Media reports have been buzzing about Apple’s latest gadget, the iPad. Among the mixed reactions (“it’s brilliant!” “where’s the novelty?”), there is also much excitement over flat devices where you can carry your entire life around with you. What we’re seeing is just the beginning of an upcoming technological revolution, and Portugal is set to become a big contributor. The country is actually a quiet technology leader, from wind and solar-powered energy to computer software. If you ever use the ATM in Portugal, you’ll see that it seems that Portugal is using Windows 7 while the rest of the world’s ATMs are still running MsDOS. The Portuguese do everything at the ATM (the “Multibanco“), from paying their monthly bills, to pre-paying their cell phone service, to even ordering concert tickets (there are currently 60 different functionalities possible at Portuguese ATMs). That also means that for many bank services you don’t have to wait to get back home or the office to use online banking, and you don’t have to stand in line at the bank, since you can do that right away, around the corner at the ATM. Having been living in Lisbon for half a dozen years, I have taken these conveniences for granted until I return to the United States and see lines of people at the bank still cashing their salary’s check on Fridays, or using the obsolete-looking ATMs. I also remember passing through New York’s EZ Pass, only to discover later that it is actually a technology developed in Portugal known as “Via Verde” where you don’t have to stop to pay your toll.
Then there are Portuguese companies like Displax which are embracing and innovating technological advances by turning virtually any surface into a touch screen. The company’s polymer film is thinner than paper, therefore allowing pretty much anything to become a touch-screen display. The interactive displays can measure anywhere from 20cm to up to 3 meters diagonally, meaning that one day you just may see entire shop windows turned into interactive displays with multiple users at any time.
Options screen at an ATM in Portugal