Things You’ve Used Today
That Won’t Be Around
in 20 Years
In the new millennium, progress and change is happening more rapidly than ever before. For example, look at how different life in 1996 was compared to 2016. Cell phones weren’t yet commonplace, the internet was still making headway in becoming more mainstream, and so on. So it makes you stop and wonder: just how different will things be in another 20 years?
10. Plug-in Phone Chargers
A problem with all of the new tech that will replace everything is that it will require energy. As of right now, if you go out without charging your phone, it’s a pretty big annoyance. However, if you need your phone because it has all of your information (credit cards, car insurance, and so forth) stored, it’s important that it is charged all the time. Of course, that means taking time out to plug your phone, and other devices, into an outlet so it can charge for a few hours.
However, looking to solve that problem, a few companies are developing technology that will allow people to charge their devices without even taking them out of their pockets. Specifically, using radio waves. How they all essentially work is using special antennas that focus cellular and Wi-Fi signals into a pocket of low-powered energy that is on the back of the phone. Then, a receiver converts the radio power into DC energy, which charges the battery.
This technology isn’t far off, either. By late 2016, a company called Energous is planning to release a wireless charger that, from a distance of up to five feet, would charge a phone similar to a wall charger. At 10 feet, it would be similar to charging using a USB, and at 15 feet, it would be like a trickle of a charge.
By 2036, this technology will be stronger and charging units could be dispersed publicly, meaning your phone and other devices could always be charging.
9. Physical Wallets
Wallets may become obsolete simply because, sooner or later, there will be nothing to put into them. Essentially, everything in the wallet is going to get outsourced. Physical currency may still be used, but things like credit cards and debit cards will be changed to apps. This transition is already happening with apps like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
Forms of identification will also become digital, but one of the main pieces of ID may be on its way out in about 20 years as well. It is predicted that by 2025, self-driving autonomous cars will be introduced (Google, you’re probably aware, is already hard at work on this project), and that by 2040, they will be commonplace. This could eliminate the need for a driver’s license altogether.
Finally, in your wallet there are a lot of things that you keep safe, like your money and your pieces of identification. If you lose your wallet, it could lead to a lot of problems, like identity theft. However, phones are encrypted and even the makers of the phone and the FBI have problems hacking them. Plus, unlike your wallet, they can be traced with GPS if lost or stolen.
So without a need for debit and credit cards or a physical driver’s license, wallets may just be relegated to objects that 2036’s form of hipsters use to be ironic.
Due to inflation, the humble penny has really lost its relevancy over the past few decades. Many people wouldn’t stop to pick one up, and if they do it may just be for good luck because it certainly won’t improve your own personal wealth. Most of the time pennies are used solely to get rid of them, or to keep yourself from getting any more by having exact change. Finally, in countries like the United States, not only has the value of the penny gone down, but copper prices have also gone up. In 2014, it cost 1.7 cents to make one penny.
The solution, which countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have already done, is simply to eliminate the penny in cash transactions. Instead, it is just rounded to the nearest five cent increment. Electronic transactions, like paying with debit and credit cards, will still count cents.
With inflation and copper prices expected to go up, by 2036, the use of the copper pennies will be eliminated in many countries.
In theory, specialized passwords are a good idea for security. However, on average, most people have between five and 10 passwords, all of which should be complex for greater security and half of which they forget and constantly have to reset anyway. Not that we speak from experience, or anything. Ahem. Moving on, the problem is that our brains have a hard time remembering complex sequences, like those ideally used for passwords (which IT specialists tell you should include combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers in random order).
In 20 years, passwords and pin codes for internet and banking accounts will be old news. Technology is currently being developed that would use different biometrics that would be hard to copy. This includes iris scans, voice recognition, fingerprint scans (which Apple, for example, already lets you use to access iPhones, and which can be used in place of passwords for several apps), facial recognition, and even a scanner that recognizes veins in people’s hands.
Besides the elimination of passwords, there will be other, very futuristic, Big Brother-ish sci-fi security on devices, like phones, that measure behavior. A company called BioCatch has a technology that creates behavioral profiles that analyze over 500 parameters, such as how someone holds their device, how they scan a website, and what sites they visit. If someone who is not you is using the device, the device can be shut down, or have the usage limited.
6. Physical Media
For physical media, we thought we would break it down into four subcategories: music, movies, books, and video games.
For years, music and movies have moved away from physical media and have become digital downloads or are available through streaming services. We’ve seen this through the fall of places like Tower Records and Blockbuster Video, while iTunes and Netflix have skyrocketed in popularity. So it should not be a surprise that in 20 years, things like physical CDs and even DVDs and Blu-Rays will mostly be relegated to things people buy simply because they want a physical copy. The reason this is happening just comes down to cost and convenience. For example, music is recorded and mixed on a computer, then burned onto a CD, then shipped out to the store or Amazon warehouse, and so on. With digital, there are no materials or shipping costs – not to mention the immediacy of it, or the fact that a downloaded file can’t be damaged or scratched, unlike a disc.
