Invisible, Weightless Money

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The exchange of money has developed in numerous ways over human history. At one point, people traded clay tablets which signified an amount of crops to be paid at the end of the season. Eventually, coins became popular. Then came paper currency and in the past fifty years credit cards. The general trend has been to make transactions as simple and weightless as possible. Recently, the race has begun to make money completely weightless, using today’s and tomorrow’s technology to make it happen.

One method being implemented is payment using smartphones or portable chips on rings or cards with Near Field Communication (NFC). This allows people to tap smartphones against a terminal through a contactless transaction to make a payment. The good news: most new phones (not iPhones) already have NFC technology. To take advantage of NFC payments, a person just has to set up a virtual wallet with a service like Google Wallet. iPhone users that can’t use NFC because they don’t have the hardware necessary in their phone can use other options like the Square Wallet app that doesn’t require a physical tap. The idea is that in today’s world a wallet won’t be necessary anymore, because most people already walk around with smartphones which can just as easily serve as wallets.

Another recent development is the use of virtual money like Bitcoins. Bitcoins is a currency that exists solely in digital format, and can exist on anything that can hold digital memory. This could take a long time to be used commonly by people because at the moment Bitcoin transactions are too complicated for most to understand. They will probably never be used widely beyond investments or transactions for illegal goods, because like cash, Bitcoins cannot be traced. Unlike cash, they have the potential to be transferred online across the globe. Also, because Bitcoins aren’t controlled by any central bank, the value of a Bitcoin fluctuates in large amounts which might turn consumers away. As I write this post, the value of a Bitcoin is at 350 USD, but it could drop back down to 250 tomorrow.

There are a few hurdles that must be crossed before the use of these new technologies becomes widely accepted. First, one of the major concerns with being dependent on virtual currency is security. Anything that is digital and connected can be hacked. If there is anything that people like to keep more secure than anything else, for good reason, it’s money. Additionally, using these new technologies has to be introduced into the common consumer’s habits, which may be difficult considering how attached many are to their credit cards. Old habits die hard. However, I have faith that in the next ten years many of those currently using credit cards will be using alternative forms of payment. But, If the credit card users don’t convert, the new generation of consumers will probably swoop in to pick up the invisible payment market. People questioned the introduction of the credit card half a century ago. Plastic to invisible shouldn’t be too big of a leap now.

Most People Don’t Care About Wearable Technology, Despite the Hype

Tech companies come and go. Sometimes very fast due to the nature of this ever changing industry. When critics begin to charge companies with a lack of innovation, they are basically predicting these companies’ imminent demise. This makes the tech guys scared.

So what do they do? They try to innovate. That’s why there’s all this hype around wearable technology, devices that can be worn like a watch or glasses. “It’s the future” they tell me. “I don’t care” says the average consumer. I agree: wearable tech is the future, but consumers aren’t ready to invest in it.

Now, let me get something clear, I’m not saying I don’t like wearable tech. If I could get my hands on some Google Glass I would literally go insane. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, a touch screen watch that connects to Samsung smartphones, would be incredible. I would love these devices but the average consumer these companies rely on doesn’t care.

By being “innovative” and creating wearable technology, tech companies that are feeling old and out of date are trying to get back in the game, but they aren’t doing it the right way.

What these companies need to do is make wearable tech realistic in people’s minds. Wearable technology has to start off really simple. For example, Samsung’s new smart watch has voice recognition, can take phone calls, and even has a camera. With a 1.6 inch screen, most people will find so much stuff unrealistic and inapplicable in their lives. Definitely not worth the 299$ dent it will make in someone’s wallet.

Instead, I would recommend a watch that can only do a couple things that are simple yet extremely helpful. A smartwatch that can simply check emails and answer calls would be the perfect step into wearable tech for most consumers. Between $100 and $150 it could also become an instant hit. People could imagine having such a device, and it could make their lives easier, as innovative and powerful technology should.

Fairphone, a Supply Chain Revolution

If you’ve ever looked inside a computer or even seen a picture of what’s inside, you’ve seen the intricate jigsaw of metals that somehow end up being compiled into computer. The metals that allow your computer to run, as you may imagine, aren’t the ordinary metals that we use to build bridges and manufacture abstract furniture. In fact, they are quite the contrary. The precious metals that are necessary for you to send an email or watch a movie are extremely difficult to obtain, especially in the large amounts that companies like Apple, Dell, and Samsung need them. So, these companies go to almost any extent they can to get them. Often, this means crossing socially unethical boundaries that may deter you from buying their products. Some examples are child labor, and trading with warlords. You probably don’t want to be a part of this. Unfortunatly, the truth is, its pretty much impossible to find electronicts that don’t have a dark back story. That is, unless you’re in the market for a new phone.

In 2010, the Waag Society began a project to tackle the issue of making a globally just phone. One that, for example, isn’t funding wars in the DRC. Three years later, the Fairphone has entered production. It is truly a supply chain revolution. The Fairphone runs on Android, and is created completely under the goal of setting social values first, while maintaining the quality of a successful product. The project has been funded partially through crowdfunding and aims to redefine the global supply chain. This means ethical sourcing, improving working conditions, and working on using recycling materials.

So far, 20,000 Fairphones have been produced, over 11,000 sold. Obviously, this is only a glimpse of the market compared to the millions of other phones and computers that are being sold, but its a great start.

Fairphone: Buy a phone, start a movement from Fairphone on Vimeo.

What is the Cloud? Where is it?

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Nowadays we often here about the cloud. Supposedly it’s everywhere, but where is it exactly? For starters, what is the cloud anyways?

The cloud is where all of the data on the internet is stored. It’s everything that can be accessed from anywhere in the world with access to the internet. The data itself, however, is not everywhere at once, or in the sky as the terminology “cloud” suggests. Every website, photo, or document in the cloud is actually stored on a server. There are a lot of servers. It is these servers which hold the seemingly infinite amounts of data that cumulate into what we call the cloud.

How’s it used? Now that mobility is the most critical aspect of technology, the cloud has become very important. Many services, such as Google Apps, are “in the cloud” and allow you to edit and access your documents wherever you are. This means you can change a slide on a slide show minutes before your presentation, on a phone in the subway. Meanwhile, someone else around the world could technically be viewing your changes. This is possible because the presentation isn’t actually on your phone, but in the cloud. You are just using your phone to access the information.

The cloud allows us to be more mobile, because all of its data is accessible where ever we are. Soon, everything you need, will be in the cloud, reachable at any time through any device. The cloud makes technology more convenient and mobile, improving the efficiency of everything we do.

What will replace the PC?

Some time before I was born, a great man, Steve Jobs, brought humanity a gift, the personal computer. It’s been great, but all great innovations come to an end at some point. So, now, what will replace the PC?

I dont think it will be any device in particular. The post PC era will be populated by a multitude of devices: Smartphones, Laptops, Tablets, Tv’s… basically anything with a screen. The potential of these devices will also be varied, meaning, different hardware to handle different tasks.

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How is it possible to have so many different devices? The cloud! All our information will be stored in the cloud, and transformed to fit whatever device we are using at the time. Many websites are already built optimized for whatever platform they are being viewed on. I know this one is. It looks slightly different on a laptop, tablet or phone.

So, is there any one answer to this question? I guess not. Applications and software will be created to make you productive on whatever device you are using, because most of the time it will most likely not be a PC. Every device you use will be synchronized, and content will be accessible easily no matter what platform you are using. The post PC world is a world where anything with a screen, or touchscreen I should say, is a technology resource ready to help you with your daily needs and tasks.