Those who live in the past may be doomed to repeat it, but those living in the present are likely bound to the same fate in the fast-paced tech sector. Anticipating and preparing for changing technology trends is not only smart, it's necessary. And while 2013 was a mixed bag of mobile advancement and privacy anxiety, it is clear that in 2014, the Internet will expand further than ever before.
Our relationship with technology is an ever-changing conversation, and the topics on tap in 2014 cover vast swaths of our digital experience. The rise of mobile devices has people talking about the potential of "m-commerce", the era of the Internet-enabled refrigerator is raising new questions about security, evolutions in software interface are changing our relationship with devices, and virtualization software is changing the face of networks and cloud computing. One thing is clear: the New Year will see an intense and fascinating dialog about the role of technology in our lives.
Web design has potential to make or break the field of Internet commerce, especially in the face of rising mobile web traffic. The statistic that mobile web usage will surpass desktop usage has turned heads in the business community as marketers, advertisers, and entrepreneurs consider the implications. All that time spent surfing on mobile devices means little to retailers unless such activity can be converted into commercial return. However, the hurdles to this goal remain high.
The biggest challenge of businesses diving into the mobile platform is calculation of ROI. The problem is twofold. The first is that diverse web-access applications, including native browsers, application-based browsers, and consumer applications render tracking consumer activity a difficult task. The second is that, while users are spending as much as 32 percent of their time on mobile devices, consumer activity generally translates into commercial action in physical, untraceable ways. Consumer research leads to calls, visits, and in-store purchases, but without invasive monitoring measures, this kind of sales conversion remains virtually invisible.
What is clear, however, is that this problem will be solved in time. In addition to ROI calculations, startups are hard at work streamlining the online shopping experience. Complaints regarding the duration of transactions and insecurity/ineptness of card data entry in public are seeing increasing attention. The question is not if, but when technology will adapt to mobile shopping habits. 2014 could quite likely be the answer.
The Internet of Everything
On the surface, the "Internet of Things" could be construed as a coffee maker, dishwasher, and mobile device with a shared Internet connection and the ability to communicate with one another. This is only part of the picture. As Dave Evans, Cisco's chief futurist, explains in Forbes, interconnected networks of censors and production facilities can improve performance of myriad arenas.
A great deal of these, by Evans account, involve civic services and basic human needs. Sensors along the supply food chain can enhance production and limit spoilage through the implementation of "Big Data" analytics. Comprehensive monitoring of the water supply can help prevent leaks and ensure quality. High-speed data connections and Internet enabled medical technologies can collectively improve access to healthcare and education. The interconnectedness of our society has the potential to enhance social well-being in real ways.
With this permeation, however, comes security concerns, both personal and official. Recent revelations regarding US monitoring practices have raised red flags for privacy watchdogs and average consumers alike. Connecting additional devices to the grid will do nothing to mitigate these concerns. At the same time, the national security worries that fueled such monitoring arose, at least in part, from the vulnerability of national infrastructure. Opening new avenues of access to the network without appropriate security may lead to new and more insidious forms of crime that can affect all who utilize the systems.
But, in the minds of developers, the pros outweigh the cons. The New Year will see a ballooning of interconnected technologies with implications well beyond current capabilities. Only time will tell what effect this will have on privacy and social well-being alike.
Mobile Apps and Applications
The mobile experience will see the lion's share of tech attention in the coming year due to its aforementioned commercial potential. But central to the discussion of m-commerce is a more focused but no less comprehensive concept: mobile usability. With the increasing realization that human interaction with machine has far-reaching effects on brand association and consumer activity, businesses and tech firms are quickly mobilizing resources to find the best solutions.
What's most interesting about the development is the focus on mobile applications. Despite the fact that mobile applications represent well-trod territory, developers are exploring our ever-evolving relationship with our devices, exploring avenues of touch, gesture, voice, and video. While interactivity of "apps" will increase, research predicts that the breadth of software application will actually shrink. Instead, focus will be placed on technologies that infer intent from emotion and action to motivate changes in behavior.
Software Defined Anything
And as our relationship with software changes, so too does the relationship of software to hardware. Cloud storage redefined our concept of physical storage by de-localizing data. Cloud computing in the coming year will continue to reshape our technologies. This includes every aspect of physical machines, from networking to storage to data centers.
The concept of "software defined anything" has far reaching implications. By virtualizing the computing infrastructure and delivering hardware capabilities as a service, traditional hardware manufacturers will need to adapt to the new model, placing focus of interoperability and leveraging cloud computing solutions to improve infrastructure performance and user experience. As the potential of this capability unfolds, consumers and businesses are likely to see a bevy of new computing, storage, and networking solutions that will change the face of information technology.
2014 promises an era of even greater sharing and connection. For users, this means a dual-edged sword of privacy concerns and improved experiences. For tech companies, this means a great deal of adaptation to the changing market, but also a real potential for innovation. With new technologies and a rapidly evolving digital landscape, the New Year promises to reshape computing and our digital experience, again.
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