The Internet of Things (IoT) has, for some time, suggested the interconnectivity of otherwise separate devices and ecosystems; connected devices improving the practicality of our day to day lives. 2015 will see the IoT come to a domestic setting in a big way – with connected devices pulling the idea of the smart home sharply into focus. Thanks to prospective pushes from the likes of LG and Samsung, the smart home market looks set for sudden growth. The industry drive may mean surges in home sensor and security products (accessed and controlled via a smartphone). But it will also mean more smart devices aimed at monitoring utilities and home systems, aiding productivity and delivering entertainment.
A smart home needs smart gadgets and appliances. Entertainment, security and utilities are areas offering ample room for market development next year, but appliances and in-home gadgets offer even more. Bosch is one of the names which could kick-start a year filled with smart appliances. The company is the main sponsor of the smart-home section of January's CES show too. Nest Labs, Philips, Belkin, Electrolux and others will be attending Las Vegas' annual technology show in January, as products such as the Vessyl smart cup launch to market. With almost every area of our lives destined to become smarter this year, be prepared for appliances to get the technology treatment and be smarter as a result.
It's pretty much inevitable that smartphone mobile payments will become widespread, though they have yet to take off in the UK. But such services should be grabbing headlines throughout 2015. Apple appears ever-so-close to the UK roll-out of its Apple Pay service. And, in spite of the advent of Android, the iPhone manufacturer is still highly influential when breaking such ground. The launch of Apple Pay won't be useful for everybody, but mobile payments as a whole will undoubtedly benefit. Services such as Zapp for Android are eyeing 2015 launches, and EE's Cash on Tap service is laying the foundations for a year where every transaction from train journeys to chewing gum could get the mobile treatment.
If 2014 was the year of the selfie, and 'dronie' is the likely successor, the coming months will continue to place unmanned aerial vehicles as a fixture in our collective day-to-day consciousness. Drones may seem a trend that has already peaked, but expect to hear less about who has hold of one (the answer may be everybody), and more about what they're being used for. It may be common place to see an owner controlling their own in a local park, but the discussion about practical and real-world uses has only just begun. Drones aren't a one-off fad; particularly with companies like Amazon keen on utilising them. More drones, being more useful, will be larger parts of our lives.
Better 3D printing
NASA recently made it possible for a 3D printed spanner to be created aboard the International Space Station. Serving to highlight how far the technology has come, the feat will help propel 3D printing into a development daze. We'll be seeing controversy, regulation and even more success stories with regards to the industry. Hardware and equipment costs will fall, leading to increased access and applications in industrial, health and commercial areas. Perhaps a 3D printer won't be a realistic buy for the home in the next year, but 3D printing services will become more widespread and more accessible as regulations are ironed out.
Virtual reality at home
Sony's Morpheus VR, the Oculus Rift, and an as yet unnamed Microsoft device. All three are being feverishly developed and fine-tuned. With each boasting solid software support, at least Microsoft's device appears scheduled for a 2015 launch. Healthy competition means the Rift and Morpheus VR should follow with consumer launches of their own, and advocates will ensure at least one is accepted. It's still too early to know whether virtual reality devices have a longer-term appeal. Yet the coming year should help to answer the question. Particularly as if, or when, one of the three aforementioned products comes to market, we can be sure the the others won't be far behind.
With homes monitored, secured and controlled via smartphones, technology isn't going to leave itself at our front doors. Connected cars are another avenue already being explored by Apple's Carplay system. Android's upcoming Android Auto will help develop the market further, bringing apps and services from our smartphones to our dashboards. But these are just to start. While Android and Apple will be key in generating thoughts about what drivers need and can gain, cars will become smarter themselves. We can start to think about models with built in mobile hotspots, smartphone connected security systems and manufacturers' own integrated systems.
The successor to HD, 4K (Ultra HD) will only become widespread with a drop in price, sensible business models and the proliferation of 4K content and services. 2014 was supposed to be the year for 4K, but without a convincing argument for the standard – and the means by which to easily access it – it didn't really happen. 4K is now 2015's to foster and the options are it either falling away or being turned into an attractive proposition. The latter is far more likely.
If you're yet to succumb to pairing your mobile life with a smartwatch, you may be tempted next year. 2014 saw companies expand the market and jostle for position, and we can expect to see more. The Apple Watch will scratch the itch felt by iPhone and iPad users, while Android's strong end to the year (thanks to multiple manufacturer support) will lead to even more innovation. Better, and more practical, smartwatch offerings will combine with the ongoing development of the Android Wear ecosystem too. We could even see a shift away from watches being dependent upon phones. A watch with its own SIM-card, number and completely independent data connection can't be too far away. Samsung's Gear S has hinted as much.
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