OPINION: It’s going to be a big year for technology as the web celebrates a significant birthday, and tech companies face increased scrutiny.
Many of the key trends this year will play out for all consumers, but Kiwis will also be affected by some closer to home.
Making predictions is hard, but here are a few ideas for the coming year.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY INTERNET
The world wide web turns 30 this year and like any thirty-something, it’s starting to lose its idealism.
It was supposed to be a place where information could be shared and no-one could control or restrict its movement.
But it has been hijacked by tech giants such as Google and Facebook which have created platforms that go against everything the web’s creators intended.
Some people, including the web’s founding father Tim Berners-Lee, are trying to wrest back control but I fear it may be too late.
This year, despite numerous privacy concerns and distribution of inappropriate content, Google and Facebook will continue to dominate. Some governments, including New Zealand’s, will try to regulate them but they won’t be effective.
Our ultra-fast broadband network is growing but sign-ups are still slow, however, expect that to change this year.
That’s because in providers will soon start withdrawing copper services from areas that have fibre installed. That means you’ll have to switch over to fibre, which is a good thing.
The withdrawal may happen as early as January 2020, which should be the nudge many people need to get it installed.
This year, as smartphone sales plateau, manufacturers will try even harder to woo consumers.
The most likely move will be more gimmicks such as bendable smartphones and more camera lenses on each device.
While some may snap these up, most people will just hang on to their current phone. The best smartphones coming out this year are likely to be mid-range phones as tech from top-tier devices trickle down to more affordable devices.
One of the neatest apps I saw last year was one that used a smartphone camera to do currency conversions.
Smart cameras will become more common this year, with uses ranging from shopping, fitness and home security.
You’ll find them in your home and car and there’ll be a push to use them in various companies.
This will invoke a range of privacy concerns which will prove tricky for both consumers and governments to negotiate.
This is amazing tech but its high cost and lack of a “killer app” has kept it as a niche product.
VR headsets are getting more affordable and this year I hope someone will develop an app or game that helps the tech move into the mainstream.
SPEAKING TO ROBOTS
Voice-activated devices are becoming more common and while they still aren’t that smart they have a lot of potential.
One example could be robots controlled by voice. This year could see the release of both social and practical robots for you to buy. Roombas, which vacuum your home, have been around for years and are a little clumsy but being able to control it with your voice could make it much more useful.
Also, robots that you can talk to may be valued as social companions too.
4K IS EVERYWHERE
Just about every television for sale now has a 4K (ultra high definition) display but content in that format is still hard to find.
This year will see Kiwi streaming services Lightbox and Neon starting to stream 4K movies and TV shows. There’s a slight chance they’ll be joined by the on-demand services owned by TVNZ and Three.
While New Zealand is getting on the 4K train, TV manufacturers are busy releasing 8K televisions. While you may be able to buy one here by the end of the year, they’ll be horrifically expensive and there’s unlikely to be any 8K content for them for many years.
There are a few things I’d like to happen, but are unlikely even though the tech is achievable.
The first is every manufacturer starts using USB-C ports and cable connectors for all their devices. USB-C was released four years ago and unlike standard USB plugs, it’s reversible and can be used to charge phones and computers. Having to only have one type of cable for everything would be amazing.
My other request would be for longer lasting batteries in smartphones and laptops. I’m constantly charging my devices and having a device that could last for two to three days would be great.
Also, it’d be great to see Kiwi retailers finally get their e-commerce websites and distribution up to speed as they face increased competition from overseas.
I’d also like banks, tech companies and eftpos terminal companies to co-operate and make it possible to use your phone to pay at any shop in New Zealand.