10 Big Technology Trends Likely to Emerge in 2016

10 Big Technology Trends Likely to Emerge in 2016

Predicting the future is a dangerous game. It’s easy to speculate and easier still to hope, but what we have to do is carefully look at all the promising developments we’ve seen in the recent past and then evaluate how we think they’ll keep going, and what else they’ll lead to. Some companies are kind enough to provide roadmaps and projections, but surprises can pop up out of anywhere, anytime.

We’ve looked at the state of tech and of the world at large to bring you our list of ten things we think will be significant in the world of personal technology in 2016. From global-scale trends that will shape politics and policy to the individual features of our next smartphones, there’s a lot to think about.

1) The death of the traditional desktop OS
With Microsoft taking full control of Windows 10 updates and doing whatever it can to push users to its latest OS, the traditional notion of the OS is dead in 2016. From forced updates to a dependency on being completely online and licenses tied to specific hardware, we’re heading into a world of subscriptions and service fees that can’t be avoided.

Google already pushes ChromeOS as a gateway to its own services, which are barely usable offline. A steady stream of minor updates will mean there’s no concept of a version number anymore – and your rapidly depleting data cap will make you wish Internet connectivity was better.

(Also see: FUP (Fair Usage Policy) Is an UFP (UnFair Policy))

broadband_test_dec15_ndtv.jpg2) Broadband becomes our lifeblood
You’re only as good as your Internet connection. The music and gaming industries have been quick to adopt streaming as a revenue model, and that means more pressure on your bandwidth limit. This year saw a plethora of music streaming services and 2016 could see the launch of even more – there is also some serious speculation that both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will arrive in India. It doesn’t stop here.

Both Sony and Nvidia have made their intentions to stream video games to every device on the planet clear as well. Almost every game on PC, PS4, and Xbox One ships in an unfinished state on disc and requires massive updates before you even start playing. What this means is that you need to start upgrading your broadband connection before you upgrade your gadgets.

3) Hardware evolves and improves
Possibly the safest bet to make – 2016 is set to bring about some big changes on the hardware side of things – from televisions to smartphones to home Internet. Most televisions today use LED-backlit LCD panels, but LG brought OLED to the market in 2015 and more manufacturers, including Samsung, Haier and TCL, have announced plans to follow suit in 2016. OLED TVs use a thin, electrically charged organic film to emit light, and each pixel generates its own light. OLED TVs have many advantages, including lighter and thinner panels, deeper blacks, and wider viewing angles.

USB Type-C ports are also expected to become commonplace on smartphones and PCs, and will finally make it easier to plug your phone into its data cable or charger. On the connectivity front, 4G network capabilities will grow, and more operators will be available for to users in India to choose from, and 5G will begin trials in some parts of the world.

More phones will have high-resolution screens, and more flagship smartphones will have to step up to at least Quad-HD or 4K resolution. Finally, we hope to see e-SIM cards also make an appearance. This would mean that it would no longer be necessary to insert a different SIM card into your phone for different operators; all you’d have to do is select the network of your choosing.

4) Devices may take on fresh new shapes
Smartphones, tablets and computers in 2016 will adopt new form factors. Samsung is expected to finally bring its foldable screens to market, which will allow devices to be truly flexible. It may be possible to fold your huge smartphone and put it away in your pocket, or bend it just as much as you like. Curved screens are also expected to become more common. This will allow for more variety in the designs and form factors of our devices.

We can expect smartphones in 2016 to keep getting slimmer. Reports have already emerged that theiPhone 7 will be 1mm slimmer by ditching the 3.5mm socket, and Android manufacturers will surely follow suit. There is an increasing demand for slimmer phones, and manufacturers will do all they can to cater to it.

samsung_curved_screen_samsung.jpg5) Virtual reality and augmented reality will still be just around the corner
Virtual and augmented reality experiences are closer than ever, but as far as mainstream acceptance is concerned, they’re still going to be just beyond the reach of most of us. Ever since the Oculus Rift first burst onto the scene with its blockbuster Kickstarter fundraiser, we’ve tried out a number of different headsets, and the frontrunners today are essentially down to the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and thePlayStation VR.