Where this gets a bit more complicated is video games. Obviously with games, downloading and streaming with companies like Steam are becoming more and more common. However, where the industry is heading is still highly debated with two schools of thought. Will people still buy individual, physical games, or is Steam (or potentially a Netflix-style game site) the wave of the future? Well, the problem is games are way more complex than movies and television shows. This has led to speculation that game technology will always be too complex and too big to be entirely streamed, though digital downloads remain an increasingly popular option.
The final physical media is also the oldest – printed books. Of course, if you talk to a book lover, they will think it is crazy to even suggest that print books would be obsolete in 20 years. After all, other forms of physical media don’t necessarily affect the experience. Yes, the quality changes if you are listening to vinyl as opposed to a CD. However, it is impossible to tell the difference between CD and high quality digital downloads. However, there is a noticeable difference between reading a printed book and an e-reader. This may be why books are more resistant to death over the next 20 years. In fact, in 2015, digital book sales started to drop and the sale of printed books increased. So the future of books, both electronic and printed, is uncertain.
5. Needle Injections
Getting a needle injection is a bit of a paradox, because you stick a piece of metal into your body (which seems scary, and always feels like a bad idea), yet the injection may be lifesaving. Well, good news for people who don’t like getting pricked by needles: in 20 years, we’ll all probably be prickless. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Well, you know what we mean.
Two projects at MIT are looking at two very different ways to give people injections without puncturing the skin. The first uses jet injection technology, meaning it can shoot a substance at ultra-high speeds. The device is able to inject medicine by traveling almost as fast as the speed of sound, which allows the drug to flow through an opening in the skin that is about the size of a mosquito proboscis.
A second technology may sound rather horrible, but it actually could be a much safer way to administer drugs: capsule-coated needles that would deliver drugs directly to the stomach lining. The reason that some drugs have to be given to patients intravenously is because if a drug is made from large protein molecules, the digestive system breaks them down as if they are food. This new method of swallowing the injection would allow doctors to dose patients with large antibodies much more efficiently. This would include drugs used in cancer treatment and vaccines.
4. Washers and Dryers
Doing the laundry really isn’t that difficult of a chore, especially when you compare it to how things would have been before electric washer and dryers. Yet, we know that deep down, no one really likes to do the laundry. It’s time consuming, and we’re lazy.
The good news is that 20 years from now, we may not need to. Two separate groups of researchers, one in China in 2012, and another group in Australia in 2016, developed a coating from nanoparticles that reacts similar to bleach when it is exposed to the sun. For the Chinese group, it took 18 hours to coat the clothing, and it couldn’t be traditionally washed afterwards. However, the Australian group was able to coat the clothing in 40 minutes and the nanoparticles stayed on the clothes even when they were traditionally washed 15 times.
Once clothes can be cleaned by just putting it out in the sun, well, then it’s just a matter of doing exactly that and ditching your washer and dryer or trips to the laundromat. After all, being able to use the sun to wash your clothes should be easy for everyone who doesn’t live in England or Seattle.
3. Car Mirrors
More and more cars are taking advantage of cameras. In fact, starting in May 2018, all new cars that are manufactured are required to have a rearview camera. Besides just replacing the rearview mirror, cameras are also expected to replace side view mirrors as well. Cameras are simply becoming cheaper, and there is more of an advantage because cameras have a better range of view, such as seeing into blind spots. Finally, as cars move toward being self-driving, the amount of cameras will increase, and since a computer wouldn’t use mirrors to look around the car, they simply won’t be practical.
Beyond cars, there are even some who believe that mirrors will start to disappear from everyday life (which is really going to cause people to get more creative with how they take selfies). Instead, they will be replaced with high resolution monitors that will allow you to do close ups, get biometric readings, and see yourself dressed in different outfits. This would also have decorative features because that big area in rooms that are taken up by mirrors could be anything on the screen.
2. Metal Keys
People have been locking up their possessions since the days of Ancient Egypt, but over the next 20 years or so, keys are going to be given a radical update. Mainly, they will be electronic and on your phone or other portable, electronic device. Volvo, as shown in the video above, is at the forefront of trying to get this movement away from physical keys started. There’s a good chance you’ve also been in a car that’s got a push button starter, which only requires what is basically a keyless fob to be in the car for it to start.
New digital keys will do more than just lock and unlock the door for users. Doors could also be opened with blue tooth. Virtual keys could also be sent to guests with timers, and you can control who has access to open the locks, and at what times.
Using your phone as a key is already being used in Starwood Hotels and Range Rover is using the technology in their cars. Currently, the problem is that digital copies of locks may be easier to pick, and with so many important, personal items on your phone (credit cards, ID, the key to your car…you know, basically half of your life), losing or damaging your phone could be devastating.
1. Checkout Lines
Online shopping certainly has its advantages compared to retail shopping. However, sometimes you just want to look at, touch, and try out a product before buying it. Also, sometimes there are benefits of browsing the store, whereas visiting a website you may only visit certain sections. But, in order to compete, stores will have to look to be innovative, and one of the best ways to do that would be to eliminate lines. After all, who likes to line up to hand over their money?
Well, frictionless commerce is already starting to emerge. The most notable company that takes advantage of this is Uber. There is no money exchanged, it’s all just on the app. Well, this will happen when you do things like grocery shop. Any time you put something in your bag, it automatically tallies up and charges you as you walk out of the store.
Here Today Gone Tomorrow