Emergent Technology Playing a Larger Role in Traditionally Analog Industries

Our current society is more tied to the ebb and flow of technology than ever before. With more people connecting to the Internet, more smartphones being sold around the globe, and new devices pumping into the market at unprecedented rates, the developed world is starting to synthesize its own advancement with that of the devices it relies on.

An example. I went to see a band perform at a venue in Chicago some months ago. Normally at these types of shows, fans need to have cash ready if they want merchandise because touring bands don’t have the wherewithal to bring a credit card machine with them to every show. Square has addressed that by inventing a portable credit card apparatus and now nearly every show I go to has someone behind a table poking at an iOS device and swiping cards like it was second nature.

As Square revolutionizes shopping at rock shows with a low-impact, high efficiency payment model, Google has introduced a product that could end the wallet as we know it. Google Wallet is making a bid to popularize near-field communication (NFC) devices by allowing users to download an application, load their bank information onto it and pay for goods and services with the tap of a cellphone.

The affected industries aren’t just in retail. Qualcomm has developed its Hours of Service technologies that allow trucking companies to keep closer tabs on data through electronic monitoring of drivers’ hours and duty status. These mobile computing technologies also eliminate the need for filling out traditional paper driver logs.

These are a few of the analog processes that are being supplemented — in some cases replaced — by digital methods. What’s the rush? Why are we so quick to move away from tradition?

Sadly, tradition is expensive. Ask the U.S. Postal Service. Americans have shifted en masse from the expensive, time-consuming endeavor of sending mail through a government agency to more efficient online solutions. They are often cheaper, faster and more reliable than the postal service. It hurts me to say, but I’ve had too many packages held or undelivered due to the USPS.

Additionally, technology is moving us toward a greener, more efficient world. Attitudes toward greener practices have taken off in the past few years, not only as a lifestyle choice but as a cost-saving measure. Where it’s cheaper to eschew unnecessary packaging, less fuel, and “environmentally safe” practices, big brands are all about it. Unsurprisingly, consumers are as well.

The ubiquity of technology won’t necessarily save the world but it is putting us on the right track. The right track, in our case, is a position from which we can significantly change our wasteful, inefficient ways and modify them to accommodate a free and just world.