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Four slightly cynical wishes for 2017 and beyond

Consider the following possible though unlikely 2017 tech advances.  On the cusp of the new year and the 2017 CES announcement extravaganza, let’s hope. And beyond CES, here are a few semi-optimistic (or glass half-full) wishes for our technology lives – and the corollary of technology media coverage. Let's consider dropping the click bait media fawning over ever little twitch of self-driving cars.* Let's ask car manufacturers to consider simpler user interfaces (like this reviewed VW) for easier-to-manipulate temperature, audio and driving controls.  And what else should we hope for?

Smartphone and tablet vendors will support upgrade software for older devices.  Where are the aftermarket support services that will keep old devices safe from identity thieves and hackers? These devices still turn on; they work with their old versions, but the companies that made them have moved on in order to soak, uh, elicit additional revenue. There are too many versions in the market for vendors to deal with -- and so it's all over for a functional Nexus 7 tablet that can no longer be upgraded in fewer than 15 steps. And the iPad 2 that has such a beautiful screen? Sigh -- it has more than a few update challenges.  And what about the 5G iPod Touch? Forget it. Meanwhile, with nothing wrong with the hardware, these "left to rot OS" versions turn good hardware devices into hacker-vulnerable and ultimately crushable bricks. For a contrasting approach, check out Microsoft and its multi-year (at least 5) lifecycle support policy.  

Voice-enabled software interfaces will become standard and easy to access.  Study the soft keyboards on smartphones – where is that microphone button?  Oh yeah, next to the space bar or in the search box.  Not exactly a wake-up word. But talking to phones is mostly pointless – by the time auto-correct has ‘fixed’ your message, your point is forgotten. Much of the most useful settings on mobile devices can be accessed under Accessibility.  Go figure. What would be great? Talking to TVs – besides yelling at newscasts – could be useful. Consider using voice to find a program. Consider (finally) the end of modern and imponderable TV remotes – or the need for specialized remote controls for seniors.

Landline telephones will be retained for locating in-home 911 dialers.  For reasons that make absolutely no sense, landline phones are disappearing – no doubt because a tech firm wants to make it so – as in this Verizon example and other not-nice media coverage. For those out and about with their phones, it’s always good to read the FAQ on whether you can be located or not.  (The answer is 'not necessarily').  So if you are stationary in your home, is that any better? Read this and worry. "Factors such as the weather, terrain and buildings may affect service and the ability to calculate the caller's location, particularly for 911 calls placed indoors."   

Journalists will be objective about Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter.  Only a few tech companies catch the imagination of technology writers. Search for Apple on the Wall Street Journal or NY Times sites.  Now do the same for WSJ Samsung and NY Times Samsung. And as you can see, no matter what happens elsewhere or with product, Apple always wins. Maybe in 2017, Samsung will finally get some positive press – befitting a company that makes the chips inside iPhones, as well as tablets, speakers, wireless sound-bars, TVs and refrigerators. Yet what is the most recent CNET article about Samsung for CES 2017?  You guessed it – people (at CNET) don’t trust it anymore -- and the company needs to 'earn' back their trust.  

*There were 44.6 million people aged 65+ in 2013, according to the Census FactFinder.  And 5.2 million Americans have dementia.  The chance of more than 40 million of the 65+ population being licensed drivers AND actually driving a car, per this CDC assertion, seems unlikely. But like many rationales, some might want to use it to justify the benefit of self-driving cars.

[To see more from this blog and its related news articles, press releases and trend research postings, go to Aging in Place Technology Watch]

And Happy New Year!