Technologies Shaping Work and Home Life in 2015

Here are five gadgets, devices and technologies that you should keep an eye on during the coming year because they will affect both businesses and homes.

Apple Watch: So far, fitness trackers such as Nike Fuelbands and Fitbits have proved functional if unattractive. Meanwhile, smart watches are incredibly kludgey.

All of this is likely to change when the Apple Watch hits the market early this year. Hype notwithstanding, the device will likely transform the way we wade through daily tasks and manage personal data—from messages to personal health and fitness. And, for better or for worse, it will take connectedness to a new level, including how we manage tickets and payments.

Mobile wallets: ApplePay has suddenly ignited interest in mobile payments. Right now, banks and credit card issuers are on board with the technology, and merchants are likely to come around as they realize that it speeds their lines and reduces security risks. Also, look for other innovative solutions in the mobile payment arena. Starbucks, for example, is now testing mobile ordering through its app in Portland, Ore. You select the items you want, tap a button to pay, and head to the pickup area at the designated store. It’s incredibly fast and efficient. Fast food restaurants may want to take note.

Virtual assistants: Only a few years ago, the idea of interacting with a machine seemed a bit odd. The film Her demonstrated just how creepy the technology can be.

Nevertheless, the likes of Apple Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana are quietly transforming the way we interact with our smartphones. They place appointments on our calendar, they make it easy to verbally dictate a message, and they perform searches and other tasks without tactile input.

In the coming year, several automobile manufacturers plan to introduce these systems. One can only hope that they help reduce distracted driving.

Biometrics: Many of us now live in password hell. Fortunately, a growing number of smartphones and tablets incorporate fingerprint scanners that allow a user to authenticate quickly and effortlessly.

A few companies have already introduced this feature, including American Express, Amazon and Ticketmaster. However, many banks, retailers and others still haven’t received the memo. But expect all of this to change over the coming year.

Smart homes and buildings: The Nest thermostat proved that connected devices are ready for prime time. Now, we’re seeing a spate of innovative and increasingly mature devices—Internet enabled door locks, lighting systems, sprinklers and security systems—that take the smart-home concept to the next level.

Expect lots of new product announcements and some remarkable new inventions over the coming months. Also, look for hotels to introduce smartphone-controlled locks, lights and other features.