Remember the pay phone? The VHS tape? Electric typewriters? Film cameras? MP3 players? These are technologies that almost completely disappeared in the last decade. Yet they were part of everyday life for years. So, this begs the question: what technologies that make up our lives today will be outmoded 10 years from now? From data storage to home utilities and even to how we pay for our coffee, our world is set to change in a big way—all over again. What’s surprising is how many technology products we consider new and hot today probably won’t last very long. And some items, like game consoles, will change and upgrade so fast that you’ll have to start saving up for the next version almost as soon as you buy the current one.
Take a look at the following products that will most likely be obsolete within the next decade. How many of these items are in your home? How many are being used everyday, and which products are already starting to gather dust?
20. Blu-ray Discs
While Blu-ray still has a useful place in consumers’ media libraries today, like most physical storage media its days are numbered. Blu-ray delivers up to 4K/Ultra HD quality, resulting in sharp, clear images that look fantastic on a 4K television. But over-the-top video streaming in 4K is on the upswing, with more and more 4K content available each year. Blu-ray players are bulky compared to streaming devices, and can be expensive, with true 4K players starting at around $200. As movie fans begin to see their favorite films become available for much less expensive, smaller, and sleeker streaming devices, the switch from in-home Blu-ray players to 4K-quality streaming services will accelerate.
19. USB thumb drives
These small, stick-shaped storage devices offer plenty of storage capacity for their size – up to 32 GB at last count – and have become ubiquitous in technology and marketing circles. However, cloud storage has become so reliable and cost-effective that much of the same data that was being shared using the Flash storage devices—music files, documents and more—can be sent from one person to another simply by sharing a link to a Google Drive file or a Dropbox folder. Music is already much easier to access and listened to through streaming and download services like Spotify, Amazon Music and iTunes. Add to this the difficulty of storing and sorting USB sticks—who doesn’t have an office drawer filled with these things?—and the USB stick is heading the way of CRT computer screen: into a landfill.
18. SD cards
Once an almost-indispensable storage media for both smartphones and digital cameras, SD cards are another item we likely won’t see in 10 years. The reason? Connectivity has gotten so good, and cloud storage so affordable, that users can take as many selfies as they want without worrying about filling up their phone’s onboard storage capacity. Digital cameras today feature Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connectivity, allowing photographers to shift their high-resolution images to another storage device or into the cloud and minimizing the need for frequent SD card swaps.
17. MP3 players
Apple helped to usher in the MP3 player revolution with the iPod, and then set MP3 players on the path to obsolescence with the release of the iPhone. However, neither the iPod nor iPhone brought on major changes as swiftly as Apple’s iTunes service, which was a game-changer for how music was purchased and experienced. MP3 players are mostly collecting dust on a shelf or sitting in a bottom drawer somewhere, and within 10 years most of us will barely remember how we listened to music before smartphones took over.
16. Remote controls
If you’ve bought a smart TV recently, or a streaming device like a Roku 4, or even just upgraded your cable subscription, chances are you may no longer need that small pile of remote controls next to the sofa. That’s because most of these products offer mobile apps that, once installed on a smartphone, allow you to remotely control the program selection, turn the TV off or on, and more. You can even download apps that function as universal remotes, allowing you to control multiple devices without switching between different apps. While truly universal remote control apps are not quite here yet—more standardization of device software needs to happen—the writing is on the wall for physical remotes. Still, remotes have had a good run: Nikola Tesla patented the first remote control in 1898.
15. Wired chargers
Wireless charging stations are making their way into homes much more quickly these days thanks to significant price drops, with some retailing for less than $20. And consumers are clearly happy with the convenience of just throwing their Qi-enabled smartphone atop a wireless charger. Look for wireless charging stations to start popping up wherever wired charging stations are now set up in public: rather than jockeying for one of a few outlets at an airport charging station, for example, users can simply slap their smartphone onto a charging platform alongside everyone else’s phone. It beats digging around for a physical charger and cable.
