3 tech predictions for 2014

Brian Jackson Brian Jackson Published: 12/21/2013

Midway through the second decade of this new millennium and  the world is starting to feel like the futuristic landscape that sci-fi writers used to fantasize about.

The world’s knowledge is at our finger tips in the form of connected mobile devices, its rare to be out of touch with those that matter to us, and a high-definition video conference delivered over broadband Internet can make us feel as though we’re in the same room. Heck, there’s even a couple of flying cars out there (you still need a pilot’s licence) and it’s not unusual to have robots cleaning our homes.

Just as our private lives are impacted by technology advancements, so too is the way we work. Devices come in various hardware form factors but are converging to deliver the same type of experience. The personal targeting of ads imagined in movies like Minority Report is a reality for organizations willing to do the legwork to set it up. Connectivity to our colleagues and corporate data is moving ever closer to us – out of our pockets and onto our bodies.

With those trends in mind, here’s my three predictions for the tech industry in 2014:

Even Microsoft will abandon Windows RT

(Image: Microsoft)
(Image: Microsoft)

When I attended Microsoft’s BUILD conference in 2012 and saw the first preview of Windows 8, one of the big questions journalists were asking Microsoft Corp. executives at the time was how Windows RT and Windows 8 would be clearly differentiated from one another. While we knew RT was a lighter OS made to run on ARM processors, many questions remained about what its capabilities would be compared to the full version of Windows 8 and how that difference would be made clear to consumers when the two OSes looked so similar at first glance. Many pondered whether splitting the OS into two streams was a wise move at all.

A year and a half later, questions about Windows RT persist. Mainly, why even bother having it? While several hardware makers created Windows RT devices in 2012, including Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung, it seems that third-party manufacturers have now lost interest. Only Microsoft hardware still supports the stripped-down OS with the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet released in October and the Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet released in November. But considering that Microsoft had to take a $1 billion write-down on unsold first generation Surface RT devices, it may soon itself lose patience in waiting for the less impressive sibling of its OS twins to bloom. Especially considering that Intel’s latest generation of processors are just about as good on power conservation as ARM processors when it comes to mobile devices, it’s even harder to make an argument for why Microsoft needs RT.

Microsoft publicly aired its commitment to Windows RT as recently as September, saying that future generations of the Surface tablet are already underway. But what’s to say those can’t run the full Windows 8 OS, with perhaps an Intel Atom processor at the core? When a new CEO comes in to replace Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, there will be a phase of restructuring and cost-cutting that should see the unprofitable Windows RT play swept aside to make room for a leaner and still powerful Windows 8-powered Surface.

Microsoft will continue to support Windows RT devices until its natural end of life, but it won’t burn money on new hardware for the OS.

The Chief Marketing Officer will be the prize sought by tech firms

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An oft-cited Gartner Inc. study showing chief marketing officers (CMOs) are will control more IT budget than the CIO is being widely circulated in the business community. Technology companies are taking note and re-gearing their efforts to target their new best customer. After decades of catering to process-oriented IT administrators, software makers now have goal-oriented marketing managers to deal with. These new customers aren’t interested in fiddling with the backend of the solutions sold to them to realize efficiencies and be interoperable with legacy applications – they just expect it to run like a service that delivers what’s promised.

Expect to see firms like Adobe, Salesforce.com, Oracle Corp., IBM Corp., and other big tech brands racing towards creating the so-called end-to-end marketing suite that will be able to address all of an organizations marketing needs with one dashboard. It’ll me a good time to be a technology marketing startup that delivers on a niche area of marketing process that the big guys haven’t covered yet, as firms like Salesforce.com and Oracle are either making large acquisitions or gearing their platforms to be easier to partner with to access a very large customer base.

Marketers should feel like the prettiest girl at the ball as tech vendors will be stumbling over themselves to get their attention – and their budget.

