Generation Wireless

Why everyone should take notice of the über-connected Millennials.

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Being a “mature” individual, I hate to say it but I remember the days before email, before tablets, before…well, lots of wireless stuff. My lust for the bleeding edge must have started when I stuck my finger in a light socket around the age of eight. It probably changed my brain composition, but I have been on the bleeding edge of technology ever since. Shortly thereafter, when all my friends were playing ball, tag, and the like, I was digging around trash cans for old radios people threw out, trying to fix them.

I had one of the first cell phones that came out in the late 1980s – the Motorola brick as it was known. It was a “review” item. That meant Motorola gave it to me to play with in hopes I’d give them favorable press.

Today my office contains the consumer version of the Cray computer and I have visions of miniature Hadron collider in the basement to amuse the cats. They wouldn’t make me a scaled-down version no matter how much I begged. But if they would, I would drool over it.

But the one thing I really love about being in and around high tech. as both and engineer and an editor, is that I get to see much of what is on the edge and play with it. It’s a true techno-geek’s dream job.

But I digress. Where I am going with this is that I have also seen the change in people as the younger generations grow up with in the digital, wireless age, and how it shapes their lives, compared to the bleeding edge 40 years ago, that shaped my life. The “millennial generation,” the digitally wired generation that was born in the 90s and onward, has spent their entire lives around cellphones, the Internet, video chat, Facebook, twitter, Google, etc. Today, they represent the most valuable, but fickle, market for wireless technologies and the digital world.

I talk to them from time to time and find out that they generally haven’t the slightest interest in how it works, just that it does work. They rely so heavily on their toys, apps, and gadgets, and consider them a seamless extension of their social interaction platform with the world. And they don’t want it to be cumbersome, complex, or unreliable. They are generally skeptical of traditional institutions like religion, politics, and Ivy League schools. They would rather improvise than plan, and can shift gears at a moment’s notice. They shun material things and the standard path to wealth, and many take the attitude that less is better in today’s volatile world.

But one thing that every segment of society better take notice of is that this group constitutes one of the most influential driving forces for technology today. They are fueling a complete rethink of what we old peeps are used to. For example, a brand new cable and digital network called “Fusion” was just created specifically for them. Its focus is to deliver content the way they are used to it – across multiple platforms (tablets, smartphones, netbooks, etc.) and in formats they have become used to (social media). And they expect it to be immediate, up-to-date, fast, and short. What they have done is to force the old paradigm to shift from slow, methodical, and lasting to fast, nimble and disposable.

So, all of this should speak to our industry loudly. Once the IoT is up with its billions and billions of sensors, providing gazillions of statistics for big data analysis, and much of it coming from the millennials, it should give us a pretty clear roadmap as to what is important and what isn’t. And that should reveal the direction in which the semiconductor industry should be heading.

Thirty something years ago, as a young applications engineer working in the marketing department, I would have given my eyeteeth for such data. Today, with all the new tools, such as big data, it will drop in our laps. It is a fine time to be on the edge of the envelope.