#442 January 03, 2016 – Top Tech Stories of 2015

This week’s headline story: Top Tech News Stories of 2015

newyearHappy New Year everyone, and welcome to the Top Tech News Stories of 2015! Each week I comb through several news sources to find and report on tech news stories that are getting the most attention and have the most impact on our lives. In the over 400 stories I reported on in 2015, these are topics that got the most attention and serve as indicators of what’s coming in 2016.

Tech Industry News

Apple has retained its position as the world’s most valuable brand, ending the year with a market value of $605 billion.

Google experienced a restructuring in which it is now a wholly owned subsidiary of a new umbrella company named “Alphabet.” That restructuring has Alphabet nipping at the heels of Apple with a market value of $527 billion.

After years in court, Samsung is writing Apple a check for $584 million for stealing technology behind certain key iPhone features for its own competing devices. Apple is now the most popular smartphone manufacturer in the world, beating out Samsung.

In 2015 Dell baught EMC for $548 Million, making it the largest tech aquisition in history.

New products in 2015 include Apple’s watch, Windows 10, and Office 2016.


Artificial Intelligence was a hot topic in 2015,

Early in the year a group of prominent scientists signed a letter warning of the dangers of computers getting too smart. Tech companies responded with reassuring comments on why there is no current threat of an AI take-over of the world.

Several AI milestones were accomplished over the course of the year including one computer passing college enterance exams. See the show notes for several other examples.

AI has become a competitive driver for tech company investment as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Toyota and others investing billions in AI research. With that kind of focused investment, we are sure to see some interesting developments in AI in 2016 and beyond.

Two technologies were continuously in the headlines in 2015: self-driving cars and drones.


Google, Apple and most major auto manufacturers are all working on driverless cars. Google has 53 driverless cars on the streets of Mountain View, CA and Austin, Texas creeping along at 25 MPH – the legal limit for the vehicles. 2015 saw the first driverless car accident, and the first driverless car pulled over by a police officer. Apparently the slow speed that these vehicles travel at is causing some problems on the road.

2016 promisses a lot more driverless cars putt-putting on the road. In California alone, 11 separate companies have received permission to conduct driverless car testing on public streets. Several companies plan on releasing smaller driverless carts on campuses and retirement communities to shuttle people around.


2015 ended with hundreds of thousands of remote-controlled recreational drone’s given as holiday presents. Panicked by the hazards all of those aircrafts might pose, the FAA imposed new rules requiring the owners to register their drone with a $5 registration fee. Drone owners are up in arms, while others are grateful for some degree of safety and privacy the new rules provide. Several methods for taking out unwanted drones were offered over 2015 including nets and special shotgun shells. One California man was taken to court for shooting down a drone hovering over his property. He ultimatly lost the case.

Commercial drones are gaining some traction. U.S. Regulators have given Amazon the go ahead to start testing out its drone delivery system. Facebook and Google are working to get permission to lauch their unmanned aircraft to provide Internet service in unserved areas of the world. Drones are sure to garner major media attention in 2016.


Virtual reality received a lot of attention at trade shows in 2015 with several new VR headsets becoming available to U.S. consumers. The new headsets haven’t yet become popular home appliaces, but the entertainment industry plans to do its best to make it happen in 2016. We’ll soon see if VR is the next big trend in entertainment, or if it goes the way of 3D TV.


Mobile payment systems received a lot of attention in 2015 with all the major players, Google, Apple, Samsung, and others providing viable payment systems for mobile phones. Retailers have also increased their ability to process mobile payments. Industry analyst, Gartner promisses a “massive takeoff” for mobile payments over the next two years.


Mobile phone sales have flattened for the first time in the US due to new plans provided by the carriers that no longer require a two year contract. Cell phone users are finding that they can manage just fine with their current handset for longer than two years. Verizon and AT&T remain the top two carriers, with T-Mobile passing Sprint to become #3 in 2015.


