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Samsung Galaxy S4: New Sensors Enable Decentralized Innovation

· March 15, 2013

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Yesterday, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 launched in an elaborate presentation at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.  What caught my eye the most was the inclusion of new sensors, that allow the phone to collect more data about the user and her outside environment — enabling a new wave of developer and app innovation.  Aside from the already standard accelerometer, RGB light, digital compass, proximity, gyroscope and barometer, the Galaxy S4 introduced 3 new sensors: temperature, humidity and IR Gesture.

In today’s world of decentralized software development (think: app ecosystem), perhaps the most important thing a device manufacturer can do is build in new hardware features of this nature.  Even if the device won’t ship at launch with a full suite of programs taking advantage of these new sensors, allowing application developers access to real time temperature and humidity information, or hand and finger gestures, can inspire a whole new wave of app innovation.

After all, most of the functionality of a smartphone is lines of code wrapped around data inputs that the device takes in, whether that is voice commands, time, GPS location data, or Samsung’s new eye-reading functionality that lets the users scroll with their eyes (just a new use of a previous generation’s feature — the front facing camera).

If a team of researchers can figure out a way to monitor your heart rate remotely using a smartphone’s camera, who knows what a huge ecosystem of app developers can build with temperature and humidity information and the ability to sense gestures.

Competition

Some, if not all of society’s most useful innovations are the byproduct of competition. In fact, although it may sound counterintuitive, innovation often flourishes when an incumbent is threatened by a new entrant because the threat of losing users to the competition drives product improvement. The Internet and the products and companies it has enabled are no exception; companies need to constantly stay on their toes, as the next startup is ready to knock them down with a better product.

Innovation

New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.