Dean Anthony Gratton
Consumer Technology Predictions for 2015
Happy New Year!
I’m sure many consumers are now conjecturing what will ‘technologically’ happen in 2015. Admittedly, I’m also guilty of this but, like most of us, I can only speculate and base my assumptions on the year gone by, with a smidgeon of gossip thrown in for good measure. Nonetheless, with CES in its final day, the highlights haven’t rocked my gadget-centric world! The excitement from the event so far, has largely been limited to wearable technology, 4K entertainment-driven SmartTVs, curved smartphones, more 3D printing, lighter and faster laptops, and the silicon that empowers them and, of course, the Internet of Things (IoT), along with a smattering of some of the other technologies we can expect in 2015.
It’s all a little lacklustre for me but, perhaps, I’m expecting too much.
Apple Pay in the UK and Near Field Communications
2014 saw the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and, soon to follow, were rumours of the iPhone 7 being launched this year. In my opinion this is a little premature even for Apple, and I think, instead, we’re more likely to witness minor enhancements to the existing products from both a software and hardware perspective. In fact, I suspect it won’t be until 2016 that we’ll witness another major release from the tech giant.
There are a few other things I think may happen this year: I’m confident that Near Field Communications (NFC) will begin to make more of an impact upon consumerism, but it won’t be until a year or so later that the technology will implant itself as a verb in the minds of consumers. And this won’t be as ‘NFC,’ but perhaps as ‘touch’, or ‘just touch’ or something similar.
The success of NFC is long overdue and it’s about time it strutted its stuff. The ‘boost’ it will experience this year will be primarily as a consequence of Apple Pay, despite the technology already being integrated into numerous handsets and other devices. With an imminent launch of Apple Pay in the UK and across Europe and reports intimating that Apple are in discussion with major banks in the UK, we will undoubtedly all come to experience the smartphone as an uber-electronic wallet, something that, in part, already exists in Google’s Nexus and Samsung’s Galaxy devices, but which is let down by their respective ecosystems. Apple, on the other hand, is bolstering support across the globe to vehemently ensure that Apple Pay well and truly hits the ground running.
There’s nothing wrong with Windows 8!
Now with Windows 10 and the return of the ‘Start’ button it seems that consumers will experience more of the Windows 7 ‘look and feel’ with the flare of Windows 8 thrown in. I guess in this aggressive market and with Microsoft Windows still remaining the dominant OS across both home and enterprise, Microsoft has to please its audience with an OS that satisfies the majority.
Wearable technology is an anomaly for me and, as such, I seriously remain undecided about this, despite it being a frenzied topic at CES this year! Largely, my doubt surrounds the often overly-fuelled industry hype, where existing products that are already deemed ‘wearable’ such as headphones, stereo headsets, and hitherto Google Glass, will be guilty of a ‘rebranding’ shift due to this new term. Nevertheless, I know Apple is rumoured to launch their Watch in March and typically consumers will undoubtedly don their new accessory in an homage to the ‘Apple’. Equally, other manufacturers will inevitably ride on the tail wind of Apple’s furore and release their own variants – Sony, in fact, already has and been showcasing its new models at CES. But, for me, this is all a fad. Consumers will naturally purchase the Apple Watch in its millions and after a while the product, irrespective of manufacture, will eventually take residence in a top drawer somewhere in the home.
You see, we already carry our smartphones and tablet devices, and now we have another device ‘bleeping’ at us because we have yet more crucial notifications: It’s all too much! Personally, I no longer wear a watch – okay, I know this is a personal choice, but ditching the wrist wear has become common practice for many who, instead, reach for their smartphones when they need to know the time. With the Apple Watch expected to retail for circa $500 or so, consumers will surely need to be mindful of knocking or scratching what will, in my opinion, be a short lived and, ultimately, intrusive fashion statement.
