Physical remote controls
The emergence of Voice assistants made it clear that physical remote controls are in their final days. You’ll no longer need to keep a dozen remotes or spend hours obliterating your couch cushions and inadvertently teaching your children bad words while search of one. But even today, there’s a whopping bunch of smart home tech that supports voice commands… and the manufacturers aren’t going to stop there! So how did voice assistants go from being an awkward way to check the weather to a piece of technology that allows you to control your entire home with little to no effort?
When Apple first presented Siri in 2011, nobody took that whole voice assistant thingy with much seriousness. Despite all the hype, Siri’s beta version was quite slow and oftentimes inaccurate. Back then, it seemed more like one of those fancy new features that you never really use. Well, maybe a couple of time just to show off before your friends and horrify your grandma. However, Apple soon released a bunch of updates for Siri, which made it sound like a more finished product. In the meantime, other large companies in the form of Google and Microsoft didn’t want to lag behind and released their own AI-based voice assistants. In 2012, Google presented Google Now and, the year after, Microsoft introduced Cortana at the annual “Build” conference. Now that each of the three most popular mobile platforms — iOS, Android, and Windows Phone — had its own voice assistant. The market was rapidly growing.
Along with Artificial Intelligence, there was another industry that was gaining momentum — the Internet of Things. The very idea of an ecosystem, in which all physical devices are interconnected and can be controlled with only your voice has been dreamt of since the late 1990s. However, the issue was that neither Siri, nor Google Now, nor Cortana were adapted for use outside mobile platforms. They all were created with a focus on smartphones and tablets, not to mention that only the companies themselves could change or add new functionality.
Just when the industry was about to freeze in anticipation, another big player on the market introduced its virtual assistant. In November 2014, Amazon presented Alexa and a smart, hands-free speaker called “Echo”. What first seemed like nothing but a fancy way to control music eventually evolved into a standard of voice recognition in the world of smart home tech. Amazon learned from the lessons of its competitors and basically made Alexa open source by enabling third-party developers to write new features (called “Alexa skills”) for the voice assistant. This is one of the reasons why Amazon’s main AI child has become so popular. Its functionality isn’t limited by a default set of voice commands, but offers a huge number of other options, which also keeps growing. Today, there are 25,000 custom voice experiences available for downloading in the Alexa app.
Alexa’s success invigorated other companies to rethink and improve their solutions. However, Amazon is now so far ahead of its competitors in the area of “smart everything” that I’m not sure if they’ll be able to catch up with the retail giant any time soon, if at all. Why? For starters, 68% of all smart home speakers sold in the US are powered by Alexa. Add this to a whole variety of smart light bulbs, thermostats, power sockets, refrigerators, video cams, TVs, cars, and even salt shakers, etc., and you’ll see how strong the position of Amazon on the market is.
Summing up, there is every indicator that physical remote controls aren’t going to survive the next decade. The primary way of controlling home appliances will be through your voice. For example, according to Gartner, 75% of all households will have a smart speaker by 2020. It is to be hoped that other companies in the form of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook will be more active to make the industry truly competitive.
Everybody acknowledges that the days of paper cash are numbered and it needs to be replaced with something more convenient and up-to-date. So what are the options? The history of cashless payments started in 1887 when Edward Bellamy, a journalist and writer from Massachusetts, first mentioned the concept of the credit card in his utopian novel called “Looking Backward”. Since then, people made several attempts to bring this idea to life: charge coins, Air Travel Card, Charga-Plate, etc. However, none of them lasted very long mostly because they failed to become generally accepted. That was until 1958, when Bank of America released BankAmericard, which is considered to be the first credit card in its traditional meaning. After being licensed to other banks from around the world, the BankAmericard became Visa in 1976.
