frame. These are the equivalent of selling 24 million units. Revenues from related products and services can hit $150 billion by the end of the decade. Head-mounted displays are already gaining traction and will only become more popular as the technology improves in the next five years.

Other Future Techs

People are already anticipating the rollout of 5G networks with data rates of up to 10 Gbps. This makes on-the-go HD video streaming and other bandwidth-heavy mobile applications feasible. The Internet of Things is also being developed. The aim is to connect devices that can communicate with each other for more efficient operation. Telepathy is also poised to become reality using transcranial magnetic stimulation to enable direct thought exchanges. Holographic displays that create 3-D images using refracted light can become more widespread. Holograms may be used in lectures, conference calls, and interactive advertisements. The possible applications are endless.

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