These are all supposed to launch in 2016, though the requirements in terms of space, compatible hardware, and high pricing means that none of them are going to be accessible to most people. Augmented reality, in the form of Microsoft’s Hololens for example, is a different kind of experience – instead of immersing yourself in the virtual world, augmented reality is about bringing virtual elements into the real world. Google Glass is another example.

Hololens will be expensive, and like the leading VR solutions, it will not be relevant to the majority of people in 2016. Both VR and AR are very exciting technologies that are making huge strides forward, but there’s still going to be a little wait before they become truly mainstream.

xiaomi_manu_MIA2.jpg6) The ‘Make in India’ initiative will gain momentum
The Indian government’s initiative to make this country a global manufacturing hub is going to really explode on a big scale next year. The wheels are already in motion as over the past few months, smartphone makers including Xiaomi, Asus and Gionee have announced plans to assemble phones at Foxconn’s Sri City facility in Andhra Pradesh. Qualcomm too, recently put forward its program to encourage product and ecosystem creation for smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT) across sectors like banking, healthcare, agriculture, wearables and smart cities. The initiative has also been noticed by the likes of Twitter, which has recently launched a special emoji to symbolise it.

There’s a mega event being scheduled by the government of India in Mumbai from February 13 to 18 called ‘Make in India Week’, which will highlight the people, policies and partnerships which are paving the way forward for a digital India.

7) The Internet of Things (IoT) is only going to get bigger
The Internet of Things (IoT) concept has been just that, a concept, but 2016 could be the year it goes mainstream. Chances are, you won’t even notice it. Gartner estimates nearly 6.4 billion connected devices in use globally, which would be a 30 percent jump from this year. These might not be actual devices that you have on your person, but still gather information about your habits in order to give you personalised experiences. For instance, the next time you step out to buy a train ticket, the automated ticket teller could already know your daily travel route and dispense the appropriate ticket without you having to do anything.

Smart devices have already started percolating into the Indian market. Cube 26’s Smart Bulb andPhilips’ Hue are two such examples, and we expect many more to arrive next year. The policy framework for IoT is still being laid out and India is aiming for a six percent share in this $300 billion global industry. In addition, Amazon Web Services has launched a cloud platform for IoT which helps devices with limited memory or battery life communicate with each other. Global bigwigs including Google, Intel, Qualcomm, Cisco, Vodafone and Samsung, to name a few, are all heavily invested in IoT and believe this is where the future of personal technology is heading.

samsung_gear_vr_samsung.jpg8) Privacy and security become political weapons against Internet freedom
As incidents of terrorism and violence occur, security and early detection become the topics that politicians most love to harp on. Right at this moment, multiple agencies in countries around the world are trying to force manufacturers to add backdoors to their hardware and software, reduce the strength of commonly used encryption standards (or ban them outright), spy on all kinds of communications, and bump up surveillance using the best technology available.

As private citizens, our lives will be impacted heavily by whatever results from these efforts. We might begin to see a world in which devices track you all the time whether you like it or not. It’s already tough enough to buy a SIM card, but France is trying to ban the Tor network, Kazakhstan wants to force all users to allow remote access to their devices, several countries want to restrict Internet access, and the upcoming US presidential election is already full of rhetoric about the Internet and what Silicon Valley should do.

9) Devices gain cognitive capabilities
Cognitive computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and neural networks: all overlapping terms for the kind of advanced device behaviour we’re going to start seeing in 2016. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to expect our gadgets and accessories to learn about us and our environments in order to make specific, subjective decisions. Qualcomm will start shipping its flagship Snapdragon 820 processor, which it touts will be able to identify subjects in photographs along with lighting and composition in order to quickly adjust settings, amongst other things. There are even applications in security, such as malware pattern detection, and in natural user interfaces, such as speech and handwriting processing.