For the hard core fitness-focused consumer
Fitness tracking and monitoring, the number of steps you’ve taken and, of course, the number of calories burned, are just some of the fitness-app highlights we can expect to see more of in 2015 – well, that’s according to some of the headlines at CES. Humph. You see, this is not entirely new and, again, placed conveniently under the wearable ‘tech’ umbrella are features purported by Apple and other manufacturers in their ‘smart watches’. But companies like ANT Wireless, for example, have been successfully manufacturing and integrating fitness technology into smartphones for a number of years. In fact, ANT Wireless was integrated into the Samsung Galaxy and it has been included in a host of sportswear offering hard core fitness-focused consumers the ability to know how well they are doing whilst listening to their favourite artist.
This is a unique market sector as, whilst I’m not an avid sports fan (despite being Welsh), I’m also not interested in learning about the 100 steps I’ve taken to reach a restaurant after parking my car, or that I have burned 34 calories doing so, only to discover that it’s all pointless since I’m about to tuck into a plate of ‘Pasta alla Puttanesca’ accompanied with garlic-infused cheese bread and a ‘healthy’ bottle of red. Oh, but there’s a new gadget for that, which has just been previewed at CES: Apparently, the ‘smart belt’ (Belty) knows to loosen itself following the consumption of a large meal – dear lord, someone save me please!
The connected car story
So, we’ve reached my last conjecture with the ‘connected car’. A notion I’ve had since early 2000 where, in my first book, Bluetooth Profiles: The Definitive Guide, I played with the idea of Bluetooth-enabled ‘personalities’. Yes, I intimated at an idea where you could share interests and other information with ‘like-minded’ drivers. Putting aside the “You just cut me up…” remarks, it was simply about single men and women wirelessly looking for potential partners, friends or fun. Anyway, such applications already exist today with no car needed, such as Blendr, Tinder and Grindr. These, I have to say, have an alarming level of accuracy in terms of location as a friend recently discovered (but that’s another story) and I predict that they will continue to grow in popularity throughout 2015.
But moving back to drivers and the connected car concept, a smartphone device using ‘apps’ such as Spotify or Deezer allows you to stream content over a cellular connection with an existing Bluetooth-enabled in-car entertainment system and, of course, there’s Apple’s Siri support, which is due to be integrated into both Volkswagen and Mercedes in 2015. What’s more, Volkswagen has also announced at CES its plans with both CarPlay and Android Auto. In short, it’s a hands-free, less-distracted, safer way to use your smartphone for calls and music by utilising your car's in-built display. Again, this ‘new tech’ isn’t new and not truly safe since you’ll still need to ‘look at’ and touch the display while driving.
Our GPS systems already alert us to traffic conditions ahead, I think the concept of the ‘connected car’ will further evolve into an Internet-driven collaboration between driver and vehicle. This prediction falls under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT) which equally has received increasing hype over the last couple of years. An Internet-enabled vehicle will begin to make its mark in 2015 with an impact upon roadside rescue services, where your vehicle’s ecosystem can diagnose a breakdown issue and report it to your breakdown service provider, who can then respond accordingly. Likewise, in an emergency situation, this connection will allow your vehicle to be quickly located whilst informing emergency services about the situation and even relaying your vitals to them if required. It’s in early development, of course, but I predict it will be one to watch as this idea evolves.
Until next time…
Some headlines from CES have surfaced, but there doesn’t seem to be any fanfare or fireworks this year and, more often than not, I’m always left wondering what I will be talking about six months or even a year later! Of course, we have, at the beginning of March, the Mobile World Congress, which I hope to attend; perhaps here, I’ll witness some of that fanfare and fireworks I’ve missed so far at CES. Anyway, without a doubt there will be numerous announcements and rumours that will further garner our speculation and fuel our often over-excited minds with possibilities. I guess, it’s another one to watch…
So, this is where a Dr G, starting the New Year as he means to go on, signs off.
Originally published in Technically Speaking.