Will 2015 be the year of wearable tech?
The long-awaited Apple Watch will be making its debut in early 2015 and consumers will be able to get their hands on newly available 3D printers to make food and collectibles. Smart home devices are also among the hot tech trends in the new year, experts say.
“It’s a world of synced devices that will become mainstream in 2015," said Stacy Glasgow, a Chicago-based consumer trends consultant for market research firm Mintel. "It’s no longer about startups or early adopters. We’re seeing a lot of big retailers giving consumers smart products and devices.”
Glasgow said that in Mintel’s research, the company found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers were interested in using an app or device to control their home. About 22 percent already owned a wearable device already. “We definitely see that number in a position to grow,” she said.
Eric Openshaw, vice chairman and U.S. technology, media and telecom leader for Deloitte based in San Francisco, said that the wearable technology market is exploding but is probably going to be more important for businesses rather than consumers.
“I think there are huge benefits for the industrial user,” he said.
Coye Cheshire, an associate professor for the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, said most of the trends we’re seeing have to do with playing with user data.
“It’s called instrumenting the experience,” he said. “It’s all these apps, such as fitness apps or other metrics, capturing user data and returning it back to the consumer.” The hype is exciting, but he said society is not quite sure what it really wants to know. “The assumption is that if there’s more of this data and you turn it back to the people it will equal better experience, but it remains highly unknown if that’s the case.”
Here's a list of seven tech trends for 2015:
The TellSpec is a small spectroscope that uses a beam of infrared light to figure out the composition of food and help users determine exactly how many calories and grams of fat, protein or carbohydrates they are consuming just with a wave of the device. The TellSpec shoots the information to a smartphone (Android or iOS) where users can see not only the vital stats of the food, but also if it contains allergens like eggs or gluten. The company has been busy scanning foods so the spectroscope has a full database and can identify traces of ingredients, according to Fast Company.
Cheshire seemed interested but not optimistic about the scanner. “Will some people carry them around? There are a small amount of people who are responsible for almost all the uptick of all devices,” he said of the new adopters. But will it be popular with the mainstream – that’s another story.
The Apple Watch will likely be a must-have for those who want both a status symbol and a stylish timepiece (they come in different colors, from sensible stainless steel to elegant 18K rose gold). Other wearable tech, such as Google Glass, have already made their debut and caused the public to crave more gadgets like it. Samsung is launching a new platform, Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (also dubbed SAMI), to capitalize on wearables. Expect to see more offerings from Microsoft, Motorola, Jawbone and others, including the Polo Tech Shirt which also offers biometric readings with a designer label.
Gartner Inc. predicts more wearable tech will come on the market because our society is becoming increasingly mobile and wants it available in more environments, including work. Cheshire said that cheaper sensors are making it possible. “This is the early stage of wearable technology and different companies are trying to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” he said. "If were playing futurist, I wouldn’t bet on many of these things being around in a few years."
Smart Appliances and Smart Homes
“Virtually every large appliance is looking at the ‘Internet of Things,’ from sensor technology to smartphones to home networks,” Openshaw said of today's smart appliances and machines. Both Nest and Apple have devised ways to tell your house to turn on lights, adjust the thermostat or record TV programs via your smartphone, and you can expect to see more in 2015.
According to GigaOm, small startups are also joining the smart home movement by adding Bluetooth so users can control light bulbs, outlets or even receive pictures with their smartphone of who is knocking at your door. Expect all these apps to work with voice integration, so you will literally be talking to your smartphone to start your dryer or start preheating the oven.
We’re all familiar with making reservations online with apps such as OpenTable or finding food online via GrubHub, but now more restaurants are letting you order your food online. Already Pizza Hut offers that capability (and receives half of its online orders from mobile devices) as does Panda Express. Some Chili’s and Applebee’s provide tablets for customers to order, while McDonald’s and White Castle are also working on a touch-screen customizing kiosk, which may do away with a cashier altogether.
“I think the trend is rooted to an unprecedented expectation for on-demand convenience,” Glasgow said. “It’s this new immediacy in shopping and food service.” She said to expect more “blurring” between online and brick-and-mortar stores.
Paying With Your Phone
The idea of “click and pay” with a smartphone has been around for the last few years, but perhaps it needed Apple’s new iPhone 6 to bring the mobile payment system to the mainstream. Security professionals say it's a "significant improvement over using a credit card" and Apple said it "doesn't collect your purchase history, so we don't know what you bought, where you bought it or how much you paid for it."
But there are still some issues. According to Consumer Reports, a reporter used his wife’s credit card after scanning it into his iPhone without impunity or questions and in October, Bank of America apologized for charging customers twice for purchases they made using the system.
Cheshire said that digital payment isn't enough to the transaction more seamless. “Paying by your phone alone doesn’t make it efficient,” he said, “but if you also make an order and pay for it with the same phone it can be.”
It may sound a bit creepy, and your teenagers will hate it, but keeping tabs on your entire family at all times is now a reality with this free Life360 app.
“If I had an application for (my kids aged) 11 to 12 so I could know what they’re doing, I would be thrilled,” Openshaw said.
Parents will likely love the “Places” part of the app that is literally a map that shows everyone in the circle coming or going from certain spots and alerts users when members have left or have entered a specific area.
“I think the social implication is that we’re raising our kids to know they can’t be trusted or trust people in general,” Cheshire said. Glasgow disagreed, saying that it may calm parental anxieties. “If I have an application for (my kids aged) 11 to 12 to know what they’re doing, I would be thrilled,” Openshaw said.
How would you like to have a printer that can create a gun or a pizza? Apparently many people are interested. The shipments of 3D printers will double in 2015 and double again in 2016, according to Gartner Inc. Previously the domain of scientific labs or universities, 3D printers have captured the interest of the masses perhaps because it can reduce costs and create facsimiles almost instantly.
“We see another trend that consumers are finding they enjoy making things on their own and I think 3D printing facilitates that,” Glasgow said, mentioning the beauty of 3D printer Mink which can create custom-colored eye shadow or lipstick.
Consumers may also be interested in exploring cuisine with the Foodini, a 3D printer that creates your favorite foods from “sweet to savory” according to CNN. Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines which creates the Foodini, says a consumer version of its product will be out soon and retail for around $1,000.