2014 was an exciting and also scary year for technology. Amazing devices came our way as did a record number of scams and financial attacks. As we approach 2015, here are three technology trends for the year ahead.
Internet of Things
The “Internet of Things” is the industry’s name for all manner of Internet-connected devices, such as smartphone-controlled light bulbs, Internet-connected thermostats and in-home cameras. The market for these will expand significantly next year, with more affordable home lighting options that can be remotely controlled, home thermostats that can be turned on when leaving work and an increasing popularity of connected home surveillance systems.
We will also see an influx of Internet-connected wearable devices. Fitness trackers have been popular for a couple of years but 2015 will bring an explosion of connected watches. This market has seen relatively low sales volume so far; the Apple Watch coming in the first half of next year will be seen as a barometer of the future success of this sector. Watches may take over the fitness tracker market, but it will be interesting to see if they offer enough additional benefits to convince us to buy them in large numbers.
Increasing risks to personal and financial data
Sadly, 2014 was a record year for Internet scams, hacks and thefts of financial data. Due to their success, it’s likely that these attacks may increase in 2015 in both sophistication and scale. They started a few years ago as poorly worded scam emails but have turned into convincing, well-crafted attacks. The most prevalent attacks against individuals in 2014 involved representatives from fake support companies calling consumers and pretending to be calling from Microsoft or Apple. The callers try to convince victims that their computers have serious problems and the goal is to obtain credit card information in exchange for resolving the mythical problems. In other cases fake system optimizer software gets installed on a computer with a phone number to call to resolve fake problems.
Protecting against these attacks needs up to date security software as well as vigilance when seeing unusual things on the screen or receiving unsolicited telephone calls and emails. Always be sure to have a good backup of your important data in case you are the victim of an attack that damages your files. The Federal Trade Commission successfully closed down two of these scam companies and is pursuing lawsuits against others dating back to 2012.
TV subscriptions to continue falling, replaced by streaming
Current trends suggest that we will continue to cut back on cable TV subscriptions and increase our use of streaming TV over the Internet using Netflix, Hulu and other online services. Netflix already makes up one third of primetime US Internet traffic and we may see HBO launch a streaming service that does not require a cable TV subscription. Many TVs have these services built-in, while more capable low cost add-on devices like Apple TV, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV have been selling well. These streaming services now work well using your wireless network as long as you have a good quality wireless router and consistent high speed Internet connection. I’ve recently been impressed by Amazon’s new Fire TV, which has fast playback start times for Netflix and Amazon Prime shows due to infrastructure that Amazon has installed at its datacenters.
One constant in technology is that its benefits to us and its complexity will increase. It is important to make informed, well-researched decisions. Have you ever noticed how people in technology commercials are so happy and carefree? As technology becomes more sophisticated, companies continue to advertise devices and online services as making life simple in the blink of an eye. The reality is that managing our personal and business technology is increasingly complex. Our technology choices now impact family members and colleagues, as we have to find compatible ways to share photos, documents and apps. So we need to plan the decisions carefully. My approach to this challenge is to use my knowledge of the market to help my clients find the right mix of devices and services for their specific needs.
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!
Neil Berman, Helper-in-Chief, TheONbutton