With the New Year under way, we’ve finally got the Bluetooth working on our new gadgets and started our Fitbit monitored health regime. So what do we expect in the coming year? As CES 2016 kicks off in Las Vegas, here are our top ten predictions for 2016:
1 Momentum towards driverless
Reports of meetings between Google’s driverless cars team and government underline the UK’s positive attitude towards going driverless. 2015 saw the launch of a series of four test projects across the country in London, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes.
But we expect China to pick up speed. China has not signed up to either of the major road safety treaties, and so can move ahead with autonomous vehicles with greater freedom. Reports that Chinese search engine Baidu has teamed up with BMW to test driverless cars in Beijing reinforce that view.
2 Cyber-attacks and hacking
We see hacking presenting an increasing threat to both business and government. UK telecoms company TalkTalk’s loss of customer data to hackers was just one example in 2015 of how vulnerable organisations are. Those with data to protect must run to keep up with the increasing sophistication of hackers.
Enforcement agencies are likely to expect more from business to defend against cyber-attacks and will show little patience where systems are inadequate
And the EU is bringing in new laws to raise the bar for data-rich organisations in Europe. These will tighten up the security requirements for operators of ‘essential services’ (financial, transport and healthcare providers, for example) as well as cloud services and online marketplaces, and to ensure prompt notification of security breaches.
AI has historically produced a mixture of doom-laden predictions of human obsolescence, and disappointingly limited technology.
Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerman’s announcement that his project for 2016 will be an AI butler may result in something a little more useful and less threatening. Let’s hope it will be good at picking up toys…
4 Wearables in healthcare
Wearables have taken hold in the fitness market, but they also hold real promise in healthcare. A device that can monitor a patient’s status and stream data to their central health records would offer gains to both patient and healthcare provider.
Wearables are also being developed to offer support for farmers and pet-owners, keeping tabs on the health and location of four-legged wearers.
5 Government surveillance and privacy activism
Concerns about terrorism will increase the pressure on governments to strengthen their investigatory powers, as with the UK’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
This is likely to face resistance both from communication service providers who will have to retain and make available their customer data to government agencies, potentially in unencrypted form, and from privacy activists opposed to wide scale surveillance as a matter of principle.
6 Privacy campaigning against data use
We see a trend towards consumer activism against the use of personal data by tech companies. This may force tech companies, and especially larger consumer-facing businesses and those designing software and hardware for the consumer market, to take data protection more seriously and ‘design in’ compliance with tough EU-style regulations.
A landmark in 2015 was the EU court decision in a case brought by privacy campaigner Max Schrems against Facebook. And as the EU finalises its new data protection regime, complaints by consumer activists are likely to increase.
As drone technology develops, with promises of collision avoidance technology and long-lasting hydrogen fuel cells, applications for the technology will become more widespread. Parcel delivery and crop surveillance are just two of the exciting applications. But concerns over the dangers presented to aircraft and pedestrians, as well as the possibility of intrusion and spying, are likely to lead to tightening up by regulators. The US Federal Aviation Administration, for example, is promoting a new register for US-based drone owners.
We have seen increasing interest in various types of crowd-funding, and positive moves from the UK authorities such as inclusion of alternative investments within the ISA tax wrapper. While 2015 saw some high-profile failures, continuing low interest rates and fluctuating stock markets are likely to lend support to the alternative finance sector.
Chinese interest in these investment platforms, encouraged by government support, may offer an alternative for investors stung by Chinese stock market falls.
9 Internet of things, smart homes and connected cities
Perhaps less glamorous than smart watches and flexible televisions, connectedness through our living environment is on the rise. Offering a wide range of improvements to daily life, and promoting energy efficiency, these developments have the potential to make incremental improvements for us all.
The UK’s Future Cities project, for example, is testing technologies ranging from pollution data collection and motion sensitive street lighting. But concerns have been raised about the collection of all that data, and whether we are laying ourselves and our cities open to cyber-attack.
10 Online travel services
The growth in ride-sharing company Uber has been astonishing. We expect Uber’s ongoing success to face increasing challenge from competitors. General Motors' announcement this week of a $500 million investment in Lyft highlights the attractiveness of the sector. And more disputes with city authorities and cab-drivers over licensing of these services seem certain.
Similarly, AirBNB’s huge success in connecting people with places to stay is likely to spur other market entrants to offer similar services.
These are just a few ideas about what 2016 will bring. Share your thoughts through this blog, or our Twitter feed, @MRtechlaw.