Over time, developers will be able to create all kinds of new experiences, and assistants like Siri will be able to interact naturally and deliver results to us depending on our schedules and preferences. This is not only going to be the next huge smartphone feature, it’s going to change all kinds of digital devices, starting in 2016.

internet_tree_pixabay.jpg10) The sharing economy’s troubles are far from over
By now, we’ve come to be familiar with Uber, Airbnb, and various other platforms that let us turn our skills, possessions and time into money. On the flipside, there are those which want to make our lives easier by outsourcing errands such as grocery shopping and food delivery. The two concepts work together, since there are people willing to pay for such conveniences, and people willing to earn by providing them. Sitting pretty in the middle, platforms take a cut and have very little to do other than manage supply and demand.

(Also see: Rocket Internet’s Rocky Flight in India)

The second half of this year has seen an explosion of such hyperlocal startups, focusing on specific tasks or pain points that they can help people overcome. We haven’t yet seen how well they will work and how long they will all last – but it stands to reason that 2016 will see a lot of consolidation as not all platforms which duplicate each-others’ functionality can hope to survive.

Customers who try these services and become used to them should be prepared to have them wind up in short order – especially if they’re providing unsustainable discounts. On the other hand, those which have built up their user bases will ease up on promotions and then you’ll have to decide whether they’re worth the expense.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Culture Shock: Samsung’s Mobile Woes Rooted in Hardware Legacy

Culture Shock: Samsung's Mobile Woes Rooted in Hardware Legacy

Efforts to revive its once stellar smartphone fortunes may be doomed if Samsung Electronics cannot overcome its dominant engineering culture, according to serving and former executives and those who have dealt with the company.

This culture, they say, has stymied many previous efforts to develop software and service platforms to support the smartphone business. In the past year several such services have closed down, at least one of them within a year of being launched.

“There’s a lot of distrust of top executives who can actually implement stuff that is more of a software and services offering,” said one person familiar with the company’s inner workings. “It’s still ‘we know how to sell boxes, we sell boxes’.”

Growth in handset sales is slowing as the smartphone market matures, and without its own distinctive software, content and services, Samsung has little to differentiate itself from other Android phone makers selling similar devices at lower prices.

Samsung points to the launch of its mobile payments service, Samsung Pay, and its home control “Internet of Things” platform, SmartThings, as among the signs it has learned from its past.

But this may not be enough.

Interviews with former and serving employees paint a picture of confusion and overlap between competing divisions, where the short-term interests of promoting hardware trump long-term efforts to build platforms that would add value for customers and increase their loyalty to the brand.

One said he only learned from someone outside the company that the hands-free app his team was updating for the upcoming Galaxy S4 launch had competition – from inside Samsung. For the manager, who has since left the company but declined to be identified because his present employer does business with Samsung, it was one of many examples of the low priority the hardware-minded company placed on software, which was treated as little more than a marketing tool inside the firm.

“Samsung’s upper management just inherently doesn’t understand software,” the former employee said. “They get hardware – in fact, they get hardware better than anyone else. But software is a completely different ballgame.”

As a result, critics say, initiatives involving software or services languish and often fail.

Despite being pre-installed on Galaxy phones, Samsung’s ChatON messaging service gained few adherents and closed without fanfare in March, while the Milk Video app, a high profile project run by newly hired US executives, lasted a year, closing in November.

Shrinking margins
To be sure, Samsung’s struggles are hardly unique – firms such as HTC Corp, Nokia and BlackBerry also failed in their attempt to develop viable platforms.

And Samsung overcame a late start in smartphones and still remains the No.1 player: researcher TrendForce says it will this year ship about 100 million more than No. 2 Apple Inc.

But former and serving executives say Samsung has failed to support innovation within the company, shrinking margins to stay competitive while losing ground to Chinese rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

The mobile division’s earnings contribution shrank to 39 percent of January-September operating profit, on track for the lowest contribution since 2010 and down sharply from 68 percent in 2013. Market share is expected to slip below 20 percent this year, from 24.6 percent in 2013, according to research firm Trefis.

