A Look at 15 Tech Developments We Tipped for the Future
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Here we look back at some interesting developments in the tech world that have played out as we predicted.
Usage of pay-as-you-go video and TV services rises dramatically in 2014. The arrival of video-on-demand services sparked the next wave of growth for video delivered over the Internet, with Netflix’s remarkable rise as a prime example. The company ended 2013 with 44 million US and international members; in 2014, that number had climbed to 57 million and by the end of 2017 Netflix had won over an astonishing 117 million customers.
Google introduces a variant of Android optimized for sub-two-inch devices in 2014. Google tackled the plethora of unoptimised versions of Android being used by developers to deliver first-generation smartwatches by launching Android Wear in March 2014. Despite this, the company continues to face challenges, as the user experience it provides lags that of Apple’s watchOS and it needs to boost consumer and developer interest in smartwatches powered by its recently-renamed Wear OS platform.
Manufacturers’ vision for smart TVs fails. Despite their efforts to introduce apps and smart features, makers of smart TVs have failed to convince customers, who still use them as “dumb” screens. They buy TVs mainly based on design and picture quality, viewing the smartness only as a by-product.
This attitude also applies to other devices, and prompted our expectation that by 2022, a third of households in North America and Western Europe own at least one smart home device, but despite this, no more than half of these devices see their smartness used. Makers have struggled to persuade consumers of the value of smartness, and people buy these devices simply because they need a new one and it happens to be smart.
The mobile phone market sees little innovation in 2014. The handset market fell victim to what we now call “the sea of smartphone sameness” that has made designs identical and allowed for little differentiation in hardware. The “arms race” in processors, cameras and memory stagnated, and the market also saw Chinese suppliers start to launch competitively-priced and well-specified phones.
A manufacturer launches a smartphone with an integrated 360-degree camera in 2017. In a market failing to deliver novel designs and features, Chinese phone-maker Protruly released its Darling smartphone to address this, integrating a dual fisheye lens to capture photos in 360 degrees.
Other phone-makers used the lack of the innovation to their advantage. In 2017, the world’s top 10 smartphone makers increase their share of the market. Their share expanded from 74 percent in 2016 to 79 percent in 2017, and even reached 80 percent in the first quarter of 2018. Big players in the smartphone space took advantage of the rising cost and constrained availability of device components to further tighten their grip on the market and push out smaller competitors.
Facebook develops an enterprise business arm by 2016. In its quest to find other avenues of revenue growth, Facebook turned to the enterprise segment in October 2016 with its Facebook at Work service. This initial move aimed to offer a rival to Slack and Yammer, but the company has since expanded its efforts in the enterprise space by adding various business tools to its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram services.
The first fully-fledged blockchain service beyond online currencies goes live in 2016. Blockchains are used to record transactions in virtual currencies like Bitcoin. In 2016 several examples emerged of blockchains being used beyond virtual currencies. Nasdaq was developing blockchain-based services in Estonia for companies to track shares they have issued and settlements of share transactions; in Denmark, the Liberal Alliance announced it will use a blockchain system to record internal voting at the party’s annual meeting; and Australian power company Power Ledger expanded its trial service for peer-to-peer energy trading. Adding further momentum, IBM recently set up a dedicated business unit to build the area, focused on developing commercial applications for blockchain rather than using it for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Microsoft has also committed to launching a new service for the development of blockchain-based applications, through Azure Blockchain Workbench.
Arm silicon providers cautiously return to Windows. The advent of Windows 10 means software development for Windows has become largely instruction-set neutral, allowing manufacturers a wider choice of processors for Windows devices. Qualcomm marked the return of Arm in 2017 with the launch of its Snapdragon 845 chipset and by revealing the first Windows 10 devices with Snapdragon processors. The move sought to close a gap in its spectrum of computing products, and challenge Intel’s dominance of the PC market.
Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation provokes a scramble for compliance among Internet of things (IoT) suppliers in 2017 and 2018. IoT suppliers are among the huge numbers of businesses racing to adhere to the new regime before it comes into enforcement on 25 May 2018. Given the huge amount of potentially identifiable data that IoT devices collect, manufacturers and service providers have made compliance a top priority.
But many businesses aren’t well-prepared, and this factor underpins our expectation that from 2018, regulation causes huge regional variations in consumer cognitive services. Providers process large amounts of personal data, making them targets for regulators. In Europe, the scramble for, and problems associated with compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation means it’s easier for companies to hobble offerings or remove features, causing services to run differently in various regions.
IoT security becomes a hot topic for silicon suppliers. Microsoft has made a major move in this area, introducing its Azure Sphere chip-to-cloud security platform to help protect the huge volume of IoT and network-edge devices from vulnerabilities and attacks. Given the rising amount of connected devices and growing focus on security, this area poses a big opportunity for Microsoft and others to get their technology into a large number of devices.
Smart speakers kick-start the connected home market in 2017. The arrival of smart assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home have sparked new public interest in purchasing connected home products, such as smart thermostats and light bults, a trend reflected in our consumer devices survey.
Developers widely exploit on-device machine learning to create more-intelligent apps. The move was led by Apple’s decision to include machine learning capabilities on the iPhone, but examples also include Google’s TensorFlow Lite framework for leaner neural models running on devices. More recently, IBM and Apple joined forces to combine the latter’s Core ML on-device machine learning tool with Watson artificial intelligence services in the cloud, aiming to give enterprise app developers access to real-time insights inside mobile apps.
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