This week’s headline story: Top Tech News Stories of 2015
Happy 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.
- World’s Most Valuable Brands
- Now Google Knows Its ABCs [Ecommerce Times]
- Apple’s market value is currently $605 billion while Google is worth $527 billion.
- Samsung Grudgingly Agrees to Write Apple a $548M Check [Ecommerce Times]
- Apple Beats Samsung To Become No. 1 Smartphone Maker [NewsFactor]
- The biggest tech deal ever: Dell buys EMC for $67 billion [CNN Money]
- The Apple Watch Arrives in Stores (Just Not Its Own) [NYTimes]
- Microsoft’s Windows 10 Device Event: What Was Announced? [NewsFactor]
- Microsoft Launches Security-Minded Windows 10 [Newsfactor]
- New Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus Break Sales Records in First Weekend [NewsFactor]
- Microsoft Rolls Out Office 2016: It’s All about the Teamwork [NewsFactor]
- Microsoft Drops Office for Android Smartphones [Newsfactor]
- A quick hands-on with Office 2016 for Mac [ars technica]
- New Features Coming Tomorrow with Apple’s New Mobile OS — iOS 9
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.
- Prominent Scientists Sign Letter of Warning About AI Risks [io9]
- Recent alarms over artificial intelligence research raise eyebrows at AI conference[Computerworld]
- Google’s Eric Schmidt downplays fears over artificial intelligence [The Washington Post]
- Humans Take Note: Artificial Intelligence Just Got a Lot Smarter [NewsFactor]
- AI PROGRAM BEATS HUMANS ON COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE TEST [Nextgoc]
- Google Seeks to Influence AI Research by Giving Software Away [Bloomberg]
- Toyota To Invest $1 Billion in Artificial Intelligence Research [NewsFactor]
- Google Unveils RankBrain, New AI for Powering Searches [NewsFactor]
- Why IBM Just Bought Billions of Medical Images for Watson to Look At [MIT ]
- Computers Are Getting a Dose of Common Sense [MIT Technology Review]
- Microsoft, Google Beat Humans at Image Recognition [Eetimes]
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.
- Google Said To Make Driverless Car Project an Alphabet Company [NewsFactor]
- Feds Revising Wary Stance on Self-Driving Cars [NewsFactor]
- Cops pull over Google driverless car — but not for speeding [Computerworld]
- Startup Aims to Beat Google to Market with Self-Driving Golf Cart [Technology Review]
- Chinese Carmaker Is Testing Car-to-Car Communications [Technology Review]
- Google Self-Driving Car Involved in First Injury Accident [NewsFactor]
- Should a Driverless Car Decide Who Lives or Dies? [Bloomberg]
- Google’s self-driving cars will hit the road this summer
- Driverless cars are coming sooner than you think [Washington Post]
- Self-Driving Cars Could Drive Billions in Internet Revenue [NewsFactor]
- Apple is working on creating a car: WSJ [Reuters]
- Google Sees Driverless Cars in Two to Five Years [NewsFactor]
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.
- Amazon Lays Out Its Vision for a Sky Thronging with Delivery Drones [MIT TechReview]
- Skies May Soon Be Friendlier to Amazon Drones [Ecommerce Times]
- Man shoots downs neighbor’s hexacopter in rural drone shotgun battle [Ars Technica]
- Facebook’s Internet Drone Team Is Collaborating with Google’s Stratospheric Balloons Project [MIT Tech Review]
- Drone Registration Rules Are Announced by F.A.A. [NYTimes]
- Drones will deliver mail in Switzerland this summer [Engadget]
- U.S. regulators give Amazon go-ahead for drone tests [Reuters]
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.
- Virtual reality dominates floor at E3 gaming show [Reuters]
- Oculus unwraps Rift VR headset, plans to ship by March [Computerworld]
- Samsung Plans Virtual Reality Push with Gear VR [NewsFactor]
- Sony Plans To Launch Virtual-Reality Headset in 2016 [NewsFactor]
- Samsung’s Gear VR headset arrives at Best Buy (but not at retail) [Engadget]
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.
- Gartner Says Mobile Payments Set for Massive Takeoff by 2018 [NewsFactor]
- Google Wallet Lets You Send Money by Text [NewsFactor]
- Google Rebuilds Wallet for iPhone, iPad [NewsFactor]
- Samsung Pay Transactions Top $30 Million Ahead of U.S. Launch [NewsFactor]
- Android Pay: Mobile Payment Systems, Unite [Ecommerce Times]
- Can Samsung Pay One-Up Apple Pay and the Rest? [NewsFactor]
- Banks respond to fraud with improved verification for Apple Pay [Engadget]
- Google Pads Its Wallet [Ecommerce Times]
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.