This decline helps explain why long-time mobile chief J.K. Shin recently ceded his day-to-day role to Dongjin Koh, another mobile division veteran.

The firm credits Koh with helping develop its new Samsung Pay mobile payment service and the Knox security platform – two services Samsung says are helping turn things around.

“Samsung has achieved notable progress in recent software and service offerings that have been well received by the market,” the company said in a statement. “Including mobile payment service Samsung Pay, SmartThings IoT platform, mobile security solution Knox, and the Tizen operating system which powers our TVs and wearables.”

Samsung Pay is gaining traction in South Korea and the United States, while Tizen got a push from launch of new smartphones and appliances this year.

The company also said its Silicon Valley-based Global Innovation Centre was seeking to tap into new software-related technologies developed outside the company.

Some investors and analysts say worries of Samsung’s decline are overstated, noting its dominance in memory chips and displays. Its foray into automotive components also has promise, analysts say.

But this is unlikely to revive the explosive earnings growth its smartphones delivered at the beginning of the decade.

What’s needed, according to Chang Sea-jin, a business professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, is strong backing for a push into software and services from Samsung Group heir apparent Jay Y. Lee.

“There are signs that Samsung is trying to change and the company is acknowledging its failures,” said Chang. “The company is moving in the right direction, but there is a high probability this is too little, too late.”

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Asus ZenFone Zoom Camera in a More Affordable Package? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Asus ZenFone Zoom Camera in a More Affordable Package? Don't Hold Your Breath

Asus on Friday launched the ZenFone Zoom at an event in Agra, which is the thinnest smartphone in the world with 3X optical zoom. Given what previous smartphones with optical zoom looked like, what Asus has achieved in terms of design looks really impressive. The ZenFone Zoom still looks like a smartphone, instead of resembling a camera that had phone features thrown in as an afterthought.

Gadgets 360 got a chance to speak to a room full of Asus executives, and we started off by asking CEO Jerry Shen how the idea of ZenFone Zoom came about.

“We tried to design a smartphone with very powerful photography experience,” Shen explained. “When we review the history – like Samsung also had a smartphone [with optical zoom], but Samsung’s smartphone was like a camera with smartphone features because their optical zoom is this way [raises hand above the phone’s surface], but our lens is this way [points inside the phone].”

Kamew Yeh, Director of Digital Image Technology Division at Asus, later gave Gadgets 360 a closer look at the lens assembly developed by Hoya, the Japanese company that makes camera modules for digital cameras and smartphones. As Shen mentioned, the zoom lens, which typically moves outwards when you try to zoom into an object, has been fitted inside the smartphone at an angle of 90 degrees, so it’s effectively moving sideways. This means, contrary to what you’d expect, there’s no bulge in the design of the phone. Of course the phone’s curved design that tapers towards the edges helps a bit in masking the fact that its flat centre is thicker than most other smartphones.

asus_zenfone_zoom_ndtv_1.jpgYeh told Gadgets 360 that any other OEM can buy the same lens assembly from Hoya, but insisted that the implementation won’t be easy as replacing the rear camera module of an existing smartphone. Shen had earlier said the company spent two years developing the smartphone, and Yeh explains that this included making changes to the image processing software to compensate for the unconventional lens assembly.

The ZenFone Zoom comes with relatively high-end hardware and a premium finish, which, combined with the unique camera mechanism, results in a price tag of Rs. 37,999 – not exactly affordable. Shen acknowledged not everyone would be queuing up to buy this phone and we asked him if Asus has plans to offer the same package with other hardware and design in, theoretically, a more affordable smartphone.

