Through the Looking Glass… 2014 Technology Predictions.

2014 is upon us, a year that is already showing signs to be a devastatingly success year for the transformation towards digital nativity... so what do I see the year bringing to the world of the culture, behaviour and technology.

Mobile technology to march on...

mobile technologyMobile, mobile and more mobile technologyGoogle’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt might not have a buzzy catchphrase for it like “post PC era,” but he is certainly on board with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s line of thinking: the future is mobile technology, and the future is now. ”Everyone is going to have a smartphone,” Schmidt said during a segment for Bloomberg TV in which he shared some predictions for the technology space in 2014. “The fact that so many people are connected to what is essentially a super-computer means a whole new generation of applications around entertainment, education, social life… those kinds of things.”

“The trend has been that ‘mobile [technology] was winning,’ ” Schmidt continued. “It’s now won.” He added that smartphones and tablets are already outselling traditional PCs.

Cheap Factor

As an extension to the mobile technology march. Low price will become a critical driver in global consumer-electronic-technology product creation, as emerging economies absorb a dramatically larger fraction of all electronic devices sold. The result of bringing hundreds of millions out of poverty is a shift in design motivation from the radically innovative, to incremental change at low cost, driven by the creation of a new purchaser segment in consumer electronics. Expect the Sub-$100 Smartphones dominate the phone category in the drive to connect billions across the globe. We are seeing cheaper technology from China, Africa and South America that will hit the market with a storm. The BRIC nations alone have a potential to drive over a billion units.

Visualization Everywhere

In 2013 we witness the proliferation of Big Data as sexy part of technology and consumer insight. As big data, cloud computing, and vast increases in storage technology and processing take hold, the role of data visualization becomes much more common in our tools. Having created systems much more advanced than the human brain in these categories, we now must find improved ways of digesting all of this information. 2014 is primed to demand the hybrid skills of data stories with strong visual appeal. Expect your inbox to be full of the latest and greatest info-graphics./p>

Digitally Freed

The Digital Shift allows us to now access and share massive amounts of data, process information regardless of location, and make nearly anything with 3D printing technology. We are digitally free to do what we want. So how does this digital freedom affect businesses? 3D printing technology, in particular, is advancing at an extremely fast pace, a pace so fast that a “digitally free” society may not know how to rationally and safely use the information accessible to them. Using 3D printing technology to create human organs for transplants, for example, inevitably stirs up the global debate about the ethics behind using 3D printing technology for bio-printing. Scanning and reproducing products raises the intellectual property boundaries that may be crossed in doing so. As these issues emerge, Plummer advises enterprises to “develop policies for acceptable research parameters in this area, as well as investigate the legal aspects of protecting the resulting intellectual property.” Entire generations of digitally native innovators are collaborating at accelerated rates, and funding ideas through crowds. Expect thousands of great ideas, and millions of 'also ran' ideas to hit the market in 2014, as digital now powers physical.

Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 75 percent in 2014 followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015. While very expensive “additive manufacturing” technology has been around for 20 years, the market for devices ranging from $50,000 to $500, and with commensurate material and build capabilities, is nascent yet growing rapidly. The consumer market hype has made organizations aware of the fact 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective technology to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing.

Era of Personal Cloud

Last year I predicted the rise of the personal cloud.. it happened. But there is more to come. The personal cloud era will mark a power shift away from devices toward services. In this new world, the specifics of devices will become less important for the organization to worry about, although the devices will still be necessary. Users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub. Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role. Access to the cloud and the content stored or shared from the cloud will be managed and secured, rather than solely focusing on the device itself.

Cloud client key

Cloud/client computing models are shifting. In the cloud/client architecture, the client is a rich application running on an Internet-connected device, and the server is a set of application services hosted in an increasingly elastically scalable cloud computing platform. The cloud is the control point and system or record and applications can span multiple technologies. The client environment may be a native application or browser-based; the increasing power of the browser is available to many client devices, mobile and desktop alike. Robust capabilities in many mobile devices, the increased demand on networks, the cost of networks and the need to manage bandwidth use creates incentives, in some cases, to minimize the cloud application computing and storage footprint, and to exploit the intelligence and storage of the client device. However, the increasingly complex demands of mobile technology will drive apps to demand increasing amounts of server-side computing and storage capacity.

Business and digital crowds

Simply put, digital business is about accessorizing the business with digital assets and capabilities. The digital use of crowds as one of the main ways to accessorize business to move forward. Gartner’s Daryl Plummer states that by 2017, “over half of consumer goods manufacturers will achieve 75% of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities from crowd-sourced solutions.” As crowd-sourcing technology continues to improve, we can expect to see an increase in its use; furthermore, companies that use crowd-sourcing will see an increase in their ability to generate revenue. Moving forward, Plummer’s advice to CIOs in the enterprise is to think about how to use crowds within their own organizations to solve business problems.

