The Next PayPal – Micro-Payments & Rich Descriptions

The first of two factors that I feel will be part of the payment system that topples PayPal’s crown is a no-brainer: make micro-payments a popular and real thing.

The other is something far less innovative.

When I look at purchases on my credit card statement, I see the name of a merchant and a dollar amount. Often the name is not one I recognise, and it can be difficult working out exactly where I made the transaction. And even if I know who the merchant is, there is nothing to tell me what I purchased.

Likewise, PayPal uses the same system. Yet in this data rich electronic age, there’s no reason why I can’t see the full details with one click:

  • the merchant’s trading name
  • their full contact details
  • list of the items I purchased
  • option to cancel (if it is a subscription)

Once we have all that, the data could be used for analysis – a home finance system.

Digital Implants (in your fingertips)


Push hard on my skin, and you’ll find that the source is two lumps of glass, metal, and plastic embedded in my right hand: a years-old magnet in the ring finger and a newer NFC chip in my thumb webbing. Before getting the magnet, I read paeans to the coming cyborg revolution. After putting it in, I had people tell me my hand would fall off. Since getting the NFC chip in June, I’ve read that I’m carrying the Mark of the Beast and found instructions for how to disable it with a taser. Well, I come from the future, and I’m here to tell you: transcending the limits of the flesh can be downright dull.
Source: The Verge 

The woman writing above can sense/feel local magnetic activity – whether it is microwave ovens, hard drives, regular metal or other magnets. It has added another dimension to her senses, and likes it – although her friend who had the same magnet inserted is now over it.

And her NFC chip – it is pretty much useless at present, not enough uses for it. And situations where she would love to use it, like replacing her employer’s security keycard, aren’t an option because it is non-standard. Still it is interesting that she purchased the chip and installation kit online and inserted it herself.

You can guarantee one day there will be an Apple of implanted chips that will provide you with secure identification that can’t easily be stolen from you. Just not yet (except for that Spanish nightclub a decade ago!)


Real-Time Video Status Using Avatars

I dreamt I was at a tech conference developing this service, so I thought I should share it.

Although FaceBook and Twitter have become sharing services, they became popular as a means of providing timely updates about your life.

The next step forward would be real-time video updates – literally push a button and people you are connected to online can watch what is happening.

For example you might be shopping for clothes, and looking for the opinions of friends regarding which to buy.

Now there are some downsides to this:

  • privacy of others in the vicinity
  • hard to film yourself

So the solution is to use sensor technology combined with spectacle cameras, avatars and 3D modelling.

This is what you do:

1. Activate your recording via voice or dedicated button, via your wearable smart device
2. Indicate the type of share it is – for example shopping

This is what the tech does:

1. Locates where you are in the world
2. Uses sensors to build a 3D description of the local environment
3. Generate a cartoon-ish video representation of where you are
4. Show you in 3D avatar form
5. Show anything specific (like an item of clothing you are holding up) as a real image within the cartoon-ish video

Your friends will see your avatar in a semi-realistic 3D world, hear what is going on, and see for real any objects specific to the type of sharing.

This is a continuation of my idea that mostly-realistic avatars will have a future online.


360 Degree Cameras on our Heads

I’m really going out on a limb with this prediction – but to achieve some things with human bodies we will need to adjust.

Right now Google Maps has cars that drive down every road and capture street images. They achieve this by using a special camera mounted on a small tripod above the vehicle.

They also have a “self-driving” car which has a 64-beam laser on the roof:

The car has been driven for thousands of miles without an accident, but the key to this is 360-degree views.

When humans want to combine computers with their real-world activities, they might find that products like Google Glass are too restricted – that you need to look at something for the system to know it is there.

I suggest that the need will arise for a 360-degree sensor system, using cameras and/or lasers, microphones and so on. The only easy place for it is on top of your head (or perhaps a necklace of sorts.

Eventually ways will be found to make it look cool, perhaps like elongated skulls wearing beanies. There won’t be much use for it when you are at home, so it will be removable.


STAP Stem Cells for Clones and Body Part Replacements

 ”Who would have thought that to reprogram adult cells to a pluripotent state just required a small amount of acid for less than half an hour – it’s an incredible discovery.”

“It’s mother nature’s repair process.”

“The implication is that you can very easily, from a drop of blood and simple techniques, create a perfect identical twin”

By stressing regular adult human cells (30 mins in an acid bath), they literally curl up into a foetal position – they become the very same embryonic stem cells that have the power to become any human cell.

Now, Vacanti, along with Haruko Obokata at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, and colleagues have discovered a different way to rewind adult cells – without touching the DNA. The method is striking for its simplicity: all you need to do is place the cells in a stressful situation, such as an acidic environment.

Stem cells are already being used to repair humans. This new discovery means it is highly likely that within a decade or two we will be able to repair virtually any damage to our bodies. And create human clones. Although most non-scientists would prefer this to never happen, some scientists will find it hard to resist.

Source New Scientist Feb 1 2014, found online here.

