second last day of the year seems like a good day to review the tech that we
saw this year – but with the ten highest patent lodging companies combining for
36,108 patents amongst them, picking just a few items is tough (so go easy on
my if I don’t mention something you think I should). 

of the major technology items in the news this year was the spontaneous
combustion of batteries. Lithium-Ion batteries are used in millions of devices
across the world because they can store relatively large amounts of energy in a
small space. Unfortunately, the movement of particles inside the battery causes
heat to build-up and, in a poorly designed battery, the heat can damage the
thin walls that keep the different parts of the battery separate. Cue
Hoverboards (I don’t know why they have that name as they don’t actually hover
– but that is an article in itself); HP notebooks and the biggest battery story
of the year, the Samsung Note 7 which was released in August this year. The
recall and then subsequent complete withdrawal of the product will cost Samsung
an estimated US$17 billion.

Reality (VR) has been talked about for many years and different launches and
claims have been made over the years – but this year finally saw the rubber hit
the road in the VR world. Competition always drives better solutions and the VR
world is no different. With Oculus Rift; HTC Vive; Microsoft HoloLens and the PlayStation
VR headset in addition to devices made to work with smartphones such as the
Samsung and Google headsets the world of VR has started to become real – in a
virtual sense. They aren’t perfect yet but, having tried a few different
models, they are certainly very good.

vehicles are edging closer to reality but, despite Google cars driving over
three million kilometres in self-driving mode, there is a still some way to go
before we will be able to tell our car to drop us off at the pub and collect us
at midnight. A Tesla driver is unfortunately no longer with us having died in a
crash while the vehicle was in autonomous mode so, apart from public
confidence, the engineers admit there are still minor issues to be rectified
before a fully automatic car is in the mainstream.

has been the case for many years, apps were launched for our smartphones that delivered
solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had. With over one million
different apps available, you could be excused for thinking that there are no
big opportunities left in the world of apps. That logic would be reasonable
until an app came along that only took nineteen days before it was downloaded
over fifty million times and has now been downloaded over half a billion times.
With more first week downloads than any other app in the history of the Apple
App Store, there would be a reasonable argument to say that 2016 was dominated
by Pokémon GO.

simple passcode you put on your phone to stop your friends picking up your
phone and sending random texts to people in your address book seems like a good
idea – until you can’t remember the code you used. Many people think it is a
simple matter of taking the phone to your local retailer or supplier and asking
them to unlock it. Syed Farook was one of the shooters involved in the San
Bernardino attack a year ago that left 14 people dead. When the FBI recovered
his locked iPhone, they thought it would be nice if Apple unlocked it for them.
This was the FBI after all and this person had randomly killed US citizens. The
information on his phone could deliver critical information. Apple declined due
to its policy to never undermine the security features of its products. That is
taking security seriously and was a major tech story of 2016.

may have been the year of the battery or the year of VR or the year of the car
or the year of Pokémon GO or the year of security or…maybe it was the year of
technology itself. Like so many before it and so many after it, technology
itself was once again the winner rather than any one aspect (it does sound a
tad clichéd but it does seem true).

New Year to all of the readers of this column and I can only but assume that
your resolutions for next year will involve more technology.

Mathew Dickerson


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