Consumer interest in drones and quadcopters really took off (if you’ll excuse the pun) throughout 2015. By the end of the year, two million units may have been sold worldwide.
Earlier versions were difficult to control, particularly in wind. Flight management software has improved considerably, with drones increasingly capable of autonomous flight. Next year is likely to see geo-fencing become mandatory in many jurisdictions, so drones will self-police themselves away from sensitive or controlled areas, such as airfields.
The past year has also been about autonomy on the ground. The big vehicle manufacturers are known to be working on self-driving systems. Self-parking, collision-warning and lane-keeping systems are becoming available as active assistance to drivers from many of the major car brands. Daimler is testing a fully self-driving truck on public roads, allowing lorry drivers to complete hands-free operations while driving on motorways.
Many wonder if the public will accept self-driving cars, as so many of us seem to be furtive petrol-heads at heart. Ultimately, regulation may mandate that autonomous cars are better for society than human-driven ones. The roads should be safer, traffic more predictable and per-trip energy consumption reduced.
2015 was also the year in which computers were not only watching us from the air, but also monitoring how we are. The Fitbit IPO last June marked the arrival of wearable computing in the mass market.
Wearable devices nudge us towards fitness and health, encouraging daily exercise and reminding us of our heart rate and blood pressure. Many devices have become statements: they fashionably assert that the wearer cares about fitness and health.
Another wrist-worn fashion statement arrived last year: the smartwatch. Watches are personal ornaments, and most tell the time pretty well. So why then would anyone want an Apple Watch?
Well, you could dig out your iPhone from layers of clothing or the depths of your bag and then, finally and regally, wave it at a contactless reader to pay for your skinny cinnamon dolce latte; but that is so 2014.
Now you can just raise your wrist to the reader instead. You can even present your wrist at a boarding gate, with your QR-coded boarding pass visible on your watch.
Cynics may respond that the best use of an Apple Watch is to find out where you abandoned your iPhone.