Beyond iPhone and Android: 5 hot new platforms for developers

From the car to the living room, technologies and markets are fast evolving to offer lucrative possibilities for programming pioneers

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Some areas of the world are already experimenting with flexible meters that charge different amounts when electricity is cheaper and when it is more expensive. In the future, your refrigerator may come with an app that watches this metric and cools down the freezer when the power is as cheap as possible. Your air conditioner, furnace, oven, and home Hadoop cluster may do the same.

Changing the price for the electricity is just the beginning. There's no reason why the home electrical grid can't have a fair amount of intelligence inside it. Instead of dumb outlets, we can have nodes that watch the flow of electricity through the outlets. If a wire shorts out or a kid chews through a cable, the smart outlets will be able to shut down the instant surge in power.

Emerging development platform No. 5: Retail

In many ways, the computing world has already split into a taxonomy of acronyms for use by venture capitalists. The B2B world helps businesses communicate with each other, the C2C helps consumers talk with each other, and the B2C helps the B sell to the C.

The app world should also split along these lines on the smartphones; when the software finds a larger, more prominent platform, the apps will only get more interesting and, in some cases, more annoying.

The movie "Minority Report" gave us a glimpse of digital advertisements that adjust themselves as people walk by. Some companies are building smart billboards that use cameras to guess the age or gender of pedestrians, and others use Microsoft's Kinect platform to let people interact with the screen. A company called After-Mouse married the Kinect with Windows API to build a retail platform. The Kinect's infrared sensors work through many forms of glass, making it possible to set up the displays behind shop windows. They interact even when the store is closed, a feature that might be used to take orders.

The devices don't need to be limited to advertisements. One simple application can help guide humans to what they want to buy. Already some warehouses have LEDs that flash to guide the humans packing orders. A store can have a similar system that interacts with any app to help people find products without searching and searching. Think of how much easier it could be to shop at Costco.

It's important to recognize that the retail API does not need to interact with the human. Cellphones constantly broadcast their ID numbers in the clear, and some stores track their customers to help plan store layouts. A savvy API might simply detect and identify the human from the cellphone signals, then reconfigure the store experience.

This retail ecology will begin to flourish when there's a good, open standard that makes it simpler for companies to be certain that their interactive display software will appear correctly in the stores, malls, and bus stops.

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This article, "Beyond iPhone and Android: 5 hot new platforms for developers," originally appeared at Follow the latest news in programming and mobile technology at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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