2015: Rockets, Drones, Mobile Payment & AI

By Sheetal Jaitly

2015 has been an exciting year for tech. It may have seemed like any other year, with the same old release of consumer gadgets and tech toys, but in reality some of the biggest advancements were set in stone this year. These advancements will forever change, not only our lives, but future generations to come. One of the biggest stories of 2015 was Jeff Bezos and his Origin space rocket. On November 23rd, Bezos managed to fire his rocket, with a simulated crew capsule attached, into a suborbital space. He was able to land the crew capsule via parachute and then gently touch down the rockets too. Elon Musk must have been a little jealous, though he tweeted congratulations to Bezos the day after. Bezos’ Origin and Musk’s Space-X shouldn’t be compared though, as Origin is aiming for suborbital space while Space-X is attempting to go much further. Speaking of Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, he also made news this year, when he pushed out an update for the Model S that enabled the vehicle to drive itself. The Model S can now completely drive itself down a high way, accelerating, changing lanes, and stopping, without any human interaction. Sure, other vehicles might be able to park themselves or slow down during emergencies, but the Tesla Model S can actually navigate a highway. In another decade self-driving cars will be a commodity and General Motors will be able to update its vehicles’ security flaws, on the fly. Too bad VW wasn’t as forward thinking. Saying that, it’s not all sugar and spice for Telsa either. They are having to investigate reducing features of the self-driving software path, due to reckless driving. Drivers were determined to find the limits of the vehicles capabilities, which has caused safety concerns on the road. Alongside this, 2015 can also be marked the year of the drone. The commoditization has been years in the making, but this year drones finally reached critical mass, as prices dropped and accessibility increased. It didn’t take long, though, before consumers abused their flying privileges. Almost every week, reports surfaced of a near miss collision with planes, as pilots continued to fly drones close to airports. Furthermore, firefighters had a hard time containing wild fires because of drones flying overhead. They became hazardous for helicopters and planes that were trying to help douse flames. Safety concerns amassed to the point that the FAA considered forcing people to register their drones. They also discussed creating new laws that would parallel light-weight aircraft flight regulations. The FAA is still investigating implementing these laws and regulations. Though we are not new to Google Now and Apple’s Siri, it can be said that 2015 also saw big advancements in AI. New features were brought to both Google Now and Apple’s Siri, bringing them back into the lime light amidst privacy concerns in a post-Snowden era. That wasn’t the end of it though. Scientists throughout the world, including Elon Musk, began to warn against the dangers of AI, attempting to start the drum beat before it was too late. Perhaps that’s why Elon Musk and others founded the OpenAI consortium on December 12th with plans to develop artificial intelligence outside of the commercial ecosphere. Musk recently made a statement that the only way to combat evil AI is to develop advanced artificial intelligence in its place. Finally, 2015 could be called the year of mobile payments. Google’s first attempt to merge the wallet and the mobile phone was a few years ago, with the release of the Nexus Prime. The idea didn’t get far due to push back from telco carriers and banks. It was not the end of mobile payments though, as Apple used their clout and entered the market last year, with the release of the iPhone 6. Many say that mobile payments were legitimized when Apple decided to enter the game. However, this year, Samsung entered the mobile payment market, with their own version that bypassed NFC technology and instead worked with the old fashioned magnetic stripe card readers. Walmart, also tried to enter the game, with their consortium branded QR code style mobile payment system. Though it was set to be released this year, it seems to have floundered out of the gate. 2015 will, quietly, be one of the biggest years of tech, in history. Our lives will forever be changed and this year was the start of it all. Soon we will be able to book flights into space, our cars will drive themselves, and those late night stumbles home, from the bar will be over. Drones will litter our air space, as they work for us to deliver packages and save lives. All of it will be controlled by advanced computer systems that will hopefully help us calculate our lives quicker, rather than herd us into pens. And finally, nothing has effected the way we shop like mobile payments has, since the introduction of the credit card, so many years ago.

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