Friday, December 20, 2013

Birnbach Communications' Top Predictions for 2014, Part III: 7 Tech Trends

Here's our list of top tech trends.
  1. Cloud computing will still be the big tech trend.  Because it offers convenience, connectivity and ease of use, cloud computing will likely remain the big tech trend in 2014. Apps and other technology that build off the cloud to enable BYOD also will be important. Implications: Last year we said resistance to the cloud would be futile, and we think that’s true in 2014. There will also be lots of coverage of SaaS (Software as a Service). That said, it’s not enough to have a cloud or a SaaS story to tell. It just means there are more reporters who might be interested. The other, main implication for cloud is that it is designed to enhance collaboration among people; we expect more tools to help colleagues even family members to literally be on the same page (even if they're not using paper).
  2. 2014 is the year people experience Tech Fatigue. We think consumers are showing some fatigue when it comes to new apps (we're not even using most of the apps we downloaded last year), new devices that offer only marginal improvements over prior versions (we’re a bit jaded/spoiled for our own good), multiple chargers and flavors of USB cords. The fatigue results from the fact that instead of simplifying our lives, some of our new tech actually makes our lives more complicated. Implications: While there's always a market for a new app that offers something fresh, we think the bar has been raised for new app developers. We think there's also a bit of fatigue with the number of devices we still carry -- even as smartphones incorporate other features like GPS, camera, e-readers. But you can have an iPhone, iPad and soon and iWatch. Then there is the need to keep all those devices charged and ready. And you can have an iPhone 4S and an iPad Air and need multiple cords. In fact, we expect more articles about the challenge of no barriers between work and personal life since the constant connectivity can be draining.
  3. Cars and clothes will increasingly include design features for smartphones. Your phone, along with your keys and wallet, are things you always check before your leave the house. But cars designs haven’t adopted to that reality – yet. Unless you consider letting your phone bump around in your cup holder, there’s not elegant way to keep your phone accessible to make calls when you’re in your car.  That will change over the next three years but one debilitating factor is the wide range of shapes and sizes of smart phones and their chargers. Nonetheless, we expect more designs to make it easy to plug devices in -- in your car, bicycle, clothes. Implications: Designs need to validate how important our phones are to our lives; some coats and backpacks do, but most others do not. 
  4. Upgrading the retail experience. Big retailers currently offer two types of experiences: in-store and online, and they are enough different that the only thing they have in common is the logo and color design. In 2014, we expect to see more focus on the retail experience -- bringing the best of the online experience to in-store and vice-versa. One way retailers will upgrade their in-store experience is through chain-specific apps and location-based marketing initiatives.Implications: We expect to see more online and in-stores redesigned to improve the experience, which includes the delivery of online purchases. Some of that will include further gathering of shoppers’ purchases as well as items they didn’t purchase so that retailers can offer better recommendation engines – even when you’re in a store.
  5. Drone deliveries will not take place in 2014. Despite what Bezos promised, drones are not going to start delivering packages in 2014. And while it's probably not smart to bet against Bezos, the problems facing a commercial fleet of drones is staggering right now. That doesn't mean, however, that the idea of more efficient delivery systems will not be discussed. We expect to see more coverage of same day delivery and Sunday deliveries. Implications: As consumers Americans crave instant delivery of the items they bought so Amazon and others are going to continue to work to deliver purchased items faster. 
  6. The continuing battle among huge companies. Google v. Apple v. Samsung v. Microsoft, Oracle v. Everyone Else. The big players will continue to battle it out against various competitors – when they’re not partnering with them in other areas. This is includes the battle focused on smartphones and tablets, which will generate a lot of coverage in 2014. Implications: Big media will continue to cover Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung as well as Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t work for any of them, you’ll likely have a more challenging time getting media coverage. 
  7. Wearable technology is still ahead of the curve but will generate some coverage as part of the Internet of Things. While Google Glass generated a lot of coverage in 2013, it’s probably not ready for prime time. But other types of wearable technology – like exercise monitors such as Nike Fuel band or Fitbit – are convenient, easy-to-use and foolproof, and will be increasingly mainstream ways.  These devices -- and other, non-wearable technology like Nest Labs' thermostat and smoke detectors are Wi-Fi-enabled, sensor-driven, programmable and self-learning -- form the basis of what some call the Internet of Things, in which devices connect to update, aggregate data and become smarter. Implications: We expect increased connectivity to provide more updates to owners, whether updating us on window-washing fluid levels in your car (without having to open the hood) to appliances that self-diagnose or learn your habits.
You'll notice we have not included big data or mobile tech among our top seven trends. The reason for that is that we see them as part of ongoing tech trends, which we will be issuing shortly. Cloud computing made it to this list because we think it continues to be significant.

Let us know if you agree or disagree. Check back tomorrow for additional predictions or click here for Part I or Part II.

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