- IDC Predicts First Smartphone Industry Downturn [NewsFactor]
- Global Smartphone Subscriptions To Double by 2020 [NewFactor]
- Tablet Sales Fall for Fourth Consecutive Quarter [NewsFactor]
- T-Mobile Passes Sprint, Becomes No. 3 Carrier [NewsFactor]
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.
- Google Eyes Chicago, LA for High-Speed Fiber [NewsFactor]
- Chattanooga Rolls Out 10-Gigabit Internet Service [NewsFactor]
- Three More U.S. Cities Might Soon Get Google Fiber [NewsFactor]
- Google Fiber Heads to San Antonio [NewsFactor]
- Google to Announce Fiber Expansion In Four Metro Areas [Wall Street Journal]
- Comcast Unleashes 2 Gbps Internet Speeds in Atlanta [NewsFactor]
- AT&T gets DirecTV merger approval, must deploy fiber to 12.5M customers [ars technica]
INTERNET OF THINGS
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.
- New Tiny Wireless Temperature Sensor Could Power IoT [NewsFactor]
- IBM To Invest $3 Billion in Internet of Things Unit [NewsFactor]
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).
- Cloud Traffic Set To Quadruple in Five Years, Cisco Says [NewsFactor]
- ICANN Floats Plan To End U.S. Oversight of Internet [NewsFactor]
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.
- FCC Claims Dire Net Neutrality Predictions Are Unfounded [Newsfactor]
- F.C.C. Sets Net Neutrality Rules [NYTimes]
- FCC Comes Through on Net Neutrality [Ecommerce Times]
- Paris Attacks Heat Up U.S. Debate over Smartphone Data Encryption [NewsFactor]
- Apple Tells Court No Way To Unlock New iPhones To Get Customer Data[NewsFactor]
- ISIS Calls Anonymous ‘Idiots’ in Response to Hacker Group’s Declaration of ‘Total War’ [Newsweek]
- Hacktivist’ group Anonymous says it will avenge Charlie Hebdo attacks by shutting down jihadist websites [The Telegraph]
- How Ads Follow You from Phone to Desktop to Tablet [Technology Review]
- Apple Chief Slams Tech Rivals on Privacy, Encryption [NewsFactor]
- Google Boosts User Privacy, Security Controls [NewsFactor]
- U.S. Surveillance Powers Lapse as Congress Scrambles [NewsFactor]
- Questions and answers: USA Freedom Act and its impact on surveillance activities in America
- FBI Behind Mysterious Surveillance Aircraft Over U.S. Cities [NewsFactor]
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.
- Zuckerberg and Chan Pledge Billions to Charity in Love Letter to Baby [Ecommerce Times]
- Major Tech Firms Join White House in Climate Change Pledge [Ecommerce Times]
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.
- Hackers stole 21.5 million Social Security Numbers in government breach [Engadget]
- Experian Hack Exposes Info on 15 Million T-Mobile Customers [NewsFactor]
- Massive Cyberattack Hits 10 Million Excellus Healthcare Customers [NewsFactor]
- VTech Data Breach Affects 5 Million User Accounts [NewsFactor]
- UCLA Health System Says Patient Data Breach Hit Up to 4.5 Million [Newsfactor]
- Big U.S. data breaches 4 million current and former federal employees [Reuters]
- Dating Site Ashley Madison Hacked, Could Expose 37M Cheaters [NewsFactor]
- Simultaneous downing of NY Stock Exchange, United, and WSJ.com rattles nerves[ars technica]
- Attack floods Internet root servers with 5 million queries a second [ARS Technica]
- Lookout Finds Android Malware That’s Almost Impossible To Remove [NewsFactor]
- Apple Removes Hundreds of App Store Apps for Stealing User Data [NewsFactor]
- Cybersecurity Researchers Link Hackers to Chinese Military [NewsFactor]
- Chinese Hackers Reportedly Hit United Airlines [NewsFactor]
- Kaspersky Exposes Russian Hackers Stealing Data via Satellite [NewsFactor]
- Russians Reportedly Hacked White House Computers Last Year [NewsFactor]
- South Korea: N. Korea has 6,000-Member Cyber Army [NewsFactor]
- U.S. targets overseas cyber attackers with sanctions program [Reuters
- Google’s Stagefright Patch Fails, 950M Android Devices Still at Risk[NewsFactor]
- Massive New Android Flaw Puts Hundreds of Millions of Devices at Risk[NewsFactor]
- OS X Zero-Day Exploit Leaves Mac Users Vulnerable to Hackers [NewsFactor]
- Jeep Software Flaw Gives Hackers Total Control [NewsFactor]
- More Internet Backbone Cables Cut in California [NewsFactor]
- Massive Security Flaw Puts 600 Million Samsung Smartphones at Risk [NewsFactor]
- Report: Millions stolen from banks through sophisticated malware [Arstechnica]
- Obama To Create New Agency To Examine Cyberthreats [NewsFactor]
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.