Our top tech predictions for 2015
Was 2014 a busy year for technology? You betcha. Not only was it the year that wearables exploded onto the mainstream, Apple updated almost every product in its line-up, and the Hi-Res audio phenomenon was kicked into high-gear thanks to several new pieces of hardware. So, what can we expect from 2015? These are the trends to keep an eye on…
Yes they were big last year, with everyone from Samsung to FitBit to Microsoft jumping into the fray. But we are rapidly heading to the point where there are only so many activity trackers the market can reasonably support. In 2015, there will be players who depart the wearables race; some that consolidate and — once the Apple Watch launches in Q1 — we’ll see a re-drawing of the lines where multi-function device are on one side, and single or semi-single use sensors are on the other. Expect a ton of announcements around smart clothing like OMsignal, especially in the health industry.
Media Streaming Gets Even Hotter
While Netflix has had decent competitors south of the border for some time, it took until late 2014 for CraveTV and Shomi to give the subscription service a run for its money in Canada. Given that Bell and Rogers own these two respectively, it’s reasonable to think that Shaw, Canada’s third largest media powerhouse, will want in on the action. Meanwhile, it feels like new audio streaming services are launching every week. Except for Apple’s iTunes Radio which remains a US-only service for now. 2015 might be the year it gets released up here.
Here Comes Hi-Res Audio
Even though monster consumer tech companies like Sony are beginning to throw their weight behind the relatively new hi-res audio formats such as FLAC and ALAC, the lack of available hi-res music for download has kept the phenomenon largely contained to enthusiasts in 2014. There’s a very good chance that this will change in 2015, if Apple decides to offer the format on their iTunes store. Given that they have yet to make a big splash with their Beats Audio acquisition, it’s likely this will be the brand Apple uses to push hi-res into the mainstream.
Yes, once again we’re looking at Apple, but this time it’s all about Apple Pay, the company’s iPhone and Watch-based contactless payment system. It hasn’t launched yet in Canada because Apple has yet to ink deals with enough of the major Canadian banks, but it will come and likely in 2015. When it does arrive, it will be a very big deal. The iPhone is the most popular handset in Canada, with a 46% market share. Only the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus can support Apple Pay at the moment, but the Apple Watch will extend the system to iPhone 5, 5c and 5s users too. Some rumours suggest that Apple has already commenced testing in Canada with TD Bank.
So Long Passwords…
Passwords were never a very good idea. As the years have gone by and we have more and more of them to deal with, they’re proving to not only be a pain, but a considerable security risk for many of us. 2015 will be the year that serious efforts are made to replace the old-fashioned password with something more secure and easier to use – probably based on biometrics. These bio-based security features will likely get a big boost from the wearables market (see above).
Who Owns The Smart Home?
Enabling our everyday appliances with internet access and then getting them to speak to one another is already a huge trend. Some call it the Internet of Things, while others simply refer to it as the Smart Home. Regardless what it’s called, it’s ground zero for a turf war that has Google, Apple, Microsoft and hundreds of smaller companies all vying for a piece of the action. At stake isn’t just the automation of your toaster and light bulbs (though that’s the big advantage for consumers), it’s the data. And I mean Big Data. These companies want to know what’s going on inside your home so they can tailor their products, services – and advertising! – to your family’s habits. It’s powerful stuff and 2015 will be a big year for companies trying to grab a slice of the pie.
The original German national anthem, which dates back to 1841, used to start with the words, “Deutschland über alles.” In English, this means “Germany above all.” And while disruptive (and controversial) taxi service Uber may not have been thinking of German nationalism when it chose its name, there’s no question that it seems bent on world domination – at least when it comes to transportation. No longer content with giving taxi drivers and their clients a new way to do business, 2015 will be the year that Uber starts to compete with FedEx, UPS and even Canada Post. Its network of drivers (both professional and otherwise) will start offering package delivery services with the same super-convenient user interface that has made it so popular for cab rides.
I don’t like being the harbinger of doom and gloom (especially at this time of year) but it seems increasingly likely — as fringe groups and hostile governments become better at using technology – that we’ll see a major cyber attack on a public utility or branch of government. The Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, which the FBI is accusing North Korea of having masterminded, is just the most recent example of how vulnerable we have become. Granted, there’s a big difference between a movie studio and a power generator, but the principle is the same. 2015 could easily become the year that things get serious.
This year, two TV technologies started to go mainstream: 4K (or UHD) and OLED. While 4K is simply an improvement on resolution (giving TVs about four times the resolution of a standard 1080p HDTV), OLED is a different kind of display technology. Using incredibly thin material that requires no backlight, OLED screens offer a picture quality that has been praised as the highest ever seen. Problem is, the prices of OLED TVs are similarly stratospheric. They typically start at just under $4,000. 2015 will be the year that OLED TVs break the $2,000 price barrier, an important step in making the technology widely available.
Simon Cohen is one of Canada’s most experienced Consumer Tech voices. He created Sync.ca, an award-winning Canadian technology blog which had an audience of over 500,000 monthly visitors. He has appeared as a guest numerous times on national TV and radio programmes, including Canada AM, Sync Up (a weekly segment on CTV News Channel) and App Central. He is currently an independent writer and editor contributing to various publications, but you can always find his thoughts and musings on his blog at excitable.ca.