How would a marketing pro say it? “The modern mobile lifestyle.” I’m no hardcore early adopter (I always let the fools with a “mine’s bigger” attitude and too much cash get the bugs out) but I live that lifestyle, more or less. The modern mobility sales pitch hangs on words like “freedom” and “flexibility”–the idea that you no longer need to be tied to a desk–you can have everything from anywhere! But wait a sec waiter, there’s a fly in my modern mobile soup!
And that fly’s name is “cables”. But let’s start at the beginning. The devices which I almost always carry around with me are:
- iPod, of course
- Personal mobile phone
- BlackBerry for business
- Digital camera
If we forget about how much that stuff weighs (“freedom” anyone?) it’s pretty cool to be able to hear music, communicate, shoot and cut video and audio, design and take and process photos in multiple ways from (almost) anywhere. However the price I have to pay for that (other than kilos) is cables.
- iPod sync cable
- Mobile phone power cable
- Blackberry power cable
- Blackberry sync cable (older, Bluetoothless model)
- MacBook power cable
- MacBook monitor adapter
- Ethernet cable for emergencies (saved my life more than once)
- Camera battery charger
- CompactFlash card reader, or camera download cable (take your pick)
There’s two kinds of cables in that rat’s nest: data transfer and power. Data transfer is slowly being replaced by Bluetooth and, hopefully soon, much faster data transfer technologies, so in five years I should have to carry about half as much wire. But what about power? Maybe because I have the understanding of a five year old when it comes to electricity, I started thinking about ways to achieve a cable-free future, i.e. how I’m going to earn my millions. As you read the following, please keep in mind what I just said about my understanding, and don’t try this at home.
Imagine a world without cables. Power sockets in the wall are a thing of the past. Every house has a central power hub, from which electricity is broadcast through the air to all appliances. I know, I know, electricity needs a conductor, but from what little I know about atoms, molecules, etc., I know that they’re essentially fields of electricity, sort of. See what I mean about the five year old understanding? But seriously, is this even slightly possible?
All you Feng Shui experts can just keep your “electro-smog” to yourselves for a moment. This is wild-science here.
I’m a Battery
We all know that we humans are big walking bags of electrified water, right? Our thoughts and movements are all essentially tiny electro-shocks. What if our devices were capable of using a little of that energy every time we touched them? Imagine long conversations on your mobile phone leading to longer battery life. True, draining synapse juice to fuel your Blackberry could lead to slowed thinking, but studies show that Blackberry use does that anyway.
When you come home you throw your phone, Blackberry and iPod in a beautiful metal bowl by the door. You don’t even think about the fact that the bowl, in your absence, is charging all your devices, making sure that you have big, fat, green battery icons tomorrow morning. Couldn’t it be possible to build conductive contact points into devices, allowing them to be charged through contact with a power source, which could also be designed in any form possible?
The One Cable
I have a drawer just for cables. At least half of them are cables I can no longer identify, but keep for the dreaded “onedayimightneedit.” There are 5 different mobile phone power cables, all of which only fit only one make of phone, and two of which only fit a specific phone, but were made by the same company (thanks Motorola). The dream which started all of this thinking was “The One Cable to Rule Them All”. It’s likely the least realistic of all these ideas–a single power cable, with a single connector, which would fit in any mobile device and give it juice. I refuse to believe that it’s technically impossible, but I can’t even begin to imagine Nokia, Sony, Philips, Apple, Dell, Motorola, etc. agreeing on one standard and sticking to it.
The Sci-Fi Solution
According to our best and worst science fiction authors, by the time any of the above could occur, we’ll all be walking around with fusion cells–batteries which by some fusion reaction sorcery last at least fifty years–in our devices, and therefore, by the time any of these ideas could become a reality, we won’t need cables anyway. I may be old-fashioned, but I tend to prefer a cableless future with increased electro-smog over one where I carry three fusion reactors around in my jacket.
Call Me Crazy
No, I mean it, go ahead. As I said I have little to no understanding of these things. I’d be interested in hearing from someone who does. I’m no genius, so I assume there are very good scientific reasons why no one’s tried any of these things yet. Or perhaps they have, and died suddenly in a cloud of greasy smoke. Or maybe I’m not as dumb as I think, in which case I’m looking for a partner who wants to make some millions with me and understands electricity far better than a five year old.