This year brought us a host of new gadgets, from the Apple Watch to fitness-tracking devices. But 2015 will be the year our wearables, smart home gadgets, and phones will all begin talking to each other.
Some advances this past year were substantial -– others, not so much. Apple Pay wants to make it so that you can leave your wallet at home. Kids are getting drones for Christmas. The iPhone got thinner and larger, and Google started investing in smart homes and health data. "Selfie sticks" became a thing.
But 2014 was also a year of hacks. From Home Depot to Sony, high-profile data breaches became a topic of water cooler conversation. Which means that, as the coming year brings us devices that know our most intimate details and collect information about our daily lives, protecting all of those sensitive tidbits from hackers will be a top priority for companies.
Smart homes become smart neighborhoods
It’s not just your phone anymore — even at home your devices are getting smarter, including wireless speakers like Sonos, TVs that pick shows based on who's watching, smartphone-connected thermostats and smoke detectors like the Nest and Protect. But a smart home only goes so far if those devices aren't talking to each other — and to other homes. 2015 will be the year we start seeing smart neighborhoods of devices.
"Everyone's looking at the home through the lens of connectivity and intelligence," said Robert Brunner, founder of Ammunition, the design firm behind Beats headphones and Polaroid's cute Cube camera.
Imagine, a security system that notes suspicious behavior in and around your house, like the Canary, or Ammunition's own Leeo home-monitoring nightlight. Alerting you to an intruder is helpful, but why not also warn the neighbors? Or even have nearby outdoor security cameras watch for the perp?
Of course, not everything in your home needs an upgrade, said Brunner: "It's one thing if [the technology] seamlessly fits in and there's a benefit, it's another if you're asking people to get out the screwdriver and pliers or change the way they do things. Do you really need a smart can opener that texts you when the can is open?"
Health tech beefs up
2015 will bring pulse-tracking smart watches (lots of them) and other newfangled gadgetry to our wrists, pockets, and perhaps even ears, as with Jabra's heart-rate monitoring earbuds. The Apple Watch, which is expected to ship sometime early in the year, will almost certainly make a splash as developers explore its capabilities.
Fitness devices will do more than track steps and revolutions: they may check with your Vessyl smart cup or diet app to see whether you're getting enough protein. You may even get feedback from your doctor or physical therapist as medical providers get in on the fun and start using that data in treatment.
"Personal health care and your relationship with your doctor could use a major rethink," said Brunner. "There are a lot of inefficiencies in the system that tech could fill very nicely."
Security will be on everyone's mind
But with so much data flying around between devices and services, security is going to be a greater concern than ever.
"I can almost guarantee you that 2015 will be the biggest year on record in terms of sites hacked and user records breached," said Joe Siegrist, CEO of password management service LastPass. Companies will have to shore up defenses against hackers and watch for Internet-wide threats like Heartbleed, a security flaw that came to public attention this past April.
A dozen ways to pay
Better security may make people more comfortable with the idea of using their phones to make purchases out in the real world. Apple Pay seems a likely candidate to dominate the field, and is already accepted at dozens of big-name stores, from Whole Foods to Macy's. The mobile-payment idea has been tried before (Samsung phones have had the capability for years), but Apple may be the first to make the technology catch on.
And watch out for other new devices that will make their debut, like the Coin, Plastc and Wocket cards, which consolidate your credit, debit and gift cards into one device. New checkout machines may show up, too — so try to be patient while the cashier learns how to operate your futuristic payment technique.