14. Credit cards
Smartphones are already taking the place of physical credit and debit cards at coffee shops, grocery stores, and other point-of-sale locations, thanks to payment technologies from Apple and Android developers like Samsung. And you can expect the trend to continue as more and more banks sign on to support these services. For instance, the Bank of America now allows customers to withdraw cash from ATMs using a smartphone app, making physical debit cards further unfashionable.
13. Taxi drivers
Thanks to Uber and Lyft, the taxi industry is already starting to undergo a facelift, with services in various cities rolling out cleaner cars, less-shady-looking drivers, and even their own ride-summoning apps. But the ride-sharing revolution has already taken its toll. Now, with driverless cars rolling into Uber’s fleet, there will likely not even be a need for drivers in 10 years—no matter which ride service you call, a GPS-guided vehicle may drive you to your destination. While the prospect of having no control over a driverless car is still a bit nerve-wracking, the thought of never having to tip your driver again – or figure out what star rating to give – is pretty tempting.
12. Paper maps
Few people actually use folded paper maps to get around anymore, much less print them out from their computer (which was the norm just 10 years ago). But they’re still available, usually for free, from places like AAA or at state-run visitor information centers across the U.S.A. However, majority of drivers use GPS to find their way around. But this isn’t necessarily a good trend: scientists say that relying so much on navigation systems is making our brains lazy, especially when it comes to finding our way. And GPS maps are still notorious for delivering inaccurate data, getting people lost or stranded in remote areas—sometimes with tragic results.
11. Fax machines
These analog monsters are already almost completely obsolete – unless you’re a medical professional. Despite being in an industry where patient privacy is paramount, most hospitals, clinics, labs and billing offices still rely on fax machines to send and receive patient data, particularly between different health groups. Current HIPAA regulations and other laws have kept the healthcare industry locked firmly in the ‘90s when it comes to sharing information. But policymakers are now working on the problem with health systems and IT professionals so that patient data can be shared quickly—important in critical-care situations—while not sacrificing privacy. Within the next decade, medical professionals will be able to throw out those fax machines.
10. TV sets
With smart TVs now the norm for TV sets, why would they be on their way out? One answer lies with millennials, who are driving much of the technology and lifestyle changes we’re seeing today. Many prefer the convenience of streaming videos over their desktops or laptop computers, and don’t want to spend hard-earned money on an expensive, single-purpose item like a TV. Some companies are already marketing towards this trend, such as Verizon with Go90, a data charge-free video streaming service for your smartphone. But there’s another factor that may send your HD TV to the recycling station within 10 years: TV stations are planning to change to a new digital format, ATSC 3.0—and your current TV doesn’t support it. Cable subscribers probably won’t be affected by the change, but if you’re one of the millions of people who watch TV over the air using an HD antenna, you’ll be stuck either buying a converter box or a new TV.
9. Analog utility meters, and meter readers
Say goodbye to that old analog electric, gas, or water meter on the side of your house, with its gently spinning number wheels, and to the person who comes along every month or so to check them. Utility companies have been gradually rolling out smart meters—wirelessly-connected meters that report electricity or natural gas usage directly to the provider. Not only does this reduce the amount of manpower needed to physically check each meter, it also allows the utility company to accurately assess how much power, gas, or water is being used in a given area and make sure there’s plenty for everyone.
8. Landline phones
Once a must-have in every home, landline or wired phones are on their way out: less than 60 percent of U.S. homes have a landline today. It’s not just because wireless smartphones are so popular. Landline phones were once indispensable for their reliability, operating even when the power went out. Now, thanks to cordless handsets that rely on standard power outlets to operate, and new IP-based service via home routers—also dependent on power outlets—that reliability isn’t guaranteed any longer. Meantime, cell service has become widespread, reliable, and affordable—so much so, that people are increasingly switching off their landline and relying completely on their smartphones to reach family and friends. Going cell-only has its risks: Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which brought week-long power outages right into New York City, clearly outlined the problem. But that isn’t stopping more people from cutting the landline entirely.
