As the New Year approaches, predictions are being made across the tech world about the trends expected to hit the Web and the rest of connected computing in the coming year. Here are nine of the most game-changing growth areas that will continue to see advancement in 2013 and beyond. Get ready, the Internet is about to change.
1. Bio-integrated medical devices and personal electronic tattoos
A recent report released by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Thomson Reuters, found that VC funding in biotech increased 64 percent in dollars to $1.2 billion in the third quarter of 2012 as compared to the previous quarter. As funding increases, so too have revolutionary advancements in the area that blends the bio-medical and technology fields. This trend will only continue with recent advancements in bio-integrated medical devices.
Bio-medical technologies that can either be stuck onto the skin similar to temporary tattoos or embedded into the body are emerging that are able to not only detect and monitor muscle, heart, and brain activity but also prevent medical conditions from seizures to heart arrhythmias by delivering electrical impulses.
“We’re trying to bridge that the gap from a silicon wafer type of electronic to a biological tissue-like electronics; to really blur the distinction between electronics and the body,” John Rogers, professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, explained to the National Science Foundation.
2. Cyborgs and tech-related sub-dermal implants
Another trend that has been emerging that meshes biology and technology is in the realm of body-enhancing electronic implants. This ranges from things like LEDs or magnets pierced under the skin to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) implants. The functionality of these implants includes anything from location-based recognition and “sensory expansion” by being able to feel magnetic fields, to security and being able to secure wearable band-free gadgets.
Benjamin Popper, an editor at The Verge focused on the intersection of technology and culture, said, “This year has seen incredible progress in the advancement of cybernetics. A man with a bionic leg was able to climb the stairs at Chicago’s tallest building. He didn’t need a remote control, his brain was able to direct his mechanical limb as if it were his own flesh and bone. A robotic arm controlled by this woman’s thoughts has achieved new levels of fine motor control.
“At the same time, bio-hackers are spreading Grinder culture into the mainstream, implanting magnets and RFID chips, giving those around them the first taste of the elective cyborg lifestyle. Google’s project glass went from its secretive X Labs to public display on the runway at New York Fashion week, where it was worn by Diane Von Furstenberg. As wearable computing becomes a reality next year, it will only accelerate the acceptance and demand for more complex and dramatic merging of humans and machines.”3.
3. Wearable smart electronics
A recent report but out by Gartner predicted that by 2016, wearable “smart” electronics would grow into a $10 billion dollar industry. The category of wearable electronics includes devices that can be inserted into athletic shoes for fitness tracking, like FitBit Ultra or Nike+, accessories like the previously mentioning Google Glass for hands-free communications or data access, gadgets like Sony SmartWatch or Pebble for instant access to anything from email to social media, and even medical-related gadgets. The increase in wearable electronics will change what it means to be “always connected.”
4. 3D Printing across sectors
3D printing is something that will have transformative effects in areas spanning medical, tech and retail. In the medical realm, 3D printers have already been used to create anything from prosthetic limbs to hearing aids. But 3D printing’s next feat will be in creating human organs; already, human tissue has been printed from these devices. Some reports even predict that pharmaceutical companies will be able to use 3D printers for drug development. In the tech space, researchers have recently created an inexpensive conductive plastic composite called carbomorph that will in the future allow consumers to 3D print personal electronics like smartphones, iPods and other devices. But 3D printers will also play a large role in the retail space, as the technology will allow consumers to print their own clothing and accessories. In an interview with USA Today, Steve Yankovich, head of eBay’s mobile business, said that 3D printers would eventually allow consumers to print the things they previously ordered online or bought in-store.
Across areas, 3D printing will also offer consumers a higher level of customization. Craig Elimeliah, the VP, Director of Creative Technology and Digital Solutions at RAPP, a multichannel marketing agency network, said, “3D printing gives us the opportunity to create experiences that lets both brands and their loyalists collaborate on product development, innovation as well as co-creation of physical branded objects. Brands should be releasing 3D printing schemas that are customized to enhance a product or a product experience…. As 3D printers become cheaper and more ubiquitous, we will witness a new era of the customer experience, an era where brands are engaging one-to-one with their consumers on a level so intimate that the products themselves will be a collaborative experience. Some examples could be a soap dispenser that matches your exact kitchen décor printed directly from your 3D printer and all you had to do was buy the refill. The examples are endless and the possibilities are exciting,” he said.
