If we can put GPS-enabled tags on objects, we may never lose anything again. Tim Green ponders a future in which he never misplaces his glasses.
I want you to do a thought experiment. If you’re over 30, it might be easier for you. It starts with a question: who’s that actor? You know the one. He was the dad in Contact, and the bad guy in 12 Monkeys*? Now, here’s the experimental part.
Don’t use the internet.
How the heck are you going to find out? Two options spring to mind. Go to the DVD shop, find the two movies and look at the credits (good luck finding a DVD shop).
But maybe that’s the next reality our kids can’t imagine life without. A world in which the phrase “where did I put my glasses?’ is as ludicrous as ‘do you have some change for the phone box?’
Or go to a book shop and consult a film guide of some sort (good luck finding a book shop). Either way, that’s hours – maybe days – before I get an answer. Yep, finding stuff out. We’ve outsourced it to Google. And isn’t it marvellous?
Imagine what life before Google was like for journalists. When it’s your job to find stuff out (when you’re not making up quotes or stealing sandwiches from press events).
My mind goes back to my first Mobile World Congress (though it was 3GSM back then) in Cannes in 2005. It was very glamorous. I spent a lot of time on yachts – sometimes I even had permission to be on them. But coming home was less romantic. I remember cramming dozens of paper press releases, booklets, product brochures and flyers into my suitcase. It was so heavy. Thank God I hadn’t packed anything frivolous for my stay. Like underwear. Or shoes.
I had no choice, though. If I was to write about my discoveries at the show (for publication some time next month), I had to have some reference material. And in those analogue days, print on paper was it.
Just ten years on, this seems utterly fantastical. Finding stuff out now – anything – is a mouse click away. In fact, the only reason to go to a big trade show in 2015 is to meet new industry contacts and winkle unreported stories out of them. Everything else is in a press release on the web.
So it’s pretty clear that the age of physically searching for information is over. Now, there’s a possibility that tech might also end the age of looking of manually look for ‘real’ things.
I recently interviewed Mike Farley, the CEO of Tile, which makes a small tab you attach to objects you don’t want to lose like keys, wallets, laptops, cars and luggage. You link your tile to your phone and then, if you misplace it, you can use bluetooth to ring it, see where it is on a map or ask the Tile community to find it for you.
The potential of Tile was spotted early by the MEF community. The company won a Meffy for Best Life Tool back in 2013, and since then it has shipped 2 million Tiles. One can easily imagine these tabs getting smaller and smaller and becoming like tiny stickers you can attach to pretty much anything. There. No more lost stuff. Ever.
Mobile Money Revolution
It’s one of those unexpected dividends of tech advancement. Sci-fi writers imagined ray-guns, time travel and flying cars. But not the end of losing things. But maybe that’s the next reality our kids can’t imagine life without. A world in which the phrase “where did I put my glasses?’ is as ludicrous as ‘do you have some change for the phone box?’.
A world in which the only things you can truly lose are your innocence, your will to live and ultimately your marbles.
* It’s David Morse, of course. You idiot.