Google Glass will be on the consumer market, alongside other wearable tech competitors

brian-google-glass

It was just this past summer when there were famously only 10 developers with a Google Glass headset in Canada. Called Glass Explorers, these early adopters made the futuristic head gear look as cool as possible and organized opportunities for people to try it everywhere they went. But the truth is the $1,500 prototype was a bit rough around the edges in terms of user interface and only lasted for a bit more than an hour on a full battery charge – not ready for prime time.

Glass Explorers are saying Google is now ready to enter the consumer market with a product in 2014, perhaps as early a Q2. But expect the initial hardware to still be expensive and too esoteric for mass adoption. Instead many consumers will opt for other wearable technology products that more naturally fit into their lives and into their wardrobes.

Meanwhile, manufacturers of this new device category will go to great lengths to convince us all that wearable technology is fashionable – recruiting fashion bloggers, landing celebrity endorsements, and partnering with fashion brand names. Gear like smart watches and augmented reality glasses will be an easier sell to men than women.

Think my predictions are on the money for 2014, or is looking too deeply into my crystal ball making me cross-eyed? Let me know in the comments below.

5 things digital marketers can expect in 2014

Candice So Candice So Published: 01/02/2014
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

With digital marketing being an area of fast growth and quick change, for the third year in a row, CMO.com asked marketers to weigh in with their thoughts on what to expect.

Here’s a few perspectives on what digital marketing will look like in 2014.

1. More marketers will rely on big data.
While it’s a nice thing to be able to manually sift through data, unfortunately that approach isn’t scalable, says Lara Albert, senior vice-president of global marketing at Globys. She argues digital marketers are going to have to use machine-driven campaigns for their campaign strategies, offers, and for personalized messagers to their customers. That’s the way to work at massive scale and do it with ease, she says.

2. Investing in mobile will become even more key.
It won’t just be wishful thinking – IT leaders are going to expect to have mobile devices and apps that will boost productivity, says Kurt Andersen, executive vice-president Of sales enablement and marketing for SAVO.

“These executives expect more full-function capabilities on mobile devices for their salespeople so they can have effective conversations on any topic at any time. As CMO, you will need to embrace mobile applications that will better align and support the marketing and sales teams so they can move the needle and make mobility a weapon that helps them close more deals,” he says.

3. Keep up with social media.
Advertisers are already using Instagram and Twitter, and Snapchat will probably be another place for that, says Ryan Aynes, co-founder of EDGE Collective. That’s what Dan Greenberg, co-founder and CEO of Sharethrough, also believes. He says mobile marketers will see more growth in content feeds like Facebook and Twitter, rather than through banner ads on the screens of mobile devices.

4. Content marketing will grow and help boost brands and sales.
More than one of the marketers on this list had this belief. Online retailers and online content publishers may soon ally together to drive sales, says Michael Beaulieu, associate director of digital media sales at Wayfair.

“I predict that in 2014 the line between online retailer and online content publisher will continue to blur. Online content publishers are experimenting with various models of e-commerce–diversifying away from an ad sales-only model by introducing e-commerce either on site or in partnership with affiliated sites,” he says.

Michael Brenner, vice-president of marketing for SAP AG, agrees. He adds that he expects brands to set up their own newsrooms and start producing content. Their content will be what their audience wants to consume, but it will also have a business result tied to it, he says. Instead of creating content to promote a brand, the content will benefit the brand’s audience by both informing people and entertaining them.

5. Marketers will strike the right balance between being invasive and inviting.

While consumers do like getting personalized messages and offers, right now, many consumers seem to feel they are giving up a lot of their data and not getting much in return. Digital marketers will be fine-tuning that process this year, using data more effectively to give customers better experiences – without crossing the line and becoming invasive about it, says Debi Kleiman, president of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX).

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4 New Year’s resolutions to improve your IT operations

Brian Jackson Brian Jackson Published: 12/16/2013

New Year’s resolution making is a tradition ranging back thousands of years. Breaking those resolutions ranges back equally as long in history.

