The gadgets, technologies and trends expected to shape this year
By Bevil Wooding
As 2013 drew to a close it was clear that we entered an age of digital convergence. Advances in telecommunications and electronics have seen radical innovations in business and consumer technology and a blurring of lines between personal and corporate tech. There is no indication of a slowing in the pace of innovation.
The trends that shaped the past year will not easily yield to business as usual in the New Year. Technology will continue to be one of the most significant factors defining business practice, and business opportunities, for some time to come.
So what does 2014 hold? And how should companies, executives and IT managers prepare themselves for this rendezvous. Here are 5 key technology trends expected to significantly impact the business and consumer space in 2014.
1. Security and Privacy
The Edward Snowden dominated headlines of last year, as well as the rise in popularity of the peer-to-peer payment and digital currency, Bitcoin, have placed a spotlight on data security and privacy that won’t be going away anytime soon. Executing on domestic Internet infrastructure, data encryption and cyber-security strategies will be more important than ever in 2014.
Governments, companies and even individuals should be taking decisive steps to ensure greater, better structured movement towards ownership and management of their own data in 2014. Proliferation of local Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and other critical Internet infrastructure like root servers and DNSSEC signing for country domain names, have been identified as priority initiatives in developed and developing markets. Also, increasingly we will see governments and institutions putting policy in place to better respond to increasing incidents of cyber-crime and to treat with cyber-transactions, such as digitally signed documents.
2. Rise of the Personal Cloud
In 2014, as the transition continues from traditional desktops to more mobile forms of computing, such as tablet, tablet-notebook hybrids and smartphones, consumers will be requiring more online storage to keep their digital devices synchronized and backed-up. Consequently, cloud storage services and personal cloud computing will take greater importance as digital libraries of photographs, ebooks and documents grow.
Industry watchers are forecasting that by the end of next year, external hard drive sales will decline and cloud storage adoption will skyrocket. Large providers such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google are already ramping up marketing and advertising of their consumer and business cloud storage service offerings. There is also room for other providers, particular in local markets to emerge. Small local cloud providers, with proper access to reliable, low-latency broadband infrastructure, can better compete with the larger providers, by providing localized service offerings and tailored solutions.
In 2014, expect cloud service providers to go on a pricing and marketing offensive, and step up education initiatives. As the tools, pricing, interfaces and storage options improve expect consumers to better “get” cloud computing and make the transition from local storage to cloud storage.
3. Mobile Business
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs and a rapidly expanding mobile workforce are placing tremendous strain on IT and finance organizations. In 2014, expect organizations to invest greater cycles in reviewing existing employee device policies and where necessary, updating and extending them. Other firms, including small businesses, will need to define and implement policies that clearly articulate expectations around what they employees can and can’t do with their devices on corporate networks. Companies will have to strike the balance between worker flexibility, corporate security and data privacy requirements.
4. Rise of Wearables
Wearables are devices designed to be worn on wrists, faces, necks and other areas of the body. So far much of the focus has been on smart-watches and glasses. Products like Samsung Galaxy Gear and Google Glass and gaming centric wearables like the Oculus Rift, a VR headset that makes you feel like you’re living in a game, have received a lot of attention but are still niche products.
One area that has managed to find a profitable niche is fitness tech. Wearable devices like the FitBit, Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up help users by tracking steps, calories and other training stats, and by synching collected data to smartphones and desktop computers. Fitness wearables have the additional health-care sector benefit of enabling tracking vital signs to help doctors monitor patients remotely.
Expect wearables to be more affordable, more attractive and more widely available to consumers in 2014. It is still unclear if companies will be able to find the delicate balance between fashionable designs, affordable price, and intuitive user experience required to appeal to mainstream consumers. Still, wearable-technology makers are expected to push even harder in 2014 to take these small gadgets mainstream.
5. The Internet of Everything
The Internet is exploding beyond networked computers and mobile devices into a host of other gadgets, sensors and appliances such as field equipment, and consumer items such as cars and televisions.
You’ve heard of smart-phones and smart-watches. How about smart-homes? Some of the same incredibly shrinking technology going into mobile devices such as (tiny sensors and low-power wireless connections, is also being used to make our homes, businesses and industries more connected and more intelligent.
In 2014 look out for greater industry standardization, particularly on the consumer products front.
Into the Future
With the new year before us, there’s no telling what other surprises 2014 will have in store. Will a new social network emerge? Perhaps. Will tablets and smartphones get cheaper, thinner and faster? Absolutely. Will governments wake up to the importance of technology sector to economic diversification, social empowerment and cultural preservation, and finally go beyond words to structured, strategic investment in supporting technology-enabled innovation for national development? Well, we can pray, we can hope, and we can each do our part to help translate technology potential into development reality.
Bevil Wooding is the Chief Knowledge Officer of Congress WBN (www.congresswbn.org), a values-based, international charity and the Executive Director of BrightPath Foundation, a technology education non-profit organization. Reach him on Twitter @bevilwooding or on facebook.com/bevilwooding or contact via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.