The next big event in the history of cashless payments was the emergence of online banking in the mid-1990s. However, in the beginning, consumers treated money transactions over the Internet with skepticism. Only after E-commerce became mainstream, did people start using online banking services more actively. But even then most of the folks still preferred cashing out whenever possible to having digital zeros on their bank accounts. Economic crises happening every now and then showed that no matter how big a bank is, it can go bankrupt, taking people’s savings with it. However, despite all predictions, none of the mentioned technological advancements managed to greatly weaken cash.
Nothing was foreshadowing any changes when the concept of Blockchain came out of nowhere in 2008. You can think of Blockchain as a distributed ledger capable of storing al kinds of data. You can read more about this technology in one of our articles by this link. Blockchain was secure, transparent, and most importantly decentralized. In other words, it had everything necessary to implement a perfect system for money transactions. So just a year after the technology was presented, it was used to create the first digital currency — Bitcoin.
In 2017, people call Blockchain the next biggest invention after the Internet, but just some seven years ago, it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. Especially unpopular was Bitcoin. It was so cheap that some guy didn’t hesitate to buy two pizzas for 10,000 Bitcoins. One can hardly imagine how devastated he must’ve been after hearing the news that the price of Bitcoin is now a whopping $15k. But who could have known?
But let’s get back to the early 2010s. While Bitcoin was steadily growing in price other kinds of cryptocurrencies started to emerge: Litecoin, Ethereum, ZCash, Monero, etc. Eventually, large corporations, financial institutions, and even entire countries had to acknowledge the potential of cryptocurrencies. As a result, today:
- there are 1864 Bitcoin ATMs available in 59 countries;
- Japan has accepted Bitcoin as a legal currency;
- Vanuatu, a small country near Australia, is now accepting Bitcoins in return for citizenship;
- more countries are considering making cryptocurrency a legal payment method (it’d probably take a good long-read or two just to list all the Bitcoin-related events and pieces of news that have hit the Internet recently).
Wait, if Bitcoin is all that secure and transparent, why hasn’t it been widely accepted yet? The biggest reason why it happens so slowly (it may even seem that it barely happens at all) is because of Bitcoin’s decentralized nature. This cryptocurrency isn’t nearly so controllable as classic money, so banks are doing everything in their power to stall the adoption of Bitcoin. However, as we’ve learned from the history of the modern world, technologic advance almost always gains the upper hand. And something tells us, that it’s going to happen much earlier than everybody expects. I’m talking about mobile payments here as well. The vast majority of banks have already adopted contactless payments, more smartphones support the Android Pay and the Apple Pay features… well, you get the idea.
If you rewatch a random Sci-Fi movie from the late 1990s or the early 2000s (I recommend anything with Ah-nold) , odds are there will be a piece of technology that uses a fingerprint scanner or some other kind of biometrics. Whether it’s launching a nuclear missile or simply entering your home, filmmakers still don’t miss an opportunity to dream about the future where you’d no longer need to use a piece of metal to unlock things. In fact, the concept of biometrics is much older and was mentioned in movies shot almost 50 years go. For example, the 1966’s version of Star Trek predicted such things as:
- Voice ID;
- Retina scan;
- Face recognition;
- Basic vitals recorder.
Even though it took a while for these technologies to materialize, it was worth the wait. Today, the ability of keyless access is no longer a luxury. If you’re tired of fumbling in your pockets in search of a key to your front door, you can easily buy a biometric fingerprint lock on Amazon. Luckily, it doesn’t cost a fortune anymore. Plus, who needs keys when you have a personal virtual assistant, which can manage your entire house, including opening doors.
The same goes for cars. Most of the vehicles today come with a remote key. Door handles? You don’t need them. And did I mention the push-button start? It’s also going to become a mainstream way of starting a car.
When was the last time you sent an SMS or MMS? Unless you have a basic cell phone, you probably haven’t used these features for a while now. And why would you? With smartphones and Internet being cheap as ever, users have a wide variety of other options for exchanging information: from good ol’ emails to video calls in Skype. But the most popular method of communication in 2017 has to be mobile messaging.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and WeChat are the most popular mobile applications today. They even surpassed social networks by the number of users and their activity. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger alone (both of which are owned by Facebook) have more than two billion of users in total, which makes it nearly one third of the world’s population.
