Best of Tech 2014

Since the new year is just beginning, I wanted to take some time to put together last year’s memorable events in tech across multiple industries to reflect on. Programming advances in enterprise, new healthcare technologies that were adopted, industrial revolutions through utilization of robots, finance acquisitions and new accessibility to banking, optimization of clean energy, connected cars, cable wars and the growth of media accessibility, security vulnerabilities and hacks, wearables, and the Internet of Things have all taken place this year and set the stage for what will happen this coming year!

10. Programming Development for mobile has driven change in the web environment and the way we interact with our devices entirely. New hardware is becoming more readily available for consumers and brought about big changes to the way mobile  is optimized for both individuals and the enterprise, and companies are poised to meet the growing demands. This year, Google revealed their new language that takes visual aesthetic as priority, called Material Design, and it utilizes tactile actions and propensities, optimizes based on device size, and magnifies the basic intentions of design while giving meaning to motion. Apple’s new Swift language is optimized for mobile and builds on the fundamentals of C and the widely used Objective-C without what Apple described as ‘constraints’ of C compatibility. It’s the new language for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, the frameworks for building software on iOS and it’s readily compatible with existing Objective-C code. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO, declared that the new .NET Core will be open source with the ability to build for and support all development platforms.

9. Healthcare The healthcare industry has embraced new technologies this year and has streamlined the process of many appointments, from eyeglass fittings to regular checkups. Many new technologies are equipped with noninvasive sensors, microchips and embedded miniaturized electronics that can model clinical trails to test the safety and efficacy for treatment on a patient. People are already able to buy wearables integrated with sensors and microchips to improve and monitor their health. Because mobile solutions allow data to be collected at a much faster rate, data can be collected with greater flexibility and more frequently during clinical trials. The mobile healthcare market and its devices, applications, and services are expected to grow by 25% annually, exceeding $8 billion by 2018.

Security, scalability and the ability to connect the mobile apps to other healthcare systems or centralized databases are top priorities for software developers who are building these new mobile applications. Advanced Encryption Standards (AES) of handling electronic data on the client and the server-side ensure that data is not lost or misused by physicians or malicious users. “Security by Design” is the notion that holds these principles of privacy and security from the beginning of the development and implementation processes. Federal Health IT professionals have since taken interoperability as a priority in an attempt to promote health information exchange, they are contending with what may be misappropriation from doctors and other IT professionals and have found themselves in an investigation on what entities are behind what’s being called the “information backing problem.”

8. Industry As automated machines and robotics segue into the manufacturing process by performing repetitive procedures, innovations are being made to optimize their presence in the industry. Through implementations of different qualities, like scanners for bar-codes or the ability to process at high speeds to increase productivity, we have seen manufacturers improve space once congested by production lines. Application development to connect to equipment and devices to a centralized database by utilizing traditional and open-source frameworks to enable web-based remote monitoring of production environments, and design e-commerce systems for distributors that feature back-end integration for production work orders, inventory database, and shipping systems to allow technical operations management through every part of the manufacturing process. Robots and automated machines have been conveniently filling jobs that humans find boring and autonomous while we implement machine learning, sensors, and artificial cognition in hopes of them being able to take on even more human jobs, alleviating the need for human labor and opening the job field so that humans can continue to self-actualize through new jobs. It’s hard to believe when you hear that 70 percent of today’s jobs will be replaced by robots by the end of the century! They’ll do jobs we can’t do at all, and they’ll come to do jobs that we never imagined needing to be done. As we segue out of these position, we will be able to finally discover new jobs for ourselves, new tasks that expand who we are. We can teach the robots take our jobs like we did in the Industrial Revolution so we can follow the intrinsic motivation to do more work that matters to us!

This holiday season, many turned to online shopping to send and receive purchases for gifts. Current industry solutions call for managers and workers to pull inventory and get them ready to ship, but Amazon has banded with Kiva Systems to cut links from the supply chain and provide products to consumers at a higher speed. Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems allows them to utilize industrial app development to simplify their picking and packing process. So instead of the pick-and-pack system of workers choosing the correct products-Kiva’s robots bring the products to the managers. Their mission was for products to be able to choose themselves and benefits the workers at Amazon who would have to move across large distribution centers to find products and fulfill orders. They also made a big step in utilization of drones for the enterprise by testing Amazon Prime Air, and we can only hope that the FAA allows Amazon to continue their innovations to give us all the best service that we can hope for while cutting emissions and the $4 billion in shipping expenses. Maybe soon we can receive our small Amazon purchases promptly and unscathed, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, Paul Mesiner, hopes that “one day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks.”

7. Finance This year, we have seen an increase in accessibility to our banking accounts through mobile banking apps that offer remote money management, photo check depositing, and card-less payment options through Apple Pay, which was possibly the most highly anticipated functionality that Apple has offered as a service, to make card payments in-store and in-applications as secure as possible.

