The Year that was: Hardware 2014

Ed Bowkett

February 11th, 2015

Hardware went under some pretty big changes in 2014, this blog will focus on what I believe were the most significant. Bear in mind, like my previous blogs, this is purely opinion; feel free to counter this with anything you found equally as important.

1)    Internet of Things continues to be a thing

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I have a wristband that tracks the amount of exercise I do (not enough apparently) and that it records the type of sleep patterns I have. I like the idea that if I get a certain type of coffee machine I can receive notifications telling me my coffee machine is going to brew me a fresh cup at exactly 13:37. That’s all cool. However, I felt in 2014, the Internet of Things was just for ‘really neat’ things. It felt gimmicky. Whilst I am aware of the IoT beginning to have effects in the health system, 2014 was not the breakout year for this. Besides, when this does happen, is the phrase Internet of Things appropriate? Even the phrase sounds gimmicky. In my view, when IoT does mature to the point where it affects every element of society, then it becomes less about the internet of ‘things’ and more about the internet of ‘everything’. With Gartner reporting the Internet of things to be at the peak of inflated expectations, we have some way to go before the IoT emerges to the desirable stage yet.

2)    Wearables

Wearables became such a thing last year. That sounds like a moan. Partly it is. I have, as mentioned above, a wristband, a Fitbit, that tells me how much exercise I’ve done, how much sleep I’ve had, and I love it.  Wearables when it was first announced were a great way of selling technology in the form of bettering your health. For a time most of the wearables coming out, I lapped up accordingly. Yet the more the year progressed, the more it became impossible to filter which wearables were actually useful and which actually benefitted your health. This isn’t an argument against competition in the market, competition is healthy, it’s more an observation that as a consumer, what is beneficial and will help you achieve your long term goals with these wearables has become a lot more cloudy and difficult to ascertain. Yet wearables appear here to stay and when I have self-tying shoes then I guess we’ve become fully assimilated with technology.

3)    Drones

Consumer drones exploded onto the scene in 2014. No longer had an area exclusively held by the NSA, hobbyists are increasing flying drones, Quadcopters. These drones and Quadcopters are increasingly becoming easier to obtain, cheaper to buy. As a result issues have risen both over airspace concerns and privacy concerns. Bearing in mind these drones can be adapted to have cameras and video recorders. Whilst I am all in favor of hobbyists creating things, after all inventions come about this way, there needs to be a limit where these drones can be used.

4)    3D Printing

Another area of the hardware market that received much attention but ultimately the majority of us are waiting on a more affordable price and really to figure out why we as consumers would want a 3D printer. This is might be a slightly biased viewpoint admittedly to really write about, given the only 3D printing I have experienced is at conferences where the cost of one was astronomical. Yet, I’ve not seen evidence of a 3D printing being really useful to the masses. As Gartner points out it’s just coming down from the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ so it has some way to go before it gets to the stage where the mass market adopts it. At present, it is too hobbyist and in a price band too far. That’s not to say what 3D printers can do isn’t awesome, it just feels too gimmicky for the price tag

5)     Apple Watch

No hardware blog looking at the highlights of 2014 would be complete without the announcement of the Apple Watch. Announced in September, this was Apple’s announcement onto the already congested wearable market. Priced at £300 this is certainly not a cheap wearable, but nonetheless we should expect the same quality as previous Apple products. Coming with a new SDK, Watchkit, which allows developers to design apps for the device. The major downside? You have to have an iPhone to be able to use an Apple Watch. We’ve worked out the calculations here and that basically puts you into a commitment of around £1140 for the privilege of remaining locked into an ecosystem (based off of a minimum of £35 a month contract for 24 months with an iPhone) and frankly, I cannot justify that cost, particularly when there are alternatives out there which are far better (for example, the pebble watch is priced at £99.99, the Motorola Moto 360 at £199.99) I’ll probably still get one though, just because the quality of Apple products is so high.

So there you have it. My top 5 choices on the year that was, 2014, for hardware. What are your choices? Do you agree?

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