Smarter technology in daily life

The notion of a “smart machine” isn’t necessarily one that thinks, but one that can assist us by making decisions based on knowledge that it accumulates. Automated assistance is becoming more widely accepted and will soon have more of a disruptive effect on the way that businesses function. Most knowledgeable workers’ career paths will be disrupted by smart machines in positive and negative ways. It will be beneficial for IT professionals to recognize that smart machines will create competitive advantages and new processes within the business, and they will need to determine where to apply those processes to more effectively compete. Look around you... whose job could be automated with a smart machine? There's an app for that.

keeping up with the Internet of everything

Internet TechnologyThe Internet of Things (or IoT for short) refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton in 2009. The concept of the Internet of Things first became popular through the Auto-ID Center at MIT and related market analysis publications.

Prediction suggest that there will be 15 billion things connected together by 2020. In a digital world, things will be more widely connected than ever before and be able to directly give us more accurate information. The question, then, is how companies will keep up with the digitally connected world and take advantage of it. Use cases are growing rapidly for wearable devices, the technology continues to improve, and the ability to collect data is expanding. Smartphone consumer data sharing is expected to double by 2015, as more consumer data will be collected. Expect 2014 to see designers pushing more devices for new use cases, rather than replacements for existing technology. IT professionals should take time to investigate how wearables will affect planning for future apps, as well as how to best leverage these in IT strategy.

The Internet is expanding beyond PCs and mobile devices into enterprise assets such as field equipment, and consumer items such as cars and televisions. The problem is that most enterprises and technology vendors have yet to explore the possibilities of an expanded internet and are not operationally or organizationally ready. Imagine digitizing the most important products, services and assets. The combination of data streams and services created by digitizing everything creates four basic usage models – Manage; Monetize; Operate; Extend. These four basic models can be applied to any of the four "internets” (people, things, information and places).  Enterprises should not limit themselves to thinking that only the Internet of Things (i.e., assets and machines) has the potential to leverage these four models. Enterprises from all industries (heavy, mixed, and weightless) can leverage these four models.

The New Microsoft

SmartWatch Technology2013 was a busy year for Microsoft, which announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will leave the company after 33 years, upgraded its controversial Windows 8 platform, doubled down on its Surface tablets, reveled in the success of Office 365, and successfully tweaked Windows Server. But there’s more to do in 2014. Microsoft gets a new CEO, with a new power structure that encourages cooperation instead of warring factions, and which leads to improved success in consumer markets. The stock continues to climb, on an annualized basis, and Redmond starts to get some of its “mojo” back, defined by people wanting to work there. The Nokia deal falls in line with Microsoft’s aim to be a products and services company.

Micro-mapping arrives

Various firms open the door on a brand new category in mapping, advertising, location and ID, and transactions. This MALT category launches in 2014, with small but fast-growing revenue that will become mammoth in years ahead. New GPS and Wifi technologies are enabling more and more accurate services, indoors and outdoors. This has huge commercial opportunity. Expect more start-ups and innovators to start to push the boundaries of these technologies in 2014.

The Quantified Self

The idea of knowing more and more detail about your personal health and characteristics goes from being a science story to a jogger’s delight to a mainstream market. Keeping track of your own health data in real time is no longer something for geeks and workout fanatics, but is accepted as a new and mainstream category of behaviour, products, and preventative medicine. Doctors will have to start catching up. Collecting data on ourselves will cross the 'acceptance' threshold this year opening the doors for mainstream application of the measure, monitoring and management of our personal data. Insurance and HealthCare stand to gain, or loss the most ground here as we explore who should own, store and have access to the data. Many industry commentators are pointing to a social opt in model not dissimilar to Facebook's OpenGraph.

Encryption Everywhere.

The direct commercial result of Edward Snowden’s leaks will be a massive move by large technology companies, both in enterprise and consumer markets, to evolve new encryption technologies and products that use them. While NSA-proofing will be the motivator, the real benefit may be improved protection of commercial IP from theft by China and other nations. Privacy when its needed will start to matter. Expect an influx of new startups, products and services that appeal to the fall out of the NSA, Prism and ongoing monitoring debate.

I told you its going to be a huge year.... and its been kicked off right now at CES. Enjoy the year ahead, and make sure you order my new book Mobile Ready

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© Scott Bales 2014. All Rights Reserved.