Developments in tech seem to move at a lightening pace, with dazzling array of new devices, games and software launched each year. Here's our round-up of what's going to be big in 2015...
1: Wearable Technology, Health & Fitness Apps, Devices & Games
The battle between the fitness tracker and smartwatch will step up a level in 2015 with the launch of Apple Watch in the US this month, followed by release in Europe in late April. The watch will cater to the needs of the modern, connected, health and fitness conscious individual; think simplified apps, mail, calendar, social media updates, heart rate monitor and an array of fitness and nutrition apps. The device is expected to democratise the realm of wearable fitness technology, bringing it to the general public and escaping the preserve of fitness fanatics and tech geeks.
With one study reporting that one in ten Apple users may buy the first release, you don't have to be a genius to predict that the Apple Watch will have a very good year. However, it's also thought that the relative cost of the Apple Watch and other smartwatches such as Moto 360 and Pebble Steel will prevent sales volume of the devices excelling that of fitness trackers until at least 2018.
Look out for the increase in apps, games, software and devices relating to indoor cycle training. Cycling for leisure, fitness and transport is currently in the ascendant in the UK, and turbo training allows for year-round fitness and preparation for the sporting season. Like any modern sport, cycling is surrounded by technology, gadgets and gizmos to aid performance and fitness levels.
Our prediction is that Zwift, a training game currently still in Beta, will be the next big thing in indoor cycle training. The PC and Mac based software works with your turbo trainer and ANT+ device to open a hyper-realistic virtual world before you; race against yourself or other indoor riders from around the globe. The software styles itself as a multi-player game platform, but it is also being more widely referred to as an engaging training tool – and not an unsophisticated one. Either way, the future looks bright for health and fitness software and devices which go the extra mile to make training fun.
Earlier this year Google announced that it has halted production of its Glass eyewear; it says that it is continuing to develop the product. Meanwhile, Sony are forging ahead with the 'developer edition' of their own version of intelligent glasses, with the SmartEyeglass SED-E1 model launching this month with the intention of developer use so that they can develop apps for the product.
2: Drones & Aerial Robotics
Last month saw the 48th Consumer Electronics Show (CES) launch in Las Vegas where the prominence of drones, or unmanned aerial systems, was omnipresent. But the likes of arenas such as CES are not the only place where drones are all pervasive - you'd have to have been living under a rock not to have been even vaguely aware of their presence in the last couple of years. It is this osmosis from the realms of governments, tech enthusiasts and gadget geeks with deep pockets, to the cerebral cortex of the more general public and declining costs of the products that gives rise to the massive interest in aerial robotics.
This year sees the world's first drone entertainment show hosted in the Netherlands. The AIR 2015 Amsterdam Drone Entertainment Show promises to be a "high energy and explosive show... drones will take centre stage to bring a collaboration and fusion of music, video, projections and special effects. AIR allows you to experience a variety of ballet and battles, races and lasers, circus, illusions and most of all, magic from hundreds of drones."
'Follow me' drones are programmed to follow you via a wrist worn device. Perfect for sports and hobby enthusiasts wanting to film their progress from the air, we are expecting to see a surge of follow me drone videos published this year.
North American drone company 3DRobotics develop and sell drones direct to consumers. Their entry level drone, the Iris+, with Follow Me technology starts at $750, or around £500.
Interest in aerial robotics ranges from Joe Public; think hi-tech toys and cameras - to government defence, surveillance and enforcement departments; think UK police forces, now licenced to use drones for observation. Some of the world's largest corporations are involved in development of the technology; Google and Amazon have both bought robotics companies, and Amazon even flirted with using drones for same-day delivery. However, there is an active cohort of amateur but serious drone developers and enthusiasts aiming to challenge the giant controlled commercial market using open source software and locally sourced components.
For the man-in-the-street wanting to photograph or film, the choice and variety of functionality in drones will only increase, while relative costs continue to drop as the industry booms.
