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ENDS: Predictions for 2014

Some thoughts about where 2014 will take Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).

ENDS, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, have really broken out this year. Some predictions seem in order for next year. If only to turn out wrong, predicting the future is an enjoyable exercise, considering how large systems will proceed based on limited information.

My main thought for 2014 comes from the trends over 2013 and earlier. 2013 has seen variable airflow control. Variable wattage and voltage were earlier developments.

Some have said variable juice flow will be coming, and I think that’s a good prediction. The main hurdle there is the differences in viscosity between different juices. Different mechanisms may perform differently at different viscosities, and different viscosities may perform differently at different flow levels. As far as I know there isn’t much data on the latter, and no data on the former, at least not in this realm/for this use.

But I believe variable resistance will also become available. The ability to change resistance on the fly may seem complicated at first, but it’s actually rather simple. The device can have fixed leads that move along the resistance element, and wherever they contact, however much resistance material they cover, defines the resistance.

This may mean non-wire resistance elements (eg, preformed or molded shapes with fixed resistance-per-millimeter and surface area) or a self-coiling feed mechanism (such that wire would be shaped into a coil as fed through the device), or maybe even both.

Non-wire elements may catch on now or later. What form they take may vary. For example, they might have stamped wicking slots, or may be designed to be surrounded by wicks/wicking material. Wicking slots may double as resistance stops: places that the leads may lock onto the element.

Depending on the direction that variable juice flow takes, wickless may also be possible with channels in the resistance material (either capillary effect or gravity-fed).

Wire-feed elements seem like a strong candidate as well. Wire already exists in a variety of gauges, and there is some existing know-how for feeding wire through a system. The main obstacle here seems the wicking of the auto-coiled wire. The wick will probably need a separate, integrated feed system.

Being able to vary resistance will be useful for a few reasons:

  1. Widens the types of devices that can be “rebuildable” without meaning they have to be of footprints that make it easy to manually rebuild.
  2. Augments the benefits of variable juice flow designs, possibly with a tandem control (ie, only certain flows will be available at certain resistances).
  3. Aids in safety/compatibility (eg, some devices only accept resistances above a certain level, while certain batteries are only rated to output a certain amperage).

As all of the various factors of electronically vaporized nicotine become variable, new understandings of the entire system will develop. Once you have control over airflow, power, juice, and resistance, you can likely find certain cross-tolerances. That’s similar to the charts showing the best power levels for given resistances.

We may see a move away from heat vaporization altogether. For now, it will be interesting to see how things develop.

Of course, 2014 will almost surely finally see the F.D.A. regulations, which may change the industry considerably, so this prediction may be premature.

False Futures in Technology

Commentary about the tendency for mobile devices and other technologies to give us a false sense of the future.

One of the big selling points for certain companies isn’t the actual product, but the cachet it carries. Some of that is and will be social exclusivity or stylistic. But some products have a futuristic quality.

The problem is that society can tend to gorge itself on false futures and avoid any real social progress. Futures where the only thing that changes is that our shoes buckle themselves, or we colonize other planets with our white picket fences.

It can be harder to see real future, in part because it’s so easy to forget the past. By the time I came around, and probably you too, segregation was gone. That’s a hard thing to know: that if I aged backwards through time instead of forwards, society would have developed segregation by now.

There is still progress on social justice, though, and it doesn’t come with a wall charger.

False futures like digital media with severely restricted markets. An electronic book reader would be a great thing, if the market were there for it. If the publishers competed on price, quality, anything but exclusivity and DRM.

The real future comes first in places where industry beckons it, as industry does not feel impeded like many individuals do, by laws made to prefer industry over people.

Drones are being touted as revolutionizing search and rescue operations. I have no doubt they will. Overall I do see drones and robotics as positives for the future, both for safety, but for efficiency and versatility as well.

But we need the laws and systems to avoid abuse, and we need to ensure that their use does not numb us to risks we shouldn’t take.

The same can be said for object printers or three-dimensional printers. As they grow larger, and we begin structural printing, we need to empower people with the tools to make sure the structures they build remain safe.

Taken together, within a few decades we may have the ability to build a new city in a matter of weeks without a person on the ground there.

But will that new city be subject to the same limitations we feel in society today? And will its newly relocated denizens still find the future in their mobile device or screen? In their ability to teleconference or have a robot vacuum their carpets?

I hope not. That sort of kick is false future to me. Technology that makes you feel like you’re in the future, instead of fading into the background, seems like a waste.

Literature and music can give you the same kick, without the high price tag. And it does a better job, because a song never crashes. A good story can take you places we will never go, places you are glad to visit but wouldn’t want to live in.

But as long as the device makers and technology companies have limited visions for the future, they will try to sell you a device to make you feel like you’re holding a piece of the future. All you’re really holding is a ticket to a false future.

Again: Mobile Should Be Many semi-Independent Devices

Some reasons I believe that mobile devices should be split into individual, interoperable parts, instead of one, coupled device.

Edit (10 September 2013): You might like to look at a neat video, YouTube: Dave Hakkens: Phonebloks or the related website for one designer’s proposal for a first-generation fragmented phone platform.

You see people complain or make fun of people taking pictures with a tablet. You should complain at the tablet makers, though. They are the ones you should make fun of. If the camera wants to dock with the device, fine. But there’s really little reason the camera should be built into the device, other than selling a package for more than the parts, and anti-capitalist barriers to entry.

So yeah, a non-ten-item list of becauses.

Because you can hand someone your camera without handing them your digital life. They can borrow your camera for a trip, and not take your movies and books with them.

Because you can change the data you wear to work and the data you wear after work, just like you change your clothes when you get home.

Because batteries run out, and even if they didn’t, sharing extra battery with a friend or stranger is better than hording it.

Because everyone’s priorities are different, and I don’t want the most megapixels, and you don’t want the physical keyboard, and…

Because the Internet of Things depends on not shoving a screen, speaker, and camera into every toaster, refrigerator, and coffeemaker.

Because it will be easier to add new sensors, for science!

Because holding up a large rectangle to position a tiny camera sensor is just no fun.

Because different photos and recordings require different sensors, lenses, mics, lights…

Because buying your mobile kit one piece at a time costs less, and that’s a more democratic model for spreading technology to everyone.

Because you can hand-me-down your old components to your kids, or trade with your coworkers for the parts that suit you better.

Because it takes the power away from the few companies that can afford to build the bundled equivalents, and gives it back to you.

Because who wants to buy a whole new device when the next generation wireless networks come out?

Because then it will come in your favorite color.

Because a single brick isn’t as wearable as separate parts.

Because it undermines silly arguments against things like tethering, when the radio isn’t integrated to just your device.

Because your preferences in computing should mean more than two brands or the plastic case you wrap around your device.

Because laptops have never been as buildable as desktops, and that’s been a shame.

Because functional capitalism depends on finding ways of competing on the smallest set of differences possible at once.

Because the camera sensor makers will compete on camera sensing abilities, and the processor makers on processing abilities, and so-on.

Because all the parts will compete on price.

Because having a backup shouldn’t mean having an entire, separate device.

Because it will spread at least basic literacy of what a device consists of to the masses.

Because it reminds us that we can do more working together than any superman could ever do by herself.

Because nobody lives a standard-issue life.

Because it’s your equipment, not theirs.

Because I can’t think of everything, and neither can they.

Do you have your own reasons that mobile devices should be split into their parts? Disagree? Feel free to comment!