“We may try to do that in the future but not now,” Shen says. “We spent two years trying to make sure everything is perfect, and then [later] we can start [looking at other models].” Shen says that it’s possible to give optical zoom in a more affordable smartphone, but it won’t be as thin as the ZenFone Zoom. You can of course buy a camera with 3x optical zoom at a fraction of the cost of the ZenFone Zoom, but it’s unlikely to be as thin, and of course it won’t double up as a smartphone.

asus_zenfone_zoom_hoya_lens_ndtv_2.jpg“This camera module altogether, the cost is much more than the CPU and anything [else],” explains Shen, talking about the circular part that sits at the back of the smartphone. Together, the metal unibody that is required to house the camera module, and the optics cost “about 5-10 times of the CPU”, accounting for “40-50 percent” of the total cost of the ZenFone Zoom, according to Shen.

Jen Chuang, Director of Asus Design Centre steps in to say that Asus ZenFones are known for their good cameras, even without optical zoom. “I would like to argue actually most of the ZenFones are really, really good in camera quality, even without the optical zoom – like Selfie, Laser, they are all really unique in camera features, so I will like to say we actually really do have great cameras in all product segments,” Chuang concludes.

Having spent some time with the ZenFone Zoom, it’s clear that the 3x optical zoom definitely helps in capturing more detail by getting you that little bit closer to things. Of course it wasn’t long before we started taking it for granted and found ourselves wishing we had 12x optical zoom, to get really up close. It would be no surprise if somewhere in Taiwan or Tokyo, Asus and Hoya engineers are working to make that very dream a reality.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

We feel cheated by BJP’s communal politics, say Patel leaders in Gujarat

We feel cheated by BJP’s communal politics, say Patel leaders in Gujarat
Photo Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP
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On August 25, 2015, even as Rahul Desai joined thousands of Hardik Patel supporters in a rally demanding caste-based reservations for Patidars, he could never have imagined that he would be spewing venom against the Bharatiya Janata Party one day.

But six months after the infamous Patel rally, which led to rioting and vandalism in Ahmedabad and reported police atrocities on Patidars across Gujarat, Desai cannot contain his bitterness against the party ruling both the Centre and the state. The 31-year-old Desai is the Ahmedabad West convenor of Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, and has been actively mobilising community members ever since Hardik Patel and other leaders of the organisation were arrested on sedition charges in October.

“In all my speeches, I remind people that we Patels have supported the BJP for years, not just through votes but also through notes,” said Desai, speaking to Scroll.in on a busy street in Ahmedabad’s Bapunagar suburb. “Patidar money helped BJP rise to power, and now look how they are treating us. We cannot let them win in the state election next year.”

Rahul Desai, a convener for the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti in Ahmedabad
Rahul Desai, a convener for the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti in Ahmedabad

Police atrocities unpunished?

Like many of the Patels around him, Desai’s grouse isn’t merely that the BJP is refusing to grant Other Backward Class status to the Patidar caste. The more immediate complaint, he says, is that the state government of Anandiben Patel has so far allowed the Gujarat police to get away with impunity with the many crimes it allegedly committed in the days after August 25, 2015.

For two days after the rally, in Bapunagar, Naroda, Ranip and other Patel-dominated neighbourhoods of Ahmedabad, army and Gujarat police personnel reportedly assaulted residents in their homes, vandalised their windows and cars, and made sexualised threats towards women. Similar allegations were made by Patidars in Surat, Mehsana, Patan and other parts of Gujarat.

Six months on, hundreds of Patel men have been slapped with what Desai calls “predominantly false” charges of looting, rioting, murder and attempt to murder. “But not a single FIR has been lodged against the police for breaking into our homes, beating innocent men and women, and destroying so much of our property,” he said. “We have gone to file complaints several times in the past few months, but none of it gets formally lodged as an FIR.”

The only case filed against the police so far has to do with the custodial death of Shwetang Patel, a 30-year-old from Bapunagar, and it was lodged only after the Gujarat High Courtordered the Criminal Investigation Department to take over the case. “All these months later, the CID’s investigations are going nowhere,” said Desai, one of the many Patidar Samiti members who pursued the registration of the First Information Report in Shwetang Patel’s case. “Only two policemen have been suspended so far, and they are both constables with desk jobs who could not have been involved in the beatings that led to Shwetang’s death.”

