Major innovations and tech sea-changes were few and far between in 2013. Unfortunately, what usually follows major advancements are refinements. These days, innovation tends to happen on a nano-scale, which means most people cannot see or experience that evolution.
LCD display technology, for instance, has been around for decades; the changes we’ve lately seen in screen size, width and resolution have, mostly, refined that original idea. Same with Flash-based and solid state storage. We make the technology smaller and more stable but rarely change the fundamentals.
Like 2013, 2014’s tech trends may not fundamentally change our lives, but they will improve, alter and, on occasion, impede and frustrate our day-to-day activities.
Bear with me a moment as I gaze into our hazy digital future. Here are a few predictions to emerge from the gloom.
1. Smart Home Tech Explosion
Image: Nest Protect Smoke Detector
Home security camera manufacturers like DropCam applied this concept of web-connected appliances and systems years ago. But while not everyone wants webcam-based home security, every home needs a thermostat. Now Nest is selling smoke detectors, which not only use the same infrastructure to communicate with homeowners, but which connect with other in-home Nest devices, as well.
Similarly, Lockitron lets you lock doors via smartphone. The product has helped encourage other companies, such as Schlage, to introduce their own Internet-ready home security devices.
In 2014, other companies will follow Nest and Lockitron’s lead. They’ll shed the last vestiges of proprietary networks and control centers, and along with an explosion of in-home sensors, will help propel the smart home conversion trend in 2014.
2. Privacy Backlash
Image: Getty: JEAN PIERRE CLATOT, AFP
If the law won’t help us, and companies like Verizon, AT&T, Google, Yahoo and Facebook can’t, I predict people will take matters into their own hands. In 2014, they’ll look for ways to either pull back from social media and smartphone use or use tools that will help shield their activities.
Expect a new class of privacy protection companies and services to arrive in 2014, ready to meet what is sure to be a growing need.
3. Ads in Everything
We’re already used to copious product placement on the sets of our favorite TV shows. Reality TV, sports broadcasts and even most major news segments are sponsored by brands. Scripted content still follows stricter regulations, but as the economics of content change, everything from websites to music companies will look for new ways to connect advertisers with audiences.
The trend took off in 2013 with brand-supported content (Mashable has a program, too). Simply, it’s a way for media companies to produce worthwhile content with advertiser backing. Advertisers get to support topics with some connection to their brand ideals and consumer bases.
4. Cloud Wars
Image: Getty: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND, AFP
You’ll hear a stronger desktop PC death rattle in 2014, as consumers finally embrace cloud storage. Consequently, they’ll soon need a lot more than the 5-20 GB standard with most mobile services.
Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google will get serious about marketing and advertising consumer cloud storage, access and work options. They’ll also compete more directly, which may result in a price-per-gigabyte war.
Microsoft kicked the competition off in 2013 with 200 GB of free cloud storage— with a Surface 2 tablet purchase.
However, most consumers in 2013 still didn’t understand how cloud-based storage works. The disparity of tools, interfaces and storage options is “clouding” what should be a clear picture: The days of storing locally are nearing an end.
In 2014, cloud storage producers will conduct an education, pricing and marketing offensive. By the end of next year, external hard drive sales will decline and cloud storage adoption will have skyrocketed.
5. Hello, 4K Content
Image: Getty: JOHN MACDOUGALL, AFP
Simply, 4K HDTVs (also known as “Ultra HDTVs”) offer screen resolution approximately four times greater than your standard 1080p HDTV. The images are so sharp, clear and brilliant that it was like looking out a window.
However, resolution is something consumers understand and, better yet, can enjoy without special, nausea-inducing glasses. Once they transitioned from 4:3 (aspect ratio), 480i (resolution), tube-based TV to 1080i pictures and content (and 1080p Blu-ray discs), there was no going back.
In 2014, 4K content won’t explode, but it will steadily rise in availability.
6. Drone Wars
With one brief 60 Minutes unveil and a short video demo, Jeff Bezos and Amazon thrust drones into the forefront of national consciousness, proposing to use drones as part of an unmanned robot delivery service.
In 2014, the conversation will continue. More visible national retailers and delivery services, such as Amazon and, maybe, FedEx, will air their frustrations and press the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take a fresh look.
Consumers will remain highly distrustful of any camera-toting technology buzzing over their heads, and the FAA will waffle between commercial demands and consumers desire for privacy and safety. We will not emerge from 2014 with a consensus on drone use.
7. Promising Advancements in Nanotech
Image: Getty: JEAN PIERRE CLATOT, AFP
Molecular-level technology has shifted from theory to potential practical applications. The ability to manipulate particle-level material holds promise for everything from biomedicine to consumer electronics.
Breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, vision and hearing loss, data storage and manipulation could all be on the menu in 2014. Look forward to miracles at a micro scale.
With 365 days and 8,760 hours in the year, there’s no telling what other surprises 2014 has in store for us.
- Will a new social network rival Twitter or Facebook? (Nah.)
- Will tablets get bigger, smaller, thinner and fatter? (Oddly, yeah).
- Will wearable technology be bigger in 2014 than in 2013? (Sorry, my crystal ball clouded up on that one.)