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Predictions for 2014

After scoring a commendable 6 out of 10 for my last lot of predictions, I thought I’d have a crack at 2014. So here goes, my view of what will be the game changers in 2014.

Privacy. Or rather the death of anonymity and the subsequent paranoid backlash that will see an explosion in secure email, browser plugins and new cloud services. We are all tracked, all the time, on the internet so we just need to get used to it – or unplug. Unplugging prove a challenge in the future if you want to trade, either at a personal or business level – those that elect to unplug, or hide their identity may find an absence of trust may make things difficult.

Personal Internet Devices. Google Glass, Smartwatches and always-on smart phones are going to change how we experience and consume information. Devices have become location and, to a certain extent, context aware, so you can serve up information snippets when you need them, without having to unlock your phone and load an app etc. We’ll see some early attempts to produce “glanceable” UIs during the year. Apple are not currently leading this space and it could be the biggest threat it’s faced for a decade.

Digital etiquette. We may find we’re asking permission to connect to WiFi, checking to see if our friends are happy with us leaving our Google glasses on. The digital world has grown faster than your Dad can say “switch that bloody phone off at the dinner table” and the social niceties around the use of digital devices are yet to evolve.

The end of web programming. Maybe a little dramatic, but the rise of first-class frameworks such as WordPress means there is now no need to build every website page by hand. This will democratise content and we’ll see an explosion of content and web delivery that suits real users, not IT departments and geeks (although as a result we’ll all become a little more geeky in an effort to understand this, much like we became typists with MS Word and mathematicians with Excel). Traditional web agencies will start to die.

Information poverty. Not everyone can afford the latest devices and fibre broadband, this group of people will suffer as lack of access to high speed cloud computing and will hinder education, social & community, broadcast media, time/resource management and the jobs marketplace. We run the risk of leaving whole swathes of the population in the (digital) dark ages.

Haptic technology. Touch feedback systems in everything from cars to tablets will reduce the need for our eyes to be the primary interface mode – this will extend to us being able to recognise different vibration patterns to transfer information from our personal devices to our brains.

Lifestyle management. We’re using our digital world to manage our personal world now, everything from booking a slot at the gym, using Trip Advisor to find a local restaurant and for personal communications. The combination of reliable trust networks and simple micro-payment systems encourage us to “try new stuff” and automate what we do already.

Location and time-independent working. This is the beginning of the end of the traditional 9-5 office existence. The growth of cloud applications, pervasive internet and the cost of commuting in time, money and health terms will drive this innovation, along with the opportunity for companies to cut £5-10k of costs per employee per annum. We dumped our £35k office cost in 2012 and flourished as a result.

Tablet-first. Xmas 2013 saw 4 million new tablets opened as prezzies, and according to a number of surveys, half the online transactions (we call them conversions) were carried out on a tablet device. 2 years ago is was 5%. Everything from TV to games will be built around HD-enabled handheld devices, most of them 7″ or smaller. This might even start to threaten high-end big-screen smart phones.

Virtual currencies. We’ve seen Bitcoin rise and fall and rise again, ultimately it may fail but the experiment has largely been proved the desire and mechanisms. How long before Amazon, Paypal and the others introduce virtual currencies? It will certainly speed-up the paperless currency world.

That’s my ten, knocked up in an hour of brain dumping so not maybe as thorough as it could be. I should really add an eleventh, “the end of reliable predictions” as it’s getting harder to second guess the growth of technology as we see regulation playing a larger role in the adoption of new technology – take a look and see how different governments and organisations are treating Google Glass (illegal to drive in some places), e-cigarettes (banned indoors in Spain), 3D printing of guns and the regulation of drones.

Governments seem more willing to wade-in and restrict emerging technology without considering the ramifications, and are often ill-informed.

By Martin Dower