2015's Top Technology Trends Reviewed
Towards the end of last year, industry and business professionals claimed that the Technology industry was forecast for great things in 2015. From tackling gender inequality to breakthrough advancements in wearable tech, to the development of The Internet of Things (IoT), we’ve reviewed some of the biggest predictions surrounding tech trends in 2015 to see just how many of them have lived up to expectations so far...
More gender diversity
Throughout 2014, issues concerning gender inequality in the workplace were magnified by the media. This gave gender equality campaigners a platform to further voice their frustrations at the underrepresentation of women in the Technology industry. Last year, in a published visualisation from Information is Beautiful, it was revealed that “Google, Apple, Dell, Intel and Nvidia all have female workforce representation rates of 30 percent or lower within their US operations.” Therefore, the drive to attract more women to senior positions within the industry was high on the agenda for the year ahead.
Managing Director of Adastrum Consulting, Chris Underwood, stated that “while organisations are increasingly recognising that women have a hugely valuable role to play at a senior level, they are not necessarily putting measures in place to entice them.” In light of this, it’s become more evident that a cultural shift must occur in order for Technology companies to even out this gender imbalance.
In a bid to keep female staff, Vodafone introduced a worldwide maternity pay minimum in March 2015. Female employees of the Telecom giant are now entitled to full pay for the first 16 weeks of maternity leave and will receive 100 percent of their salary for a shorter working week upon returning to work.
Vodafone’s Chief Executive, Vittorio Colao claims that “women account for 35% of our employees worldwide, but only 21% of our international senior leadership team. We believe our new maternity policy will play an important role in helping to bridge that gap.”
In an article published by Computer World UK, it is suggested that firms “could save £13 million a year by better supporting their pregnant employees.” They estimated that the cost of hiring and training new employees to replace women who do not stay in the workforce after having a baby costs global businesses $47 billion (£31 billion) every year.
While the move from Vodafone has helped to promote equality for pregnant women and new mothers, more needs to be done when it comes to attracting women as a whole to the Technology industry. Non-profit organisations such as Girls Who Code have made great efforts to combat the issue by encouraging young girls to enhance their technical skills however, key industry players are still failing to prove that they’re doing all that they can to ensure that women are fairly represented in their workforce.
IoT will be the world's biggest device and will save companies millions
This year’s most talked about fad in the Technology industry is IoT. Widely hailed as the next big thing, it comes as a surprise to learn that the key components of IoT include network connectivity, cloud, security, and infrastructure - all of which have existed for decades.
In short, IoT is a development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. It’s already having a huge impact on businesses by improving the quality of products and business models, providing revised customer solutions and delivering a better customer experience. However, the cons of IoT could have serious, negative implications for organisations when it comes to data privacy. The major concern is that “if one thing can prevent the IoT from transforming the way we live and work, it will be a breakdown in security.”
Consequently, in 2014 Vice Chairman of US and Global Sector for Deloitte, Paul Sallomi predicted that IoT will “create significant demand for cyber security services. As sensors and smart devices proliferate, companies will need to protect data and secure access points between different technology products and company systems.”
This year, IoT is set to fundamentally change how the world sees data security and privacy. Every sensor, device, and connection that gathers, transmits, stores, or processes sensitive data is a potential risk. Due to the fact that IoT is all about physical “things”, hackers that gain access cannot just perform the usual digital attacks like stealing data, moving money, or shutting down websites. “They can also cause physical havoc by tampering with critical infrastructure like electric grids, SCADA systems, healthcare devices, and aviation systems.”
In order to keep their infrastructure and customers’ information safe, firms must sustain a “proactive security posture from the outset – not only at the device level, but at every level – making having the right technology infrastructure in place to enable IoT even more critical.”
As IoT applications gather large volumes of data about people’s behaviour, there is a high risk of criminals stealing it during a breach. Hewlett-Packard found that as many 70 percent of IoT devices are vulnerable to attack. Tips to protect IoT solutions include, building security from the start of the initiative and evaluating the specific threats and risks associated with wearable fitness bands and smart watches.
Technical Editor at Toptal, Nermin Hajdaregovic proposes the idea that “While growth offers a lot of opportunities, IoT is still not mature or secure. Adding millions of new devices, hardware endpoints, billions of lines of code, along with more infrastructure to cope with the load, creates a vast set of challenges, unmatched by anything we have experienced over the past two decades”.
Wireless Telecommunications provider, Verizon predicts that “by 2025, best-in-class organisations that extensively use IoT technologies in their products and operations will be up to 10 percent more profitable.” For this to be achievable, it's imperative that a breakthrough in the development of cyber security is needed to protect our personal information and investments made by businesses. So far, this is the main factor that has prevented IoT from becoming a unique cash cow for thousands of firms and, quite possibly, one of the greatest technical innovations in businesses.