Chip Implants for Drug Delivery

Let us get the major negative out of the way first – the chip is the size of a scrabble tile. While smaller devices might be acceptable, many people would not like something so large embedded into their skin.

As you can see, the microchip is small, but it needs a reservoir beneath it to hold all the medicine.

The advantages are awesome:

  • Drug delivery for up to 16 years
  • Turn on/off wirelessly (via an app)
  • Never forget to take your medicine
  • No repeat visits to the pharmacy / drugstore
  • Available in 2017

Another disadvantage is that many of the target market would want multiple medications delivered in this manner – how many can you implant?



Chips in Contact Lenses, via Google

We’ve heard this is the future, with experts claiming that one day Google Glass capabilities will be embedded into contact lenses.

Well the future has begun, with Google planning to get things started with a glucose monitor built into contact lenses. The circuitry is built into the outer edge on the lens.

We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.


The 180 Degree iWatch

This image is the closest I have found to how I imagine the iWatch will look:

I think the screen will be 180 degrees long. Turn your wrist to see the bottom of the screen.

Actually it won’t quite be 180 degrees, because opposite the on-screen watch will be a fingerprint scanner (works best with the thumb of your other hand) that will double as an on/off switch. It will be at the place where you would check your own pulse.

The on-screen watch will be the only visible part of the screen (probably be a separate screen) unless you touch the scanner / or if an alert is being displayed along with a vibrate.

Regarding charging, I think the iWatch will come with a night stand that charges the watch while working as a bedside alarm clock. Many people take their watch off when they go to bed, and it isn’t hard to achieve.

Battery life will be one week, but much less if you use various apps. One week will be when you only use it as a watch and bluetooth connection to your phone.

Price will be $349-$399

Saving Paper via the word The

Making news recently was the idea (from an American teen) that simply using Garamond as the main government font, millions of dollars could be saved:

Using the General Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink — $467 million — Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% — or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.

Unfortunately the readability of printed Garamond means this idea is unlikely to be adopted.

But here’s another idea that will not only save in print costs, it will also massively reduce the bandwidth associated with online writing:

Abbreviate the world the to just “t”. 

I am convinced that adjusting to this reduction would be quick and painless. Try it:

T quick brown fox jumps over t lazy log.


Wearable Tech: Google Glass Will Fail, Others Will Win

In the latest issue of Wired is an excellent article on wearable tech, like Google Glass, Pebble and so on. It seems to me that the winners are losers of the near future are quite easy to predict, due to one important factor – wearable tech is hard to hide (for now).

However gorgeous a Bluetooth earpiece, it fundamentally says that its wearer might need to make or receive a call at any time—and for most people, that’s not a cool message to send. It makes the wearer look like they jump at the world’s beck and call rather than engaging with it on their own terms.

Bluetooth earpieces haven’t taken off. For example, sales were predicted to grow by just 3% in 2012. By comparison, corded headphones for listening to music are a recent success story. What’s the difference? Well, as is pointed out above, it comes down to your social environment. Bluetooth earpieces are fine when you are pacing about solo in your office, but unacceptable for a dinner date. Corded headphones are only used when you are in solo mode and not socially interacting.

Google Glass is too in-your-face. Like earpieces, people know you are wearing Google Glass and will rightly decide that they don’t have your full attention. Until a similar product can be made that is indistinguishable from regular glasses, it won’t take off. There might be an exception though – sunglasses. I can imagine tech being incorporated into sunglasses and people taking them on or off to suit the environment.

Wristwatches, however, are already fully entrenched into society, and we are used to people glancing at them. We are also used to people glancing at their smart phones. Because a smart watch is too small to do much that is meaningful when you have company, it will be successful.

Likewise with rings – too small to matter. Nobody is going to stare at their ring for 30 seconds, no matter what is being displayed on it.

Another factor is connectivity. Bluetooth isn’t perfect, and having that permanent (wireless) connection running across and through your body makes some people uncomfortable. I expect that many people will take a long time to convince that they need to be permanently wired.

And of course battery life needs to improve. Having to recharge our tablet and phone every day is most I am willing to tolerate. I won’t recharge glasses, a watch and a ring as well.

So, my predictions for current technology:

Google Glass FAIL
Any smart glasses FAIL (except perhaps if they are sunglasses)
Smart watches WIN (but only if the battery lasts for a week)
Smart rings WIN  (but only if the battery lasts for a week)

Wearable tech for soldiers / sports / business WIN

FAIL means that uptake will be limited to tech geeks and people that have an extra need for the device due to work or sports.

In the future, big hits will be wearable tech that you can’t see/tell someone is wearing. Primarily that means Google Glass that looks 100% like regular spectacles.

In the distant future, perhaps 15-20 years from now, the big hit will be imbedded tech. That means a video camera that looks like a freckle, or is built into your eyes. That means enhanced vision. That means bionic hearing. That means embedded sensors, comms and drug delivery systems. When nobody knows you have it, it will really take off.