As I write this column, this sixth anniversary of the release of the first iPhone is looming. It’s hard to believe it now as I see preteens walking through stores with their ubiquitous iPhones in their hands, presumably texting friends and watching video rather than comparison shopping for the best price on an “Angry Birds” board game.
Just six years ago, the smartphone dawned, with its “personal computer in your pocket” design. Plus, the App Store introduced at the same time allowed you to customize your personal device with almost anything you could want. Need an engineering calculator, physics game, way to carry and transfer files, play music and movies, and — that’s right, it’s a phone, too! — make and receive calls? You could (and can) find it in the App Store, with more options added each day.
Competition is healthy and soon other mobile phone manufacturers and software makers brought rival devices to market. While that may have made (and continues to make) it harder for app developers, it’s a boon for consumers, who have even more choices.
The influence of smartphones soon penetrated the industrial marketplace as well, as smart controls, real-time process monitoring and 24/7 remote access went from luxurious add-ons to nearly must-haves for many applications. Now your processing line can text you at 3 a.m. with that problem you otherwise would not have known about until regular working hours. The technology innovations most assuredly have cut downtime, scrap and lost production even if they have interrupted your slumber.
Some of the heat processing technologies shown in this issue — our annual Product Marketplace — show little influence of the march of time. After all, you take fuel, add oxygen and a source of ignition, and you have had fire since caveman days. But how you control that fire, and what you can know about that fire when you’re not immediately adjacent to the burner, has changed tremendously.
Peruse the products, systems, components, supplies, devices and tools on the following pages. The iPhone brought a device to market that consumers didn’t really know they needed until they saw it. Likewise, many of the products in the Product Marketplace can deliver capabilities you may not be aware of. Some technologies may be evolving at an almost too fast rate, and yet enduring technologies have stood the test of time. We bring you both.