Tech me back to 2017
- USFDA finishes inspection at Alembic Pharma’s Panelav plant, shares rise on BSE
- Trump trade war spurs India to import more oil, drones from US
- What global finance chiefs are saying about the global economy
- Walmart sees Flipkart as key to atone for missteps in China
- Infosys to renew focus on digital services
A lot happened in the world of technology and gadgets in 2017. New concepts such as virtual reality and augmented reality came to the fore, while existing genres such as smarthomes and wearables were refined. There were high-profile gadget launches that caught our eye through the year, as well as middling new gadgets that didn’t. We pick the most interesting developments that are setting the trend, and tell you what those might mean as we move towards 2018.
Facebook and fake news
With harmful content being posted and shared, things went a bit out of hand for Facebook. It also faced flak for not doing enough to counter the alleged Russian influence on content posted on it, which many believe influenced the outcome of the US presidential election. On 28 September, in fact, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post: “After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.” Facebook tweaked the algorithms that dictate the news and updates on news feeds, and, in August, announced tie-ups with “fact-checking partners” to verify news in some countries and update Artificial Intelligence-driven algorithms to flag fake news better.
AR becomes mainstream with apps
Augmented reality (AR) is a buzzword in the smartphone ecosystem. It takes visuals of the world around you (it could be a live video or a photograph), and adds computer-generated elements to them. When Apple announced iOS 11 this year, ARKit was an integral part of it—this will allow developers to incorporate advanced AR features into new apps. Google also released fun AR Stickers for the camera app for the Pixel and Pixel 2 range of smartphones using the ARCore platform—this is just the start.
Cut the cord
Cable TV is a thing of the past. Millennials prefer watching shows at their own convenience but while the concept of cord-cutting has been touted in the US for a while now, it is now viable in India. One can subscribe to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Hooq, Voot, SonyLIV, Eros Now and Spuul for the latest TV shows and movies, on TV, PC or mobile. Netflix will invest $7-8 billion (around Rs44,800-51,200 crore) next year to make new content, adding to a library of originals that includes, for instance, Stranger Things.
Digital payments go big
Digital transactions—mobile wallets, credit cards and Unified Payments Interface apps—have seen a spike this year, thanks to the demonetization exercise in late 2016. Wallet apps such as Paytm and Airtel Money also got the licence to expand their wallets into payments banks. Reserve Bank of India data shows that there were 877 million combined digital transactions in September, and 965 million in October. Established firms such as Paytm are seeing competition from apps like Google’s Tez, which has already clocked more than 10 million downloads from the Play Store.
Hey Google, okay google, where are the...
With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3, Xiaomi, which led the global wearables space briefly, slipped to second place, according to Q3 2017 numbers by research firm Canalys. The ease with which Apple and Xiaomi have clocked up shipment numbers has a lot to do with Google seemingly backing off from the wearables space this year—Android Wear did not see much push at all. Hopefully, Fitbit will have a say next year, with the Ionic smartwatch
Spinning a web
Fidget spinners were to 2017 what selfie sticks were to 2016. You are probably sick of the sight of these weirdly shaped toys (for lack of a better word) that everyone seems to be obsessed with. But this time-waster, for some a stress-buster, did make waves worldwide, and factories in China made hay while the sun shone.
Your face is your password
Bezel-less smartphone designs don’t leave much space for a fingerprint sensor below the screen. LG has the sensor at the back, and Sony, in the power button on the side spine. This called for a new biometric authentication standard. Apple showed the way with Face ID —it uses 30,000 scan points on your face, and uses AI to know when you’re wearing sunglasses or have grown a beard. OnePlus followed with its own take in the OnePlus 5T smartphone
Right to privacy and our online data
In a landmark judgement in August, the Supreme Court declared privacy to be an integral part of life and personal liberty, under Article 21. Citizens can now approach the courts if they feel their right to privacy has been violated. This will have an impact on the collection/sharing of data by tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple, in India. It can give a legal toehold to complaints about how apps/services are handling data. Note, however, that when we sign up for apps such as WhatsApp or Uber, we are agreeing to the terms and conditions for what is an optional sign-up.