In the future (carrying) less is more

In the future (carrying) less is more

In the future (carrying) less is more

There are four things I hate carrying around: wallet, house keys, cash, laptop. They just add friction to your day, discomfort to your pockets, and weight to your backpack. I’m working to do away with all of them.

Wap your wad

The wallet and the cash are increasingly easy, as long as you don’t care about loyalty card points. I’m willing to ditch those in favour of a nice empty pocket, even without the privacy concerns. For most of this week I have been relying on my phone for payments and have found few occasions when it has not been accepted.

I have tried tucking a credit card and a single cash note into my jeans for those occasions but found the credit card gets easily bent. A little engineering along the lines of the Ridge wallet may be required.

Unlock your pockets

The keys are more complicated. Yes, there are digital locks, like the Yale lock I tested recently, which I will be fitting to the door of my workshop (when I get around to fitting a door to my workshop). But this would annoy the crap out of the rest of my family as a front door control.

Instead I need a system where I can use my phone (or RFID) while they continue to use a key. I haven’t yet found one fits my front door, and I don’t really fancy replacing the door just yet.

Leave the laptop

The laptop is perhaps the biggest challenge. I’m lucky to have a pretty dinky laptop but it’s still the biggest and heaviest item I have to carry each day.

Until now I’ve always believed that mobile devices lack the horsepower for a lot of my work, but I now think it is only the interface that stops me getting everything done with a pocket sized device. And I mean that in every sense: even if I can type fast enough on screen — as I’m doing now — I don’t have the screen size or mouse-driven precision for video or audio editing, or presentation prep.

Lots of attempts have been made to overcome these challenges with hybrid devices and accessories. But, of course, the more additional hardware it involves, the more you may as well carry a laptop. This will require experimentation…

In the future…

So far this has just been a post about my pet peeves. But there is a point to it: this stuff all goes away, and soon.

The first step will be further consolidation into the smartphone as it increasingly integrates all of the major wallet functions — not just payments but smart cards, loyalty schemes, and ID.

Then it will start to absorb the key chain. Right now, digital locks are a pain: power is a problem, people are concerned about security, and there’s no straight electronic replacement for barrel locks and security doors — without changing the door. But all of these problems will be solved in time.

Where it gets really interesting is when these functions start to explode out of the phone and either become device-less, or integrated elsewhere.

The first place people think of for this integration is the body, but given the fast pace of technology change, I remain sceptical about anything embedded under the skin. Rather, I think we’ll see schemes that replace the device altogether: biometric sensors for identification could go a long way to replacing keys and cards. Maybe a single, small, ID device could provide a second authentication factor.

Likewise with computing power: why take it with us when the power can be hosted in the cloud and projected to us when we need it? Future devices might only need a minuscule physical presence if they can capture voice input, or project three dimensional interfaces through augmented reality. Even the AR device may only be the size of a contact lens.

A minimalist future

We may be on the path towards a minimalist future already: most media items are disappearing — discs, newspapers, magazines. We may be buying more books for now but how many people do you see out listening to, watching or reading from their digital devices rather than a dedicated physical medium?

The convergence of devices into the smartphone is already cliché, but it hasn’t finished until it has swallowed the wallet and the key chain. I still believe we will see an explosion of functions out of the smartphone as more ergonomic options become economically viable. But long term, those devices may be so small, that we don’t even remember we’re carrying them. Or, there may be no device at all.

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Humanity series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Humanity page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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