This year marks the 60th (yes, 60th!) anniversary of the legendary James Bond film franchise. Spanning six decades, with 27 films and seven actors taking on the lead role of 007 – while the series has evolved, one thing remains a steadfast, the technology.
From the extravagant, like the jetpack used in Thunderball, to the slightly ridiculous, such as the bird-wetsuit from Goldfinger, the list of gadgets that Bond has used since his cinematic debut is almost endless.
Whether you’re a die-hard Bond fan or not, no one can deny the films are synonymous with weird, wonderful and quite frankly over the top technology. However, while some of the gadgets are likely to remain fictitious, over the years we have seen some come to fruition (or a version of at least).
To celebrate this landmark anniversary, here’s our top five gadgets from the quintessential spy series, and how they relate to technologies we see in everyday life.
Aston Martin DB5 – Multiple films (1964-2015)
Perhaps one of the original ‘smart’ cars in cinema history, the iconic Aston Martin DB5 has featured in a number of Bond’s iterations, famously making its debut appearance in 1964’s Goldfinger. Since then, the DB5 has sported a wide range of technologies, including bullet-proof windows, tire slashers, oil slick ejectors and the famous ejector seat.
While most cars we drive today (hopefully!) don’t possess most of these gadgets, they’re certainly becoming smarter, with many cars now being equipped with technology such as eSIMs to become truly connected devices. Armed with this connectivity, vehicles can provide new capabilities, such as voice assistants, emergency eCall solutions and voice assistants.
Fake fingerprints – Diamonds are forever (1971)
Biometrics make another appearance on our list of our top gadgets from the Bond universe, this time in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever. In his first encounter with Tiffany Case, Bond’s female co-star, Bond uses fake fingerprints to trick Tiffany into believing he is somebody else. Tiffany even checks Bond’s prints, retrieved from a glass tumbler, on an old school projector against the prints of the person he pretends to be.
Much like Tiffany Case, organisations are constantly looking to protect themselves and their data from the latest form of ‘spoofing’ attack. Although Bond’s methods are quite simplistic by modern standards, today’s baddies are still trying to fool systems with fake fingerprints made from Play-Doh or latex. However, the latest fingerprint scanners integrate liveness detection to counter these threats.
Smartphone – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
In this Piers Brosnan instalment of 007, Bond takes the definition of smartphone to a whole new level. Aside from the phone being equipped with a stun gun, a fingerprint scanner and a lock pick in the shape of an antennae, the real party piece of Bond’s smartphone is the ability to control his car, which comes in particularly handy when 007 finds himself surrounded by henchmen in a car park.
Whilst most modern smartphones aren’t equipped with the ability to control cars remotely, in recent years we have seen the development of alternative and complementary ways of entering and starting a vehicle – the smartphone being one of them. Digital car keys enable drivers to lock/unlock their vehicles, and start the engine, using their smartphone or other mobile device.
Microchip implant – Casino Royale (2006)
Given the beating he takes from his enemies and his love of vodka martinis; Bond’s health status is always an unknown variable throughout any of his missions. However, after an operation goes sour in 2006’s Casino Royale, M, head of MI6 and Bond’s matriarchal leader, takes matters into her own hands when it comes to keeping tabs on Bond’s health. Before 007 jets off to Montenegro to a high stake’s poker tournament, M has him injected with a microchip to track his vital signs and, perhaps more importantly, his location. In this film, the former comes in use shortly afterwards, with Bond facing cardiac arrest after his martini is spiked mid-poker game.
However, telemedicine devices are not just reserved for secret agents, although they tend to be a lot more GDPR-compliant! In fact, the number of smart medical devices is on the rise. Today, the use of telemedical devices for office visits and outpatient care is 38 times higher than levels recorded at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (February 2020). Whether it’s connected pacemakers or smart orthopaedic implants, more and more civilians are benefitting from the convenience and accessibility that smart medical devices offer.
Palm print-enabled Walther PPK – Skyfall (2012)
Ending with one of the more recent instalments of the franchise, biometric technology forms an unlikely ally for Bond in the second act of the 2012 film Skyfall. Finding himself down the barrel of his own gun in the hands of a henchman, Bond is spared an early credit roll thanks to his biometrically enabled Walther PPK. As the henchman pulls the trigger of Bond’s weapon of choice, the biometric system locks the trigger, preventing Bond’s foe from firing off a shot. This, combined with a lurking Komodo Dragon, gives Bond the chance to fight another day.
While unlocking guns are not their primary use, biometrics are commonly used in a number of industries, including financial services, where they often take the form of biometric bank cards. By integrating a fingerprint scanner into the card, banks can afford consumers unparalleled security when making payments, protecting their financial information from fraudsters. In fact, we’re surprised Q hasn’t equipped Bond with one of these before!
Be sure to read more about some of the real-life applications of these technologies on the Thales DIS website.