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5 tech trends for 2014

Jan 30, 2014

Each January, whilst we’re all busy playing with the gadgets we have received in our stocking, Las Vegas is looking ahead. At the Consumer Electronics Show (‘CES’), innovative start ups join the biggest players in the electronics industry to unveil the products that they hope will be the next big thing. This year was no exception.

At CES, technology trends emerge. As a result, the internet begins to buzz with predictions for what products and concepts will flourish in the upcoming year. Here are 5 big tech developments that are expected to cause a stir. I wonder how many of these featured on Tomorrow’s World…
 

1.      Wearable technolgy

Smart wristbands, such as Nike’s Fuelband (small rubber bracelets which adorn the wrists of energetic tech enthusiasts and track their latest exercise regime) have been around for some time. At CES 2014, the smart wristband competition was out in force, with new products from providers like Razer, Fitbit and Sony. New features include products that can track not only your physical activity, but also the quality and patterns of your sleep (and wake you up should you wish) and fully integrate with your mobile phone, to alert you of incoming calls and messages. The new competition has brought competitive pricing, with offerings now available from around £80.

Along similar lines, the smart phone watch has come on leaps and bounds. Given smartphones seem to get larger with each new release, the watch equivalent is getting smaller. The Pebble Smartwatch is compact and in keeping with the traditional watch-style. It is also marketed in the States for $249 (around £150); I had assumed this sort of product to be prohibitively expensive, but at this price I would have to agree that the smart phone watch may well rise in popularity over the coming year.

Thinking further ahead, wigs that can help navigate roads and monitor blood pressure are on their way (Sony’s patent application was filed just a couple of months ago).

Whilst wearable technology can help us to collect data about ourselves (perhaps fine tune our fitness regime or manage our diet), this technology also comes with privacy concerns. Who else is looking at this data, recording not only your activity, but your location and health too? The technology provider may choose to collect, store and analyse that data – a great R&D and market research tool.  But are they being transparent with you as to how they are using your data? Have you given your informed consent for them to use it? If you ticked the ‘I accept’ box, it’s likely that you have given your consent – did you read the terms and privacy policy before doing so? Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look…
 

2.      Real-time mobile targeting

The struggles of high street retailers may be down to a failure to keep up with technological developments.

One such development, real-time mobile targeting, could revolutionise the way we shop. Shoppers can download apps which use real-time location-based technology to track when they are in or near a specific shop. The app can then incentivise the shopper by sending targeted advertising offers, promotions and product information to their mobile as they shop. If this trend becomes as popular as some expect this year, perhaps those businesses still holding on in the high street could regain their strength of yesteryear.
 

3.      The transformation of everyday items

This year’s CES was bursting at the seams with technological developments for everyday items, with products ranging from vacuum cleaners to fridges all getting smarter in 2014.

The new household items contain computers, which can be particularly utilised when linked up to a smartphone (or the wearable technology mentioned above) to remotely control lighting, air conditioning units or washing machines. New fridges can keep track of the expiry date of your food or let you know when a light bulb has gone. Watch out domestic goddesses; if this trend is to expand as expected, your home could practically run itself (software updates permitting!).

The research benefits and privacy concerns outlined above are echoed; a smart fridge was in the news just last week in relation to a ‘spam attack’ security breach. These concerns multiply if this trend expands as much as is hoped by the likes of Samsung, who are seen as a particularly aggressive player in the market and hope we will all have a complete ‘Smart Home’ in years to come.
 

4.      PlayCAPTCHAS

CAPTACHAS (the rather squiggly, often unreadable, combination letters and numbers which we are required to decipher in order to confirm we are a human on many websites, and which we humans together complete an average of 300 million per day) are set to change.

Rather than being asked to complete the often frustrating CAPTCHA verification process, PlayCAPTCHAS instead invite users to play a game to verify that they are a human.

PlayCAPTCHAS offer a new variety of branding tool for advertisers and the opportunity for website owners to add an element of fun into the everyday online transaction.
 

5.      Workplace apps

They’ve been around for some time, but the expectation is that the workplace app will boom in the next year. Here are a few interesting contenders:

Yammer  These guys already have the likes of Shell, DHL and Ebay on board. Yammer offers a private network which encourages collaboration between employees across different locations and departments. Think of it as Facebook, but just for your business and without the ‘how cute is this squirrel’ spam (hopefully!).

Onit  A contracts management app which allows users to create a record of all their contracts, locate the latest versions on demand, propose or approve amendments and e-sign when the contract is agreed.

SAP HR  An employee leave management system, allowing leave to be requested and approved, sickness to be tracked and time sheets managed.

Smartphones are a key feature of many businesses, however as reliance on them increases, a close eye should be kept on potential security issues and it may be time to implement or review your existing staff policies on information and communication, data protection and social media.