Tech

Tech Trends To Follow In 2015

2015 is finally upon us, and though we don’t have too many hoverboards or self-drying clothes yet, our modern tech still might impress Marty McFly. From cars that can drive themselves to appliances you can program from your smartphone, the present day is starting to look a lot like an 80’s sci-fi movie.The new look is creeping into our home lives and our office environments. Here are a few examples of futuristic technology that could change how we live and work in 2015.

The Internet of Things

Internet of things diagram author signature

The term “The Internet of Things” has been around since the late 90s. It refers to the idea of devices which can operate themselves automatically, and let us know what they are doing in the process, by being connected to the internet. From thermostats that automatically turn down the heat in your business when you leave work, to sensors that detect how many eggs are left in the fridge, the Internet of Things is all about convenience.

The current technology is mostly limited to controlling appliances via your smartphone. Phone-operated deadbolts and security cameras are helping put consumers at ease about office security. My personal favorite is the Mr. Coffee that you can program and operate remotely, meaning your coffee is always ready when you get home (or to work).

Google’s multibillion dollar acquisition of Nest, a smart-thermostat developer, has helped spur the movement of smart appliances from the design board to store shelves. As feedback comes in from early testers and competition drives prices down, we can expect to see the Internet of Things come closer to fruition over the course of this year.

Augmented/Virtual Reality

Oculus rift headset white background

Those goggles the McFly kids wear in Back to the Future II may look ridiculous, but functionally they aren’t too far away from what we have now. In 2013 and 2014, Google began to allow a few select users to experiment with Google Glass, on a (paid) trial basis. Although there have been no new announcements as yet about plans to roll out the tech to the general public, we can likely expect at least a greater expansion of beta testing this year, and possibly even a release date.

The real news right now, however, is in the field of virtual reality. Last year Facebook acquired Oculus VR, makers of the Oculus Rift device. When the device is strapped to a user’s head, it
creates an immersive alternate reality experience. The technology is primarily designed for use in gaming, but it is also seeing application in job training, architectural design, and even therapy. With the Oculus Rift slated for release this year, high quality virtual reality as a tool for business is about to become, well, a reality.

Advanced Car Tech

BMW car interior self parking

Though our cars may not be capable of flight this year, they are well on their way to driving themselves. Most of the news coverage to-date has been about Google’s prototype, but Mercedes also recently released concept imagery of their own self-driving model. This new type of vehicle is designed around taking the driver away from the driving, with interiors that resemble mobile living rooms. It may take some time before Mercedes even reveals a physical prototype, self-driving is the new focus for vehicle design teams.

In the meantime we can content ourselves with cars that make the actual driving as painless as possible. BMW will be demoing technology in their newest models at the Consumer Electronics Show 2015, which will allow cars to park themselves in multi-story carparks and avoid collisions using 360 degree sensors. Other car tech expected to debut at CES includes an app to find a lost car based on the last place its engine was running, and an app to confirm card payments in your vehicle. The new tech should make getting to, parking at, and leaving work one more part of your day that you don’t need to worry about.

Wearables

smart watches on white background

There are two major kinds of wearables being talked about these days: smartwatches and fitness devices. The biggest news for 2015 in this sector will be the release of Apple’s Watch. Marketed with the company’s slick sense of style, the Watch promises to provide users with quick and seamless access to simple information far beyond simple time and date. Competitors are also springing up with selling points based on calling capabilities or more retro design. Not every design will make it to the finished product, but the end result should still help getting to meetings on time that much easier.

Fitness devices were the best selling wearables of 2014, and they will likely remain as the most available wearables through the first half of the year. Most devices will track how much time a user spends running, or how many pushups they complete. Concepts slated to release in 2015, however, offer a new take on what can be accomplished with a simple device. Future wrist and shoe mounted devices might vibrate in different places to convey different types of notifications. Other companies, such as France’s Cityzen, are moving into t-shirts that can sense your heartbeat. Wearables have a ways to go before they move out of the novelty zone, but 2015 could be the year they make the jump to mainstream.

3D Printers

3D Printer on glass table

Last but absolutely not least, 2015 should be the year we begin to see what 3D printing technology is truly capable of. 2014 was filled with news about the new things companies have been able to create, along with a few cautionary tales about the dangers of publicly available 3D printing. Overall, however, the industry still needs to prove to business owners that it can do more for the average company than produce cheap plastic paperweights. 2015 could be the time to do that.

Some companies, like Makerbot, are designing apps to help make the process of designing items for 3D printing more accessible to consumers. Others, such as 3D Systems, aim to explore the possibilities of printed food. If their efforts are successful, we may find ourselves with a Jetsons-style food dispenser sooner than we think.

2015 should be a great year for new technologies that appeal to more than just the geeks among us. Are there any other technologies you expect to take off this year? Let us know in the comments!

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias is a full-time contributor to Bellingham Business News, covering local business events, tech news, and advice for job seekers in the Bellingham area. He graduated from Western Washington University with a double major in History and Chinese Language & Cultural Studies, and has previously worked as a coordinator in Western’s Writing Center.

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