Technology is pervading all aspects of our life, making our daily
chores and interactions more convenient. Looking to the future, what
technologies will enable the innovation that will lead to truly
Applied futurist Tom Cheesewright explores the evolution of technology
and the internet and their impact on our daily lives. He also looks at
the role that tokenisation technology will play in enabling this
connected future, and how it can power innovation, as well as security.
In August this year, the world celebrated 25 years of the World Wide
Web, the globe-spanning information platform that has democratised
access to knowledge. To most of us today, the web defines what it means
to be connected. It is the source of facts and the access point for
services and goods – more often than not via the shiny screen of the
But is this the limit of a connected life?
It’s a marvel, no doubt, but not without its downsides. Because the
ability to access anything, anywhere is not limited to information and
things. We are tethered to our connections. The accelerated expansion of
the internet that has enabled our access to the Web has also enabled
others to access us. Our time is eaten up by extended working hours. Our
personal data by social networks and advertisers.
Can we do better?
I believe we can, and we will. Because today’s connected life is really just a short leg of a much longer journey.
Manual or Automatic
If you want to understand where we’re going, it’s often useful to
look back where we’ve been. Back at the history of connection and
computing. Back to the days of the mainframe and the first
Back then if you wanted to communicate with a machine, you had to enter
its space, an air-conditioned cave. You had to learn its arcane
language, and give it detailed, explicit instructions.
Today I can shout across the room at my phone and half the time it will play the song I actually want.
How can it do this? The device is obviously smaller, faster and tethered
over a high speed connection to even more powerful machines. But it is
also much more aware and capable. It is using a limited intelligence and
an array of sensors to interact with the environment around it.
The important step is this: all that increased power and information
have allowed us to imbue the device with a small measure of autonomy.
The ability to extrapolate what I want from what I’ve said.
From Information to Control
The shift from manual interactions to autonomy is one dimension of our journey. But there’s a second dimension to consider
If the first step on the journey towards a truly connected life was
about ubiquitous access to information, then the second step was about
control. This is a step we are just taking today. Our environment is
increasingly connected and controllable from our smartphones. Heat and
light, music and video, even locks and doors.
As the cost of adding connectivity to items has fallen, so the utility
required to justify the investment has also declined. If it’s even at
all useful for something to be connected to the internet, whether it’s a
kettle or your car keys, you can now make a case for the marginal
Combining Control and Autonomy
This is where tokenisation is such an attractive prospect. If we want
to ascribe authority to these shards of ourselves, we want to ensure
that authority cannot be abused. We can’t just hand over our credit
cards and let them get on with it. We need granular, revocable control.
Cars that can only pay for parking, only in certain locations. Bathrooms
that can only order certain products at set frequencies from certain
stores. Cupboards that have a limited allowance for purchasing staples.
Without such a capability we can’t take full advantage of a future
connected life. We can’t be in two places at once if only one of our
selves has the authority to interact.
Tokenisation potentially goes way beyond payments. Consider digital
access to your home. Imagine being able to grant it remotely, for a
limited time period, for building work or a delivery. Or perhaps giving
the garage limited rights to access your car. No more stories of valet
More than Human
The true potential for tomorrow’s connected life is to make us more
than human. To do this we need to be able to grant authority to our
connected clones but only under close supervision. Whether it’s for
shopping or security, tokenisation presents a possible technology to
enable this superhuman future.