‘Congress did well because of Patels’

For many Patels, the outrage at such police “harassment” and the lack of media sympathy for their plight has led to a compounded frustration with the BJP government and its leaders.

The Patidar demand for OBC reservation was born out of growing unemployment, corruption in higher education and the alleged failure of Narendra Modi’s famed Gujarat model of development. Six months ago, the criticism of the BJP, which has ruled the state for 20 years, was guarded and hesitant. Now, as Patels struggle to cope with a newfound fear of the police and the perceived indifference of the state and Central governments, the anti-BJP sentiment has been pouring out.

When Gujarat had its local body elections in December 2015, the Congress won an unprecedented 21 district panchayats out of 31, even though the BJP retained its hold on civic bodies in urban areas. “The Congress did so well in rural Gujarat because of us Patels,” said Maheshbhai Patel, a diamond polisher from Bapunagar. “We could have made the BJP lose in urban areas also, but the names of at least five lakh Patels were taken off the voters list.”

Despite these allegations, Maheshbhai Patel is relieved that in India Colony, a neighbourhood within Bapunagar, all four civic corporators who won the election are from the Congress. In Mehsana, the local Patidar Samiti president Lalbhai Patel states with pride that the new chairman of the Mehsana municipal corporation’s town planning department is a Muslim woman from the Congress – Allahrakhi Belim. “This is the first time in years that a Muslim has held a post of authority at the municipal level in Mehsana, and the Patels are in a way responsible for that,” said Lalbhai Patel.

‘Godhra train burning was a BJP plan’

Six months ago, Patidars were uncomfortable bringing up the obvious parallels between the police atrocities they faced and the Muslim victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. But today, Patidar Samiti leaders like Rahul Desai and Lalbhai Patel are candid enough to raise the communal question themselves as they lash out against the BJP.

“The BJP is fundamentally a communal party that has been planting its ideology of fearing Muslims for years now,” said Desai. “I can tell you with certainty that Modi would never have been re-elected as the chief minister in 2002 if it had not been for the Godhra train burning.”

In February 2002, a mob at Godhra railway station killed 59 commuters of the Sabarmati Express by setting fire to its coaches. Thirty one Muslims were later convicted. The arson was followed by intense communal riots across Gujarat in which more than a thousand people died. Desai, who was in school at the time, remembers being shown videos of the Godhra train burning in class.

“They were doing it to propagate the idea that all Hindus need to come together or else the Muslims would kill us,” said Desai. “I don’t know if the men who burnt the train were Muslims or not, but I know that the Godhra train burning was a pre-planned political stunt by the BJP to win the state election later that year.”

When communal thinking takes root, says Desai, it is very difficult to get rid of. “Because of the BJP’s propaganda, all of us began to think communally, and I feel kind of cheated now,” he said. “Even today, people are afraid that Muslims will riot against them, but honestly, even if they don’t, the BJP will get it done.”

‘Such politics leads to Naxalism’

Desai acknowledges that he may not be speaking for all Patidars in Gujarat, but he is certain that all other members of the Patidar Andolan Samiti share his views.

In Mehsana, Lalbhai Patel could not agree more. “Of course, Godhra and the 2002 riots were orchestrated by the BJP. It is obvious to us now, but back then it wasn’t,” said Lalbhai Patel. “Last time they targeted Muslims. Now they are allowing the Patels to be persecuted. This is exactly the kind of politics that leads to the creation of Naxals.”

For now, Patidar leaders are in no mood to support the party they were once loyal to in the state Assembly election next year. But even as the community accepts help from the Congress to fight various cases against Patidar men, Desai and Lalbhai are firm that Patel allegiance will not blindly bend towards the Congress this election.

“We will vote for whoever gives in to our demands – both reservations and justice for the police atrocities,” said Lalbhai Patel. “The Patidars are already now building connections with OBC Thakors and Miyas [Muslims], so you never know – even a third front might come up.”

[“source-Scroll”]