It’s October 21, 2015. Does the mere mention of that date get anyone else excited about the possibility of seeing Marty McFly and Doc emerge from the DeLorean? Today is officially the day the duo jump to in Back to the Future II to save McFly’s son.
From self-drying jackets, to flying cars, and let’s not forget the hoover boards, Back to the Future promised a lot of things back in the day, and unfortunately, not all of them became real… at least not on a permanent basis. Pepsi and Universal films have both embraced the pop-culture phenomenon by releasing Pepsi Perfect and a trailer for Jaws 19, which were mentioned in the iconic ‘80s flick.
Going down memory lane I found some ‘still-pending’ future promises related to supply chain and logistics. While lots of them have become a reality (MRP calculations in seconds? check!), here’s my take on what I would have expected to be common place today if you’d asked me 10 years ago (as I was nowhere near logistics back in 1985!)
1. RFID tags will become so cheap all milk cartons will have it
We read radio-frequency identification (RFID) was the next best thing since sliced bread. Then it seemed as if RFID was dead. Then Walmart was going to finally make it happen! Now instead of on milk cartons, it’s sneaked into our wallets and passports via NFC (a subset of RFID). RFID is an example of a one size does not fit all. I might not be getting my milk carton RFIDed, but I’m sure the milk in it passed through a lot of RFID sensors, perhaps even one in the cow herself. In a way, I’m happy with the way it is now. Regular old milk cartoons seem to do the job, and I don’t have to worry about a high-tech dumpster diver digging through my recycle bin just to collect a big of market research data.
2. Smart Fridges (which of course will read milk cartons’ RFID tags to make sure we always have a fresh carton in stock)
Fridges are not smart enough yet to do that I’m afraid, but there are a few manufacturers who have gone as far as actually installing cameras inside so you can look inside your fridge from your phone. Why would you ever need to do that? Maybe looking at your fridge from your phone will be the next big thing, you know, like selfies! My kids, on the other hand, would probably love that it means me not constantly telling them to shut the door to the fridge during the heat of the summer!
3. Food Replacement Pills, meant to provide all needed nutrients without all the calories (not to mention freight costs, or ‘smart fridges’)
I thought these would help take us to Mars and beyond. Well, that looks like it’s still not going to happen any time soon, even with the recent discovery of flowing water. Popular Mechanics wrote about why these pills don’t exist yet, and wouldn’t you know it, we need the calories. There’s no escaping them, we just need to have the right amount, ideally matching our activity level. Sounds like a familiar concept, doesn’t it?
4. Going back to the Moon
Just as my folks were the first generation to see a man in the moon, mine seems to be the first one that won’t get to see it happen again. It’s been more than 40 years since the last time man and moon connected. But what about Helium-3, or those other rare mineral we need so much? I’m sure there would be a market for a hotel there.
5. Self-Driven Trucks
At least we’re getting close on this one. We’re still looking at years of testing, but some are already questioning the kind of technology these trucks will need to be considered safe on the highways (sensors, vehicle-to-vehicle communication and LIDAR). Also, I think it’s fair to say we could expect a good amount of regulatory back and forth, as self-driven trucks could not just revolutionize logistics, but also wipe out countless jobs and even whole towns! One could argue being a truck driver is no longer a highly desirable occupation, as early year turnover figures show.
I hope they don’t forget to add some automatic fuel stations to fill up all the self-driven trucks. I would love one of those during the wintertime! And while we’re at it, we probably could use some solar-to-hydrogen fuel as well.
I don’t know about you, but after writing this piece I’m feeling very optimistic. Even after acknowledging the future might be very different from what we’ve all dreamed of it, it’s still pretty accurate to say “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Thanks for the encouraging words Eleanor Roosevelt.
Enough about my failed future predictions, I’d like to hear from you. What supply chain promises have you heard in the past that have yet to come true? Or let us know which ones you wish were true!