Big Tech Stories from 2015

Now that we are at the end of 2015, I thought it would be interesting to look over some of the biggest news stories to hit the technology industry this year.  There has certainly been no shortage of developments, advancements and scandals.  Some were very exciting, while others were shocking.

At ETTE, we love technology and dedicate ourselves to it.  So I chose my favorite technology stories from throughout the year in order to one day look back on them with fondness and nostalgia.

Here is 2015 in Tech:

January:  Apple gets sued

In January, two men filed a lawsuit against Apple claiming that its most recent OS was so big, that it took up too much space in the memory of Apple devices.  This in turn, presented a legal loophole, particularly regarding the lower-spec devices.  The reason is simple, if Apple advertises a device that comes with 32Gb of memory, but the new OS takes up 15Gb of memory, this leaves the available memory on the device at just 17Gb.

While some accuse the men of trying to exploit a legal grey area, Apple is fighting to have the case dismissed.  However, the courts don’t seem to be too sure where anyone stands.  The case is still floating in the legal system to this day.  So there is still a chance that the plaintiffs might win.

February:  Samsung under fire for TV’s that listen

This story gained a lot of interest back in February when it was discovered that new Samsung Smart TV’s were possibly transmitting “personal or potentially sensitive information which was spoken in front of it” to an un-named third party.

Due to all the problems with online privacy lately, this of course sparked a concern of monumental proportions, with people returning their new Samsung TV’s and others filing complaints with Samsung.  Others simply disconnected their Smart TV from the Internet – rendering it less than “Smart”.  The damage control put in place by Samsung was a statement saying that the captured and transmitted data was only voice commands from its remote controllers and that the third party involved was Nuance – Samsung’s voice recognition software.

For a short time, most people breathed a sigh of relief until it was discovered that the data being transmitted wasn’t even encrypted – leaving this data vulnerable to hackers.

March:  Apple Watch

In March this year, Apple made its announcement of the Apple Watch.  I remember the buzz in my own social groups about this, until Apple hinted that the price tag would be somewhere in the region of $17,000 (not a typo).

Thankfully, that’s not what the final price was but even so, sales of the newest wearable tech were not as high as anticipated.  Apparently, the world still isn’t quite convinced about wearable tech.

April:  An App that grounds planes

When American Airlines decided to make its cockpits paperless, many people (including me) thought that this was a great idea.  It had long been time to bring this area up to speed with the rest of the world.  However, as this story proves, you must Beta Test the heck out of apps before releasing them to end users.

After launch (of the app, not the planes), the app refused to work.  Leaving pilots without important maps, charts and documents.  Dozens of AA jets were grounded due to the issue while the developers of the App worked on a fix.  This was a huge and costly embarrassment for AA as well as the app developers.

May:  Batteries for homes

Elon Musk of Tesla announced in May that he envisioned bringing large, Lithium-Ion batteries into homes.  The batteries would be charged using solar energy and would revolutionize our power saving and consumption trends.

Although it hasn’t been released yet, Tesla is very serious about this and plans to begin delivering these batteries in 2016.  The batteries aren’t cheap either, which makes me wonder just how “Eco friendly” the solution is.  The only other reservation I have is the idea of having a giant Lithium-ion battery in my house, when I’m barely comfortable having a tiny one in my pocket..

June:  Cyborgs

In June, Google’s director of engineering (And noted futurist), Ray Kurzweil, made a scary prediction at a New York Conference.  “In the 2030s, we’re going to connect directly from the neocortex to the cloud… We will be able to fully back up our brains.”  The reaction to this statement was interesting.  Some people freaked out, some got excited and other dismissed it as sci-fi nonsense.

However, it should be noted that Ray wrote a book in 1999 called The Age of Spiritual Machines, wherein he made 147 predictions about the future of technology.  When he reviewed those predictions in 2010, we discovered that 78% of his predictions were “entirely correct” at the end of 2009 and 8% were “essentially correct” – Meaning Ray appears to be able to predict the future of Technology with 86% accuracy.

