As another year comes to a close I thought I'd share some brief thoughts on what I anticipate for the world of technology in 2010:
The Might of Mobile
Mobile technology will continue to be a dominant trend as smart phones go from being tools for professionals, to devices that just about everyone has or wants.
A lot of the growth in the mobile sector is driven by applications. A related platform that I think will thrive in 2010 is Augmented Reality (o/k/a AR).
Augmented Reality is an effort to bring the qualities of the web to the physical world by literally adding a layer of hypertext on top of our material reality. Often described and associated with the concept of the "Internet of Things", the idea is to unlock web-based information associated with each object or location.
As a concept AR has been receiving a considerable amount of attention and investment. The recent announcement of advertising in AR will have a powerful and also normative effect.
In this regard, "hyper-local" advertising will be a big trend in 2010, and it will be driven by mobile and AR applications. This will be a way that Twitter starts to cash in, for example, bu having localized ads that target people in particular cities or neighbourhoods. If you don't want to be exposed to these ads, you'll be able to pay a premium and get Twitter with spam filters.
I'm kind of excited about the (re)arrival of tablet computers. Apple has one coming out in the spring, Google is rumoured to have one out in early summer, and I've been playing with Nokia's N900, which calls itself a tablet.
What excites me is the combination of mobility with traditional computational power and abilities. On the one hand, it will further drive the development of mobile applications, with the tablets marketed and treated like mobile devices. On the other, they enable a truly rich multimedia experience with their expanded touch screens and user interfaces.
One of their impacts will be to continue to accelerate the rate of technological change as evolution happens faster and companies push out new products and upgrades to keep up.
Micro-Payments and Virtual Currencies
Another trend for 2010 is the continued emergence of mobile and micro payment mechanisms that make it easier for people to pay for things and allow for tiny payments and virtual currencies. This type of activity flourishes on Facebook in games like Farmville and Mafia Family, where people can spend a few dollars for extra land or weapons.
This year I anticipate that Facebook will add their own micropayment system, a la PayPal, in part to obtain a portion of the funds that comprise this sort of micro-economic activity. Add to this the possibility that Facebook will hold their long anticipated Initial Public Stock Offering (IPO) and it could be another year in which the company dominates technology news.
Investing in Technology
On the subject of investing, technology companies are often of interest, and there are two specific areas that I think offer potential opportunities.
The first area is Cloud Computing, a term that describes the growing phenomenon of running software on the web, in data warehouses, rather than on your personal computer. The result of this larger shift to mobile and web-based technology means even more business for the companies that make up and build the cloud. Expect a lot of merger and acquisition activity in this sector.
The second area that is due for massive growth is clean energy technology, which is both in demand and full of potentially revolutionary applications that if invested in at the right time could make you both rich and save the planet. The key as always, is learning which one, and my friends at EnergyBoom.com are doing their best to help inform us of that.
Technology and Government
The transformative impact of technology on politics and government is another area that will continue to develop and even accelerate in 2010. Last year a number of governments announced Open Data initiatives. I anticipate we will see some interesting applications emerge that combine new visualization applications and interfaces that make it easier for citizens to engage with their governments.
Once again it's mobile applications that I think could have a substantial impact, both in speeding up the political process by having even more people involved via social media, using multimedia, and leaving their homes/offices to get involved.
Similarly I see great potential for the civil service as people take it upon themselves to both participate not only in policy, but also service delivery in all sorts of innovative ways, as a new type of volunteer corps, as departments open themselves up to user participation. An example of this is the iPhone application City Sourced.
Mobility and Class
These trends in technology demonstrate that while we're seeing an increase in mobility, it's not clear that said mobility is as accessible as we might think.
Participating in this brave new world comes at a price, and it's not just the $100/month bill for the smart phone, but also our personal privacy, and maybe other unintended costs we've yet to realize. The problem is we don't know, we just keep hurtling further into the future without really talking about these costs.
Therefore I think the power of mobility is allowing a vanguard of our society, largely but not exclusively comprised of young people, to detach themselves culturally from our past and pull our society ever faster into the future. At some point there will emerge a growing chorus of voices imploring us to slow down, yet that leaves the question of whether they are already too late.
In a few weeks I'll be in Ottawa to participate in Deloitte's annual event predicting trends in Technology, Media, and Telecommunications. My role will be responding to their research and projections, and I will update this post afterwards to reflect any new or interesting trends that come up. The detail that Deloitte gets into with their predictions is impressive, so do stay tuned.