But if you want to make an earnest effort towards improving your organization’s IT practices and general tech health, heed the wise words of IT World Canada editor Howard Solomon. He’s got four main resolutions you should make for the year ahead:

  1. Set up a cloud centre of excellence.
  2. Take a deep dive into Software Defined Networking.
  3. Hold monthly lunch and learn sessions with staff on proper security procedures.
  4. If you don’t have a BYOD policy, now is the time to make one.

Watch the video to get more details on Solomon’s recommendations. Most importantly, remember to do what we so often don’t when it comes to our New Year’s resolutions – commit to putting them into action!

9 Canadians to watch in digital technology in 2014

Karim Kanji Karim Kanji Published: 01/02/2014
(Image: Thalmic Labs).

As we rapidly near the end of 2013, people’s thoughts naturally tend to look back at the year that was, or the upcoming 12 months. While 2013 has been anything but boring (think of the rise and fall – again – of BlackBerry and the continued strength of HootSuite, to name just two ongoing stories), 2014 looks to be the year that a number of Canadians in the technology field make headlines.

Here are my 9 Canadians to watch in digital technology in 2014.

Thalmic Labs Co-Founder and CEO Stephen Lake

2014 is going to be an interesting year for the team at Thalmic Labs. Led by CEO and co-founder, Stephen Lake, the company that has brought us the Myo Armband seems to be following a trajectory reserved once for early dot coms and social startups. They have already raised over $15 million in funding from such notable investors as Intel Capital, Dan Debow, Mark Benioff, and Reza Satchu.

As wearable computing continues to gain traction and popularity among consumers, watch for this Waterloo-based company to continue to grow.

Canadian astronaut-turned-professor Chris Hadfield

In 2013, Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station. While doing so he made being a space-geek the coolest thing in the world by singing with the Barenaked Ladies, doing his own rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity and sharing breathtaking photos of the earth from his Twitter account.

In 2014, Hadfield will be spending his time as a professor of aviation at the University of Waterloo. However, I don’t expect Hadfield to become your average high-profile celebrity cashing in his newfound fame for easy money.

My bet is that Hadfield will get the itch to do some more ground-breaking work in the field of research and innovation. 2014 should  end with Hadfield working with one or more high-tech Waterloo-based startups.

BroadbandTV CEO Shahrzad Rafati

2013 wrapped up with  Broadband TV’s founder and CEO, Shahrzad Rafati, being named Executive of the Year at the prestigious nextMEDIA Digi Awards. Rafati was also recognized as one of The Women’s Executive Network’s 100 most Powerful Women.

If you don’t already know, Vancouver-based BroadbandTV is one of the world’s largest online broadcasters with partners such as YouTube, Sony and the National Basketball Association.

As video marketing and consumption continues to grow, watch for Rafati and her company to continue growing and winning awards.

Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau

Started in 2006, Wattpad is now the world’s largest story-sharing community. Led by Allen Lau, Toronto-based Wattpad has raised over $20 million from Khosla Ventures, Union Square Ventures, OMERS Ventures, W Media Ventures and Golden Venture Partners.

To date, Wattpad enjoys numbers only a few Internet sites can: 20 million unique monthly visitors and over 5 billion minutes of time spent on site. Earlier this year, Wattpad and publishing powerhouse Random House partnered to launch a novel series. Watch for more partnerships and continued growth in 2014 for Wattpad.

Twitter Canada’s Kirstine Stewart

Earlier this spring, Twitter Canada opened its offices and named Kirstine Stewart as head of Canadian operations. Formerly the head of English Services at CBC, Stewart’s responsibilities will be to make more people and businesses aware of the marketing possibilities of the networking platform.

2014 will also see Stewart taking time to write a new book, On Turn. To be published by Random House, On Turn will cover, among other topics, how new media technologies encourage flexibility and creativity in business, and the opportunities that are opening up for women as a result.

HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes

Earlier this year, Ryan Holmes-led software technology startup, HootSuite closed a round of financing worth $165 million. According to some, this valued the Vancouver-based company at over $1 billion.

While Holmes has declined speculating on the value of HootSuite, we have seen the CEO start becoming more active with his new-found fame. Earlier in December, Holmes joined the board of advisors of LX Ventures. The Vancouver-based publicly traded incubator focuses on launching, integrating, and acquiring early stage high growth technology companies.

Holmes also launched the foundation, The Next Big Thing. According to a HootSuite blog post, The Next Big Thing will be a program aimed at accelerating young entrepreneurs complete with funding, mentorship, and experiential learning.

BlackBerry’s John Chen

Prior to the holiday season, BlackBerry’s newest CEO John Chen issued a strong “state of the nation” address while announcing more disappointing sales news. As BlackBerry announced more than $4 billion in loses, Chen reiterated the plans for the one-time mobile innovator: enterprise and government customers.

It seems BlackBerry’s preoccupation with competing with Android and Apple’s consumer domination has finally ended. Although Rome was not built in a day (or a year for that matter) I believe that 2014 will finally be the year that we see the dawn of a new era – or the beginning of the end for Canada’s tech giant.

Big Viking Games co-founder Albert Lai

Big Viking Games CEO Albert Lai is no stranger to big wins. As the co-founder of mobile games start-up, Big Viking Games, Lai is also the co-founder of social web analytics platform Kontagent and was a very early partner with MyDesktop prior to the first Internet bubble.

Since 1999, Lai has been on a winning streak. Most recently, Big Viking Games was recognized (after less than 2 years in business) as one of the top employers in the country. And their games are already played by millions of fans. Expect 2014 to be another banner year for Lai.

Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston

Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston is one Waterloo tech CEO who may be a little bittersweet that 2013 is quickly coming to an end. In 2010, his mobile messaging startup was being sued by BlackBerry. In 2013 that case was finally closed as both companies came to terms.

2013 also saw Kik close almost $20 million in additional funding from RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, and Foundation Capital. Finally, Kik announced in early December that the service reached over 100 million monthly users.

As mobile messaging continues to grow, watch Kik (and other mobile messaging services) grow in popularity with both consumers and advertisers.

(Image: Flickr Creative Commons).

6 tech predictions for 2014 – apps, the cloud, and telecommuting

Shawn Freeman Shawn Freeman Published: 12/24/2013

In 2013, we watched as Twitter went public, Netflix’s original series House of Cards won an Emmy, Tumblr was purchased for $1-billion and consumers overwhelmingly favoured smartphones and tablets over PCs.

Here’s what I predict we’ll see from technology in 2014:

1. Businesses big and small will look seriously at moving to the cloud.

The cloud makes sense for both budding startups and established companies. It’s customizable, agile, secure and affordable. Many businesses are using it already with programs like Gmail, Dropbox or Contactually. Others have already moved much or all of their infrastructure — servers, data centres and operating systems — to the cloud.

This trend will continue into 2014. In-house IT staff may want to start working on proposals that outline how to best use the cloud and seize the opportunity to navigate this new environment, or face unemployment. Many IT service providers are using the cloud to give their clients efficient IT solutions without having to worry about hiring staff.

2. Working via a mobile device or from home will finally become acceptable.

As companies look at ways to cut costs and maximize assets, some are foregoing physical office spaces or brick-and-mortar stores altogether. Collaborators from across the globe can easily chat and collaborate using web-based conferencing tools like Speek, Lync or Skype. Cloud apps like Huddle let multiple people plan, collaborate on projects, and manage content from multiple devices. As employees bring their own devices to work, it’s easier for them to keep working when they take them home.

The technology that allows employees to work from home is what also makes it possible for companies to hire talent outside their immediate geographic area. Businesses are picking up on this, as well as the desire from their employees to maintain a balanced lifestyle. As IT companies move away from setting up cumbersome virtual private networks and move toward cloud computing tools, employees will be keen to work from different locales.

