Predictions for the Coming Year: Technology, Part 2

Stephen DeAngelis

December 27, 2013

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I discussed some technology trends that analysts at TheAppTimes and others identified for 2014. In this post, I want to discuss ten technology predictions made by analysts at Juniper Research. [“Top Ten Tech Predictions for 2014,” Press Release, 3 December 2013] John Koetsier provides an excellent overview of these predictions in an article he wrote for VentureBeat. [“Top 10 tech trends for 2014: Wearables, 3D printers, mobile money, and more,” 6 December 2014] The list begins with a prediction concerning smarter cities:

1) Cities will get smarter. Cities will get increasingly smart as sensors and cloud-enabled apps connect transportation, metering, health care, lighting, and environment data, and make it actionable.

The connectivity that will be used to help cities get smarter will come via the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), which will primarily be a machine-to-machine (M2M) network. The IoT is likely to carry much more data than the traditional internet, which will remain the primary network connecting humans. The second prediction deals with mobile money.

2) Mobile money will continue to grow — as will ‘mAgri’. Mobile money is enabling banking and financing systems in the developing world via mobile wallets, which should continue to grow both there and in developing countries. And as mobile grows in Africa and Asia, so will the provision of data, including data on better crop management, yield, and product tracking.

One of the important things about mobile money is that it gives the poor access to banking services that they otherwise would not have. Credit is especially important for the poor because, if used wisely, it offers them a way out of poverty. Muhammad Yunus won a Nobel Prize for developing the microfinance sector. He started offering micro-loans to impoverished Bangladeshi women when he came to the realization that without a source of credit those women would never break poverty’s stranglehold. The third prediction involves wearable devices. Anybody remember Dick Tracy and his communications watch?

3) Wearable devices will proliferate. Google has Glass, and Samsung has a smartwatch, but Apple’s iWatch and many other smart wearable technologies are coming out soon. Juniper says 2014 will be a “watershed year” for wearables — but privacy will be an issue as cameras go everywhere.

Koetsier claims that some wearable devices may actually make life more annoying as people wander the streets apparently talking with themselves. He points to the following amusing video as an example of what the future might look like.

The next prediction involves the use of technology in education.

4) iPads and tablets will grow in education. Tablet computing is increasingly attractive and affordable in education, Juniper says, and are likely soon to go mainstream in place of full desktop PCs or even laptops.

Teachers in several states are convinced that computer skills are going to be critical for students in the years ahead. As a result, many teachers have signed petitions demanding that a computer science course be made a requirement for high school graduation. The next prediction involves the so-called quantifiable self.

5) Mobile fitness devices will grow even bigger. On my desk, I’ve got a sleep bracelet that someone snapped on my wrist at a conference, a Jawbone Up, and a Fitbit Flex. In 2014, these mobile fitness devices will start to focus on the whole range of health and start to enter the tougher and more challenging health care industry.

The real breakthrough in quantifiable-self technologies will come when the data collected by various devices can be integrated to provide both individuals and health providers with a more holistic picture of a person’s health. Today, too much of the information is siloed. The next trend deals with mobile networks.

6) LTE subscribers will double and 4G LTE will start to roll out. LTE will hit the big-time, Juniper says, with global users doubling in 2014. And even faster networks will debut.

Smartphone users can’t wait for faster networks to arrive. Almost all analysts agree that we are entering the mobile age. Without faster networks, it could become an age of aggravation as well as an age of enlightenment. The next prediction also involves the Internet of Things as well as artificial intelligence.

7) Device context awareness will accelerate. More wearables, more devices, and more intelligence: Our devices are going to get smarter about where we are, what we’re doing, and what they can do to help us. Google Now is a good current example, Juniper says.

Device makers have to be careful when developing AI systems that push information to consumers. At some point, useful information crosses the line and becomes creepy information. Privacy is becoming a difficult concept to define; but, consumers like to believe that they still have some privacy left. The next prediction deals with gaming systems.

8) Ouya and other ‘microconsoles’ will disrupt home gaming. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One may have captured all the recent headlines about gaming systems, but Ouya is only 20 percent of the cost of the latest Xbox. As such it — and other cheap interlopers like the GameStick — pose a threat at the low end of the market, while other computer-based gaming systems pose a threat at the high end.

If you are not a gamer, you might think not think that advances in gaming will affect your life. Researchers are learning, however, that gamification can be used in a number of settings including education and research as well as entertainment. That’s why the development of cheaper gaming systems could be important for the future. The next prediction deals with the rise of personal clouds.

9) Personal clouds will explode. The public cloud is the NSA’s playground, some might think. So they’re turning to private cloud solutions and network-attached storage devices, right in the home.

I suspect that the Edward Snowden revelations about NSA activities are going to continue to have long-range repercussions, including the rise of personal clouds. Analysts at CloudTweaks predict, “Most people and organizations will realize they’re not being targeted by the NSA; however, the residual effect of the spying scandal is that data privacy will become a scorching hot topic in 2014. A recent poll shows 86 percent of U.S. Internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints using a variety of methods, and more than 70 percent of E.U. citizens want to have more control over how their data is used online.” [“5 Cloud Security Predictions For 2014,” 13 December 2013] The final prediction involves additive manufacturing.

10) 3D printer sales will jump. 3D printers were hot in 2013, but they’ll increase significantly over the next 12 months, Juniper says, as HP, Samsung, and Microsoft join the party.

Apps are already being developed that turn smartphones into 3D scanners so that images can be used with 3D printers. Manufacturers are certainly serious about using additive manufacturing, but the home market is still in its infancy stage. With scanners and printers rapidly coming down in cost, the home market will likely grow much larger. It will be interesting to see if 3D printers are a hot item next Christmas.

Obviously, neither this list of technologies nor the list discussed in Part 1 of this post is exhaustive; but, they do provide some interesting insights into the year ahead.