As the year comes to a close, it's time to speculate what new technologies 2015 has in store that will change the way we do business, again. Virtual reality, drones, and collaborative software are a few of the innovations that will come into their own in a big way in the months ahead, according to a just-released forecast from digital strategy firm Webbmedia Group

But that's just the beginning. You might want to ask your virtual assistant to take some notes.

1. Smart Virtual Personal Assistants (SVPAs)

Think of them as Siri after getting a promotion to executive assistant. These "predictive intelligence" apps use voice recognition to sort through personal data from email messages, address books, calendars, and task lists in order to anticipate the next logical step and drastically boost daily efficiency. Apple, Google, and Yahoo all acquired SVPA apps in recent months to integrate into predictive products, from mobile apps to smart speakers, helping consumers get stuff done even before they would remember to do it otherwise.

2. Privacy

A perennial on Webbmedia's list, privacy concerns remain top-of-mind for wired Americans: According to a Pew Internet and Society poll, 91 percent agree that consumers have lost control of their personal data. Adobe, Dropbox, and Snapchat have experienced major password breaches, and Target and Home Depot had credit card data from millions of customers stolen by hackers. To address these system breaches and reduce the widespread public mistrust, companies will spend more resources on password security and encryption management. In October, Twitter released Digits, a two-way authentication service that sends one-time confirmation codes via texts, which will be offered to mobile apps.

3. Intelligent Drones

In 2014, Amazon and Google began testing the use of drones to make deliveries, while Facebook hoped to expand internet connectivity with solar-powered drones. Next year, drones will become more than just carrier pigeons. Finland-based startup Sharper Shape is working on developing a drone programmed to make independent decisions. These smart drones will be able to "learn" about their surroundings and identify objects as they hover high above ground.

4. Internet of Things

In 2015, consumers will be surrounded by an unprecedented number of devices with the ability to communicate directly with one another, similar to how the Nike FuelBand connects to the coffee maker. These devices will become a vital part of our day-to-day at home, at work, in the car, and while shopping. Google acquired connected home device maker Nest in January 2014, and other giant companies like GE, Intel, AT&T, and Samsung are expected to jump on the trend in the year to come.

5. Ambient Proximity

Smartphone users will be able to interact more seamlessly with their surroundings thanks to wider implementation of beacon technology next year, making the concept of the Internet of Things a more cemented reality. Beacons automatically push information back and forth between two connected devices in close proximity. PayPal and Apple are already relying on this technology to boost their mobile payments offerings, while retailers like Under Armour have used these beacons to capture data on how customers behave inside their stores.

6. Virtual Reality

Next year, consumers will be seen wearing giant goggles on their faces and experiencing a simulated environment thanks to virtual reality devices and their sophisticated software that creates immersive experiences. Betting that virtual reality will be as revolutionary as the advent of the desktop computer, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion in July 2014, and in 2015 it will continue experimenting with the device and software internally. Although virtual reality may seem destined for the realm of video games, there are significant proposals for finding ways to use VR in the workplace.

7. Collaborative Software

Looking to make the workday more efficient, a new slew of services combine the best of email, instant messaging, social media, and cloud storage into one platform for collaborating with co-workers. Salesforce's Chatter and Microsoft's Yammer are currently two top players in this space, but with the forthcoming launch of Facebook for Work, the race to further socialize the office is far from over.

8. Social Payments

This was the first year when splitting the bill at a restaurant became fun, thanks in large part to social-mobile payment apps like PayPal's Venmo and Square's Cash. As these apps become social networks of their own, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are looking to integrate mobile payments into their offerings.

View all of the tech trends from the Webbmedia report below: 

Published on: Dec 8, 2014