 3. Apps for practically everything.

While we already use apps for tracking calorie consumption and making dinner reservations, we’ll see even more in the coming year. I expect there will be a surge in the adoption of apps (like Belkin’s WeMo) that let you control the technology in your home: light switches, TVs, and heating and cooling.

Logitech’s Harmony Ultimate Hub lets you turn your iPhone or Android smartphone into a universal remote for your existing home entertainment systems. You may never lose the remote again.

4. iBeacon will revolutionize your day — and all of your apps.

Apple’s iBeacon app is an indoor positioning system that uses GPS. Your iPhone or iPad sends out signals through Bluetooth, allowing the stores and other businesses to track where customers — who’ve downloaded the app and turned on their notifications — are shopping at any given time. The whole thing plays out behind the scenes, as beacons triangulate the your location, meaning you don’t do any extra work to use the app.

The technology has huge implications for how businesses connect with their customers in real-time. Stores can share promotions and updates with their customers the minute they walk in the door. The app could generate in-store maps that correspond with an existing digital shopping list, Wired writes. Bar patrons could pay their bill without ever getting up from the table.

5. Social movements like UnCollege will take off because of technology.

UnCollege is an educational program based on a social movement that challenges the idea that university or college is the only path towards a rewarding learning experience. The company offers one-year bootcamps that allow students to design their path in a specific sector or hone a specific skill set. A coding program, for example, helps a budding tech entrepreneur build a useful app that allows him or her to make a living, instead of going into debt for four or more years.

Technology, which makes learning materials accessible and connects students to mentors located across the globe, makes this kind of education possible. More and more universities are putting free courseware online, which allows students to take courses on an as-needed basis. These burgeoning movements, supported by accessible technology, will take off in 2014.

6. eRetailers will compete for fastest delivery time.

Although it’s unlikely we’ll see Amazon drones making next-day deliveries anytime soon, we will witness retailers racing to improve their delivery times — or risk falling behind. The number of days a customers has to wait for the delivery of a product is still a big barrier to the success of online shopping. If customers know they need to wait 10 days for that book they ordered, they might just walk to the store to buy it.

The retailer who can deliver items the fastest for the smallest fee will come out on top. This could mean more integrated e-commerce sites and more distribution centres.

Trend Micro’s 5 predictions for cybersecurity in 2014

Candice So Candice So Published: 01/02/2014

Mobile banking heists, exploited vulnerabilities, and data breaches – these could be the cybersecurity hallmarks of 2014, according to a new report from security software provider Trend Micro Inc.

In a report released in December, Trend Micro outlined a number of eight security risks it’s warning us to expect within the coming year.
Among them were a few highlights:

1) Mobile banking users will fall prey to more “man-in-the-middle” attacks, meaning an attacker will intercept messages and relay them back and forth. That means asking users to follow a basic two-step verification process won’t be enough to keep hackers out.

2) At IT Business.ca, we wrote a number of stories on different phishing schemes and the rise of more targeted attacks. This year promises more of the same, with Trend Micro predicting cybercriminals will be using more and more selective about who they target. They’ll be using open source research and customized spear phishing to reach their victims.

3) There have been some pretty high-profile data breaches in 2013 – among them, Adobe’s database was hacked in the fall, and just this week, a whopping 4.6 million Snapchat accounts were hacked. Trend Micro predicts this won’t be slowing any time soon, with news breaking of one major data breach incident each month.

4) There will be more attacks from hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities in unsupported software – for example, Java 6, or Windows XP, which is set to reach its end of support date on April 8 of this year.

5) The public will start to question the state’s role in monitoring their Internet activity, especially since news of the NSA’s surveillance activities came to light in 2013. The Snowden revelations will lead to a number of “disparate efforts to restore privacy,” Trend Micro says.

While privacy concerns around wearable technology gadgets haven’t yet made the threats list for 2014, in its press release, Trend Micro added those will be something to watch in the next couple of years. That’s especially true for cybercriminals who might want to steal others’ identities.

