It’s always dicey trying to predict technology trends. But it becomes a bit easier if the time horizon is short, like say, a year. It’s also that time of the year, with the new year dawning, that one wants to look ahead and try to guess how things will pan out.
Technology is what technology does. In this article, I shall try to focus more on the impact of technology as I see it on our daily lives in 2011.
The distinctive trends that have caught on and look like accelerating in the next year are:
- The rise of smartphones: With the increased number of apps available on smartphones, we will soon come to a stage that we cannot live without one. We will use it to speak and send sms as always. We will want to use it to upload photographs of family events as they are happening on to facebook. We will be tweeting on the go, and in the middle of every act. We will use GPS applications coupled with city maps to find our way around. We will play silly games on it like “Angry birds”. We will have the compulsive need to feed our cow, or till the land, or whatever it is that people do, when they join Farmville. We will use barcode reader apps to find out more about products on store shelves and to do comparison shopping. We will record events in our lives by uploading photographs on the net and tagging them. Our banking and bill payments will be on the go. Whether we know where we are going will continue to remain a question, but we will be doing more and more things on the go. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, “if we don’t know where we are going, it doesn’t matter which road we take”; but we are definitely sure that we want to reach wherever we are going faster!
2) The rise of Android: Android phones that are hitting the market are catching up on features with Apple, and the apps are more in number and unrestricted. Nokia’s Symbian and MS Windows 7 will remain niche, and may even fail to take off. Android will overtake Apple, and Apple will continue to be strong. Corporates are beginning to allow connectivity from multiple devices as they resolve security issues, and that will ensure that the growth of RIM’s Blackberry also tapers off.
3) Different strokes for different folks: Wireline devices are not dying, not yet. High-end PC’s with wired connections will come into every home; most people who are reading this article already have a PC at home with a high-speed (?) internet connection. More people will buy high-end PC’s for the home, and several of us will upgrade. Cheaper PC’s for the rural markets and schools will be pushed by computer makers looking to expand their markets. System-on-chip products using more energy efficient chips like Intel’s Atom will increase in usage and penetration. As to wireless, more applications will be found for them. Corporates will start developing apps for their sales teams (to start with) and others, with applications “on the go” specific to their areas of work.
4) Google will become more powerful, especially if Google TV takes off. They are collecting more and more of the world’s information in their maps, and more and more streetscapes from roving cameras. The fact that most internet searches are not searches any more, but “googles” only enables them to amass a load of valuable data about our buying habits and psycho-profiles which they can even use to predict behavior. In fact, Google Instant is a step in that direction.
5) TV will become more “on demand”; DTH television will gain a greater foothold in India. The old cable-wala as we know him, is a dying breed. Integration of TV and PC viewing is still some time away, it won’t happen in 2011.
6) More people will start working from home. In India, many companies have tried work from home policies with mixed success. There are several people who do not want to work from home – they find coming to office gives them greater flexibility and peace of mind, perhaps. But companies are pushing work from home more than before, and have even started talking of factoring a “discount” into their real estate planning to factor in working from home. The need to be seen as “woman friendly” will add to the trend. As connectivity at home improves, the willingness to work from home will increase.
7) LED lighting will start growing. After tungsten filament, it was mercury vapor lamps, then it was CFL. Even before CFL could take hold fully, LED is gaining ground. It consumes much less power, is much more flexible in terms of applications, and the technology is proven. As production increases, it will bring down prices and push up demand. People will need to get used to the difference in the ambient lighting, since LED has a different feel to it, but that will begin to happen.
8) Small solar powered electrical devices will take off in a big way especially in villages. These are becoming more and more affordable.
9) More and more people will hit the “Dunbar limit” on facebook and will start restricting their “friendships”. In India, this will be more than made up by the fact that more and more people will join facebook.
10) More and more of human interactions will happen on-line; and we will be less and less able to recognize our neighbors, leave alone becoming friends with them!