In what proved to be a controversial decision, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 was, well, not a word at all. Instead, the annual award’s conferring body chose a pictograph, officially called the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.
It’s fitting that in this technology-dominated era, recent contenders for and recipients of Word of the Year have been drawn from the tech lexicon. This year’s runners-up included ad-blocker (software that stops ads from displaying on a web page) and Dark Web (the part of the Internet accessible only through anonymity-granting specialized software). The 2013 (selfie, a self-portrait usually taken with a mobile device and posted to a social media account) and 2014 (vape, the use of an e-cigarette) also had connections to tech.
But while an emoji may have won the Oxford Dictionaries’ nod, this year was also dominated by plenty of letter-based tech buzzwords. Here’s my top 10 list for 2015.
The Internet of Things
This phrase describes the ever-growing number of everyday objects embedded with technology (software, sensors, electronics, and connectivity) that allows them to connect and communicate. There could be anywhere from 26 billion (Gartner Inc.) to 30 billion (ABI research) devices wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. These include everything from large-scale environmental monitoring (water quality, pollution monitoring) or infrastructure management (monitoring transportation) to medicine (remote health monitoring for the sick or elderly) and home automation (lighting, appliances, security).
I first started using the Nike Fuelband a few years ago and many people I know have used the FitBit or Jawbone for years. Thanks to the Apple Watch, wearable technology finally went mainstream this year. Watch for this trend to continue to expand to “embeddables” (chips imbedded in humans or animals), “ingestibles” and “hearables”.
MORE BANDS AND WATCHES: Will Wearable Technology Revolutionize Your Business? »
This is the measurement and analysis of physical characteristics unique to individuals, in the form of fingerprints, iris or retina scans, or voice recognition and facial. Apple’s iPads and iPhones use biometrics for their “Touch ID” technology, which uses a fingerprint to unlock a device instead of a password. The feature also allows for authentication for payment. Watch for dual biometric authentication (for example, finger print plus voice) for financial functions, which will allow consumers to pay bills, transfer funds or make deposits through banks, credit cards or mobile wallets.
MORE FINANCIAL FUNCTIONS: The Huge Opportunity of Mobile Payments »
Sometimes referred to as the collaborative economy, this is disrupting business models of the past. The well-known Airbnb and the less well-known Modo (a car sharing service) are two examples. Other companies like Fiverr (clients pay $5 to have graphic design, animation, programming, online marketing and so on done by someone by posting the task) or Uber offer up services from a large number of individuals. Many of these companies leverage technology and the Internet to facilitate individuals and companies to share, distribute, trade and consume products and services. To learn more, I suggest reading “Sharing is the New Buying” by Vision Critical and Crowd Companies.
Gesture Recognition Technology
This technology, which allows you to move your body to control devices around you, is already available and becoming mainstream. Gesture recognition uses mathematical algorithms to analyze and interpret movements of the face, hand or other body parts. For example, the ZTE Blade S6 Android smartphone has arm waving gesture technology to allow you to turn music on or off, or to turn on the camera flash. And BMW demoed gesture technology in their cars at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show which will allow you to point two fingers to activate navigation to take you home. There’s also the MotionSavvy UNI Tablet, a two-way communication tool for hearing impaired that interprets sign language to speech and speech to text; the consumer version is set to be available in fall of 2016.
MORE FACIAL RECOGNITION: A New Way to Know What Your Customers Are Thinking »
Responsive web design is an approach that aims to provide the best possible user experience regardless of the size of the device being used. Responsive websites are built to automatically scale to the size of the visitor’s device, a more efficient option than building separate websites for each device or producing apps for mobile devices and a website for desktops. This approach is used in one of every eight websites today, and is gaining popularity. But experts caution that designers need to think mobile-first. Keep websites simple and small, such that any content “above the fold” (content that can be seen without scrolling) loads within a second.
MORE NECESSARY ELEMENTS: Why No One is Coming to Your Website »
Self-driving or driverless cars can sense what’s around them and navigate without human input. They possess varying levels of autonomy, from automatic braking or electronic stability at the most basic to keeping in lanes to functions such as starting, stopping, parking, and steering. Google and more recently Apple, as well as major car manufacturers like Mercedes, BMW, Nissan, Tesla have been testing driverless cars or features. You will start to see at least some of these features come to market by 2016. A number of test cars have been spotted in California, New York, Detroit and other cities.
MORE AUTONOMY: The Massive Opportunity of Driverless Cars »
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are aircrafts without a human pilot on board. The basic concept goes back centuries, and has been used in military for a long time. More recently the toy industry and hobbyists have created cheaper drones. Equipped with autopilot or remote control, cameras and GPS, these machines are becoming more popular with government, companies and individuals. Organizations are using them for photography, search and rescue, virtual tours of real estate, and of course Amazon’s “Prime Air Project” where they are testing drones to deliver packages purchased online within half an hour. But note that Transport Canada has strict rules about flying an unmanned aircraft.
MORE UAVs: Welcome to the Age of the Drone »
An evolution of pattern recognition with applications in artificial intelligence, this field of computer science creates algorithms that learn from past data to make future predictions and decisions. Current applications include spam filtering and search engines. Watch for this field to have further applications as businesses start to mine the reserves of Big Data they have been collecting.
MORE MACHINE LEARNING: The Tasks Automation Will Take Over Next »
In 2013, I had 3D printing on my list of the year’s popular buzzwords. This year’s term was coined to integrate a fourth dimension: time. The materials used in 4D printing are flexible, and transform in a pre-programmed way over time. Potential applications include or products that can adapt to temperature or moisture, or medical implants and tubes that can change without requiring surgery. Skylar Tibbits’ TED Talk is an insightful perspective on this topic.
Cybele Negris is president and co-founder of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca Inc., Canada’s original .ca registrar and one of the country’s leading providers of web hosting and other Internet solutions. She is a veteran of the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.
MORE 2015 TECH TRENDS:
- Why the Way You Bank is About to Change »
- The New Technology Putting Middlemen Out of Business »
- How to Make Money in a Market That Doesn’t Exist Yet »
- Why the Tech Industry Finally Wants Your Business Again »
- A Satellite of Your Very Own »
What buzzwords would you add to this list? Let us know by commenting below.