Wallet, Cash, Phone, Keys – What Did I Forget?

OLED technology allows for flexible phone design. For more, click on the link to read a good article in TechWhiz.

OLED technology allows for flexible phone design. For more, click on the link to read a good article in TechWhiz.

It’s 2013. Why are we still asking that question? Why are we still messing around with credit cards and driver’s licenses, house keys and office keys, and so much more. No need. Not any more. It’s time for somebody to invent one slim, pocketable slab that takes care of everything. Here’s my plan. Feel free to patent it and make a fortune. As I’ve thought about this–a perfect thing to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon–I’ve come to realize that the elimination of my wallet may, in fact, provide the necessary tipping point for several large industries.

How big should it be? When cell phones became very popular, the coolest ones, like Motorola’s Razr, were about the size of a credit card, and maybe four times as thick. (I just checked Wikipedia: Razr was about 4 inches high, 2 inches wide, and about a half inch thick; a credit card is about 3 1/4 inches tall.) I think that’s a good basic size because it’s so pocketable.

On one side, I think I’d want a touch-senstive display that could also respond to my voice commands. The display probably uses OLED technology so that it is flexible, and easily expanded or reshaped. On the other, I want solar cells so that I can recharge the phone whenever I am near sunlight.

Pretty much, that’s the design. Add the usual extras: camera lens, flash, microphone (detachable for some advanced Bluetooth use and stow-able within the device so it doesn’t get lost, and can be charged with the unit), speaker, AC adapter of some sort.

Can I leave my wallet and other stuff at home? Or toss it all in the trash?

Yes, but not immediately.

Let me go through my wallet first. Just about everything is associated with data–credit card or debit card, both about to go the way of the drive-in movie theater and the men’s handkerchief. My AAA membership card, health care card, drug card, and public library card can all go away; they are nothing more than physical manifestations of an account number. Pictures of my dog, and, oh right, my family, all are printed versions of digital images.  Okay, fine, I no longer need the wallet. Except for the part that, so far, Google has not been able to build a viable digital wallet business–and neither has anyone else. (The reasons: lack of public acceptance for Near Field technology [NFC], and the control exercised by the credit card companies.)

How about cash? Really, I use it only at the local farmer’s market or for a quick slice of pizza. If everybody else is using data instead of cash, I will too. So let’s just make the decision, together: no more cash or coins!

Presumably, the phone is the easiest one to eliminate. Do I need a separate wallet and phone? Nope. If I can combine a phone and a camera and an email system and VPN access, I can certainly live without a standalone phone. Gone!

Keys! There’s the problem. Yes, I have a digital key to my office. It’s the smallest thing on my keychain. Car keys are already digital, but they still resemble keys. A truly reliable digital lock, sufficiently inexpensive to serve consumer needs, remains just a few steps in the future. Recently, Gizmodo reported on a company called SmartLocks: “August is the lock that requires no key, only an invitation…” The video, below, lays out the plan.

For those who travel often, the old concept of a Passport that’s the size of an old savings passbook needs some rethinking. It should be digital, but that probably introduces all sorts of opportunities for bad guys. (Though it’s difficult to imagine how a larger vs. smaller passport would matter much.)

So what are we missing? Real-world stuff, I suppose. A few weeks back, I wrote about the real world (fun to do that, from time to time, on a blog that’s called Digital Insider) and explored the usefulness of multi-tools. It turned out to be my most popular blog article of all time, so I’m pretty sure we’ll keep those around for awhile. Which means we will still require pockets, or belt loops, or some other way to carry stuff around.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to leave the house without asking the dog, “do you have any idea where I put my keys?” Assuming the dog’s chip is working properly (let’s assume every dog would have one; many already do), he or she would simply cause your phone to ring, which would allow you to grab your keys and your money and your flashlight and your phone on the way to the veterinarian’s office. To which the dog might bark–“aren’t you forgetting something?”

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