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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
2013 was a year filled with the introduction of many new inventions and ideas however overall it appears that technology appears to be stagnating. As discussed in an article from Quartz, 2013 was a fairly mundane year for technology due primarily to a lack of innovation from key industry players. While it is impossible to fully cover every area of technology in this article, key areas which have appeared to be less than stellar include the mobile sector, wearable technology and also media coverage of technology.
Mobile Phones Stagnate
Thanks to Moore’s Law, consumers have reached a point where they no longer need to keep buying new phones every two years. For example, the iPhone 5C is nothing more than the iPhone 4S in a colored case. Despite running older hardware, the iPhone 5C was a hot seller in both domestic and emerging markets due to a average market price of around $100.
Similarly Samsung, Motorola and other Android device manufactures have been failing to introduce compelling features which really serve a useful purpose. For example, Samsung was chastised by critics of doing such a good job on developing the Galaxy S3 that when the Galaxy S4 came out – there was no compelling reason for users to upgrade – unless of course automatic finger less scrolling and a high powered processor can justify a consumer making at least a $300 investment.
Mobile carriers have even begun gouging their customers with ridiculous plans such as Verizon Edge, Sprint One Up, AT&T Next and T-Mobile JUMP. These planns have all attempted to fool customers into upgrading their phone every six months or annually – albeit at a very unfavorable premium (often twice as much as if you used a traditional plan) according to Lifehacker.
The only real advantage newer generation phone have over older phones is really better quality screens and maybe somewhat improved battery life. Of course, practical processing power has really leveled off. Sure phones might have dual core processors packing nearly as much power as a laptop from a year or so ago, however is that power needed for playing Angry Birds? Of course not! That’s why despite what the phone companies might be telling you – you really don’t need the latest and greatest model phone even if you are a power user.
Wearable Tech Came in Misguided Forms
Love it or hate it, 2013 was the year of the smartwatch and Google Glass. Unfortunately manufacturers have failed to establish a solid purpose to actually justify the existence of such technologies. While Google Glass might seem cool, Business Insider reports that privacy concerns and logistical issues have made the device more of a proof of concept rather than a revolutionary invention. As time goes by in 2014 and even 2015 – don’t expect Google Glass users to actually find a useful purpose for the device. By the time a useful purpose is found, humans will be having retina implants done so that they don’t need to wear ridiculous headgear while taking advantage of technology.
On the other hand, smartwatches have yet to prove themselves as solid inventions. Our technology predictions for 2014 already covered how Samsung managed to loose to a bunch of nobodies in the smartwatch game – however overall these devices are nothing more than a screen you can wear on your wrist. One only needs to consider this desperate ad from Samsung to realize that unless you want to be a tool for the tech industry, passing on that smartwatch purchase might be a wise idea.
As Usual the Media Failed to Understand Technology
Despite technology playing a crucial role in our daily lives, the mainstream media has yet to actually learn to understand the topic before actually spewing out faulty information. Whether it was falling into Amazon’s drone PR stunt, hyping up Bitcoin (more can be found in this Bitcoin Research Paper), or continuing the tradition of hyping up “the cloud” – this time in the form of big data in applications which really don’t make sense.
Unfortunately the media has a tendency of trying to hop on the biggest buzz without giving any thought to the impact. As with anything, technology is subject to how the beholder views things. Similar to the glass being half empty or half full, when a reporter is covering a story, in the absence of a proper understanding of the technology, it is easy to expect more than what can really be delivered.
In the case of 2013, while the general media was hyping up what they hoped would be their dreams come true, the real technology journalists were reporting from a realistic perspective based on reason and facts.
Despite all the doom and gloom mentioned above, there is a silver lining to these flawed trends. Innovation is rarely perfect and success isn’t always found in a linear path. Sure – Google Glass, Bitcoin and smartwatches might seem like a waste of resources however it is important to note that they are all first edition inventions in brand new industries.
Thanks to Google Glass, expect to see increased interest in augmented reality. Bitcoin although more of a novelty rather than viable investment vehicle (see the previously mentioned research paper for details) has sparked important discussions on commerce and the role of government in economies today. Finally smartwatches – as much as people love to knock them – still open the floodgates for affordable, wearable technology. At the moment they might seem pointless, however expect to see this situation improve as developers have more time to develop apps and refine the devices.