Enterprise made big investments in IPOs, acquisitions, and mergers. PayPal went on its own this year, breaking away from Amazon to concentrate on its specialized services, then Amazon went forward and acquired for $970 million! Google bought DeepMind, the UK company with the goal of making computers that think more humanistically, for $500 million. Now they have acquired Titan Aerospace and plan to utilize its products and services to shower the world in Internet access with high-altitude flying drones. During the acquisition of Titan Aerospace, Google ran into another company that has also been buying up technologies, like Oculus Rift, and has been making plans to implement their newly acquired products and services to further interpersonal relations-that company is Facebook.

6. Energy / Lifestyle This year, President Obama and the EPA aim to fund clean energy technologies that will ultimately power millions of homes and create tens of thousands of jobs while reducing greenhouse gas pollutants, and to enforce the fuel economy standards for trucks, buses and vans that will reduce emissions by hundreds of millions of tons. Carbon pollution is the biggest driver of climate change, and the United States’ use of electricity and transportation, along with industry and commerce, make up 92% of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Through use of the smart grid model for energy providers to monitor and communicate with the electric grids while delivering power, we hope to utilize new technologies like Nest since heating and cooling systems account for more than half of all home energy bills and could be cut down by at least 25% with careful monitoring and customization. Nest’s energy-efficient technology can help you to monitor and cut down on energy usage by offering scheduling that adapts to your heating/cooling trends, auto-away sensors to shut off the heating/cooling when you’re not around along with the ability to control the thermostat remotely.

5. Transportation This year, we have seen advances in remote operation of drones and unmanned vehicles from the Department of Defense. Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) can be controlled remotely through teleoperation and its functionalities have even been in the works at our local University of Texas at Arlington. They’re equipped with sensors, cameras, and attachments that enable sampling while offering the ability to have information displayed to the operator. These machines can operate in GPS-denied environments and are equipped with machine learning techniques that can be applied to motion planning and perception which prove perfect for clearing obstructions, or performing perimeter security to ultimately protect a human Warfighter from potential danger while improving safety and situational awareness. They hope to take more soldiers out of stressful and dangerous situations to save lives. Those weary of the current US drone operations in the Middle East that relied on GPS for courses and bombing routes that left thousands of civilians dead will hopefully find comfort in the DoD’s Roadmap, since the officials say that while the unmanned naval vessels will be able to track down and follow adversaries, a human operator will have to fire weapons.

We have seen increased implementation of computer interfaces in our vehicles and The Connected Car concept has been the topic of discussion and a goal for most all tech companies, including big names like Google and AT&T who hope to integrate their existing big data into the automotive industry to address both safety and security issues. Lengthy conceptualization times and attention to detail have yielded great results and connected cars have already surpassed expectations by offering in-car diagnostics and satellite mapping systems. Be on the lookout for new native applications that will help to unlock your doors, find your car’s location, or remotely start your car all from your smartphone. These manufacturers have melded minds with developers and engineers to bring the future of the driving experience to you!

4. Media Accessibility We all remember the acquisition between IBM and Apple and Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, offering freemiums that benefit smartphone users everywhere while concentrating on a mobile-first and cloud-first movement that will take Microsoft in a new direction. Carmelo Anthony became a venture capitalist when he familiarized himself with wearable tech his New York Knicks teammates were wearing to quantify their performance and has since formed an alliance with his cofounder Stuart Goldfarb to create M7 Tech Partners with a goal of keeping an eye out for new technologies to fund.

Blackberry and Samsung joined forces to bring management-services to consumers, rivaling the pair IBM and Apple who officially teamed up to develop enterprise-specific applications, combining user-friendliness and familiarity with big data tech by utilizing IBM’s ability to offer security, analytics, and device management along with Apple’s already popular iPads and iPhone. With the unveiling of the DirecTv/AT&T and the Comcast/Time Warner Cable mergers and their attempts to captivate the consumers of television and Internet here in the US, Google merged its GoogleTV service into Chromecast which is compatible on Andriod and iOS mobile platforms along with Chrome, Apple, and Windows operating systems to watch online content on their systems without the need for a new TV, new remotes or interfaces. Regarding the merger between DirecTV and AT&T, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said: “This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens – mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars and even airplanes. At the same time, it creates immediate and long-term value for our shareholders..together we’ll be able to enhance innovation and provide customers new competitive choices for what they want in mobile, video and broadband services.” Google Fiber is being laid down in Austin to push growth and endorse the future of access to technology within the community. What does this amount of bandwidth offered by Google Fiber mean for the existing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Time Warner Cable and AT&T that offer 15Mbps as a standard bandwidth? Well, they seem to be lowering their prices and upping their standard bandwidth in an attempt to retain their existing customers, as well as make a point to commit other Austin residents to their service before Google Fiber hits the local market.

Convenience through accessibility is the main point of interest in the relationship between people and their devices. People are getting used to accessing their emails, playing games and being entertained, communicating, and even trying to get some work done with their personal devices. In fact, research firm IDC has estimated that nearly 70% of all smartphones used for business are actually employee-owned devices. BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” is often the goto method of employees without mobile access to the business models and information going through their own devices to access the information, which is proactive, but ultimately opens a company and its information to security vulnerabilities that aren’t able to be managed by the company itself because the device is owned by the employee. We’ll see how this plays out with new enterprise options from IBM and Apple along with the growing need for native applications for company access on individuals’ mobile devices.

