Now we come to the other great blogging tradition for this time of year: the next year’s “trend” story. Needless to say, we didn’t invent this idea; all sorts of other people are also releasing their projections. (Of course, the overachievers at Gartner had their 2014 tech trends out in October, but that’s because their year basically starts in October when they have their major conference.)

Looking at all of these trends lists, though, you might think people made a mistake and sent out their 2013 trends by mistake — or, even, 2012 or 2011. There are an awful lot of familiar terms on these projections. Is this just a matter of vendors and pundits desperately hoping that this will be the year their own favorite technology hobbyhorse finally gets the recognition they feel it’s always deserved? Or is there more to it?

Big Data

Again? Wasn’t Big Data a trend in 2013, too? And in 2012? Hasn’t it already reached Gartner’s Trough of Disappointment, where technologies go when CIOs realize the technologies aren’t going to be the panacea for all their business problems?

Yes, but it still is a trend, according to the IEEE (though they call it “Extreme Data”) and Information Week (which has a whole section of predictions on Big Data alone). While big areas for Big Data include location data and “human” data, or data about social trends, the emphasis will be on finally getting a handle on analyzing all the data we’ve been hoarding over the past couple of years, through new tools. “The technology world hasn’t quite caught up with the need for trained data scientists and the demand for easy-to-use tools that can give industries the ability to put the data they gather into meaningful perspective,” writes IEEE.

What it means to you: If you don’t have a data scientist or data science team in place already, it’s really time to think about devoting some people, or at least some time, to thinking about what data you already collect and what sorts of things you can do with it. Don’t think that just because you’re hoarding terabytes of data like nuts for the winter that you’re actually doing anything with big data; you have to analyze it, too.


This should also be causing you to feel a strange sense of déjà vu — mobile devices and applications have been on the Gartner Strategic Trends list since 2010 (which, remember, got released in October 2009). With tablets alone selling nearly as much as PCs in the last quarter of the year, and with smartphone sales outnumbering PC sales a long time ago, can we still be calling mobile a “trend” rather than “reality”?

Again, there’s more nuance to it than in previous years. In particular, people are talking about the “mobile cloud,” or the ability to store data in the cloud so that mobile users will have access to it, and perhaps even perform more high-intensity operations on the data while in the cloud. “What IDC calls the “Third Platform” will allow for better synchronization of data, improved reliability and scalability, increased ease of integration, anytime-anywhere access to business applications and collaborative services, rich user experiences, and an explosion of new services,” writes IEEE. This need for mobile support is going to get even more urgent with the advent of wearables such as smart watches and Google Glass.

What this means to you: “If your business doesn’t have a BYOD policy in place, you’re already behind,” Forbes’ Drew Hendricks writes, including the ability to encrypt data and wipe a device that’s lost. He also recommends that businesses, particularly SMBs, look for ways to run apps on the cloud to reduce the need for in-house IT and enable the businesses to better compete against larger ones. Sufficient mobile bandwidth is also going to be an issue, warns IEEE.

Personal Digital Assistants

People have talked about smartwatches and so on ever since the 1940s, when Dick Tracy had one, but actual sales of them have been lackluster. To most people, they seem to be right up there with the jetpack as the cool future technology that we were all supposed to have had by now but which has little practical use.

Now, though, the talk is that they’re going to become the basis for a new generation of personal assistants. We’re not talking about “personal assistants” from the Mad Men days, but digital ones. “With the emergence of intelligent personal assistants like Google Now and Apple’s Siri, the goal is to have information intuitively delivered to you, often before you even ask for it,” writes Forbes’ Jayson DeMers. “The shift seems to be away from having to actively request data, and instead to have it passively delivered to your device.” This is, in turn, driving a more natural-language emphasis on queries and search — particularly with mobile phones, where people are more likely to ask questions than search on a term, Hendricks writes. In addition, mobile phones will increasingly support voice recognition, predicts J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals.

What this means to you: If your business is the sort that provides real-time updates and alerts to your customers, make sure the information is presented in such a way that digital assistants and natural language queries can easily retrieve it. For example, if you’re a retail business, are the hours and addresses of your various establishments easy to find? Think, too, about using metatags to label this information, which will save you time when the Semantic Web becomes more of a thing.

Maybe that’ll be a 2015 or 2016 trend – along with, no doubt, big data and mobile again.

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