More homes in the U.S. are enjoying ultra high-speed Internet access over fiber optic networks, thanks to Goole Fiber, and the competition it has sparked from the other Internet service providers. Google Fiber is now in nine cities, with plans to go to Chicago and/or LA next. Comcast outpaced Google Fiber’s 1 Gbps speed in Atlanta providing 2 Gbps to its subscribers there. Chattannooga Tennessee is providing its citizens with 10 Gigabit Interent Service. The FCC is doing what it can to speed the growth of fiber networks. It required AT&T to provide fiber to 12.5M customers as a condition of its merger with Direct TV. With this kind of competition in the market, it won’t be long before the majority of Americans have the opportunity to pay more for sizzling Internet speeds.


In other Internet news, the Internet of Things, where all kinds of eletronic devices obtain the ability to communicate with each other, continues on the slow path to adoption. IBM, Google, Cisco and other networking companies are investing billions in the technology, but it’ll take a while to deploy. The Internet of Things is likely to be a technology that builds quietly over years until one day we look around and notice it’s fully deployed.


Meanwhile cloud computing has done just that. It seems like just a year or two ago that everyone was up in arms about the dangers of trusting your data to the cloud,. Now just about everyone does it. Cisco forecasts that global cloud traffic will more than quadruple by the end of 2019, from 2.1 to 8.6 zettabytes (ZB).


Technology-related privacy concerns were often in the headlines over the course of 2015. Early in the year, the FCC enacted new Net Neutrality rules designed to keep Internet service providers from interfering with the flow of data over the network.

Since the revelations of government spying provided by Edward Snowden’s leaked documents, cell phone manufacturers have implemented strong encryption on mobile devices. When Apple was asked by the courts to reveal data on one suspect’s phone, it told the court that it could not. Only the user can access that data.

The terrorist attacks in Paris heated up the debate over encryption when government agencies claimed that the attacks could have been avaoided if they had access to phone communications. Meanwhile, hacktivist group Anonymous has taken an active role in battling ISIS and other terrorist groups online by attacking their websites.


In 2015 Tech companies got much more involved in global social issues. Thirteen major companies including Google and Microsoft signed the American Business Act on Climate Change. The initiative could generate $140 billion or more in new low-carbon investments. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan plan to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares — worth about US$45 billion currently — to philanthropic causes.


Of all the technology topics, information security was the one that got the most attention in 2015. Amoung the largest data breaches were 21.5 million social security numbers stolen from the federal database, 15 million T-Mobile customer records stolen from Experian, 10 million customer records from Excellus, 5 million customer accounts at VTech, 4.5 million patient records stolen from UCLA Health System, 4 million emloyee records stolen from the federal governmentr, and 37 million member accounts revealed from cheating and dating website Ashley Madison.

Simultanious outages at the NY Stock Exchange, United Airlines, and the Wall Street Journal left analysts wondering if they were not the result of a coordinated attack. The core Internet root servers were attacked for the first time with 45 million queries per second from a variety of locations.

In 2015 malware attacks focussed more on cell phones than ever before with Androidusers suffering the most attacks, but iPhones also becoming a larger target. Chrysler, had to recall 1.4 million vehicles in order fix a software hole that allowed hackers to wirelessly break into some vehicles and electronically control vital functions. And of course, everyone heard about VW hacking it’s own software to make it appear as though their vehicles were getting better gas miliage with emitting lower emissions.

Government-sponsored attacks were common in 2015, with China, Russia, and North Korea taking the blame for attacking U.S. businesses and government networks. The White House set up a new agency designed to coordinate cyberthreat intelligence that previously was spread across the federal government.

Those were the top stories of 2015. In 2016 we are sure to see a lot more news about Artificial Intelligence, self-driving cars and drones. More of us will be paying at checkout with our phones, and enjoying Gigabit Internet speeds at home. As technology becomes in increasing presence in our lives, lets all try to do our best to keep our information safe, secure and private, and use those technologies to improve the human condiction.

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