Tools and trends on the horizon

Ciaran: A couple of years ago Ros and I attended a Tools and trends on the horizon workshop run by Martin Bryant at the Cornerhouse. Whilst there I learned we would soon all be paying for taxis via our mobile phone and finding holiday accommodation in stranger’s spare room. “Hmm,” I thought, “the public isn’t quite ready for all this new fangled gizmology”.

Ros: Can anyone imagine life without Uber now? It’s been over a year and a half now and I could not face it if I was asked to look at the total amount I’ve spent with them. Even thinking about it makes me feel a bit ill.

Ciaran: My assertions proved roundly incorrect. Now that I see disruptive innovations buzz down my street to deliver trendy burgers every day, I thought I had better attend this year’s event at HOME.

So, we’ll share these horizon gazers with you and we can reflect a year down the line and see which were zingers and which crashed drone-like into a tree.

You will be talking to your tech

Ciaran: Voice dialing has been around since the Nokia 3310, but with the likes of Siri and Google Now it has become marginally more acceptable to talk to your devices. The Amazon Echo will sit in your living room like HAL Home edition and respond to the voice commands of your family. Watch the promo video (and try not to think of it as the start of a Black Mirror episode)

Ros: There’s also a couple of predictable and dated stereotypical gender roles in there too, so watch out for them and get ready to roll your eyes.

With everything Echo can do, it’s really become part of the family…

Apps becoming more like the web


Ciaran: The ability to link from app to app will improve. Not just opening one app from another, but taking useful data across. For example, calendar app Sunrise can figure out you’ve got a meeting in Building X, and link through to CityMapper passing the start and end points of you journey to seamlessly present the best options for travel.

Ros: Citymapper and Sunrise are part of my daily routine and my life would be a lot more awkward without them. The in-app linking is beyond useful. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to build our own apps out of bits of other apps. Like a an app dashboard. In fact that can probably be done with some apps already…

App streaming

Ciaran: Google is looking at streaming apps direct to your phone, avoiding the need to install anything. Essentially the app will be running ‘in the cloud’ but you will be getting the app content and functionality fed to your phone.

Ros: Hmm, I wasn’t quite convinced with this one. I don’t understand the usefulness, I suppose.

Be careful with security

Ciaran: This was as much advice as it was a look at trends. With a disturbing number of high profile hacks this year, companies are going to have to take security more seriously. Martin opined that we as consumers should be holding companies to account rather than shrugging and moving on.

Ros: Yes! Security online is horribly underplayed. There was some attention in the media when Jennifer Lawrence had private photos hacked, but a lot of chat around that situation was, “If you don’t want people to see stuff, don’t send it via the Internet”. There was a great deal of cynical comments similar to this, without any real attention being paid to the fact that everyone sends information they don’t want public, over the Internet every day. Every. Day.

Ciaran: Biohacks attempt to use behavioural biometrics to monitor how you use your device normally and then kick in if it thinks you’ve been compromised.

Ros: Yes! This is really interesting. The angle at which you hold your device, the speed at which you type, lots of small, seemingly insignificant metrics that can be clues to if you’ve been hacked. Incredible.

 1 hour delivery

Ciaran: Already ‘a thing’ in places like San Francisco (Instacart, Postmates), but Martin reckons the UK might be ready for (and willing to pay for) 1 hour deliveries. We’re not just talking food here, but, a coffee, some washing powder, some AA batteries or whatever you happen to need quickly.

Ros: Deliveroo is a Postmates style company, which delivers restaurant food to your door. It’s expensive, but great if you don’t fancy leaving the house or cooking. While I was in SF in December Last year, we used Postmates, and found the level of service to be very much dependent on the delivery person…

Ciaran: Amazon offer 1-hour delivery in London, so we can watch with interest to see if this spreads via a swarm of fixies across the UK.

Ros: Yeah, I think this is a matter of time. My friend in London LOVES Amazon Now. Loves it. He uses it regularly. It’s more expensive than normal shopping, but it is incredibly convenient. It would be great to see some competition to Amazon springing up, though I doubt this is going to happen.


Using your smartphone as a wallet

Ciaran: With the likes of Apple Pay (Android Pay has no UK release date yet), the Starbucks app (although the pre-order functionality is London only #NorthSouthDivide) and now Manchester’s own Get Me There app allowing you to jump on a tram without a physical ticket – there really is no need to reach for your purse/wallet.

Until your battery runs out.

Ros: Edinburgh does this! Buses in Edinburgh use mobile tickets which you buy via an app. I’m excited about the proposition of a ticket/travel app, but it will only work if it’s accepted by all of Manchester’s many, many travel companies.

