It’s January and that means prognostication time for writers. I’m always wary of these lists, because I find my definition of a defining trend and that of journalists seem to vary widely. For example, 2013 was supposed to be the year of wearables–but I’d argue that they really had little effect on the marketplace. Sure we saw more fitness trackers and a couple badly-designed smart watches, but did they really “define” the tech marketplace in 2013? Google glass wasn’t even available to buy for anyone who didn’t win a contest! Based on hard sales, I’d call wearables a flop in 2013, though there’s certainly plenty of intriguing possibilities for the technology going forward. The fact is, few things are truly revolutionary to have an overnight impact–it’s going to take a couple years for most products to build momentum.
With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along Frog Design’s 15 picks for Tech That Will Define 2014:
- Anonymity Will Go Mainstream. I’m assuming this is partly based on revelations about how much of everyone’s information the NSA has access to. Everyone seems to be outraged–my question: is the privacy concern enough to really change people’s behavior? Have they stopped using gmail, yahoo, their phones or text messages?
- Drones. Everywhere. Good–I’ve been meaning to get a friend for my Rumba.
- Disconnecting in the Modern, Digital World. I have my doubts about this one–I think consumers suffer less digital fatigue than people who create and write about tech all day. I’ve yet to see any evidence that everyday people are fed-up with the amount of information available to them.
- Rise of Chinese Internet Giants. The article points specifically to WeChat, a mobile messaging client that already has a user base of 300 million. Wait, I thought this was the year we were all going to become more anonymous? China, in case you haven’t heard, doesn’t really do “anonymous.” Or “free speech.” or “Free Competition.” 300 million is impressive, but less so when you consider the restrictions the company puts on foreign companies who want to compete there. Color me skeptical on this one, too.
- Mind Control. Finally. No, the article refers to objects controlled by brain waves, not (regrettably) other people.
- Augmented Reality. Google Glass is the big item here. Sure, it’s interesting–but some big questions remain even after the limited release to Explorers: Is it useful? Does anyone really want to buy this thing? Does anyone want to wear this thing in public? What’s the “Killer Feature” that makes it something people can’t live without? I think they’re going to sell a fair amount, but I question whether people who buy them will be getting good usage out of them, or simply wearing them as a status symbol.
- Self-Driving Cars. Awesome. Seriously revolutionary. All that’s standing in their way is legislation, insurance companies, consumer trust, availability, and a 15 year purchase cycle. Other than those small hiccups, it looks like smooth sailing.
- Internet of Things Goes to Art School. I assume this means my toaster is going to start living in a loft and wearing a beret. Humor aside, I agree that connected devices are going to become way more mainstream this year–the challenge is that we still haven’t seen anything that ties all these devices together in a meaningful way. Every device is controlled by a separate app, none of which play well with the other. Is it really convenient to control your living room from your smartphone when you have to open 30 different apps to do it? Integration is the missing piece here, and that’s what makes the service If This Than That (IFTTT) so interesting. If you haven’t tried it out, I recommend it.
- Data, Rich and Full of Value. This will have an impact on designers, but consumers already have more data than they know what to do with. What we need is the ability to start translating that data in insightful ways and presenting it at the moment when it’s most needed. We don’t need more information–we need more important information at the right time.
- The Re-Interpretation of Craft. This one is already well underway. From furniture, to clothing, to whiskey, the craft revival is already in full swing. The question is: can huge companies find a way to cash in and will they do so in a way that crushes all the little guys?
- Bucking the Price Norms. Beats headphones by Dr. Dre are mentioned in the article as a successful product launched at a price above what companies believed the market would bear. I think this means we can all expect to get poorer in 2014.
- The Uber-Fication of Services. This is referring to the car-on-demand service Uber. I’ve used the app and it’s pretty great (though a little pricey)–simply order a car on your phone–then you can check how far away your ride is and get a text when they arrive.
- Consumers Will Own Data. The (Internet) age-old quote is: “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.” Frankly, I’ll believe this when I see it. It’s one thing for consumers to be upset over Google and Facebook selling their information to advertisers–it’s another thing for them to actually cancel their accounts and stop using the services. Until they do (and do it in droves), there’s no incentives for companies to change their practices.
- The Quantified Self at the Office. The article mentions the rise in health monitoring hardware and services to predict that something similar will happen at the office–companies will begin monitoring exactly how much time everyone is working on what. This is great news for PPM. If accurate, this will result in some really interesting lawsuits over employee privacy.
- Reinvention of the PC as a Productivity Tool. I think this is just a fancy way of promoting the continued decline in sales of conventional Desktops and Laptops. If so, this strikes me as more a marketing change than a design change. Maybe we’ll see ads for computers again (get ready for that phone to ring, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” Guy!) or more pre-installed productivity software.