Looking back at 2014, one can’t help but be struck by the pace of technological change.
Autonomous vehicle activity ramped up this year — and commercial driverless vehicles could hit public highways in 2015. In January, the Obama administration announced the creation of six drone test sites intended to work out the details for introducing unmanned aerial vehicles into commercial airspace.
Availability of wearable technology continued to grow with the formal release of Google Glass and the long-anticipated announcement of the Apple Watch — although it remains to be seen how many people will actually wear these and other high-tech contraptions. And investor interest intensified in startup companies creating new public-sector solutions, signaling a challenge to the legacy firms and technologies that dominate the government market.
As the ground shifted, policymaking struggled to keep up.
Perhaps the strain was most evident in the evolution of the sharing economy. The year was marked by struggles between state and local regulators and disruptive upstarts like Lyft, Uber and Airbnb. That wasn’t the only hot spot, either. At the federal level, the FCC grappled with net neutrality after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down open Internet rules in January. And governments of all types contended with old-school purchasing rules that made it difficult to acquire new cloud services and other innovative technology.
But there were glimmers of hope, too. San Francisco struck a deal with Airbnb in October to legalize short-term rentals in the city. The company also announced partnerships with San Francisco and Portland, Ore., to help house city residents in the wake of major disasters. Even procurement may have taken steps toward improvement with interesting experiments in a few cities and a government-industry partnership to write better contract language for cloud purchases.
So maybe 2014 wasn’t the year when we figured it all out, but there are some signs we’re pointed in the right direction. Here's our month-by-month look at some of the biggest technology issues of this past year: