Another year has come to a close, and while anticipation of what is to come is always fun, in this post we want to take a look at what happened in 2015. These are, at least in this author’s opinion, the biggest tech events of the past year. Not all of them are, strictly speaking, Information Technology related, but odds are good that if you work in this industry, you have an interest in all kinds of tech.
I also took the liberty of “ranking” these events on the “Man with No Name” scale of Prognosis: Good, Prognosis: Bad, or Prognosis: Ugly, depending upon the impact they had. Have a look at this list, and see if you missed anything in the past year.
The medical, educational, and training possibilities behind HoloLens are almost unlimited, but truth be told, I still want my holodeck.
Google Glass put to rest
Say what you will about Glassholes, this was wicked cool technology and I hope to see it return. The form factor was much less geeky than what HoloLens currently is. Maybe the two tech giants will get together on this? Or, at least, deploy some open standards?
Lenovo Superfish malware
Wow, nothing says bad like buying a brand new laptop that is already not only pwned, but that can’t be unpwned. I do some government consulting, and have some clients that won’t even allow Lenovo hardware onto their installations because of this.
What colour is it? Who cares? It’s hard to believe how much this gripped the national attention, but if you disregard the hype, it is a pretty cool optical illusion.
Anthem data breach
Nothing says “we care” quite as much as losing your personally identifiable information to hackers. With up to 80 million people impacted, this was a huge hit. Laws or regulations that come into play to keep this from happening again are, unfortunately, still missing.
Hilary Clinton’s email
I am not sure what bothers me more…that the Secretary of State felt it necessary to set up not a Gmail or Outlook account, but an entire messaging infrastructure, or that she felt that was better than fixing whatever was wrong with the State Department’s systems. I’m pretty sure most agencies have a policy that forbids forwarding official communications to personal email accounts, but now they have to write an update to say it’s also forbidden to set up your own business system.
In space for a year
So this is pretty cool. Identical twins, who are also both astronauts, are helping research long-term effects of being in microgravity and other environmental aspects of space travel. One twin goes into space for a year, while the other remains on Earth as a control. It’s a small study, but with potentially awesome insights we’ll need if this species is to survive.
Premera data breach
If Anthem wasn’t bad enough, another major health insurer announced it too had been compromised, with almost as many customers’ (78 million) data compromised.
Masdar City is as green as it gets
Prognosis: Good and Bad
Zero carbon, zero waste, recycling, solar, hydrogen, desalinization plants; it’s the city of the future. However, with an expected population of 50K, and another 60K commuting into the city, I wonder just how much of that zero impact is going to be offset by the people from the suburbs.
The Apple SmartWatch is paving the way for “wearable” tech from Microsoft, FitBit, Garmin, Samsung, Withings, and others. This tech holds great promise. Personally, I am sporting a retro analog watch that syncs to my phone and monitors daily activity and nightly sleep.
Water on Mars
Probes have confirmed a liquid brine in the few surface centimeters of the red planet, but so far, no little green men. Still, liquid water confirms things from science fiction and science fact, and when combined with the frozen water at the poles and in sheltered canyons, makes it not only more possible that Mars once (or may still) harbor life, but that it may be possible in the future to settle there. We’re not talking about terraforming yet, but the raw materials are there and it’s a good start.
LHC Goes Full Power
The Large Hadron Collider hit 6.5 TeV teraelectronvolts, did not rip a tear in the fabric of space-time, and continues to reveal new insights into how the Universe works. While most of it is theoretical in the extreme, pretty much everything we use today started as a theory too, and this is helping to advance science’s fundamental understanding of matter.
Verizon buys AOL
Verizon dropped a cool $4.4 Billion on AOL, which you may be as surprised as I was to learn is apparently still out there. The one thing AOL had that has some relevance was then spun off, giving the Huffington Post some much desired freedom. Hey, the folks who made that decision make a lot more than I ever will, and are probably smart enough to see some value there, but AOL stopped being a thing of note to me about the same time DSL became available. Focused on advertising and wireless, maybe Verizon will spin this into something bigger and better. Time will tell. So will stock prices!
IRS data breach
When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton replied “Because that’s where the money is.” I guess if you want PII on every single America of working age in the country, along with their dependents, then your one-stop-shop would be the IRS. And that’s what hackers got into, stealing data on at least 100K taxpayers.
OPM data breach
And speaking of target rich environments, someone, allegedly a foreign government, got into the OPM and stole data on practically every single person in the country with a government background check or security clearance. Being one of those, it was bad enough that my information was stolen, but so too was all the PII for every single member of my family, as that’s just the smallest bit of what you have to provide to get a clearance.
Ashley Madison attack
No judgement here about people who sign up for a service that helps you to have an illicit extramarital affair, but all kinds of judgement on the tens of thousands who rushed to sign up AFTER news broke that Ashley Madison was hacked and its clientele were being outed. Wanting to have an affair may be immoral, but signing up after you know they can’t keep your data secret is just stupid.
The New Horizons probe reached the ninth planet (YES IT IS! I DON’T CARE WHAT THE IAU SAYS!) and provided not only some amazing views of Pluto and it’s moons (how can it have five moons and not be a planet?) but also revealed some pretty cool details about the entire system.
Some say Windows 10 will be the last Windows operating system, not because Microsoft is going anywhere bad, but because with the continuous upgrades it will simply evolve forever rather than being replaced in 5 to 10 years. We’ll see. What I can tell you now is that everything you liked about XP and 8.1 is all there, with more, and they definitely learned from 7 and 8.
A “robot” that successfully hitch-hiked across Canada and Europe, and had some amazing adventures on par with any Flat Stanley or Elf on the Shelf, finally made big news when it was destroyed by vandals in Philadelphia shortly after starting its trek across the US. Stay classy, Philly!
1M electric cars
Since 2008 more than one million electric cars have been sold. That’s still a fraction of all the cars on the planet, but it’s a heck of a milestone for a technology that might actually make a difference to the planet, and a sign that the prices of this technology may start to come down to be within reach of the mainstream market.
Dell acquires EMC
Dell purchased storage vendor EMC for a cool $67 Billion, which was huge news for me on two counts. One, I had no idea that Dell had that kind of capitalization, and two, I thought that Dell had taken over EMC years ago. No matter, the combined tech giant has the potential to either become the power behind the thrones of the major cloud service providers, or become a power in its own right. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2016, and I have the popcorn ready.
Chip and PIN (EMV) cards
Don’t get me wrong. I think the idea behind Chip and PIN credit/debit cards is great. It’s the US implementation that sucks! Apparently, even though practically every American with a bank account has a debit card or ATM card and can handle a PIN, that is too hard for credit cards, so in the US, EMV means forcing your credit card into a poorly angled slot, then getting buzzed at rather rudely if you pull it out too soon or too late, but not having to provide a PIN, or an ID, or in purchases below a certain value, even a signature. In short, this provides NOTHING over traditional mag-swipe cards, which is good since more retailers still don’t have their hardware or POS software set up to actually support EMV.
HP takes a $100 billion company, splits into two $50 billion companies, each of which is still a Fortune 50 in its own right, but is now able to split their attention across consumer and enterprise. Oh, and the split comes with some 30K layoffs, which is what rates this as Ugly with a capital U.
SHA1 retirement accelerated
Any time the standards bodies are able to accelerate retiring out old or insecure standards, it is a win for all, and when they do it in such a way as to force the industry to play along, we all benefit. SHA-1 is old and busted, and putting it out to pasture is good for all.
Okay, until they don’t need wheels and can move faster than my pet turtle, they are not hoverboards. They are two wheeled, slow-moving, firetraps. Second, the best thing about them is all the videos of people going off them in humorous ways, of course only when no one is actually hurt. But the injuries and fires that are associated with these things makes them the top tech fail of 2015.
Vtech data breach
What’s ugliest about this is not that yet another company was hacked and customer data was stolen, but that this company was storing, in unencrypted format, data including personal voice and text conversations as well as photos belonging to children. It’s bad enough when adults’ data is compromised, but when kids are the victims the creep factor and the rage factor both multiply by 10.
UN Climate Change conference
It’s great to see that most nations are finally starting to acknowledge climate change and that they want to do something about it. This is why I call this good. But at the same time, the agreement is non-binding, and the target is to keep average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius. It’s good to have a goal, and something is better than nothing, but a 2 degree increase in annual average temperature won’t do much to help the polar bear or the population of Vanuatu. I really hope to see the world’s leaders do better than that…and soon!
Netflix traffic crosses 70%
This is not really good, bad, or ugly, but it is rather cool. During peak hours, which is to say in the evenings, Netflix traffic accounts for 70% of the Internet. I think my own binge watching of ‘Orange is the New Black’ is a significant percentage of this! Now, if only I wasn’t dependent upon my cable company for my Internet connection.
By Christmas, it was estimated that over 1 million drones have been sold. How many of them are still flying by New Year’s Day versus how many of them were eaten by trees, or ceiling fans, or crash-landed in the pool are numbers I couldn’t find, but as drones continue to rise in popularity, they will continue to come down in price. And with Amazon starting to dabble in drone-based delivery, we will see even more non-military, non-toy uses for drones in the coming years. On a personal note, I am busy training my conspiracy of ravens to fly intercept missions, since there is an Amazon distribution center just down the road.
So there you have it, the 2015 Technology Year in Review. There were of course many other events that took place over the past year. Did we miss something you think we should have included? Leave a comment and let us know what made big waves in your world. We’d love to learn what our readers find interesting outside of purely IT related topics!