Going, Going, Maybe Obsolete by 2020

Devices that have only one use like calculators, alarm clocks and digital cameras are being replaced by smartphones. Phone chargers and headphones with cords are also fading out in favor of wireless models.
Paper is going digital, from magazines to maps to regular paperwork.

Technology develops at a staggeringly quick pace in today’s world – even watching movies from a few years ago can provide opportunities to snicker at characters’ outdated cell phones.

Here are some things that will probably be obsolete by 2020:

Alarm clocks – Most phones have an alarm clock, stopwatch and timer built in, too.

Analog watches – Smart watches may not be ready to overtake smartphones yet, but it’s looking like they’re going to replace analog watches.

Buttons on phones – The iPhone X, released on November 3, 2017, was the first iPhone to ditch the home button, and some Android models have already gotten rid of them.

Calculators – Most phones have a calculator built in, reducing the need for this clunky device that only does one job.

Car keys – BMW already has an app that allows car owners to unlock their doors without using a key, and they announced in September that they’re considering completely replacing car keys with mobile phone apps.

CDs – People rarely buy music anymore, much less in any physical form. Streaming services are the way of the future.

Charger cables – Chargers are also going wireless with charging pads entering the scene.

Checkbooks – With innovations like online banking and Apple Pay, writing out checks is already a chore. The future of finances is definitely digital.

Delivery workers – In 2016, the White House predicted that nearly 3.1 million drivers in the workforce could have their jobs automated. Already, Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery service is bringing packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

Digital cameras – Now that phone cameras can shoot pictures and video in HD (there are even iPhone photography awards), clunky digital cameras will fade out of style.

DVD and Blu-ray players – Movie streaming services like Netflix are turning DVD and Blu-ray players into dust-collecting devices.

Fax machines – Let’s face it – fax machines should have disappeared long ago. Once paperwork goes, these dinosaurs are going, too.

Getting bills in the mail – Getting bills in the mail is already becoming a thing of the past with online payment methods and apps. Soon, you’ll be able to pay all of your bills through a few clicks on a computer or taps on your phone.

Hard drives – Soon, everyone will keep their information in “the cloud” and there will be no need for physical storage devices.

Headphones with cords – From Apple’s AirPods to Bluetooth headphones, the headphone jack’s days are numbered.

Landlines – 2016 was the first year that a majority of American homes did not have a landline, according to the Center for Disease Control, and more than 70% of all adults aged 25-34 were living in wireless-only households. Home phone numbers are on their way out.

Newspapers – Print newspapers will likely meet the same fate as magazines.

Paper maps – With step-by-step directions on Google Maps, paper maps are hardly necessary anymore.

Paper receipts – CVS receipts are so long they’ve become a meme. But even they have begun offering digital receipts. Many vendors already send receipts via email, so it won’t be long until it’s the new standard.

Paperwork – With Google Docs and digital signatures becoming the norm, contracts, medical forms and other documents will cease to exist in paper form.

Parking meters – Parking meters are being turned into art since paying for parking can be done via app in many places.

Passwords – Apple debuted FaceID this year, while Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition system has been in place since 2015. Forget letters, numbers, and special characters – biometric passwords will be the norm.

Pay phones – AT&T announced that it was leaving the pay phone market back in 2007. Everyone has cell phones these days anyhow.

Reference books – With the internet at our fingertips at all times, dictionaries and encyclopedias are no longer necessary.

Remote controls – You won’t have to search for the remote or replace its batteries when voice commands and smartphone controls become widespread ways to operate your devices.

Standalone GPS devices – Same goes for GPS devices. Your phone can perform all the same functions, plus text someone that you’ve arrived.

Textbooks – Paper textbooks are expensive and heavy, not to mention they often become obsolete after a few years when new discoveries require updated editions. According to Scholastic, higher education has already begun to pivot to e-textbooks.

Thumb drives – Thumb drives may be a convenient way to carry data around in your pocket, but thanks to cloud computing you won’t have to carry anything at all.

Travel agencies – There were 124,000 full-time travel agents in the US in 2000. In 2014, that number went down to 74,000. While a human touch definitely makes booking travel less of a headache, the convenience of the internet is narrowing the field.

Biometric Monitoring May End Passwords

The average computer user has 27 passwords, and it can be tough to keep track of them all. But a solution that some consider creepy may be at hand, CBS News reports. With sensors that can read all kinds of identifying information about us, biometric data may be the key to our online world, putting an end to the password.

