2015: The Year of Connected Living

Nowadays there are so many things vying for our attention. What if they could all just be a little less needy and a little more, well, smart? Smart medicine bottles that would take care of the tiresome repeat prescription requests or smart traffic signals that would make the commute into work a breeze? Well, it’s not really all that far from home, with 2015 being penned the year of “connected living”.

Just a few weeks ago, Amazon announced a new product available to buy in the US called Echo. The product video, essentially a rather cutesy look into the all American home, serves up a honeyed view of how one robot can go from jotting down the shopping lists, to “becoming part of the family”, and all with the handy trigger wake word of “Alexa” to activate voice commands. With regular updates direct from the cloud, Echo has the potential to be a kick start to the new “connected” era. And it’s not just Amazon getting involved with this idea of ubiquitous connectivity.

Google recently put its pennies behind a $3.2bn deal with Tony Fadell’s learning thermostat Nest, only supporting Larry Page and co’s continual efforts towards online advertising through hardware and connected devices. Google is now changing the way we interact with our homes. (Isn’t that right, Alexa?)

At last month’s Web Summit in Dublin, Fadell spoke about his recent partnership with Electric Ireland, announcing that free Nest thermostats will now be offered to Electric Ireland customers with a two-year contract, further boasting this connected home vision. Because above all, this type of connectivity bodes well for Google who are able to collect this data as we interact with them in our homes.

There’s a shed load of observations to be made around customer user behaviours that the manufacturers can then tap into and use to update and improve the product – in Nest’s case, a new scheduler which has been born out of a bunch of statistics from existing users' heating patterns.

And it doesn’t just stop with Alexa and her quick-smart know-how. Michael Burkett, an analyst at technology researchers Gartner, has spoken out on the phenomena saying that “an imminent explosion in the number of intelligent devices available is set to make supply chains smarter than ever”. The internet of things, he reckons, is forecast to reach 26bn installed units by 2020, up from 900m five years ago.

So as you start pulling together your Amazon Wish Lists this Christmas, be wary what you wish for. Alexa’s getting a pretty good idea of what you’d like for years to come, and she’ll probably make sure you get past that late night traffic on the way home, to boot.

Do you think 2015 could be the year of ubiquitous connectivity across the board? What “smart” objects would you like to see the big software giants investing in? I’d love to hear your wise ideas in the comments below.

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