Britain 2020? Press your panic button now

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The Independent Online

The year is 2020. Meg and Joe are Techies - Teleworking Executives, Co-Habiting - who live and work at their Pad (professionally active dwelling).

A typical day in their lives, as envisaged by the government- funded report Just Around the Corner, starts with Meg driving to a meeting. "She's on the carriageway and as a result satellite and automatic pilot now drive the car. Joe calls her for a chat - he likes to speak VFF (virtually face-to-face) at least once a day."

As she gets out of the car she is confronted by a women with a knife. "The woman is wearing a balaclava, rubber gloves and a large second-hand coat. She is clearly keen not to leave give any visual or DNA clues to her identity.

"The woman's first move is to lunge and stick chewing gum on the carcam's [surveillance camera] lens. Next the woman sprays some cheap scent to mask her body smell, to avoid her scent being picked up by police odour detectors." From her coat pocket she produces a "credit siphon". It transfers credit from a smart card to an anonymous cash card, which have been popular since cash disappeared in 2009. The police arrive and the assailant is quickly located on surveillance cameras and a private security firm picks her up.

Meanwhile in Brightlands - "the walled estate where people care" - another woman, also called Meg, decides to leave the security of her compound and buy some goods on the black-market. "All public space is potentially more hostile than before. People prefer the isolation offered by their personal technology systems and increasingly resent being disturbed, or even spoken to in public." As Meg buys her goods she is mugged, but she scratches her attacker and draws blood, giving a DNA sample that can identify the offender. She then pushes her panic button and is rescued by a security firm that patrols the area.