Professor Vishal Patel asked a student to walk across campus at Rutgers University, then hand his phone to another student, who walked back. The difference in how they walk was “enough to identify who the person is walking,” Patel said. To the phone’s accelerometer — every smartphone has one — the walking signals looked different.

Just two years ago, in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” this was science fiction. But researchers like Patel are making biometrics real and trying to use them to make our devices more secure with a process called “active authentication” that constantly and passively monitors the user.

The phone was also trained to recognize the unique way its owner scrolls down the screen. The time between specific keystrokes also gives you away, as well as the words you choose and the way you punctuate them. Move a mouse and the path of the pointer can identify you and so can the way you click.
No one method works well enough, but combining several should, as Google showed in a 2015 test claiming “a new method of authentication that may prove to be 10-fold more secure than the best fingerprint sensors.”

Much of this work has been funded by DARPA, the research group within the U.S. Department of Defense which is overseen by Angelos Keromytis. “We have a lot of passwords, and as you’ve seen in the news, we get targeted same as everybody else, and we think we can do something better than passwords,” Keromytis said.

So DARPA called on a dozen universities and private companies for creative solutions. Some are hard to believe. “Your phone has a number of radios: wifi radio, cellular radio, Bluetooth radio. These emit signals, the signals from a close up distance reflect off your skin. Well, it turns out they don’t actually reflect off your skin. They actually penetrate the skin a few millimeters,” Keromytis said. “So one of our performers figured out a way of not only sensing heartbeat but also extracting a high-fidelity signal that could be used to authenticate a user based on their individual heartbeat.”

So why isn’t this active authentication active yet? It could drain our batteries too quickly or fail to work in certain settings – and some of the methods, like tracking our pattern of life, could turn off users. “Once you have this information you can sort of learn where the person will end up in the afternoon or at night,” Patel said.”It is creepy, but it is very powerful,” Patel said.

Joseph Atick helped invent facial recognition technology 25 years ago. Today, he said, tracking users is so valuable to marketers that tech companies can’t be trusted to self-regulate their use of biometrics. “You broke my password, I’m going to change it,” Atick said. “I can’t change my face, I can’t change my fingerprints. I need some mechanism to protect me.”

That mechanism would be a guarantee that all the biometric information stays on the device.

Stealing or Sharing?

It’s no secret that young people like to consume entertainment they don’t necessarily pay for.

Money magazine notes that when business and tech types talk about this reality, they tend to use neutral or even flattering language: Millennials, they say, like to “swap” files and “share” subscription passwords. After all, super-earnest, bike-commuting, coffee-sipping twenty-somethings don’t look like dangerous criminals. And let’s face it, no business wants to alienate the work-force’s largest generational cohort, with billions, if not trillions, worth of spending ahead of it.

Now, however, some Wall Street analysts have decided to come right out and use another S word – steal – in discussing the problems facing some traditional media enterprises.

Password“The millennials are a generation that grew up (and will likely grow old) ‘sharing’ (read stealing) passwords for access to content if it continues to be ignored,” wrote analysts Mike McCormack, Scott Goldman and Tudor Mustata in a note to clients. “We believe it is the most significant cause of the declining pay TV subscriber base.”

The problem, the analysts suggest, is that all this sharing or stealing could quickly destroy the cable TV business. Similar trends already have gutted the music and news industries, Money magazine reports.

The analysts argue password sharing is already “the most significant cause of the declining pay TV subscriber base.” They compare the current situation to a time when people rigged access to cable with “illegal cable drops, third-party set tops and reprogrammed satellite cards.” Revenues returned only when the industry cracked down.

Of course, no one likes to be called a crook. Millennials might counter that the situation isn’t totally black and white. The music industry has evolved, and sharing streaming TV passwords isn’t clearly against the rules. Passwords for the streaming service HBO Now, for instance, are limited to a household, but the company has been vague about what that means. Netflix, Amazon and others all have policies that similarly attempt to both acknowledge and limit sharing.

The solution, the analysts say, is for companies to adopt tougher rules with emphasis on “authentication limits” – restrictions on how many people can use a log in at the same time. Some sites like Netflix and Hulu already do this.

The analysts acknowledge the scope of the problem – and the fact that it’s not just millennials. People of all ages have used or allowed others to use content passwords, they note.