Ten years from now, you may never have to struggle to remember a password again, or struggle through the “point, click, and miss” quagmire of entering your password on a tiny keyboard screen. Device manufacturers are increasingly adding biometric identification features to their products, such as fingerprint recognition, voice recognition, or retina scanners. While biometric sensor technology is not reliable enough today to completely replace a typed-in password, companies like Google are continually improving on these processes so a device can identify you by, for example, your specific facial movements or hand gestures. Meantime, other security processes like multi-factor authentication (combining biometric recognition with device use and location, for example) could amp up device security and make logging into your devices as easy as a wink and a smile.
6. Video game consoles
Consoles once ruled the gamer world, providing a high-quality playing experience with good graphics, speed, and control. But computers, tablets, and smartphones have caught up to consoles in many ways. Users can get nearly the same quality graphics on their smartphones as consoles provided just a few years ago. And with a massive number of casual gaming apps available to consumers, their attention is now being diverted away from consoles to their mobile devices. With smartphones and tablets providing almost all of the features and entertainment that consoles once exclusively offered, it will be very hard for the Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s of the world to compete for the dollars of all but the most hardcore gamers. Still, there’s a ray of hope for consoles: with the increased demand for high-quality 4K and virtual reality content and games, dedicated systems have the best chance of delivering to the masses ahead of other devices.
5. Standalone GPS units
With GPS antennas and reliable navigation systems like Google Driving or Apple Maps available on today’s smartphones, GPS-only devices such as Garmin and TomTom are struggling to survive. However, the standalone GPS manufacturers still see value in their technology: TomTom co-founder and CEO Harold Goddijn said the company’s long-term value is in its maps, which its on-staff cartographers work continually to keep up-to-date, and in its business deals with Uber and Apple Maps. With driverless cars looming on the horizon, the two manufacturers may head off in a completely different direction from consumer GPS units, instead focusing on integrated GPS systems—and rendering standalone GPS units a thing of the past.
4. Digital cameras
Consumer-level, point-and-shoot (or fixed-lens) digital cameras enjoyed a big surge in popularity just a decade ago. But their sales have rapidly dropped since 2011, and soon—just like traditional camera film—may no longer be manufactured. It’s easy to pinpoint the cause: the smartphone, which offers decent storage, high megapixels, and video capabilities. At the other end of the spectrum, high-end digital SLR cameras and other interchangeable lens camera sales have remained steady and are even growing, making up 43.3 percent of the camera market in 2015. But within 10 years we could be saying so long to the low end of the digital camera market.
The traditional wristwatch is already a relic of analog technology. But smartwatches, currently enjoying a burst of popularity, will likely be gone in 10 years, too—along with a host of other wearables that don’t quite fit the bill. Why? They just don’t do enough to justify their price, and many of their features just duplicate what’s available on a smartphone. The Apple Watch and other smartwatches also rely on a smartphone connection for full functionality. Their battery life isn’t so hot, either. At least one improvement over the smartwatch is on the market already: Bluetooth-connected earbuds, which not only play music but can also keep track of your pulse rate during exercise, call out your run time, and do pretty much everything a smartwatch can do.
2. Desktop printers
While many home offices still keep a desktop printer around, these workhorses are beginning to gather dust. Relatively inexpensive to buy—a decent wireless inkjet printer can still be purchased for around $50—the cost of ink refills can run even higher than the purchase price, each time a refill is needed. With data storage increasingly shifting online, and more key organizations like the IRS allowing electronic data transfers (such as filing taxes electronically), the need to print out documents is continuing to diminish. Ten years from now, printing out a copy of a receipt or some other file will be unthinkable to most people.
If you bought a new car within the last three years, chances are you have a keyless entry system in addition to a standard set of car keys, provided either by the auto manufacturer or a third party like GM’s OnStar. Well, expect this trend to continue forward, and not just in the auto industry. As the number of “smart homes” increases – houses with programmable features from the thermostat to the security settings and more – so will the number of keyless entry systems for those homes. Activated by a keyfob or a mobile app, residents can easily enter their homes without fumbling for keys in the dark. Price is the main thing holding back electronic entry systems—door bolts start at around $200—and security of keyless entry systems against hackers is still a concern.
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