Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Future of EDC

Where are we going?  What will the next generation of knives, lights, and everyday gadgets bring us?  I think there are three things that will both definitely happen and signal the beginning of a new age of gadgets and tools.

Here is my current minimalist EDC:

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Less is More

As our phones become more sophisticated it is not too hard to imagine a time when your phone replaces your wallet.  There are all sorts of efforts underway right now that presage this.  Starbucks has an app that lets you buy coffee from your phone without the need for a credit card.   Card Case is another app that allows for credit card free purchases.  It is coming sooner, thankfully, rather than later.  Your phone will put your plastic credit cards out of business.

Then there are the apps that let you do things to your car.  Chevy has an app, OnStarMobile, that lets you remote start your car, among other things.  I can see a future, oh about a year or two from now, when this is a standard feature for cars.  So your phone will eat your keys too.  And who among us likes carrying keys around?  As much as we like the tiny toolbox on our keychain it is really just a way of dressing up a necessary evil--the lump of pokey metal in your pocket that is used once a day for thirty seconds.  Keys are always the "well I guess I have to" part of your EDC set up, but soon at least one set of keys (and usually the bulkiest) will be gone.  It is not hard to imagine Schlage or one of the other lock makers creating a lock that works via your phone, too.

That leaves your watch and your ID.  I think it will be a lot longer until your phone eats your ID, but it is not technically impossible right now.  Slow moving governments, state and local, will be the hang up here, not the tech.  And if you still wear a watch (like I do) then your phone will never eat that.  But it could have done that years ago.

All of your keys and cards in your phone, which is already your camera, your camcorder, your game console, your web browser, and your email.  I can't wait, so long as they all have a remote wipe feature like the iPhone does.


Even if you still carry a wallet, you might be able to save some weight with newer materials.  Carbon fiber is an excellent material for knife handles and smartphone cases.  I'd like to see it in other places too like a carbon fiber/polymer bodied flashlight.  There are even really thin, nice wallets made of carbon fiber, with a space saving design (even if the weight in an item this small is not an issue). Some of the new sail material is also an excellent choice for bags and wallets, substantially cutting down on bulk in bags as a replacement for stiff nylon.   

Longer Life

I have owned and used my Muyshondt Aeon for about 18 months now and thus far I have used two CR2 batteries (still working on the second one).  So while they are more expensive on a per cell basis, the CR2s last so much longer in this little jewel of a light that the price difference doesn't really matter.  The ZDP-189 blade on my Dragonfly II is similarly long lasting.  I have brutalized this thing:

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(I cut up a cardboard box that thick that was the size of a refrigerator) and it has needed only one touch up on the Sharpmaker, after 7 months of use.  It's edge retention is insane.

These two little items demonstrate something that people in the know have understood for a while--endurance and reliability are the most important thing when it comes to gear.  A 600 lumen count for an EDC light is nice, but entirely unnecessary.  I'd like something that runs at a decent level FOREVER.  And all of the gee whiz flippers and assisted openers and rotoblocks are nice, but more than anything a knife that holds an edge for a long, long time is the key.  I want my stuff to come out and be ready without having to think about all of the maintenance and upkeep.  I'll do that because I care about my gear, but it is nice not having to do it if I forget.

As emitters get better and steel gets more sophisticated we are getting close to ZERO maintenance gear.  Imagine a steel that holds an edge like ZDP-189 and is rust proof like H1.  I'd take that.  Imagine an emitter that can run for days at 100 lumens and a knife blade that needs sharpening once a year.  It is coming...and so is the super long life smartphone 

Standardization

We are still only about 5 or 6 years removed from the advent of the multi-output flashlight.  And UIs are all over the place.  Twist and click, double click, click and hold.  We still don't have a standardized UI, but it is coming, too.  There seems to be a convergence.  Eagletac's UI on their D25 series is very similar to 4seven's UI on the MiNi Quark series, which itself, is a direct borrowing from the UI on the BiTz and Ti BiTz custom lights.  It may be that we are witnessing the formation of a standard UI in twisty-style flashlights.  I'd prefer the simplicity of the two or three stage twisty like on the Aeon, but I think that is more complex to implement and thus more expensive.

Similarly we are seeing UIs in clicky lights.  Nothing compares to the ease of use of the McGizmo clicky, and we see this UI implemented in other places.  The really great Leatherman Serac S3 light had it (why they went out of production I will never understand).  The Lumapower Incendio has it.  The combination of easy switching and mode memory seen on the McGizmo gives you all of the customization I think a reasonable user needs with none of the fuss or insanity of some of the more complex UIs.

Another area where standardization seems to be taking hold is in pocket clip design.  Flashlights like the Nitecore D10 and EX10 had a proprietary pocket clip that was beyond frustrating to install and did not hold well.  The next gen from Nitecore, by contrast, has switched over to the elegant and simple McGizmo clip.  Take a peak:


And now the McGizmo version:


BTW, isn't that light just droolicious?  Note that the clips are identical in shape and design (though one has been treated).  Sunwayman is also using the McGizmo clip on its Ti version (even though they are not part of the Nitecore/JetBeam company).  Even the Eagletac link above shows a clip VERY similar to the McGizmo design.