Number of monthly active WhatsApp users worldwide from April 2013 to July 2017 (in millions)
Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking. — Mark Zuckerberg.
Some chatting apps are pursuing the goal of becoming a single touchpoint with the digital world. For example, you can already purchase things, exchange files, make video calls, receive news via channels, and do many other things within the app. The most vivid example here is probably WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, which is on it’s way to become the only application you need to have on your smartphone.
Using WeChat Pay, you can purchase almost anything with your smartphone as long as you’re in China while mini-apps allow third-party developers to build applications within WeChat itself, making it even more of an operating system rather than just a messaging app. In fact, there almost no services left that aren’t somehow connected to WeChat. Plus, in light of the current situation with Apple and the Chinese government, there is a definite possibility (albeit a very small one) that WeChat can become a full-fledged OS.
Surely, it will take a much longer amount of time for such technology as SMS to disappear completely, as there are many services that depend on SMS notifications. In addition, despite all the rapid technological progress and globalization, there are still places, where there is no Internet coverage. However, it’s only a matter of time when it gets there. So, eventually, SMS will be completely replaced with mobile messengers that are much more secure and allow for instant exchanges of information.
Charging cables (for mobile devices)
You wake up in the morning to find out that your smartphone’s battery is dead. You start looking for the Charging Cable, but can’t find it anywhere. As a result, you turn your whole apartment upside down, inspect the dog’s throat, but the cable is stubbornly missing. Hungry and almost late for work, you’re rushing out of the apartment, hoping that your boss hasn’t texted you anything too urgent.
Does it sound familiar? Fortunately, you won’t need to skip your breakfast and be late for work because of a lost charging cable soon. Same as the things that I’ve listed in this article, wire charging is going to disappear in the nearest future. After all, what could be better for a smartphone owner than being able to charge your device without any cables!?
Actually, it’s quite surprising that they haven’t been replaced yet. And the reason is not only in that cables are everything but convenient and primitive. They’ve become EXTREMELY unreliable and break on every occasion, especially when you expect it the least. We’re so used to buying new charging cables that nobody even complains about it anymore. When you get a new smartphone, you already know what will be the second thing that will most likely replaced soon (because the first one if the default headphones). That’s right, the charging cable. Unless you’ve decided to go for a braided cable straightaway, betting man wager the default one will break within the next six months.
However, with Apple finally implementing the feature of wireless charging in the new generation of iPhones, there are no more doubts that this technology will soon become mainstream, pushing out charging cables. Yet again, I’m wondering why hasn’t it happened earlier? After all, it’s not the first time that a tech manufacturer has used wireless charging in its devices. In 2012, Google presented Nexus 4, which could charge wirelessly. Other companies like Samsung and LG also released their smartphones with this technology, but it’s only after the release of the new iPhones has everybody started to want it. Despite that, it’s great that the future of wireless charging has finally solidified.
You’ve probably seen what a typical smartphone wireless charger looks like:
You place your smartphone on a round-shaped adapter and it starts to charge the device. Apart from becoming more powerful and quicker, wireless chargers haven’t changed much since 2012. But that doesn’t mean that the technology hasn’t evolved over the last few years. Recently, a group of researchers from Disney showed an entire room that they can charge up to 10 devices at a time without any wires. All you need to do is enter the room and your smartphone will start refilling its battery juice.
This was an overview of the things and technologies that are going to disappear in the next 10 years. Surely, it’s impossible to give a 100% accurate prognosis, considering how changeable the modern world is. But one thing is clear as day: technological progress always takes its course.
Top 5 Things That Will Disappear Within The Next 10 Years was originally published in JetRuby on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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