Mounting rivalry between tech hubs
Silicon Valley, in California USA, is regarded as the leading start-up hub in the ecosystem for high-tech innovation and development. Michael Bloomberg declared that “there are an awful lot of people in tech who want a bustling, diversified, and intellectually stimulating environment, and that’s why they would go to the big cities of London and New York", in an interview with Tech City News.
Throughout the first half of 2015, we saw a rise in the number of tech hubs being built across the globe. The locations in which these tech hubs are built are key areas of technical innovation which, in the past, has been somewhat overshadowed by the attention that Silicon Valley and London's Tech City has received.
It is more and more apparent that tech hubs across Europe are now becoming fierce competitors in the fight for the title of the "smartest city" in the world. For instance, Eindhoven in The Netherlands is already noted as the “most inventive city in the world” by Forbes due to it's “patent intensity”. Eindhoven is a hotbed for hardware design and high-tech innovation and is home to start-ups like leading 3D printing marketplace Shapeways, interactive education service, Gynzy and real-time advertising platform Flxone.
This year, The Netherlands has already taken steps to become the “start-up friendly ‘West Coast of Europe’. Changes to immigration laws at the beginning of the year coupled with increased government funding across Europe, are making The Netherlands an increasingly attractive location for foreign start-ups and investors.
Former European Commissioner for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes announced that over the following 18 months she plans to introduce programmes that would push The Netherlands into tech start-up success. Kroes highlighted that The Netherlands must join forces to make better use of resources that are already out there and create new ones where needed. She added, “we also need to educate the managers of important funds about the different funding cycle needed for start-ups.”
Kroes initiated The Juncker Plan, a €315bn programme endorsed by European Union leaders to boost private investment and kick-start Europe’s economic growth. The plan came into force at the end of July 2015 and is fully expected to be in place by September.
Other places that have been put on the tech map include Dublin, Ireland as Google, Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn now all have established their European HQ in the Irish capital. The city hosts must-go tech conferences like Web Summit and Founders.
Malmö, in Sweden is ranked fourth on the list of cities with the most patent applications per 10,000 residents – after Eindhoven, San Francisco and San Diego. Malmö has attracted start-ups such as live video-streaming service Bambuser, stock photography platform Foap and micro-donation tool Flattr.
The Apple Watch: the top selling wearable
A number of Technology brands jumped on the wearable tech bandwagon and they were quick to create their own designs for 2015, but it was the launch of Apple’s Smart Watch that generated the biggest buzz of all!
It was anticipated that the Apple Watch was going to fly off of the shelves of shops all over the world, however, its 13K price tag hasn’t helped to fulfill the expectations of a high sales turnover. Interestingly, what is so unique about the Apple watch is its connection with Technology and Fashion - completely polar opposite industries that have come together to make one of the most innovative and best looking smart watches available. The watch comes in a variety of different styles so there is one to suit consumers individual tastes. As a result, Apple has undeniably achieved genuine wearability despite issues concerning the product's affordability.
As with all new state-of-the-art products, there are a few pros and cons that come with its functionality and it appears that the Apple Watch has a fair few... There have been many reported problems with the watch including screen crashing and freezing, overheating whilst on charge and poor battery life (Apple claims that the watch lasts for a maximum of 18 hours however, users are not able to reach half of that). These major glitches have resulted in poor feedback about the watch and has turned many potential customers off of purchasing it as they may find themselves making endless calls to Apple Support, deleting apps and having to turn down the brightness of their screen in a bid to save battery life.
According to the boss of Bullitt, the smart phone maker, smart watches are a “dead-end” and “smart phones targeting women are the future.” It’s believed that creating handsets for niche markets is the way forward and will generate thousands if not millions of sales. Other futuristic developments include a gadget that could be incorporated into designer handbags, which would alert a smart phone or other wearable technology, such as a smartring, if the bag was stolen or lost. “Its location-based tech that warns you when you’re 50m away from the handbag,” said Mr Floyd. “If you’ve paid £2,000 for a handbag, would you pay an extra £50 for something to warn you if it was being stolen? Probably.”
And it seems that futuristic developments in wearable technology have already branched out into jewellery. The Netatmo June bracelet, designed by French jewellery designer, Camille Toupet, warns you when you've been in the sun too long by using "UV readings in your environment."After entering "information about the colour of your hair, eyes, and skin in the accompanying app, the bracelet can remind you when you need to reapply sunscreen, according to the day's conditions."
It's evident that industry crossovers between Technology, Fashion and Health will continue to revolutionise and significantly improve our lives in terms of our safety and privacy. By targetting women, Technology companies can use the use the Fashion industry to their advantage to ensure sales and attract and sustain interest in the wearable tech market. It seems that the future of wearables will look more towards designs that can easily be disguised as an everyday piece of fashion.