I'd like to see pocket knives converge on a standard clip but that doesn't seem likely.  I'd love the Spyderco wireclip or the Kershaw/Strider simple clip become standard but for whatever reason knife designers have a fetish with weird and less than ideal pocket clips.  I'd also like to see a spine riding clip on a production knife.  They look beautiful on Joe Caswell's custom blades.

And flashlight UIs and pocket clips are only the beginning.  I can see many different items becoming standardized.  I can see the features of a "tactical" v. "utility" flashlight coalescing into two very uniform groups (this may have happened already, in fact).  The Fisher pen insert has already become something like the standard in "tactical pens" and for good reason.  I wouldn't mind more standardization in flashlight batteries, especially in very small batteries (where 10180 would be my choice) and large rechargeables (I like the 18650 used in Dark Suck's light).   I'd also like some standard features on a smartphone, such as the ability to use physical buttons to quickstart the phone for pictures (the only feature, I think, that is worthwhile on a Windows 7 phone). 

That is where I think things are going.  The faster we get there and the less stuff I have to carry and maintain, the better.  I am not a shambling tool box kind of guy and a slim smartphone, tiny knife, and awesome jewel of light sound very, very good to me.   

8 comments:

  1. Sunwayman does not use a McGizmo clip on their V10r Ti, or any other light, in fact Sunwayman uses some of the worst clips I have seen on their lights. Kuku427 on the candlepowerforums sells the McGizmo/EX11 clip with some modifications to fit the Sunwayman and many people have bought it.

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  2. As if I needed another thing to want, the Muyshondt Aeon is now on my short list. I wish the low was lower though! I really love moonlight modes.

    (also the "buy here" link on your original Muyshondt review is no longer working).

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  3. Great look at some big picture trends.

    Re: miniaturization of wallet/keys through computerization, you will get some cross-currents blowing from the more libertarian wing of EDC'ers (where EDC overlaps with 2d Amdt./preparedness folk on the Venn diagram), since they are spooked by the anti-privacy implications of digitizing one's life. Right now no one can steal my driver's license, work ID, concealed carry permit, cash, etc., unless they can physically take my wallet. Having to constantly fuss over upgrading to protect against security threats to one's e-ID sounds uncomfortably like having to constantly lube, resharpen and otherwise fuss over a knife blade with bad steel.

    On lights and tools themselves, I think you are right about the trends. The past 3 months of EDC'ing a Spyderco Dragonfly have taught me how well a small, quality knife can fill one's needs.

    Of course there will always be a market for larger EDC knives and chunky tactical lights among self-defense enthusiasts, LEOs, etc.

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  4. Here is the link for the Aeons:

    http://www.muyshondt.net/aeon.shtml

    Enrique is now making batches with little on hand stock, so what ever he has is what he will sell. I am not sure if he will still be sending out stuff through dealers.

    Re: Privacy

    All of your ID stuff is already digital, at the DMV and other state agencies. This means that someone CAN steal your ID, even now, even without your physical wallet.

    I think the issue is we need to reach a minimum level of security and then have ways to root out theft because there is no real way to prevent ALL theft, physical or digital.

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  5. Correction, it is JetBeam's Ti light that uses the McGizmo clip not Sunwayman's.

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  6. Interesting take on the idea that a smartphone will cover a multitude of physical tools that we currently carry about.

    I am a smartphone hold out despite working in IT and having a mobile phone and MP3 player well ahead of the masses. While I can see the function in them the lifecycle is so short there is no real chance to improve on v1.0 to allow v1.1 to be realased with bugs fixed and UI polished etc.., it is a mad dash to make a v2 phone and get more "features" on there and release it before your competitor, which does not always make a better unit!

    As Howies said:
    New > Better > Faster > Obsolete.

    While I can see the issues with having one item to do everything (security, loss, dropping in bath!...) I am not sure that it should completely replace them as all good EDCers know you should have a back up and items should have more than one use.

    Plus people can not always take their phones everywhere with them (quite a few employers / locations ban them) so it might be tricky for these and people away from major cities to pick up on this...kind of like the people with a home that can be completely controled from a pad...yeah they have exsisted for years but never really caught on except for Bond villans.

    OK enought mind-dumping

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  7. Do you know of any cases where a Muyshondt has a tritium insert? The Muyshondt looks perfect for what I want, but one of my dream lights has a tritium insert (don't have one yet, who knows, I might hate it). just wondering if that light is out there. (I know some Ion's had trits, but not any of the Aeons that I can find.)

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  8. RE: Trit and Aeon

    I once saw a modded Aeon with a trit through the keyring attachment hole. I can't seem to find it with Google this morning.

    RE: No smartphone

    I was a late adopter for a smartphone too, but in the end, they can do so much. The iPhone, for example, allows me to do legal research, call, get emails, watch videos, take videos, take picture, play good games, and a dozen other things from the palm of my hand. I just can't get over how it is this device that gadget geeks have been waiting for for decades.

    RE: One is none.

    I'm not in survival situations a lot nor do have any need for tactical stuff, so I don't really buy into this idea. For those of us that carry for convenience and general preparedness I just don't see this as necessary. I do carry a light and a pry tool on my keychain and usually a pocket knife, but that is the extent of my backups.

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