July:  Reddit in Trouble

In June, Reddit’s chief executive faced enormous criticism after Reddit announced it was banning many of the news threads it considered to be “controversial”.  Then in July, things got worse for Ellen Pao when it emerged that one of the site’s most popular employees had been terminated from his employment at Reddit.

In protest, some volunteer moderators closed down large parts of the Reddit platform, which they controlled.  Ellen Pao resigned one week later.  It was later suggested in some reports that Ms Pao had been unfairly blamed for the affair.

August:  Ashley Madison Hack

Most of us remember this one as it was big news and the fallout was huge.  While planning to go IPO, Ashley Madison, the website which allows married people to find other people to have affairs with, was hacked and the data of 33 million of its users was make public.

While I personally do not agree with or support Ashley Madison’s existence (Encouraging infidelity and profiting from it) I was very saddened to learn that the security breach had caused enormous backlash among users, with some even taking their own lives as a result.

The hacker responsible for the breach has still not been identified and more recent reports are saying that letters are now being received by users from hackers, threatening to reveal the user’s identities if they don’t submit to blackmail.

September:  Better Solar Power

This story didn’t make any giant headlines, but the implications of this development could be huge.  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a report in September saying that Solar Power solutions have dropped in price by an estimated 70% since 2009.  The reason for this price drop is the advancements that Scientists are making in the technology.

Solar cells can now be smaller, thinner, sticky and even transparent – giving them even more range for application.  For example, instead of giant ugly solar cells on the roof of your house, you could stick them on your windows and not even notice they are there.

Regular Solar Panels are also becoming increasingly efficient, paving the way to solving many energy problems the world over.

October:  Back to the Future Day

Okay, so nothing “actually happened”.  A 17-year-old did not show up in California sporting a red jacket with inside-out pants and then proceed to go on a Hover board rampage and destroy the entrance of a court house.

However, October 21st 2015 was the date that Doc Brown and Marty McFly arrived in their visit to the “future” from 1985, according to the hit trilogy.  This was actually one of my favorite events of this year, since the Back to The Future movies had been my all-time favorites since I was a small boy.  Back then, it was impossible to imagine the future without the help of this movie and although some would argue that it was anti-climactic,  we got to see the day come anyway.  We also got to see the two actors reprise their roles for five minutes on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

November:  Light Speed Internet

November brought us another incredible breakthrough in technology when an Estonian start-up company announced that it had transmitted data from one device to another at a speed of 1Gbps.  Okay, that’s not amazing at all, that kind of speed has been around for a while.  Except the method they used to do was not with cables, or regular Wi-Fi, but with LED’s.  (This has led to the invention of the term “Li-Fi”)

This technology was first prototyped back in 2011 however November 2015 showed us a demonstration of the technology in use in a real office environment, proving that it really is the breakthrough we suspected.  Especially when you consider that the developers behind the technology have said that in the future, they will be able to boost the speed up to 224Gbps.

While I can already see a few security concerns with this technology, that doesn’t take away from the fact that in the future, our sources of light will also be our sources of connectivity!

December:  Red Star OS

In December, two German researchers dived into the code of North Korea’s new operating system, Red Star OS.  What they found was that this OS (Which surfaced online about a year ago) was designed to mimic Apple OS, and didn’t do a bad job of it.  More worrying however was the OS’s ability to watermark files uploaded to it and then track those files from user to user, even offline.  Furthermore, Red Star OS was also able to delete files from a computer without permission.  To summarize, this is perhaps the least private and most scary OS ever created and nobody in their right mind in our part of the world would ever consider using it.

We are all familiar with the controls North Korea puts on its people but there is now concern that Red Star OS will now be used to track identities as well as other computer usage habits, causing greater concerns for its people.

Perhaps the most ironic twist ending to this story is that Red Star OS was created using Linux – A system that was built to promote free speech.

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