To many, October 21st will be just like any other day, just like any other Wednesday. However, for some, the date will signify the conclusion of a journey that started 26 years ago.
In 1989, ‘Back to the Future II’ was released and was set in 2015 – October 21st, 2015 to be precise. The film made some bold predictions about technology, financial technology in particular, and today is the day the predictions can be properly assessed.
Biometrics and cashless transactions
The most surprisingly accurate prediction the film made concerned biometric technology. In the film, there is a scene where one of the characters, Biff Tannen pays for a taxi using only his fingerprint. In 2015, we don’t directly pay for taxis using just fingerprints, but we may as well be.
Apple’s Touch ID combined with its payment service, Apple Pay, allows users to make payments just by authenticating their fingerprint. Other payment services such as Samsung Pay have also integrated biometric technology into their mobile payment services, whilst many financial institutions have ensured their mobile banking applications are compatible with biometric technologies.
This ties to Biff’s taxi by our own real-life taxi services such as Uber and Lyft. Uber completely revolutionised the car transportation industry by eschewing cash in favour of digital payment methods, driving companies such as Apple and Samsung to develop payment services that catered to that nascent demand. Now, Uber users can use their biometric-enabled smartphone to pay for the taxi ride.
This one is slightly more of a stretch, but the idea in the film and the one executed in real life are very similar. In the film clothes feature electronic capabilities such as self-tying shoes and self drying jackets.
In real life, whilst we have struggled to create shoes that tie themselves – although Nike says it is working hard to release them this year to coincide with the film’s reference to 2015 – we have managed to integrate technology into clothes to enable them to act as payment conduits.
Back in September, Lyle & Scott partnered with Barclays to create a contactless jacket and around the same time, Samsung C&T, the Korean tech giant’s fashion division, debuted its new line of wearable devices at IFA 2015, including a suit that allows its wearer to pay for items without needing a credit card.
In fact, this Autumn saw an explosion of interest in wearable technology. At the end of September, Visa collaborated with British designer Henry Holland at London Fashion Week to present custom rings envisioned by him that featured integrated contactless technology. Visa Europe later partnered with art and design institution Central Saint Martins College to consider how wearable payment devices could look in 2020.
However, it’s not only the big players who are seeking to capture a slice of this burgeoning niche of payments, startups are also encroaching upon the territory with the help of another modern phenomenon – crowdfunding.
Newcomers such as Kerv, the company seeking to create a contactless payment ring, and Blocks, a watch that features contactless payment technology, are both on Kickstarter, looking to raise enough money to make a dent in the market. Both have easily surpassed their targets; Blocks has actually raised nearly four times the amount it originally wanted, showing just how strong the interest is amongst the general public.
For a more general breakdown of what ‘Back to the Future’ got right or wrong, have a look at the infographic below.
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