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Technology is one of the most attractive sectors for anyone looking to make money, however as it’s a vast field, it can be difficult figuring out the most profitable niches. Since venture capital is an extensive topic which we have covered here in multiple articles, rather than giving tips on setting up a portfolio, we’re going to dive right into the hottest technology trends for 2015 as discussed at the recent CEA Innovate event.
Internet of Things
Although many appliance and technology vendors are hyping up the Internet of Things (IoT) as the greatest thing since sliced bread, IoT is just old technology packaged in a new design. As I discussed in this answer on Quora, home automation has been around since the early 2000’s through X10 (hint: they’re the ones shilling spy cams via pop-ups on 99.999% of the internet back in their hayday). The only difference between then and now is that the capabilities have expanded and consumers are now finding valuable applications of these systems.
While IoT has many applications ranging from industrial automation down to consumer gadgets, it’s going to be hard to pick a winner until there’s a baseline standard in the market to ensure interoperability between devices. As virtually every major technology vendor is pushing their own proprietary standard for I0T communications, adoption in this space is going to be hindered for awhile.
Another old technology which is only now catching on, mobile awareness first came about when Bluetooth phones became popular. Advertising companies had the idea of sending SMS advertisements to phones as they went past Bluetooth beacons in strategic locations such as movie theaters. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well with the public and the field was relatively dormant until now.
Now that users are more comfortable with sharing their information, location awareness is starting to take off in retail and other sectors. iBeacons are allowing companies to track user behavior within the store to improve the shopping experience, while other companies considering offering opt-in discount programs fine tuned to account for the time a user spends in different departments.
Ultimately any app which triggers a feature based on user location falls under the category of mobile awareness however the biggest thing to keep in mind is that this should always be an opt-in feature.
Sensors and Wearables
As previously discussed on this blog, although there have been many challenges to wearable technology and it has failed to live up to expectations, technology vendors are finally getting their acts together and pushing for novel uses in this field.
Healthcare is going to be a significant driver of innovation within the wearable space because the healthcare industry is in desperate need of disruption. By making it possible for doctors to monitor at-risk patients remotely, it’s possible for doctors to get a more accurate picture of a persons health than the current system which only allows 20 minutes per visit on average.
Wearables might take off in other sectors, but the key driver of innovation always will be profit. If a user isn’t going to pay the costs, then monetizing the data is a possible option. Before pursuing this route, technology vendors need to consider the privacy implications as discussed later in this article.
Payments and Money
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin are all the rage today, however there’s more to the digital payment space than these applications. For many investors, the primary focus within this area is going to be around streamlining commerce to make it easier. For example, customers paying by phone can allow bartenders to serve more drinks every night rather than constantly closing out tabs.
Ultimately the innovation in this market is likely to be dominated by the enterprise vendors because they’re the ones who already control the infrastructure powering payments. Startups can focus on building out a quality product, however even if consumers want it, it’s up to the banks, merchant processors and retailers to green light it for adoption.
Privacy and Security
With all the previously mentioned areas, having the trust of users is crucial for successful implementations. Users are fine handing over information to Google because they get a significant value from the exchange. On the other hand, when the NSA harvests information from users (probably not as much as Google), there’s a backlash due to the lack of transparency. Just like any tool, technology can be used for good or evil. It all depends on the context.
While prior generations may have been uncomfortable handing over information, most younger generations are fine as long as they feel they are not being manipulated.
In general, this segment is going to be huge for investments because companies today need to protect themselves from data breaches in order to maintain the trust of users.
As mentioned earlier in this post, before you make an investment in a company, you better make sure that your prospective portfolio company is bringing significant value to the market. Ask yourself, “Am I putting money into this company because of the industry, or is it because I believe in the entrepreneur?”
Even the greatest ideas are worthless if they have bad execution, while a bad idea can flourish if it has great execution. Ultimately these trends can help you figure out what areas to focus your search on, but it’s up to you to effectively assess the companies you invest in.
What do you think about these trends? What else do you think will be big in the years to come? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Image source: Freedigitalphotos.net
Wearable technology and mobile apps might not be synonymous with AT&T, however at the 2014 AT&T Developer Summit, the focus was on wearable technology and mobile applications. Most notably the emphasis really appeared to be around providing technology for “the internet of things.” Sponsors such as: Qualcomm, Nokia, Plantonics, Phillips, The Department of Homeland Security and many other entities all came together at The Palms Casino in Las Vegas, NV where well over 150 (an exact count will be published in the coming days) enthusiasts gathered for the two day event. As mentioned earlier, this event is notable in that the hackathon portion of the event is centered around “the internet of things.”
While most people only view AT&T as a mobile carrier, they are now launching a line of APIs designed to interface with most hardware interfaces including Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards.
In particular one of the more notable API’s to keep an eye out for is AT&T’s M2X. Essentially providing developers with a simple interface for developers to connect virtually any piece of hardware into the cloud. Whether it is through GSM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even Ethernet – this platform is designed to pipe the data from sensors into the cloud which can then be used by an application regardless of the location.
Google Glass Finally has a Legitimate Use
Although I previously knocked Google Glass in my reflection of technology trends in 2013, the staff at Sensoria proved that Google Glass actually has potential, at least if you’re concerned about being prepared for the zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately the video is currently under embargo until the 8th but we’ll be doing a more in-depth post on Google Glass shortly after that point (and we’ll update this article with a link).
Brainwave Sensors for Everyone
Aside from the totally amazing Google Glass demo, Neurosky demoed a device which allows developers to tap pre-made algorithms to harness the power of biofeedback. Since the sensors already handle much of the heavy lifting, Neurosky’s offering stands out from the crowd because it allows developers to tap existing code to enhance the capabilities. In particular developers are almost instantly able to read EEG data and then build their own applications on top of the systems.
The Pebble – A Smartwatch Actually Worth Considering
As mentioned earlier in our Technology Predictions for 2014 The Pebble smartwatch is already running laps around the Galaxy Gear, and their prescience here at the hackathon shows how simple the device can be for even a intermediate techie to pickup in a matter of hours. For those interested, take a look at their extensive API.
More to Come
This is just a small tidbit coming live from the 2014 AT&T Hackathon. Note that the contest only provides contestants with 24 hours to develop their final products from scratch. We’ll be posting a bit more about notable potential successes, and projected flops when the pitches go through. We also will have coverage of CES2014 starting in the net couple of days.