I'm been writing (and now video-ing and webcasting) about the non-cool side of technology for 16 years. (sorry, guys I love single dealer portals and real-time messages buses too, but they're not making it to cover of
Vanity Fair any time soon).
I've never been to Comex, never been to Silicon Valley, and have never been given a cool new gadget to review (Thomson Reuters anytime you want to send over a 3000 workstation, be my guest).
At last week's Digital Money Forum talk ran to all the 'cool' things you could do with digital money. One thing that came up was the concept of digital banknotes - or smart banknotes.
Considering Australia uses and
now Canada plans on printing so-called plastic banknotes, there is an innovative way to protect against counterfeiting and theft - make them disappear.
Paul Makin of Consult Hyperion said that technology could be developed to allow mobile phones to not only extract the value from a smart banknotes, but also imprint that value back to the note. The theory behind this is intriguing.
We all know the advances mobile banking is making in the developing world. By being able to programme the value of a banknote from a mobile phone, those notes could be transported as value-less blank plastic and then activated via mobile phone, on delivery.
Interesting? Yes. Practical, Hmmmm...
Paul expressed frustration with his researchers over the smart banknote idea. Why? Because the notes would take 10 to 15 years to develop. It seems that the notes - plastic with the inevitable chip - where failing the basic banknote tests.
Namely the 'crumple test'. The crumple test is where a banknote is rolled up in a tube the size of a cigarette and squished. This is to simulate stuffing money in your pocket (not anything else). The crumple test affectively crumpled the chip. An audience
member called out not to forget the 'bum test' where money in a wallet, must survive sitting in the back pocket of your jeans. (Cool tech thwarted by a size 12 bum stuffed inside size 10 Levis)
To be honest with you, I am on the side of the researchers (sorry Paul). Forgetting the obvious debate on the future of physical money, 15 years is a long time in technology terms (and we're not even talking 'cool' tech). 15 years ago I didn't own a mobile
phone - now it doesn't leave my side.
I am sure in 15 years some new cool technology will emerge that will solve the problems of theft, counterfeiting, and transporting money to the world's poor. When that happens do you really want to have dedicated 15 years of your life to making bank notes