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.