3: 3D Printing
It's not a new technology - in fact, 3D printing as we know it started back in 2005 with British initiative to develop a 3D printer that can print most of its own components. However, the more recent explosion in availability of home consumer priced 3D printers, as well as the captured imaginations of users, has shot 3D printing to the heights of the trends list for 2015, giving wearable technology a run for its money.
A 3D printer takes the information contained within a digital file and lays down layer upon layer of the printable material (from plastic, to carbon fibre, metal, food and everything in between) until the complete three dimensional object is created.
The printers only emerged in any kind of volume at last year's CES in Las Vegas, but the 2015 show saw a doubling of exhibitors, and a dedicated area. The cost of models serving commercial and hobbyists' purposes continues to plummet, while the technology, quality and ease of use improves. With starting prices for a desktop 3D printer at £400, they have entered a bracket which makes home 3D printing available to a much wider audience.
The word 'incredible' is over-used, but not when applied to the SpiderDress developed by Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht. The robotic dress is designed to protect the wearer whereby proximity sensors detect when her personal space is invaded, and the 3D printed 'spider legs' flex towards the invader.
Some of our favourite 3D printed objects include the extraordinary guitars produced by New Zealand company Odd Guitars.
The applications for 3D printing are extremely diverse, ranging from automotive parts, to prosthetics to contemporary jewellery. UK jewellery designer Katy Luxton uses the technology to create unique nylon, silver and gold jewellery. ""Without 3D printing it would be impossible to produce my designs in a commercially viable way because of complexity and the time it would take using traditional silver-smithing techniques".
Global company 3D Systems have been making printers since the very early days of rapid prototyping, and specialise in healthcare solutions from prosthetic limbs to dental applications.
4: The Internet of Things - Smart Home Devices
2015 will be the year for making our homes' appliances and utilities dynamically responsive to the environment, and our every creature comfort. Some of these devices are not new, but this will be the year in which it all begins to gel; controllable from your smartphone and led by the likes of Google and Apple.
Apple are due to release the HomeKit app later this year which will automate a host of different home hardware such as lights, locks, TVs, thermostats and garage doors via HomeKit-enabled devices from a variety of partner manufacturers like iHome, Philips, Belkin and Honeywell.
Makers of the energy saving thermostat, Google acquired start-up company Nest 14 months ago. Using Nest thermostatically controls your home's heating, changing the temperature when it senses that you've gone out. Not only that, it learns the length of time it takes to warm your home, and you can control it remotely via your smartphone or computer.
One of those companies producing HomeKit compatible products is Netatmo. The company began in 2011 with Weather Station devices for smartphones. At CES 2015, Netatmo debuted their home camera face recognition device. Named simply Welcome, the camera, which also supports live stream video, allows you to keep track of who is in your home – keeping tabs on loved ones, and warning you when an un-recognised face is detected. The sleek, cylindrical device works in any light conditions, being enabled for infrared LED night vision. Welcome communicates with the user's smartphone, allowing them to know exactly who is at home, from almost anywhere in the world.
Inevitable questions around privacy arise, and Netatmo answer this with bank-level encryption between the device and phone, as well as fully controllable privacy settings and local storage by SD card, thus negating the need for cloud storage concerns or subscriptions. We can see the device being useful in a number of situations; we can keep an eye on small children, infirm parents, unwanted visitors and teenage parties. The 'Home Alone' movie franchise could have been considerably less entertaining had the McCallister family used Netatmo Welcome.
So there you have it - the tech devices and trends which will make an impact in 2015! We're also predicting a rise in nostalgia across technology devices and games, as indicated by the crowdfunded re-launch of the famed ZX Spectrum computer, and rise in sales in Japan of the flip-phone. If Vogue's Anna Wintour's use of a $15 flip-phone at the US open a few weeks ago is a bellweather, then phone nostalgia is set to arrive very soon.