2014 will be remembered for many things: disappearing airliners, widespread ebola outbreaks, and Rosetta’s landing on a comet. But beyond sensational news stories, 2014 saw some of the most innovative uses of mobile technology. In a world within which our dependence on mobile device strengthens every day, advancements in the field are a welcome improvement. These advancements improve our health, increase our productivity, enable our flexibility, and are just plain cool. Here are some of the greatest examples:
1. Wearables: 2014 may be remembered throughout history as the year that wearables achieved critical mass. Mostly in healthcare, but also for athletes and gadget enthusiasts, these data-gathering devices went from trendy “nice-to-have” geek accessory to a common chic need for many people.
Samsung’s research into business attitudes discovered that 47 percent of wearable tech users felt more intelligent, 61 percent felt more informed and efficient, and 37 percent claimed that the wearable helped with their career development. Among the wearables topping 2014’s innovations: Pebble Steel, FitBit Charge and Flex, Jawbone Up24, Vigo, Nike Fuelbands, and more.
2. Waterproofing: In 1926, Rolex introduced the world’s first waterproof watch. In much the same way, 2014 saw the innovation of waterproof mobile technology.
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A great solution for those working outdoors or simply living in a city where the elements are part of their daily life (or commute), a rugged water resistant phone can save lots of money from water damage.
The Ingress Protection (IP) rating of phones assigns a number to their ability to withstand dust particles and liquid.
Some of 2014’s best include: Sony Xperia Z3 (which can also play PlayStation 4 games remotely), Samsung Galaxy S5 Active and Sport, Kyocera Hydro Elite, and others.
3. Internet of Things: One of the most hyped “emerging technologies” of the year is the internet of things (IoT), in which everyday objects have network connectivity.
It is estimated that by 2020, the IoT will include 25 billion devices. Truly innovative and disruptive, the IoT is enabling Sci-Fi-like advancements such as RC helicopters that are connected to smartphones, WiFi-enabled coffee makers, and smart home systems that enable you to remotely shut off the lights and air condition while you are away from home.
Some of the most innovative future-shapers of the Internet of Things include: Nest and SARAH smart home systems, DropCams, and baby monitoring devices.
4. Mobile Payments: Though mobile payments by no means started in 2014, the year definitely saw innovations in this realm. Mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Softcard, and others are advancing to a stage in which consumers and merchants both use (and prefer) mobile payments more regularly. EMV chip payments are gaining traction, with 600 million chip cards are expected in the market in 2015. While the US may trail the world with its use of mobile payments, it is definitely getting on the right track.
5. Privacy-enabled devices: In a post-Snowden world, we have all become hyper-sensitive to Big Brotheresque spying and snooping. We are concerned about government spies, corporate hackers, and advertisers and others gathering our personal data.
So, in 2014, at the height of our awareness and desire to protect our privacy, mobile technology has come to the rescue with phones that transmit a minimal amount of data about us and our habits. The privacy innovators are led by BlackPhone, CryptoPhone, and Open Whisper Systems.
6. An emergency mobile phone: Another cool mobile innovation is actually unique for its low-tech simplicity. The SpareOne phone is a basic device that will not check your stocks or your Twitter feed, but it may save you in an emergency. It does not require a charger, because it runs on a single AA battery. It does not require a contract or a SIM card to call 911 or Emergency Services. Its features include a panic siren and universal distress LED signal (morse code SOS). At a cost of $40, people can afford to buy one for the house, one for the office, and one for the car. With this simple, yet genius mobile innovation, a cost-effective device can always be available.
7. Mobile Collaboration: In 2014, people are telecommuting more, accessing networks and files remotely, working less with desktops (and even laptops) and more on smartphones and tablets, and working with colleagues around the world.
Much of this paradigm shift is made possible by mobile innovations that enable us to collaborate on the go. Cloud-based storage solutions like Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive allow multiple users to access and edit files (while the changes are tracked). Beyond these applications, which have become ubiquitous, there are other new innovations for mobile collaboration like Quip, Quickoffice, and CloudOn.
8. A two-screened phone: Having two cameras on a smartphone is old news. In 2014, an innovation to excite every technology geek, the Yotaphone was released with two screens. On the front, the phone has a “regular” screen; on the back, a second e-paper monochrome screen, which can remain on all the time without draining the battery. The manufacturer boasts that this phone has a battery life of “5 days of reading on a single charge and 2 days of basic smartphone functions.”
Mobile Technology Innovations
2014 does not need to be remembered only for Obamacare confusion, ISIS horrors, or Ferguson racial tensions. Mobile enthusiasts and consumers alike can remember this great year of mobile technology innovations like the wearables, two-screened phones, mobile collaboration platforms, and waterproof devices.
It will be interesting to see how these innovations continue to improve in 2015 and beyond. Will they get less expensive, more efficient, faster, smaller (or larger)? It is also exciting to think of a future in which we will experience what will come next in the ever-changing mobile landscape.