For the full report on Trend Micro’s predictions for the coming year, head on over here.

10 Bold Predictions for Crowdfunding in 2014

Bret Conkin Bret Conkin Published: 01/02/2014
Male and Female Icons
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

1. Alternative Financing is not a trend. Venture capital is being democratized. More and more entrepreneurs will build crowdfunding into their funding cycle to tap supporters. The market validation, feedback and community building are just as important as the funds being raised. Donations, rewards, equity and debt can all be utilized during the lifecycle of a venture. Still expectations will be reset. There will be disappointment for some. That is just the natural cycle unfolding.

Healthline.com crowdfunding Powered by FundRazr
Healthline.com visitors can now start crowd funding campaigns Powered by FundRazr

2. Plug n’ Play on high traffic websites. Major online communities in need of funds will plug and play crowdfunding onto their websites, like top 10 US Health Info site Healthline.com did for medical crowdfunding. Incubators and accelerators will bake crowdfunding services into their programs. Brands will connect their good works more effectively into promotions on their Facebook page, webpage and other social networks.

3. There will be fraud but… Wherever there is money, there are unscrupulous people trying to take advantage. This has existed offline for many years. The good news is that the authentication, verification, social policing and fraud-prevention features platforms are introducing will help keep this in check. None of those checks and balances exist offline.

4. Enterprise will enter the game. Institutions will run matching campaigns to leverage budgets and meet CSR goals. Franchisors will discover the benefits of crowdfunding their brands, financing franchisees and seeding new markets. Social enterprise will continue to ramp up as they combine the entrepreneurial and cause drivers that have been key to successful crowdfunding so far. Communities will harness advocates, dialogue and critically needed project funds.

5. A shift away from destination sites. Once upon a time people built their own payment solutions. Then PayPal offered an easy way to plug in the management of payments, fraud prevention and the like. The same trend will unfold and the impact will be the SaaS availability of crowdfunding as a funding and payment option. Why build the community of a destination site when you can build your own?

6. Crowdfunding meets Corporate Social Responsibility. Sponsorship networks will emerge that enable brands to attach themselves to locations or categories of interest. Why not make a product offer to contributors as a perk? Attach your equity to the crowdfunding of environmental, technology, healthcare or humane campaigns. CSR objectives will be met at the same time as sales promotion goals. Customers will be acquired, revenues measured and the silos of Cause Marketing and Sales will be broken down.

7. Follow the Leader. States and provinces will closely observe the early entrants like Saskatchewan, Georgia, Kansas and Michigan. Regulations will move to the middle once Federal regulations are brought in like the JOBS Act Title III in the US. The competition for capital will create a more consistent regulatory environment over time.

8. The sky will not fall when equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors opens more widely. This has been shown in Australia, UK and other markets. The early market regulations in North American jurisdictions where it’s been introduced cap raises and set investor limits among other protections. You can spend thousands gambling in a casino or investing in a faceless mutual fund. Why can’t you make a small investment in a brand, concept, person or gadget that you love?

9. Consolidation and Contraction. With 1000+ sites claiming to offer crowdfunding, the campaigner can get confused on their options. The vast majority of these sites are not engineered to effectively raise funds and they will fade into the sunset in the next year or two. Some of the top niche sites will be acquired as the finance industry figures out that alternative financing is here to stay. The top 50-100 International sites will experience massive growth and VC money will fuel some platforms to acquire others for market share.

10. New venture funding models will develop. Accredited and non-accredited investors will co-invest. Syndication will increase. Influencers will emerge from the non-accredited class. Models will be created that manage the interests of the crowd of investors so that they are represented, but not a thorn in the side of entrepreneurs. It will be messy but it will evolve.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? 2014 will be a wild ride that will fuel new entrepreneurial dreams and the economy. It is not a panacea for all funding needs, but it is a powerful new tool. I can’t wait to get started.

 

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