The Twelve Days of Christmas Technology Roundup
In insight / By Hollie Coote / 14 December 2017
From the medical innovations saving lives, to the dangerous cyber-criminals threatening them, take a look at the twelve tech topics that dominated the headlines this year.
1. Revolutionising road trips
Electric vehicles have been around for a while, becoming an increasingly popular option for the everyday driver. This increased demand has pushed manufacturers to follow the example of forward-thinking companies like Tesla, and either sell electric cars or start developing them. The technology has come a long way with vehicles boasting impressive battery life and access to an ever-growing network of charging stations spanning across the UK. Some of the most exciting releases this year have been the Volkswagen e-up! electric version, offering a range of around 99 miles from just 30 minutes charge, and the much-anticipated Tesla Model X SUV, which hit the UK this year. The Tesla SUV seems to be living up to expectation with reviews praising the cheap running cost and impressive handling. Tesla made another exciting announcement this year, with the teaser for the new Roadster back in November. With a top speed of +250mph and going 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, this car is set to break three world records upon its release in 2020.
2. The internet of things
Whether it’s Alexa, Siri or Cortana you turn to, we are all becoming increasingly reliant on our digital assistants. This year the rise of the Smart Home continued in a big way. There has been a plethora of online offerings to tantalise tech lovers, from speakers to smoke alarms, everything in our home can be as smart as we are. One of the most prolific innovators this year has been Nest. Offering a complete smart home setup, Nest has the whole house covered, thermostat, light bulbs, security system, all in one place. With tech giants Amazon and Samsung also rushing to the market with a host of smart solutions, smart homes are becoming more easily accessible than ever before.
3. Taking wearable technology a step further
Wearable tech has come a long way since the days of clip-on pedometers. Apple dominated the smartwatch market this year with the release of its series 3 watch in September. Boasting an impressive list of specs, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, heart rate sensor, 18-hour battery life, you name it, the Apple watch has it. Apple weren’t the only big tech company to roll out smartwatches, with releases from Huawei, Samsung and Fitbit. Alternatives to smartwatches improved this year with UnderArmour’s SpeedForm Gemini smart running trainers proving popular with fitness fanatics. Giving runners the option to track their workouts and even measure muscle fatigue all through their shoes. The MShorts Bike&Run from Mbody offer another way to wear your tech, with their innovative shorts aimed at cyclist, duathletes & triathletes, the shorts enable wearers to track, measure and analyse muscle performance when wearing.
4. Bitcoin Boom
Bitcoin was first released in January 2009 and immediately became the currency of choice for dark web users. It soon became popular with gamers too and gained fans from its ability to be “mined”. Mathematical mavens can solve complex puzzles and earn or “mine” bitcoins as a reward. Despite its rise in popularity, bitcoin has struggled to shake its shady origins, however, 2017 saw the value of the crypto-currency rise exponentially. Today, one bitcoin is equal to £12,477. Early adopters such as the Winklevoss twins are set to make a fortune, if reports that they own 1% of all bitcoin in existence, are true.
5. Making VR a reality
VR exploded onto the scene in 2016 and has been revolutionising our reality ever since. Not just for gaming geeks, VR has countless real-world applications that are proving invaluable to many industries. This year Walmart announced that they’re using VR to train new employees. Partnering with STRIVR Walmart is using VR technology to train workers in how to handle real-life situations, such as angry customers or busy periods. VR is also providing dental and medical students with safe, controlled environments in which to practice procedures and surgeries. Next year, we can expect to see VR technology rolled out across many more businesses and even government bodies to help to streamline and simplify operations. From planning applications to educational tools, we are only just beginning to explore the possibilities for VR.
6. Cyber-security fails
2017 has been plagued by data breaches and cyber-attacks. It’s not just big companies that have been hit, the NHS, CIA and even the dark web have all found themselves under threat from internet invaders. In February, Freedom Hosting, a company hosting one-fifth of the entire dark webs domains, got pulled down by a hacker who remained anonymous. In May WannaCry targeted computers running Microsoft Windows, encrypting all the data and demanding ransom in bitcoins for safe return of the data. Within a day the virus infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries including the NHS causing havoc in hospitals and doctors surgeries around the country. The attack was foiled after three days of mayhem by a 22-year old from North Devon.
