Consumer technology trends for 2015 by Dr. Kevin Curran, senior member of the IEEE, a senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland and group leader for the Ambient Intelligence Research Group at the university

‘The internet of things (IoT) also known as the web of things (WoT) is a concept where everyday devices - home appliances, sensors, monitoring devices - can be accessed through the internet using well known technologies such as URLs and HTTP requests'

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) recently carried out a YouGov survey which revealed that a lot of technology thought popular with consumers in the UK is actually considered by many as unnecessary or redundant.

Surprisingly, these include digital music devices such as MP3 players, digital cameras and wearables. But what technology will take consumers by storm in 2015? This year, it looks like drones, social videos, mobile payments, smart phones, the internet of things, 3D printing and virtual currencies will be huge trends among British consumers.


Drones used to be scary, specialist equipment reserved for the military but now they are everywhere. Companies have worked out how to make these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) cheap and reasonably easy to fly, enticing a whole new wave of amateur pilots. The rise in drone ownership has left many governments scrambling to work out how, if at all, these lightweight aircraft should be regulated. We could see many incidents including collisions with aircrafts and accidents where people may be injured or killed. However, the positives cannot be overlooked. Everything from aerial photography to airborne drone ambulances being first on the scene with cameras, defibrillators and medicine will become a regular occurrence.

Social and mobile

Hollywood struggles to maintain a youth presence. Young people nowadays live on YouTube and Vine. In fact, more kids can name online celebrities than they can traditional movie and pop stars. We will, as a result, see more content aimed at the new social networks.

Apple's introduction of Apple Pay will usher in a new confidence for previously reluctant consumers to use their phones for payments. No one can dispute that mobile payments are already gaining traction. Almost 20% of Starbucks customers are paying with their phones now and over 60% of customers are using phones to pay because of loyalty benefits they receive. This will be the year mobile payments become mainstream.

We have reached a pivotal moment in global society where financial transactions can take place without being traceable. We are starting to see virtual currencies becoming more popular. The one most likely to dominate is Bitcoin, which is a decentralised, peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. It was designed specifically to provide transactional anonymity.

The reason for its popularity is due in no small way to the ingenuity of its underlying framework. What is really clever is that there is no way to associate an address with any other address in the Bitcoin network so people can remain anonymous. The separation of virtual currency accounts from real-world identities, along with the ability of an individual to create an arbitrary number of accounts, enables the development of novel, complex layering transaction patterns and any Bitcoin user can create any number of addresses that they wish.

The rise and rise of smartphones will continue. The tablet market will actually take a hit as a result of larger screens on mobiles. People tend to be happier using their larger phone than requiring a tablet as a second device.


Despite British consumers feeling that wearables will be redundant, they will become more pervasive in 2015. The wearable technology market is a growth area for mobile technology as smartphones reach a 70% saturation point in developed markets including the US and UK.

The latest wearable trend is single function devices such as activity-specific clothing, such as Hexoskin which monitor workouts or indeed wearable medical devices such as Vital Connect, which is a patch that tracks your vital signs and allows doctors to access the data.

Another example of a single function wearable are earbuds that simply block out much of the background noise in daily life, essentially 24/7 noise cancellation. In 2015, we can expect to see watches, fitness and health bands being the leaders. There will also be a market for wearables monitoring the health and fitness of our pets. We expect greater emphasis on aesthetics and more social interaction between remotely paired devices.

IoT and 3D printing

The internet of things (IoT) also known as the web of things (WoT) is a concept where everyday devices - home appliances, sensors, monitoring devices - can be accessed through the internet using well known technologies such as URLs and HTTP requests.

The IoT will offer the ability for consumers to interact with nearly every appliance and device they own. We will be collecting data from items such as subcutaneous miniature implants, shirt buttons, wedding rings, contact lenses, ocean current speed sensors and bridge sensors. There will be more examples of smart sensors deployed in homes, offices and public spaces. We will start to see more value as they share data and help us make more informed decisions as plugged-in communities. This goes hand-in-hand with smart machines; more and more consumer electronics will become even more sophisticated.

3D printing is making inroads into practically all areas of modern life. For example, we are seeing 3D body scanners in shops which help assess the fit of clothes without the need for removing your garments. 3D printing also allows complete customisation of sports equipment like golf clubs, shoes, mouth guards and shin guards.

The aerospace and automotive industry are just some industrial sectors which are making use of 3D printers to bypass more expensive traditional machine milling processes for parts. And in healthcare, there is the 3D printed ultrasound cast "Osteoid" which emits a low intensity pulsed ultrasound to help bones heal quicker. Not Impossible Labs uses 3D printers on-site to produce low-cost prosthetic limbs for African war victims and there is early stage research into 3D printed organs.

In fact, open hardware and democratised production methods like 3D printing can be seen as ushering in a third industrial age. However, practical issues dictate that localised ‘3D printing hubs' are more likely than the 3D printer in every home.

Traditional printers are on their way out due to the proliferation of mobile devices, a move towards sharing content digitally and the diversity of physical elements comprising many real world objects, meaning it simply makes more sense for bespoke 3D design printing to be handled by specialists.

In 2015, consumers will turn to even more advanced technology trends, connecting them to the world and people around them.