6 Devices Being Replaced By Digital Technologies

Physical things, like these devices, are rapidly being replaced by digital technologies. But is this progress?
Christopher McFadden
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The digital revolution is unstoppable it seems. Whilst it has made our lives considerably easier in some ways, and worse in others, it has also rendered some fondly loved physical things obsolete in short order.

But the revolution is far from over. There are yet more old-school devices and technologies that are yet to be made extinct by digital counterparts. 

From the humble car wing mirror to the actual keyboard this article is being written on, could soon be something of the distant past. 

Of course, they will not be the only casualties of war as the revolution continues. But will their retirement be advantageous to us all? We'll let you be the judge of that. 

1. Car wing mirrors will soon be a thing of the past

Devices being made digital mirrors
Source: XRahul Vlogs/YouTube

Many higher-end cars tend to come with camera-and-display setups as standard. Especially to provide functions like aiding the driver when reversing or parking.

Whilst each manufacturer will give the technology a different name they are all essentially a form of CCTV for the car's immediate vicinity. These systems also tend to provide the driver with other information like speed, direction, and obstacle proximity etc.

In fact, from May 2018 it became mandatory for all manufacturers to include backup camera systems for all new cars. Other manufacturers, like Tesla, have also announced they plan to replace all side-view mirrors with cameras in the future.

This will provide various benefits to the driver but also make the vehicle more aerodynamic. Physical mirror replacement will also work in tandem with the drive, excuse the pun, for fully automated driverless, or partially automated, vehicles in the future.

2. Hotel key cards are going digital

Devices being made digital keys
Source: Hilton

Magnetic credit card size hotel key cards may soon be phased out in favor of smartphone app digital keys fairly soon. Whilst key cards felt like a massive step into the future when they were first introduced, they do have their issues.

You are one of the lucky ones if you've never experienced them demagnetizing during one of your stays, for example. Whilst not the end of the world this is a little inconvenient and requires a quick visit to reception for a new one.

Many large hotel chains like Starwood, Hilton, and Hyatt are already making the transition to digital apps in many of their establishments. Guests simply download the relevant app and enter and lock their rooms via Bluetooth.

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The same app can also be used to unlock other facilities in the hotel like swimming pools. They also make checking in and checking out very convenient and effortless.

Of course, this kind of transition will not be without its own problems. For instance, tackling cyber-security to prevent unauthorized use of guest credentials will be an ever-present problem.

3. The venerable keyboard could be retired

Devices being made digital keyboard
Source: Christiaan Colen/Flickr

Companies like Asus, Lenovo, and Intel all showcased their new laptop concepts at Computex 2018. Nothing new there except for one key feature - some featured two screens and no, repeat no, physical keyboard.

Many other companies like Dell, Microsoft, and Apple have been developing similar concepts for some time now as well. Of course, for anyone with a smartphone, this shouldn't really come as a surprise.

Intel's Tiger Rapids dual-screen prototype device, for example, is incredibly thin owing to its lack of physical keyboard. So thin, in fact, that it puts the iPhone 8 to shame.

The Intel prototype utilizes an E-link display that can easily handle typing, inking, and touch equally as well. Another similar concept, Asus's Project Precog, combines contextual AI technology with a dual-screen setup that promises to provide touchscreen capabilities not previously possible.

One example is a feature Asus calls ‘Intelligent Touch,’ which seeks to transform the entire keyboard deck into a more contextual space.

There are also some other interesting developments in virtual projector keyboards and hand-worn devices that could end the dominance in physical keyboards.

Whilst these prototypes don't necessarily spell the end of the physical keyboard per se, the general consumer is already 'used' to the concept on tablets and smartphones. There will always likely be a market for physical keyboards in the future but it will likely remain a very niche -a la aftersales non-official peripherals.

4. Would you fly in a plane with no windows?

Aircraft of the future mightn't have any windows at all. That's if projects like Boston-based Spike Aerospace have anything to say about it.

Back in 2014, it was announced that they were developing the first private supersonic jet without windows. Their Spike S-512 will have a range of around 7400 km and is planned to begin operations by 2021.

It's a standout feature, apart from its speed, will be its complete lack of windows. Instead, it will be lined with tiny cameras sending footage to thin, curved displays lining the interior walls of the fuselage.

Airliners are also planning to make a similar transition to windowless planes in the not too distant future. In 2018, Emirates Airlines announced they would look into making their fleets windowless in the future.

Whilst this is technologically possible, one barrier remains to be seen. Will passengers really take to this if rolled out en masse?

Only time will tell...

5. Plastic Credit Cards will soon be a thing of the past

Devices being made digital credit cards
Source: Sean MacEntee/Flickr

Just as 'plastic' knocked cash off its pedestal back in the 1970s, it seems its time is almost up too. Traditional physical credit cards are quickly beginning to dematerialize into digital bits with every passing day.

You can now easily make payments on your phone via an app on many platforms now. Some retail stores also let you pay this way or by using some form of other wearable technology.

Not only will this make things more convenient for consumers but it also promised to reduce the risk of fraud. By removing the need for third parties to see and record your credit card details your private info is that little bit more secure.

Many applications also make use of biometric data too, like fingerprints, to prove your identity. This further protects your personal data like date of birth etc, from needing to be stored somewhere.

Clearly, this won't mean they are completely secure as cybersecurity will be an ongoing battle of wits for many years to come.

And, of course, this doesn't mean credit card companies will actually become extinct, they will be around for some time yet. At least until blockchain cryptocurrencies become mainstream - if they ever do.

6. Cords and chargers may soon become extinct

Devices being made digital https://images.interestingengineering.com/images/AUGUST/plux_2.jpg
Source: Vinpok

Cords and chargers are the banes of the modern world. They constantly conspire to trip you up, break or get stolen by Gremlins.

Some more nefarious manufacturers, like one fruit-based company, use them as an extra means of revenue post-sale of their products. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the last decade or so they have begun to be phased out with other techs like Bluetooth, WIFI, and NFC for example. But there still remains one area they still dominate - plugging your tech into the mains.

However, even here their dominance is now being challenged. In fact, they may be challenged by technology from the days of Tesla.

Wireless charging is starting to find its legs and may soon make even power cords and cables obsolete. According to the research firm Markets and Markets, wireless charging solutions are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years.

The future looks bright and even more convenient using this technology. Soon you will be able to simply lay your device on top of a charging surface.

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