A new way of charging

Ciaran: USB-C will replace USB for pretty much everything. Nuff said.

Ros: My OnePlus 2 already uses USB-C. Let me tell you it is not an easy cable to get hold of on the high street. One USB-C cable in Maplin costs £25. That’s just the cable, not the plug. Ridiculous.

 Goodbye to ads?

Ciaran: Use of adblocking apps and extensions, such as Crystal, are on the rise. And now some mobile ISPs are considering blocking ads at the network level. If this was enabled the ads embedded in webpages wouldn’t even reach your phone, meaning quicker loading times.

Ros: How is this a bad thing for users? It isn’t. Marketing people on the other hand… They might have to think of a different way of handling sales.

Ciaran: Also, like Martin pointed out in his capacity as editor for The Next Web, is this will hit the revenue streams of many websites. No ads = no website? It is likely to lead to an interesting debate and could force content providers to consider alternate funding models.

Tech companies will curate your news feed

Ciaran: With Facebook’s Instant Articles and Twitter’s Moments, our news is starting to be pushed to us ‘in app’ rather than linking out to a full article. Ostensibly getting news via the apps you use already appears to be a good thing, but to what extent do you trust the tech giants not to filter out stories which paint them less favourably?

Ros: Urgh. No. No thanks. Twitter moments is a good idea,  this is the function that allows you to “subscribe” to a situation live as it happens. But I have no real interest in reading company news for the perspective of the company.

Cars as a hacker target

Ciaran: When hackers demonstrated they could remotely hijack a Jeep earlier this year it lead to an incredibly expensive product recall and firmware flash.

Expect car centric cyber security to get mentioned in the coming 12 months.

Ros: as someone who doesn’t drive, this is both amazing and terrifying!



Ciaran: ok, so from trends to tools. Nuzzel (Android, Apple) curates your news feed based on what you friends are sharing across your various social platforms. Do I trust my friends to be sharing the most relevant news any more than the tech companies…?

Ros: I installed this when Martin told us about it, but I haven’t used it yet. I wonder if that’s beacuse I forgot it was there, or because I don’t really need it. I’ll give it a go and get back to you.


Ciaran: Ros has already sold me on this as the best way to get around the city. I’m particularly intrigued that it can hook into your smartwatch and will vibrate at the moment you need to alight from the bus!

Ros: YES! It’s brilliant. It’s also really great if you’re not hot on getting around London. It’s ultra-reliable.

Google Photos

Ciaran: this is something I use, without really realising I do. My photos sync with Google Photos. And in the background it is doing smart photo image recognition and realising my pictures have bikes or cars or weddings in them.

google now

Ros: This is a problem for me currently, because I’m using Android Oxygen, and it doesn’t come with a photo organiser.  I’m not particularly keen on having my photos uploaded to the cloud instantly, though. I don’t know why… I guess I don’t want to discover that photos have been uploaded to Google+ because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was agreeing to, a constant fear of mine. Though your Google photos make you look like you live in an advert, Ciaran. I wonder if it’ll do that to mine too?

Hotel tonight

Ciaran: well this one probably has more to do with Martin’s jet set lifestyle, but is apparently good for last minute deals. For the sake of brevity I’ll race through the rest…

Periscope – Twitter owned app for live streaming. Apparently some of the content is NSFW. Similar to an Android version called Meerkat.

Ros: I don’t know if Periscope will be around in this format for long.

Slack – In a style similar to that of online collaboration tool Basecamp, Slack attempts to pull together all of your inter-company comms into one manageable place.

Ros: I use Slack for everything and I love it. The chatroom style set up can take some getting used to, but the search function is brilliant and it has a lot of IFTTT integrations that you can basically make it do whatever you want. Highly recommended.

TunnelBear – easy to use VPN for secure online browsing. Good for when you don’t trust the open wifi.

Password managers LastPass, OnePassword and Dashlane to help manage all of those accounts.

Let’s finish with a video of Amazon’s much touted Prime Air.

Well, we’ve covered a lot of tech there. Let’s see what happens during 2016! In the meantime, as a respite, I’m going up to the roof to throw paperbacks at drones.


7 thoughts on “Tools and trends on the horizon

  1. A few other ‘looks forward’s for 2016:

    6 business technology trends for 2016

    Digital predictions for 2016: a year of true connectivity

    Top Tech Stocks to Buy in 2016:

    CES 2016 Technology

  2. Radio 4 Analysis: “The End of Free” (28 minute listen) Good listen picking up on the adblocking era and how it might affect news and journalism. Also touches on the fact much of our news is curated by the social platforms we use.

  3. Pingback: Dan Lyons at HOME | Innovation group

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