What Will Tech Bring in 2016?

One of the greatest joys of ringing in a new year is imagining what it will bring, especially in relation to technology.  Following are some technologies that I think might begin to change our lives in 2016.

Virtual Reality Systems (VR) – Do you plan to buy a VR headset this year?  There certainly has been a lot written about VR lately, and more than 40 CES exhibitors demonstrated VR products.  Research company HIS predicts that 7 million VR headsets will be in use by the end of the year.  You might have been hearing about Oculus Rift, a virtual reality system that completely immerses you inside virtual worlds. The Facebook-owned outfit announced at CES that The Rift will begin to ship on March 28. However, be ready to spend $599 plus $300 for a graphics card and more for the other bells and whistles needed to support this hardware-intensive product. I think VR will be used primarily for gaming this year, but it seems to be a perfect fit for the event marketing industry, providing an experiential engagement for attendees.  I’m going to look for more examples of VR technology uses on the EXHIBITORLIVE show floor and other shows this year.

Electric Cars – In my November blog, I shared that I am a proud owner of an electric car.  I haven’t stopped at a gas station in years! I’ll be anxious to see how 2016 unfolds for the electric car industry. At the end of 2015, we saw the BMW X5 xDrive 40e launch with fairly strong sales. According to PwC’s Autofacts group, pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales grew 82.2% from September 2014 to September 2015. The significant growth can be attributed to several factors, according to PwC, including consumer desire for more emission-friendly vehicles, the maturation of pure electric technologies and their positive perception among consumers, and continued government incentives. This year, at CES, Chevrolet introduced the Chevy Bolt and moving forward there will be several new entrants to the market — such as the Tesla Model X, the Volvo XC90 T8, the Volvo S90 T8, the Hyundai IONIQ and the Faraday Future FFZero1.

Above, FFZero1 Supercar

Autonomous Cars – I am a car aficionado, and I don’t see that changing.  However, I might not actually be driving one of my future cars.  I predict that my kids are the last generation to sit behind a wheel and drive a car in the city. If your kids are young, they may never drive.  I think autonomous vehicles will rule the road, in our lifetime.

Tesla Motors has sent out a software update for its Model S that allows owners to autonomously park and “summon” the car (from outside the car).  Watch the video.  BMW, Ford and Google also have cars with similar functionality.

“We think sometime after 2020 we will be ready for the first highly automated function, which means that the driver will be actually able to do something other than monitor the system – read emails, call somebody, check the news, whatever,” quoted Michael Aeberhard, research engineer at BMW Group Research and Technology.

Improved Wi-Fi – When compared to all of the flashy technologies we’ve been reading about, better Wi-Fi doesn’t seem all that exciting, but it would improve our daily lives and those of event attendees.  Spotty Wi-Fi coverage, especially in basements and between buildings can be incredibly frustrating. The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced Wi-Fi HaLow, a signal with twice the range of existing WiFi, better wall penetration and less power consumption.  This could be significant for the wearable and IoT (Internet of Things) markets. Although Wi-Fi HaLow might not make an impact until 2017, it’s worth watching.

Proximity Marketing – I believe that Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) technology, including Bluetooth Smart, and iBeacon™ will get wider adoption for consumer experiences and event marketing this year. Stores like Macys and Target use small Bluetooth transmitters to send content and offers to shoppers’ smartphones based on their specific locations and behaviors within a store. Called proximity marketing, I think we will see more stores adopt this technology trend.  For the event marketing industry, more attendees will be able to send out messages within the convention center about exactly what products and services they need, and you can invite them into your booth for engagement. Or as they pass by your specific location, you can engage to get them into the booth.  Proximity marketing can change your event engagement.

Smartphone/Watch Payments – Some of us are currently making payments using our mobile phones. It’s convenient, fast, and more secure than pulling out credit cards. In 2016, we will see even wider adoption as smartwatches become more mainstream.  By installing the PayPal app on Samsung smartwatches, users can trigger payments via a fingerprint sensor. On January 7, Reuters reported that Samsung’s Gear S2 watches will offer Samsung Pay in the U.S. this year. Apple Pay is available now.  It is simple to use and works with the cards you already have on the devices you use every day. And because your card details are never shared when you use Apple Pay — in fact, they aren’t stored on the device at all — using Apple Pay on the iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad is a safe way to pay.

4K Ultra High Definition TVs – 4K is a technology that's rewriting the rulebook on image quality with televisions. You only need to know one thing about it: 4K means more pixels. There are about 8 million pixels, which is approximately four times what a current 1080p set can display. More pixels means even sharper pictures.  Right now 4K content is limited.  Netflix and Amazon Prime are offering 4K content now, but it will grow this year now that the 4K TVs are available from most major TV manufacturers.

Surprises from Apple? Amid growing concerns that iPhone growth may taper in the first half of 2016, Apple may be tempted to fill gaps in its product line.  Apple has acquired at least 25 small start-ups over the last two-and-a-half years.  On January 7 Apple acquired Emotient, a start-up that uses artificial intelligence to read facial expressions.  Late last year, Apple bought Faceshift and its motion-capture technology that lets animated avatars double the facial movements of real actors. The tech was used in the new Star Wars movie.  Apple has $206 billion in cash, and it will be intriguing to see how some of it will be used to stay relevant and continue to reign as a tech leader and innovator.

Whatever 2016 brings, I know it will be exciting, and I hope you will share your technology experiences with me here as you navigate the new year.  Here’s to a happy and successful new year!