Apple Pay is the first really new paying technique since the debit card, says IET's President Naomi Climer

Apple Pay smart home tech and Internet of Things impressed IET experts in 2015

The arrival of Apple Watch and Apple Pay, the first UK man on the International Space Station, as well as the rise of the Internet of Things and smart home technologies were the major engineering and technology milestones of 2015 according to IET experts. And what do they think that 2016 will bring?

Prof Will Stewart
IET Communications Policy Panel

What were the most significant developments in engineering and technology in 2015 in your opinion?

 The release of Apple Watch and the arrival of Apple Pay into the UK were certainly significant. ApplePay is the first really new paying technique since the debit card - and it is already widespread, I can pay in my village shop as well as the supermarket. The watch has been frankly much more useful than I expected - not just pay and fitness but also the discreet tap on the wrist and smart personalised one-button responses enable me to deal with many messages in meetings without people being aware! In 2015, the first movie shot entirely on a mobile, was released. Tangerine, which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, was entirely shot on an iPhone 5S. It’s a bit of a stunt but it does demonstrate that smartphone cameras are now up there with full-size ones in terms of quality - with implications for self-made video. In 2015, the roll-out of 4G mobile telecommunications networks has gathered pace. This does increase data rates considerably, needed for video and many rural areas now have a faster rate by 4G mobile than on 'broadband'.

I would also mention the fact that the dashcam has become widespread, even on bicycles. Effectively this means no more disputing events after an accident - good for good honest drivers (as we all are, are we not?).

What major developments do you expect in 2016?
I think that we will see smartphone screen resolution exceed most home TVs.That is 4K. This means that smartphones need as much bandwidth to do video as your TV does, which will be challenging.

On a small scale, I believe that in 2016 we will see self-driving vehicles carry their first paying passengers. It will start really small but will grow fast, which is why Uber and Apple are interested.

I expect to see health-monitoring wearable devices to contact doctors and call ambulances for the first time. This could happen now but has not yet - but a wearable might have a clearer idea of your problems than you do in many emergency situations. It will be a more smart 999.

In 2016, I predict that electronic tickets overtake paper ones. It must already be close - I have already boarded four flights and been to the cinema twice with only my Apple Watch! Maybe the beginning of the end for easily-lost HOLSCOPs (horrid little scraps of paper).


Naomi Climer – IET President

What were the most significant developments in engineering and technology in 2015 in your opinion?

 My overall theme for tech developments that will change our lives is the Internet of Things - for this year and the next few years. For this year - I’d vote for Apple Pay as something quite significant in terms of a new way to pay - beyond contactless payment. It’s quite an achievement in terms of integration of payment systems with the phone’s hardware and software, the fingerprint security and the ease of use compared to dealing with cards. For 2016, I still think the overarching theme is Internet of Things, but I’d go with wearables as the one to watch. I think we’ll start to see much more than just the wellbeing apps that are beginning to be in the mainstream. More business-related applications will start to emerge for business system integrations for smart watches and glasses. I’d also like to hope that other Internet of Things applications like smart metering could come into maturity in 2016, but I’m not sure that it’s quite ready for prime time yet!


William Webb - IET President 2014/15

What were the most significant developments in engineering and technology in 2015 in your opinion?

 My revelation of 2015 was when I realised that my smart home heating system had automatically added new modes I could use to programme it via a software update. In the past, the home heating controller was installed and its functionality fixed for its lifetime. Suddenly, I had a device that actually got better over its lifetime. We have now entered an era when some consumer products actually evolve and improve while we own them. This is a profound change that will affect our relationships with many of the things we own. It will take a while to get used to and will change how we choose products and interact with manufacturers. My other observation is that our ‘remote control on life’ has now come of age. Services like Google Now or Siri running on a smartphone are spookily good at predicting what you might want to do, providing information on traffic problems by predicting where you might go next and working out what football team you support and providing you with news and results. Their rate of improvement is now very fast as they have a large population of data to call upon. It won’t be long before they choose and order birthday presents automatically for you from Amazon.

What major developments do you expect in 2016?

Well, of course, more of the above, and more evolution. But I predict it will be the year where parcel delivery via drones starts to take off. It seemed like a joke a couple of years ago but we’ve become used to widespread use of drones and Amazon is pursuing with vigour. Parcel delivery is one of the problems of our age caused by a massive move to on-line shopping and ways to make it work better will be top of the list of many entrepreneurs.

In my hobby area – cycling – I predict 2016 will be the year when electronic gear changing becomes mainstream. Already widely used by the pros, prices are falling and although it seems a ridiculous indulgence, all who have used it are smitten. Just as moving the gear changers from the down-tube to integrate them into brake levers seemed unnecessary – until you tried it – so it is with electronics. And of course, that opens the door for software updates to the bike …


Margaret Wood - IET Manufacturing Policy Panel

What were the most significant developments in engineering and technology in 2015 in your opinion?

 Technology is now pushing the frontier of science. Space travel is now not just a dream but a reality and with it comes a better understanding of the Universe in which we live and the added benefit of knowledge of mankind’s place within the Cosmos. During the last year we have seen the first British-backed astronaut travelling to space. Commercial space flight will be back high on the agenda as we reach out for the future. Our engineers and scientist will help fulfill a dream and make the reality a possibility as they have done in the past. The innovation created already enhances the lives of so many in a commercial world.


Mike Short - Communications Policy Panel

What were the most significant developments in engineering and technology in 2015 in your opinion?

 2015 has been an amazing year. At the beginning we marked 30 years of UK cellular mobile competition and a huge legacy of innovation. This now connects so much more of the world than the original pioneers considered in the mid-1980s when the service was first launched in the UK. This has led to designing better access to the Internet and the Internet of Things, as ever more people and objects are now being connected. Smart homes and smart cities are both within reach. The driverless cars trials were also announced in January, illustrating growing transport automation and linked to the prospect of driverless cars and vans on our roads by 2020 - a sign of growing connectivity and data driving new business models. Clearly multidisciplinary engineering is needed and a strong view on cyber-security for cars and other objects. The ongoing investment in cellular networks continues at pace where we now see more 4G subscribers in the UK compared to other European countries (according to recent OFCOM figures), and close to eight billion subscriptions globally. Wi-Fi penetration continues to grow and Transport for London reached 250 public Wi-Fi hotspots by November, now carrying on average 20 TB per day, up from 3TB at the beginning of the year. Indoor coverage of wireless systems continues to grow with ever more powerful smartphones now in use. But the UK is not standing still - the new 5G innovation centre opened at Surrey University in September with significant industrial and operator backing – this should herald trials early in 2016 on site in Guildford, as well as key inputs for 5G international standardisation.


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