Predictions for the Coming Year: Technology, Part 1

Stephen DeAngelis

December 26, 2013

The transition from year to the next is always an interesting time. In addition to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, brave individuals go out on a limb to offer up their prognostications for the year (or years) ahead. A few such predictions have already been made having to do with the future of technology. Although I personally prefer reading predictions about breakthroughs that might emerge, many of the predictions this year seem to be about what trends are going to heat up (that is, what currently available technologies are going to get hot). That sort of prediction is what the folks at TheAppTimes have provided. [“Tech in 2014: What Will Tech Look Like in the Next Year,” 13 November 2013] Although it is safer to predict trends than breakthroughs, the folks at the TheAppTimes remind us, “Trends in technology now move almost as fast as technology develops.” The technologies that they decided to highlight were selected either because they are gaining momentum or are challenging the status quo. Their list includes four technologies: streaming, wearable tech, electric cars, and phones. Those technologies seem like pretty safe bets. Concerning streaming technologies, they write:

“A current growing trend that we will likely see expand all the more in the coming year is video and audio streaming. Tech developers are working to unlock the screens, that is, to easily and intuitively share content across all your devices wirelessly. Recently, Google released Chromecast a small USB device that plugs into your TV and allows you to stream content from your Android phone or tablet, as well as iPhone or iPad, directly to your TV over your wireless connection effortlessly. Apple’s Airplay through its Apple TV device allows similar streaming capabilities but strictly for iOS devices. What developers are attempting to do is create a unified experience across all your screens.”

Beyond trying to provide you with “a unified experience across all your screens,” companies offering streaming technologies are trying to lock you into their operating systems thus locking out their competitors. They play this game because they believe streaming will become big business. The next trend TheAppTimes discusses is wearable technology. Perhaps the most talked about item in this category is the smart watch. The article continues:

“We already see now how the line has blurred between tech and fashion. As tech has grown from merely the domain of the nerdy to encompass the trendy and the fashionable, it was only a matter of time before people began literally wearing tech. Both Apple and Samsung are rumored to be in the works of developing smart watches — the iWatch and Samsung Galaxy Altius. Smart watches will link with your phone via Bluetooth and display notifications like text messages and emails and may even allow you to reply directly from the watch rather than dig your phone out of your pocket. 2014 could also see the long awaited release of Google Glass as well. With the major contenders entering the stage of wearable tech, who knows what other gadgets people will be adding to their wardrobes.”

There are a number of wearable devices that help monitor your health. These technologies contribute to what has been described as the quantifiable self. In the near future, I’ll write about more about mobile technology and healthcare, because that is where the quantifiable self is making the biggest splash. The next technology discussed in the article involves electric cars.

“Not too long ago, the idea of electric cars entering the market as major competitors was still an eye-roller. But opinions are beginning to change, especially with the growing success of electric car brand Tesla Motors, who are actively proving how their cars can be used for more than just local drives. The Tesla Model S can take you 300 miles on a full charge. Plus, Tesla is building super-charging stations around the US, capable of recharging a car’s battery in a fraction of the time of a conventional outlet. In addition to Tesla, major manufacturers are also bringing their own all-electric cars to the market, like the Nissan Leaf. Couple this with affordable prices for the average consumer in the coming year and we could see a huge increase in zero emission vehicles in 2014.”

In the past, there have three primary challenges for electric cars. The first two were mentioned above: the distance you could drive on a full charge and how long it took to recharge spent batteries. As the article notes, good progress has been made towards overcoming both of these challenges. The third challenge remains problematic — wide availability of charging stations. There are other issues that have been raised with the increased use of electric cars. Foremost among them is how to tax owners of such vehicles so that they pay their fair share of the upkeep of highways. In the past, user taxes have been added to the price of gasoline. Since owners of electric cars don’t use gasoline, they don’t pay those taxes and, thus, don’t contribute to the upkeep of roadways. I guarantee that lawmakers on both the left and the right will come together to figure out how to remedy this situation. The final technology discussed in the article is phones — specifically, smart phones.

“One trend we are not likely to see change is the market focus on smart phones. However, the smart phones themselves might be strikingly different. One major potential innovation coming to phones in 2014 is curved and flexible screens. [In 2013], Samsung demonstrated their Youm flexible display, because their OLED’s do not require a backlight, they can produce thin, durable screens on flexible plastic. This creates some great advantages, flexible screens are much better at absorbing shock and will not shatter like glass screens, and flexible screens allow for curved displays, this gives developers more room to design across than just a flat screen; one possible utilization of this was a ticker style notification feed along the curved edge of the phone. The major tech trend for phones in 2014 will be ease of use.”

Another prognosticator, Gary Shapiro, predicts that driverless cars will have a bright future. Politicians must agree with him since they have already begun to consider laws governing their use. Shapiro believes that driverless options are just the latest technology that will enhance our driving experience. “Almost every recent model car offers more technology to make a run to the grocery store than the Apollo astronauts had to land on the moon in 1969,” he writes. [“Bright future for driverless cars,” The Hill, 18 November 2013] He continues:

“As technology continues to advance, our cars will take on more responsibility for mundane driving tasks. One day soon, your car will literally drive itself. When the first driverless car rolls off the assembly line, it will embody years of research and development by engineers, computer scientists, behaviorists and safety experts in the automotive, consumer electronics (CE) and IT industries.”

Shapiro reports that driverless cars are one of the five top technologies to watch next year. Other technologies to watch are the Internet of Things, Digital Consumer Healthcare (as noted above); the rise of robots, and the curating of videos. Bill Goodwin, another analyst willing to offer his predictions, argues that the convergence of technologies is going to change the IT landscape in the years ahead. “What is clear, is that the convergence of mobility, big data, the cloud, collaboration tools and the internet of things will mean sweeping changes not only for business in general, but also for the role and function of the IT department.” [“Future Gazing: The Future of IT in 2020,” Computer Weekly, 19 November 2013] Chris Mooney offers predictions about environmentally friendly technologies that he believe will dominate next year. [“Green Tech Trends that Will Dominate 2014,” Youth Climate, 21 December 2013] They are: self-programming household gadgets; fiber optics; and, like TheAppTimes, green cars. In Part 2 of this post, I will discuss the top ten tech predictions made by Juniper Research.