7. Mr Roboto
Artificial intelligence isn’t a new concept, yet for many it’s still unsettling, conjuring images of robot uprisings and apocalyptic landscapes. The truth is that AI is already a part of most people’s lives, & many won’t even realise that they are interacting with a computer instead of a human. Chatbots have been quietly working alongside customer service agents for the past few years. Far from offering robotic, keyword-based answers, this new breed of bot can be programmed to recognise if a customer is becoming angry or frustrated. If the bot detects negative emotions they can seamlessly transfer the conversation to a human agent who can take over without the customer ever knowing. It’s not just customer service that AI is transforming; over 30 countries either have or are developing, armed drones with increasing levels of autonomy. Agricultural companies are hailing AI as the saviour of farming, with the introduction of AI tech able to identify and treat issues like fungus growth or water shortages weeks before a human could.
8. Un-Social media
Social media platforms were all vying for our attention this year, releasing update after update to keep us coming back for more. Instagram launched their “stories” feature, allowing users to capture and post live moments in a continuous feed, similar to the Snapchat stories option. However, the Insta alternative has quickly overtaken the snapchat story with over 200 million people using Instagram stories worldwide each month. Twitter announced a controversial decision to try out doubling the 140-character limit to 280. Not to be outdone, Facebook has announced plans for a “snooze” feature, allowing users to mute people and pages instead of unfollowing or un-friending. 2017 hasn’t been all positive for social media though, with many celebrity users bringing the platforms into disrepute through past bad behaviour.
9. 3D printed world
No longer reserved for science labs and millionaires, 3D printing has had an exciting year, becoming widely available and more cost-effective than ever before. Fans of futuristic tech can pick up a 3D printer whilst doing their weekly shop now, with Aldi offering them from just £300. The first ever 3D printed bridge opened to the public in the Netherlands back in October, and people all over the world are now able to access 3D printed prosthetics. Some scientists have even started experimenting with 3D printed skin in partnership with cosmetics brand L’Oréal in a bid to eradicate the need for animal testing.
10. Energy innovations
This year has seen some impressive innovations being made in the energy sector. Kenworth, Toyota, and UPS have all begun investing in new fuel cell technology which allows transport vehicles to run on hydrogen and oxygen, releasing only heat and water as emissions. This new technology is set to begin the manufacturing stage by the year 2020. It’s not just adults that are making waves in the tech sector, American 13 year-old Maanasa Mendu has developed an ingenious energy device that produces clean energy through “solar leaves.” Unlike standard solar tech, Maanasa has also harnessed power from vibrations, using piezoelectric materials. Her clever little device could be used around the world to bring electricity to the masses from as little as five dollars per device.
11. Travelling to the future
2018 onwards promises exciting developments in vehicle technology. In 2019 Uber will be buying 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, a huge step towards fully autonomous cars dominating our roads. It’s not just our roads that are speeding toward the future though, our skies could soon be home to space-age style flying cars. The FAA has now given approval for a hybrid car-plane, the Terrafugia Transition, that’s set to travel up to 200mph. Unmanned prototypes of the gravity-defying gadget are set to hit the air by 2018. Hot on the Transitions heels is the Aero-X hover-cycle, the latest release from the company promised development by 2025.
12. Futuristic phones
Cinema camera company Red made the shock announcement this year that they will soon be releasing the first holographic phone that doesn’t require any glasses, the Hydrogen. The multi-use holographic device runs on Android OS & supports 2d, 3d, VR and AR views as well as offering a specialist algorithm that converts stereo sound into multi-dimensional audio. The company is taking orders now for delivery in Q1 2018. Red isn’t the only company investing in futuristic phone tech, Samsung is rumoured to be shipping 100,000 units of a new bendable, foldable version of the Galaxy X in 2018. Other rumoured features are a dual-screen and a fold-out 7inch tablet screen.