3. SecurityCyber Security breaches in which both employee and customer data were compromised made headlines-like those of Home Depot, Target, and Sony-which has led online shoppers to take heed and be aware of the point of sale systems they are using.This year, shopping via a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet has risen %15 and in-store pickup has offered the ultimate bridge between the available inventory of the web and the storefront. Consumers are expecting more to trust retailers in the form of valid SSL certificates and often look for security guarantees through the buying process. Expired or questionable certificates are flagged by Google and many do not even bother clicking through them, leading them to shop elsewhere, while the verified green SSL security lock you can see in the URL address bar increases customer loyalty by %60-as well it should! The Heartbleed bug exposed vulnerabilities in the SSL and allowed malicious sites to parade around behind the guise of secure web applications that are commonly used, like Ebay.The Heartbleed bug got its name from the implementation of OpenSSL’s cryptographic security extension, called Heartbeat. Since it turned out that Heartbeat exposes serious vulnerability in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) of the Applications Layer in the Internet Protocol Suite, which is the designated protocol for providing and maintaining security on the Internet from the Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) to HTTPS (the ‘S’ stands for secure), the bug was called Heartbleed.

2. Wearables This will be the year remembered for the explosion of wearables on the market, offering a myriad of devices that can be worn around the neck, or on the wrist, of the user to grant the ability for one to self-monitor and quantify their heart rates, steps taken daily, and even sleep habits. The fitbit flex allows you to set goals for yourself while earning badges upon completion, and it easily syncs with your computer or smartphone to provide monitoring and constant access to your real-time data through charts, graphs, and other tools. This data can be shared and This awesome wearable even has the app, MobileRun, that maps routes, tracks hikes and treks, record workouts, and even read barcodes of your favorite foods to manage nutritional information! Apple new Apple Watch, showcases the ability to utilize Touch ID to make card payments in-store and in-applications as secure as possible.

These awesome little gadgets don’t come without their share of privacy concerns. Information from sources like radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are in cars, computer equipment, smartphones, and other devices, can serve as a trove of information that can quickly grow into a conglomerate-hence the name “Big Data.” This big data can be harnessed and used by industries like insurance and marketing to identify consumer behaviors and utilize media real estate to build a well-structured, customer-centric, business plan. Data-driven strategies will help to broaden the perspective of both new and evolving business models. These help to understand aspects of a customer’s current assets, along with their purchasing and investing trends to help businesses develop new products and expand into new markets with insights that will attract and retain the best customers, gaining a competitive advantage among other businesses while ensuring return on investment. Tatiana Melnik, an attorney who works in healthcare IT explains, “The software is only as good as the developer.” The more consumer wearable devices and accompanying software released and evolve in this constantly-connected world we live in, the more potential security holes and privacy concerns the end user will find themselves vulnerable to.

1. Internet of Things The time of Internet of Things (IoT) already surrounds us in cutting edge technology integrated into our cars and our homes. We have the ability to remotely monitor our home security, our thermostats, and our car’s internal health. Service providers and great systems integrators see the potential for growth and reception by consumers and companies like Samsung and Google are taking the lead in IoT. The notion of the Internet of Everything, encompasses the idea that everything from shoes to to planes and could-and should-be connected through Internet. Companies like Cisco Systems project that the industry of the Internet of Everything will yield trillions of dollars in profits over the next ten years. Industrial Internet bridges together the practices of machine learning, big data, IoT, and machine-to-machine communications with the goal of real-time operations to connect us with the inanimate things around us from any device. Industrial internet can help people stay connected to capture and transfer knowledge between each other and entire information systems. General Electric CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, envisions a world of smart machines that will be able to diagnose their own problems and find solutions proactively.

Stanford and UCLA Berkley’s engineering teams combined forces to build a radio to be implemented into inanimate objects to receive and send information and instructions through other electronic devices. Amin Arbabian, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford, started this project with Ali Niknejad, director of the Wireless Research Center at UC Berkeley, back in 2011 with a goal of rethinking the entire concept of radio. Arabian’s ideal environment for the use of these radios is one where a network of them is dispersed with an area, since the high-frequency signals are not optimized for travel. While this may seem like a drawback, it actually opens a web of connectivity and management between the Internet and smart devices.

ARM announced their Device Server, med Tools, and free OS in hopes of accelerating the Internet of Things movement. In light of the anticipated demand, however, several hurdles come into view such as supply, lack of industry standards, global scalability, and the bourgeoning ecosystem for native application development. Company conglomerates like Thread Group hope to bridge that gap by building trust in their products and services by offering reliable, secure, networks and simple connectivity while maintaining low-power requisites from devices utilized and focusing on the education, marketing, and production of their certified products.