Such intelligence can be found in five broad markets. The first is the consumer segment, which includes home appliances and entertainment equipment. The second is automotive, where a modern car has nearly 50 microcontrollers providing intelligence and control, like keyless entry, antilock braking, and air bags. The third market is office automation, which includes PCs, keyboards, copiers and printers. The fourth market is telecommunications, which includes mobile phones, networks and answering machines. And the fifth market encompasses industrial products, such as door locks for hotels and industrial machinery. The revolution in embedded intelligence is driven by microcontrollers. We use more than 30 times as many microcontrollers each year. Looking at the average western adult we can tell that there is one microprocessor in his laptop but he is using at least 12 to 14 microcontrollers every day. We have one in our mobile phone, watch and calculator. Microcontrollers are in a laptop computer’s mouse, keyboard, modem, sound card and battery charger. In our homes we might not find many microprocessors, but there are several microcontrollers in the alarm clocks, thermostats, air conditioners, TV remote, hair dryer, VCR and of course the refrigerator. There is an explosion in the application of microcontrollers, and they all deliver embedded intelligence. Today, almost any end product, if there is power applied to it, will use a microcontroller. The microprocessor-based information revolution is above the surface and very visible. However, the embedded information processing revolution is much larger and happens beneath the surface. [Sanghi,1996]
The Disappearing Computer
Another fact that needs to be underlined is that contrary to the previous notions, by which I mean VR and MR that actually use the computer as a tool, Physical Computing suggests a new approach.
Using Everyday Objects as Communication tools
Fig. 13 Ratio of microchips to humans on Earth [source: ibid]
Fig. 14 Five- year market forecast for number of MEMS chips produced for microelectronics [source: ibid]
Fig.15 Five year trend: number of stories in the New York Times including the world “sensors” [source: ibid]