- NET NEUTRALITY
It wasn’t just us — nearly four million people took the time to file comments on the Federal Communication Commission’s website in the summer and fall of 2014. Larger corporations who do not want to see their businesses regulated are pitted against consumers, advocacy groups, digital-rights organizations and smaller companies who think the Internet should stay the way it is — and remain free and open. The FCC’s new rules are expected by February, so stand by for more chatter in the new year.
The Sony Pictures Hack got a lot of press, but it was only one of many high-profile intrusions in 2014. JPMorgan Chase and The Home Depot also had hacking headlines, all on the heels of 2013’s big Target data heist. It all continues to be a big financial payoff for fraudsters, so batten down the hatches for 2015.
Yes, if big corporations had better security, maybe they wouldn’t get hacked as severely, but remember, security is an issue for everyone. The Heartbleed bug and the Shellshock vulnerability were just two incidents in the past year in which our everyday computer systems were proven not to be as secure as we thought. Apple has even resorted to an automatic patch for a recent clock bug to make sure people were protected. So stay on guard and keep on patchin’.
Yes, we saw a lot of smartwatches hit the stores in 2014, but they were all trying to get out ahead of the Apple Watch, which was announced last fall and is expected to go on sale sometime before the end of March. Fitness trackers, like the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit line saw some action, too. It’ll be interesting to see if the fancy watches impact their sales in the new year, or of fitness and fashion shall remain divided. (And don’t forget — Google Glass is still lurking out there as well in the wearable world.)
- MOBILE PAYMENTS
Again, Google Wallet and a couple other mobile payment systems were already there, but Apple dropped Apple Pay into its new hardware, and that’s all people want to talk about. Apple Pay was not without backlash, though, as some stores like CVS and Rite Aid opted not to take Apple’s system because they had one of their own in the works (hel-lo, antitrust investigation). But the drugstores’ CurrentC system is not off to a great start security-wise and it’s already had an email database breach of its own.
- INTERNET OF THINGS
Ah, devices all connected together into one big Internet of Things. As one might expect, there’s a massive push for connected-home stuff at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Expo next week. We’ve already seen connected light bulbs and thermostats get some attention in 2014, so get ready for more things talking to other things.
- 4K VIDEO
Ultra high-def TV sets were all the rage at CES last year, but now prices have dropped far enough so that regular people who are Not Multimillionaires can afford some of the new models. YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are starting to stream some content in 4K, and new smartphones with faster processors that can handle 4K vid (like the Snapdragon 810) are on the way so more people can shoot their own UHD movies.
- SOCIAL ISSUES ONLINE
As more women enter traditional male strongholds, like the fields of computer science or massively multiplayer videogames, some (but not all) men are feeling threatened by the changing world and lashing out protectively. Message boards, personal communication and even organized efforts like the so-called GamerGate incident have shown some uncivilized behavior towards women, who for their part, are starting to stand up and fight back — even getting coverage on the front page of The New York Times. America’s volatile year with racial issues has also spilled over into the online world, with tirades in social media and even snide remarks about a black stormtrooper in the Star Wars trailer. But people are rising above it and using technology as a tool to make a difference. Take for example, Feminist Hacker Barbie or the way social media has been used to organize peaceful protests efficiently and bring people together for to work for change. There’s still a long way to go, but things are shifting and will continue to do so.
- VIDEO EVERYWHERE
2014 saw more ways than ever before to stream video conent to mobile devices. Even though some companies like Aereo bit the dust in court, others like HBO have made the jump to free their programming from cable packages and make it available in standalone apps and services. New hardware like the Amazon Fire TV box and Stick — along with the growing adoption of existing products from Roku, Google and Apple — have made it cheap and easy to stream Internet video to the big screen. Online video streams to all screen sizes will only get more popular, especially as more Smart TVs with some of these services built in continue to get more affordable.
- STAR WARS
Yeah, we talked a lot about Star Wars: The Force Awakens this year on the show. So imagine what it’s gonna be like when the movie actually opens on December 18, 2015.
Happy New Year!