This week in Forbes,  guest author Heidi Sinclair, president, Global Technology at Weber Shandwick, (based in our Seattle office) predicts what’s next in tech.

We are living in the midst of a powerful technological revolution that dwarfs, yet builds on, everything that has come before. That makes predicting the big technologies for 2012 like tracking the progress of Formula One race cars: You know there will be breakaway winners as well as fantastic crashes. It is all about speed. Speed of change, speed to market and the speed that is now part of everything we do thanks to technology.

So off to the races.

Here my list of the top 10 technologies for next year:

  1. Tablets. Yep, more tablets. The iPad and Kindle will continue to dominate. But expect other players to be competitive with next generation tablets, and new players (Microsoft) to finally enter. The other big news in the tablet space will be integrating them into our work life as enterprise IT deals with employees using tablets for work and a flood of B2B applications that will make tablets more than a media tool.
  2. Interfaces. What we technologists call UI. Just as touch has revolutionized the way we interact with our devices, so too will voice and HTML5. Expect better voice over the course of the year. And kiss Flash goodbye and start to love what HTML5 will do for how you experience video and animation.
  3. Social. There is a whole flood of technology start-ups that are crafting the socialization of everything. We have been playing games socially forever, but now with Spotify and others, we are really sharing our music. Now, we will view television shows and movies virtually, but together. Online shopping will be a shared experience. As technology allows us to be on one hand more isolated, it also is pushing us to do more together. This concept of alone together will have social scientists engaged for decades to come.
  4. Internet of Things . This is the both the groundwork for the Smart Grid, and also the networking of everything. Things from cars to refrigerators are now being loaded with sensors and intelligence. We now have the technologies for a massive range of devices and places to identify, sense and communicate. Other critical technologies feeding into the trend are Image Recognition (provides the ability to identify objects and locations) and Near Field Communication which is key to mobile payment systems. Expect lots of device to device talk in our future.
  5. Apps. The iPhone taught the world about Apps and there is no going back. Gartner predicts 70 billion downloaded apps by 2014. That means that in 2012 millions of people are going to have bright ideas for yet another app the world can’t live without. Importantly, expect big company IT to roll out lots of apps for internal and external use.
  6. Big Data. The billions of users, devices, apps, and all this information means we have a whole lot of data on our hands. We need to figure out how to store it, access it and analyze it. Data warehousing is going to be a big deal next year and beyond. This is good news for server companies, for components of server companies, for database companies and for anyone who can figure out how to manage big amounts of data.
  7. Analytics. Big Data also means the need for really smart analytic tools that can cull massive amounts of data. Needle in haystack stuff. Analytics software has progressed from structured and simple data analysis to efficiently churning through complex data in any variety of types. Next up will be analytics that supports collaborative decision making. This will be big for corporations who can literally involve thousands of employees to analyze, brainstorm and make decisions together. It also will fuel the collaborative social trend (#3).
  8. Storage. Right. With all that data in a flurry of types and all those apps, we need more memory than ever before. So expect progress in 2012 in flash memory for consumer devices and, a new layer of memory in servers that provides in-memory computing support for enterprises. This is good news as it means less space, heat and better performance. And less farmland being razed to build server farms running the data warehouses.
  9. Entertainment Everywhere. You might think you have this now as you can watch a film on your phone, your tablet, your TV or in the theater. But it is easier said than done, right? What is really going to make this take off is a set of software and services that will allow a consumer to have one user and password and have all their entertainment in one place (games, films, TV, even email), with one payment  on multiple devices. The cable, telco companies together with a handful of entrepreneurial companies are close to making this a reality. Stay tuned!
  10. Cloud Computing. You have seen it in adverts everywhere. You actually use cloud computing every time you download an app or make a transaction. This sea change technology is enabling us to rethink every single industry from healthcare to banking. With big enterprise software players investing heavily in their cloud computing solutions, we can expect it to power nearly every aspect of our work and personal lives.

Many of these technologies have had impact already and have long, long tails ahead of them. If you wondered why mobile is not on this list, look again—it is connected to every trend. Mobile technology, its components and networks are critical to everything. In 2012, expect to see super cool mobile devices, new mobile channels and applications for mobile everywhere. The year ahead promises to be another wild technological ride. Buckle up.

Image courtesy of Neil T.

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