Photo: Plume Creative/Getty Photo: Plume Creative/Getty

In what proved to be a controversial decision, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 was, well, not a word at all. Instead, the annual award’s conferring body chose a pictograph, officially called the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.

It’s fitting that in this technology-dominated era, recent contenders for and recipients of Word of the Year have been drawn from the tech lexicon. This year’s runners-up included ad-blocker (software that stops ads from displaying on a web page) and Dark Web (the part of the Internet accessible only through anonymity-granting specialized software). The 2013 (selfie, a self-portrait usually taken with a mobile device and posted to a social media account) and 2014 (vape, the use of an e-cigarette) also had connections to tech.

But while an emoji may have won the Oxford Dictionaries’ nod, this year was also dominated by plenty of letter-based tech buzzwords. Here’s my top 10 list for 2015.

The Internet of Things

This phrase describes the ever-growing number of everyday objects embedded with technology (software, sensors, electronics, and connectivity) that allows them to connect and communicate. There could be anywhere from 26 billion (Gartner Inc.) to 30 billion (ABI research) devices wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. These include everything from large-scale environmental monitoring (water quality, pollution monitoring) or infrastructure management (monitoring transportation) to medicine (remote health monitoring for the sick or elderly) and home automation (lighting, appliances, security).

MORE IOT: The Problem With the Internet of Things is the Things »

Wearables

I first started using the Nike Fuelband a few years ago and many people I know have used the FitBit or Jawbone for years. Thanks to the Apple Watch, wearable technology finally went mainstream this year. Watch for this trend to continue to expand to “embeddables” (chips imbedded in humans or animals), “ingestibles” and “hearables”.

MORE BANDS AND WATCHES: Will Wearable Technology Revolutionize Your Business? »

Biometrics

This is the measurement and analysis of physical characteristics unique to individuals, in the form of fingerprints, iris or retina scans, or voice recognition and facial. Apple’s iPads and iPhones use biometrics for their “Touch ID” technology, which uses a fingerprint to unlock a device instead of a password. The feature also allows for authentication for payment. Watch for dual biometric authentication (for example, finger print plus voice) for financial functions, which will allow consumers to pay bills, transfer funds or make deposits through banks, credit cards or mobile wallets.

MORE FINANCIAL FUNCTIONS: The Huge Opportunity of Mobile Payments »

Sharing Economy

Sometimes referred to as the collaborative economy, this is disrupting business models of the past. The well-known Airbnb and the less well-known Modo (a car sharing service) are two examples. Other companies like Fiverr (clients pay $5 to have graphic design, animation, programming, online marketing and so on done by someone by posting the task) or Uber offer up services from a large number of individuals. Many of these companies leverage technology and the Internet to facilitate individuals and companies to share, distribute, trade and consume products and services. To learn more, I suggest reading “Sharing is the New Buying” by Vision Critical and Crowd Companies.

MORE SHARING: Why Great Customer Experiences Are the Best Public Relations »

Gesture Recognition Technology

This technology, which allows you to move your body to control devices around you, is already available and becoming mainstream. Gesture recognition uses mathematical algorithms to analyze and interpret movements of the face, hand or other body parts. For example, the ZTE Blade S6 Android smartphone has arm waving gesture technology to allow you to turn music on or off, or to turn on the camera flash. And BMW demoed gesture technology in their cars at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show which will allow you to point two fingers to activate navigation to take you home. There’s also the MotionSavvy UNI Tablet, a two-way communication tool for hearing impaired that interprets sign language to speech and speech to text; the consumer version is set to be available in fall of 2016.

MORE FACIAL RECOGNITION: A New Way to Know What Your Customers Are Thinking »

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