5. Rise of responsive Web
Currently, mobile devices make up more than 20 percent of Web traffic. As a result, companies are increasingly creating different versions of their sites optimized across channel—Website, tablet or smartphone. The vast majority of companies are still trying to play catch-up, creating separate versions of their Websites optimized for smartphones and tablets. But responsive web takes away the need for individually updating each version, and instead, optimizes all views just by updating to a single source. Websites like Hertz, The Boston Globe, and BarakObama.com are three examples of companies currently using responsive design, and WordPress even has some responsive native themes—including the Responsive Theme. We’ll see more and more companies utilizing this technology for efficient, multi-channel optimization.
“As the trend of mobile views continues to rise exponentially, Websites will need to quickly adapt to give the best viewing experience across all devices and screen sizes, and responsive Web design accomplishes that. With the responsive layout, you only have to make updates to the Website, and responsive Web will update based on trigger points for all other views and sizes,” explained David Broyles, web producer at Bobit Business Media.
6. Fluid, cross-channel personalized retail experience
E-commerce, as a percentage of total retail, is rising. Consumers are spending a larger share of their time and money online and as a result, retailers are trying to provide better and more personalized experiences optimized across channel—from tablets and smartphones to PCs and even in-store. Omni-channel, the connected yet unique multi-channel retail experience, is something consumers are beginning to expect and retailors are striving to deliver.
Currently, many retailors are simply extending their website experience across all channels, but increasingly savvy consumers are beginning to demand more—looking for experiences like buying online but picking up in store, buying in store but having it delivered or even using a smartphones as a replacement sales associate in store. In the near future, personal smartphones will be used to do anything from checking product availability in store to getting product information.
As brick and mortar stores evolve to stay relevant, they will increasingly turn to location-based technologies like RFID in order to offer customers more relevant and personalized shopping experiences. Gartner analyst Kevin Sterneckert recently told USA Today that in the near future, by the time a customer walks into a brick and mortar store, “the employees there will probably know what you want to buy, based on information on your trusty phone or tablet. Merchants will know your gender, age, race and income.”
“The omni-channel shopping paradigm is all about providing an immersive and consistent consumer experience across all channels. It’s about reinforcing your retail brand, educating customers about merchandise, and reducing purchase friction,” said Shahram Seyedin-Noor, the CEO and co-founder of GraphDive, which unlocks the power of social data to give vendors insights into their customer’s interests, preferences and demographics. “Not only will that increase in 2013, but it will bring into its fold much stronger elements of social personalization and integration. Retailers will have access to new platforms, such as GraphDive, that integrate and analyze “big data” from different sources—combining, for example, prior purchase behavior with Facebook data – to enable personalized user experiences across the Web, mobile, and offline worlds.”
7. Mobile payments will continue to grow
With the advent of and increasing access to technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC)— a wireless technology commonly used in one-tap payment solutions—payments will increasingly shift from cash and credit cards to mobile, on the consumer side.
But the mobile payment space will also have an affect for retailers, and will increasingly shift the point of sale (POS) from traditional cash registers to mobile devices—bringing the checkout process to the customer. Already, national chains like Nordstrom, Apple, Home Depot, and Sephora have begun replacing traditional cash registers for these mobile POS devices, making it easier and faster for consumers to check out.
8. Rise of the optimized mobile gadget
Tablets were first envisioned as mobile devices, but it’s rare to see people actually using their tablets in the truly mobile way that they use smartphones. As tablets evolve, they will shrink to the optimal size that features the largest possible screen that can be easily carried while on the go. In turn, smartphone screens will expand in size to the optimal size that still allows consumers to use them as mobile devices. Once that optimal device size is found, a hybrid tab-phone may emerge that can effectively be used for both browsing and talking.
9. Daily deals replaced with card-linked offers
The demise of the daily deal has long been predicted, but its successor hasn’t been much discussed. Card-linked offers, a daily deal-type platform connected to the customer through banks and merchant offers, bases personalized deals on the real-world spending behavior of consumers. Card-linked offers resolves many of the traditional pain points that both customers and retailers feel when using daily deal services like Groupon or LivingSocial.
On the consumer side, there’s no clipping, checking-in or registering for deals: personalized discounts based on past purchase history are instantly credited back to the bankcard used in the transaction. And deals are highly targeted based on each customer’s previous spending habits. On the merchant-side, there’s no training necessary, no change to POS and typically offers are based on pay-for-performance.