2016 will likely be remembered for all the wrong reasons, and when you consider that the biggest emerging trends in the technical arena have been Pokemon Go and the spread of fake news, you get some perspective on how bad things have been.
The one prediction for the outgoing year that did come to pass was the migration of streaming video channels into the consumer mainstream, fuelled by successes like Jeremy Clarkson’s Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, and Peter Morgan’s drama about our post-war monarchy, The Crown, on Netflix.
The production values of both these series easily outstrip anything the BBC could have afforded and undermines, more than somewhat, the corporation’s argument for the retention of the TV licence fee. But while a wholesale refinancing of the BBC is not on anyone’s roadmap for 2017, a few other trends are already starting to emerge...
Death of the smartwatch: They were supposed to be the next big thing, and Apple’s entry into the “wearables” market in 2015 seemed to lend an air of permanence to the whole enterprise. But it was always obvious that smartwatches were less useful than the phones - and as a result, neither the Apple Watch nor Google’s Android Wear sold in sufficient numbers. The disappearance of the pioneer Pebble Watch brand following the company’s sale to a maker of fitness tracking bands, was the final nail in the coffin.
Doubling down on security: Two months ago, hackers managed to take down some of the world’s most popular websites for nearly 24 hours. But they didn’t need to penetrate the sites themselves - they simply hijacked unprotected security cameras, video recorders and other devices connected to what has become known as the Internet of Things - thereby throttling the bandwidth available to everything else
You have probably lost count of the gadgets in your own house and garage that connect to the net, and it’s a fair bet that none of them, unless they are conventional PCs, have any sort of security software installed. That will start to change in 2017, but you can strike it off your own to-do list - it will be down to manufacturers, not consumers, to implement.
Talking into our phones: A decade ago, you couldn’t get on a train without hearing someone shout, “I’m going into a tunnel” into his mobile at the top of his voice - but texts and social media have supplanted traditional voice calls for many of us, and turned using a mobile phone into a more solitary experience. That will change as Google, Apple and Amazon all escalate their “personal assistant” services - which will mean that very soon it will be the norm to shout, rather than type search terms into our handsets.
Connected living: Amazon’s Echo range of “smart switches” for the home has gained enormous traction during the last few months, thanks to vastly reduced prices. These let you control your hi-fi, TV, lights, and other connected devices by - again - shouting at them from your sofa. But they will face competition in 2017 from Apple Home and Google Home, each with a range of compatible products. The best will control your central heating, too.
And finally… President Trump: Neither Old Moore nor I can accurately interrogate our almanacs for the likely outcome of this development… but whatever happens, it’s a safe bet that we will hear about it first on a fake news site or on Twitter. Happy new year.