Predictions for 2014: What Lies Ahead?
The start of a new year heralds change and a promise of better things to come. Out with the old, and in with the new. In recent years changes have occurred swiftly, and trends have come and gone, all in the space of 365 days.
It’s always good to have an inkling of what’s coming, so you can be prepared. Here are some hot predictions for 2014, backed by solid research and analysis (and some gut feel thrown in for good measure).
The Internet of Things will change the world
If you’ve never heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) before, in 2014 you will.
The IoT is the network of physical objects that use embedded technology to communicate and interact with other objects without any human intervention. Vehicles, televisions, appliances, homes, and virtually any electronic device you can think of, are capable of being networked by the IoT.
Gartner predicts that 26 billion things will be connected and communicating with each other by 20201. Morgan Stanley puts the figure at 75 billion instead2. Whoever’s right, one thing’s for sure, almost everyone on earth will be affected.
A ‘thing’ can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, a car with built-in sensors to alert the driver when tyre pressure is low, or any other object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network3.
2014 is the year where the IoT will really go mainstream. We’ll start seeing many more devices, appliances and vehicles being capable of communicating with each other wirelessly (known as machine-to-machine or M2M communication).
3D Printing takes off – this time for real
Gartner predicts that worldwide shipments of 3D printers will grow 75% in 20144.
The hype in previous years has alerted organisations to the fact that this technology can reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing.
Costs are expected to fall as key patents expire in 2014, paving the way for competitors to come in with cheaper alternatives, and leading to the growth to the industry5.
However, there is a dark side to this growth – piracy. Gartner foresees that by 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally6. You’ll be able to download and print pretty much anything you want, including a car, so entire industries will be affected.
Sharing gets more private
Ephemeral networks will grow in 20148, which begs the question: what on earth is an ephemeral network? It’s a service where content is temporary, enabling greater privacy among users.
Snapchat is the best example. It allows users to send photos and videos to specific people, and messages are erased seconds after being received. It’s hugely popular, especially among teens, and recently rejected a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook.
Not one to concede defeat, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg then unveiled Instagram Direct, a new private messaging feature that allows users to send photos and videos directly to other users without making them public. It doesn’t have Snapchat’s self-destructing feature but it’s an acknowledgement that users want to share more privately.
2014 will see a growing appetite for networks where shared data remains isolated, private and non-searchable9.
Businesses will have to revise their social media strategy and explore ways to gain from these new networks.
Android chips away at Apple’s market share
In 2013, Android finally overtook Apple iOS as the most popular smartphone operating platform in Australia.
In 2014, Android will further dominate the smartphone market, and by 2017, it’s predicted that Apple’s market share will fall below 30%10.
Phones that use Android include Samsung, HTC and Motorola, which have grown more popular over the past 12 months.
Previously, apps were built primarily for iPhones, with Android added as an afterthought. This situation could reverse in the next few years, so if you’re thinking of building an app, think Android first.
China will become the world’s biggest eCommerce market
According to Forrester, the number of Online Buyers in China in 2014 will reach 356 million – surpassing the entire US population.
Having already reached $294 billion in 2013, China’s online retail market is projected to grow to $604 billion in 2017.
It’s a great opportunity for businesses to bypass traditional physical channels and reach a massive new market digitally. Time to start marketing to the Chinese.