Back to the Future: How much of Marty and Docs’ tech is a reality?

Yesterday was October 21st – the day Marty and Doc crashed into the future in the second Back to the Future sci-fi film, released in 1989. But what did the creators get right? 26 years down the line, how much of Marty and Docs’ tech is actually a reality?

Here are comments from leaders in the storage and security industry, looking at how technology has developed, and what the film predicted.

Ryan O’Leary, Sr. Director of Threat Research Centre at WhiteHat Security

The way Biff pays for his taxi cab ride has some inherent security flaws so there would be major issues for companies to adopt such a payment system. Anyone who has used biometric readers on their tablet or phone know they’re inherently fussy, but even if you can get the technology right all your requiring is someone’s finger prints. Unfortunately it’s more then simple to fool these fingerprint scanners and I would need just a few household items to lift a fingerprint, put it on a latex glove and buy my cab ride using someone’s discarded soda can.

The good news is that we have come along way in the cashless transaction world and it’s easier than ever to pay for goods and services without the need for cash. If you’ve ever used Uber you know that you don’t even need a credit card to pay for the fare, it’s automatically added to your credit card, which is both simple for the driver and passenger, and more secure for both parties.

There’s a technology that’s actually strikingly similar to Biff’s mode of payment, that’s Apple Pay. Apple Pay utilises an NFC payment method where the user uses either their iPhone or Apple Watch to touch an NFC contact, which then prompts you to enter either your code or fingerprint. This allows for better security then just a fingerprint, as you need both the Apple device with your account on it as well as your fingerprint or code. Perhaps in remakes old Biff should be sporting an Apple Watch to make his taxi cab purchase.

Paul Prince, CTO of Mangstor

Back to the Future predicted a data connected world with video chats, virtual reality visors and wearable tech. We have now reached that ‘Future’ date, and while talking jackets aren’t all that common, the world we live in is most definitely a data connected one that moves incredibly fast, and people’s thirst for information is insatiable.

Unlike Marty McFly, we may not put on high-tech specs (sorry Google-glass) or talk to our jackets; but the speed in which people obtain and use data has definitely changed the world and will continue to do so. Finding and serving up a granular piece of data to the right user at the right time is the end game for IT. Marketing teams will always be looking to predict which color of talking jackets will be popular 30 days or 3 years from now. Making good decisions based on these predictions can mean big profits. But it requires finding trends hidden in the waves of big data all around us.

No matter the year, the outlook seems clear that the bottleneck in acquiring, accessing and analyzing information will be the performance of data storage and the network providing access to that data. Getting more out of your data center will never go out of style.

Gavin McLaughlin, VP of Strategy and Communications at X-IO

30 years ago Marty McFly headed to today but what should we expect in thirty years’ time? Will the Biff Tannen of 2045 be running around shouting “X media is dead” in a similar way to today’s more marketing-hype-oriented vendors are shouting “hard disks are dead”? Hopefully by then the market will have become a little more educated and will realise that storage is about solutions rather than just the raw components.

It’s without doubt that in 2045 we’ll be using a new media type and hopefully more systems will be modular so they can take advantage of new levels of performance without compromising on affordability, availability or simplicity. Saying that, if it comes with a hoverboard and automatic lacing Nikes then count me in!

Michael Hack, Senior Vice President EMEA Operations at Ipswitch

If Marty’s watch-covered wrists are anything to go by, Director Robert Zumeckis hinted that wearable tech would be the latest thing in 2015. We aren’t quite there yet, but in our recent survey we conducted amongst IT professionals in Europe, Ipswitch found this is changing fast. The survey revealed that over fifty one percent of businesses have employees wearing technology to the office, although I doubt employees will be sporting self-drying jackets any time soon.

One innovation that appeared two years before the movie predicted was smart glasses. Much like the Google glass Marty’s kids could answer the phone and watch videos right from their eyewear. Whilst there aren’t many kids who can boast of owning this tech just yet, the demand for wearables is growing at an unprecedented rate. They are sure to be the trend of the not-so-distant future.

Bruce Miller, VP Product Management at Xirrus

We saw the first Wi-Fi networks a few years after Back to the Future II was made, and the movie proved to be on the right track when it came to the ways we might compute and communicate in the future. Video conferencing in the film was rather basic, but it is not far removed from the FaceTime and Skype apps we accept as the norm today. And tablet-style computers are everywhere today, another item that appeared in the film.

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