2015 has seen a number of innovative new products and devices enter the market with the power to change the way consumers and businesses engage with technology - perhaps most notably the introduction of Apple Pay, the rise of wearable devices and the development of solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) market.
All of these technological developments – Apple Pay, wearables and the IoT - have led to the possibility of a more connected society, making communication and everyday tasks such as completing purchases quicker and easier. For example, users can now make simple and quick contactless payments with their devices, and people can even control appliances or systems within their home from wherever they are in the world.
And as technology continues to advance, figures suggest that the number of people taking up smart devices is on the rise in the UK. It is predicted that there will be 16.4 million wearable devices by 2019, up from 2.8 million in 2014 – that’s an increase of 486 per cent in just five years.
When the first round of wearables hit the market, for many people they came up a bit short. After only a few months, many respondents had stopped using their devices because they had gotten bored of them, or had simply forgot to put them on. To the ordinary consumer, some devices were seen as unfashionable and also appealed to a niche audience – such as athletes and fitness enthusiasts. But all of this changed this year when on 8 March 2015, the world watched in anticipation as details surrounding Apple's first smartwatch were announced. The launch of the Apple Watch paved the way for a new wave of wearable devices and brought a product to market that customers would actually want to wear.
Despite various companies already launching a range of different smart watches, none of them have been able to carry out all of the capabilities of a smartphone. The Apple Watch is the closest to do so as it can make retail payments, communicate with friends and run a variety of apps. It is a convenient and fashionable piece of tech that allows users to stay connected without the need to take out their phone each time they want to check notifications, alerts and messages, for instance.
And society looks set to become even more connected, as this year has seen interest in the IoT increase quickly. The IoT is quite a broad subject due to the fact that it can be taken in various different directions, involves a whole host of products and devices and has the potential to change technology as we know it. As the IoT continues to expand, people now have the ability to interact with their environment in endless ways. According to Gartner, there are currently 4.9 billion products connected to the internet, and by 2020 it is predicted that this will increase to over 50 billion. This shows that the market is only going to keep on growing, bringing with it completely new possibilities for products such as smart clothing and self-driving cars – for instance, rumours have been circulating this year that suggest Apple is developing its own version of the smart car which could really shake up the industry and put driverless cars on our roads for the first time.
Having said this, the IoT is at a very early stage and there is still a lot of confusion with consumers as to how it works and what it involves. Developers are currently trying to piece together the services they can offer and how they can market themselves better to consumers. The IoT is an interesting concept but it does need to be applied in an effective way – so this means that tech shouldn’t be created for tech’s sake.
There is no doubt that society is becoming more connected and there is definitely a market for the IoT, but for people to actually adopt these type of devices, they need to have a clear purpose and be able to make everyday tasks quicker and easier.
Making purchases is an everyday task that has been simplified by the development of mobile payments such as Apple Pay. Following the launch of Apple Pay in October this year, users can now complete purchases with just one touch of their mobile devices, without the need to remember various pin codes for all their credit cards. Cards can be quickly added and stored within the Passbook app, ready to use when a payment is required.
Near-field communication (NFC) payments such as Apple Pay open up the potential of changing the way we complete transactions, and it will be interesting to see how people engage with the new technology as it develops.
There are, however, some drawbacks that may slow down widespread adoption of this type of tech. For starters, payments are limited to £30 per transaction, which stops people from using it to buy items over this amount. And currently, not all stores are accepting Apple Pay as some do not have the required NFC card readers. Considering that some places, like bars, don’t yet accept card payments, it’s likely to be some time before everywhere has one of the readers. In terms of shopping habits, consumers are still trying to get their head around contactless card payments and do not yet fully understand how mobile payment technology works. To actually change the payment habits of the everyday consumer as we move towards 2016, there needs to be a greater emphasis on how Apple Pay can enhance the purchasing process.
As with all emerging and developing technology, such as Apple Pay, the IoT and wearable devices, there are issues of security that needs to be addressed in order to convince consumers that their details are safe. There is a lot of uncertainty about how secure new devices are, especially as we are constantly reminded that the more technology we use, the more open we are to higher risks of being hacked. Concerns around security seem to be one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption, particularly as devices are still in the early stages of development. Our Wearable Tech report, launched earlier this year, found that nearly half of Brits currently feel wearables pose a threat to their privacy. Educating customers on how the technology works, the benefits it will bring to their lives and what data will be collected will help to alleviate any fears that they may have. In order to overcome fears and address concerns, there needs to be a greater level of engagement and communication between developers and their consumers.
Throughout 2015, technology has been getting smarter and we’ve seen the launch of a number of innovative and exciting products that have the potential to really shake up the market. And as we enter into 2016, we will see the development of even more products that aim to support a more connected world.
Having said that, there is still a long way to go before devices are fully integrated into society. Uptake within the consumer market has been relatively slow as people try to understand what benefits such technology can offer. Currently, wearables are still seen as perhaps a little geeky, as our research found that over a third of people would feel embarrassed or self-conscious wearing wearable tech. And to use Apple Pay, consumers need to upgrade to the latest versions of Apple’s products – something which they may not be ready to do just yet.
We will have to wait until 2016 to see how consumers interact with these new products, once they have become more familiar with what’s on offer. It’s too early to say how successful these new devices will be, but there is definitely a lot of potential to shake up the industry.
Matt Hunt, CEO of Apadmi Enterprise, the enterprise app development division of Apadmi