That being said, despite Quartz saying 2013 was a lackluster year in technology, it is vital to note that while innovation may seem to have stagnated – that just means manufacturers and industry experts need to pivot and adapt to the changing times.
Are you a professional who is always on the go? Whether it’s rushing to catch the packed subway, and hailing a cab in the pouring rain, or simply using your phone while walking down the hall, chances are you have dropped a mobile phone at least once in your lifetime. The fact is no matter how tight you try holding your phone, cases today are not built for the average active lifestyle.
Sure, they used to be fine when mobile phones were actually used for calls but today we use our phones for every thing from texting, navigation, and flinging birds through space. Smartphone users need more than a case with an ordinary grip. They need a FlyGrip. For those who haven’t heard of it, FlyGrip is a device which attaches to your phone’s existing case via 3M adhesive and allows you to hold your phone with only your ring and middle finger. This allows users to use their phone entirely with their thumb, and frees allows for one handed use while serving as a kickstand for landscape and portrait mode when you are not on the go. FlyGrip also is a great addition for virtually any tablet or eReader because as it is only 1/4 of an inch thick, it fits well with many carrying cases and the like without adding much bulk.
Flygrip has partnered with the charity Pencils of Promise to donate a portion of their profits to help the construction of schools in Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and in the near future Ghana. Additionally, another partnership with Bethany Hamilton – professional surfer and shark attack survivor – to design a line of beach themed grips. 25% of each FlyGrip by Bethany purchase is donated to her foundation which supports shark attack survivors and traumatic amputees.
The device retails for $29.95 and every purchase includes a phone case of the purchasers choice. Personally in my testing, although I initially used the FlyGrip with the included case for my Samsung Galaxy SIII, I eventually transferred the FlyGrip to my Acase Superleggera Pro Hybrid Case primarily because I feel the Acase provides more protection, but if you do not already have a case for your phone, then the one included with your FlyGrip should be sufficient for routine use.
UPDATE 7/1/2014 – TrackingPoint is in the news again, this time with a rifle which can be aimed using Google Glass
High Tech Realm has always been an outlet for business owners and working professionals to gain information and insights on technology that really matters, however today we are going to sidetrack a bit to discuss a very chilling item which made it’s debut at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. The TrackingPoint ‘lock and lunch’ sniper rifle is just like your standard sniper rifle, except that it has a built in Linux powered computer which allows the gun to automatically aim at stationary or moving targets simply with the press of a button near the trigger.
What sets the gun apart from most other weapons is that when a shooter looks down the scope, they do not see a physical view of what is in front of them. Rather, a screen inside the camera shows a fairly grainy image (which happens to look like you’re playing the original version of DOOM) – see above – from which the gun provides the shooter with the option to cycle the auto lock on various targets until they find the desired subject to shoot. The gun is so effective that Tracking Point promises, “five times the first shot success rate of traditional systems at targets up to 1,200 yards.” The scope sports a 110 millimeter telephoto lens and 14 megapixel image sensor and it streams video at 54 frames per second.
Of course, the computing power of this gun would go to waste without integrated Wi-Fi and Facebook/Twitter/email sharing of all your kills. When (yes, I said when not if) we have a nutcase get their hands on one of these weapons, they will have the option to showcase their acts in gory detail on the internet, in real time, with little for the authorities to do except feebly attempt to block the spread of such photos. Considering how many people believe that mass shootings occur for notoriety, adding this option to any weapon is a ridiculous feature. Sure a shooter could always use a sport camera to capture their acts, but ultimately the difference between a built in camera and an attached one is the level of precision between the two, since a built in camera can time snapshots to nearly the same exact moment the trigger is pulled and even when the target goes down. More
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a new tool called the “smartphone security checker” which provides users with includes tips for Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry users on setting passwords, backing up data, wiping data on an old phone and how to avoid stolen devices.
The tool was created created in partnership with organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, Lookout, BlackBerry, Sophos, McAfee, Symantec, and others which helps the tool to provide a well built tool which meets the criteria of leading industry experts.
The tips are all tailored to each individual device meaning consumers first specify the type of phone they have (Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows) and then follows a set of 10 customized steps on how to properly secure their device.
Aside from this tool illustrating the ability of government to work well with the private sector to help educate consumers on cybersecurity the timing of this tool came at a crucial time because this holiday season over 20 million Americans will be given a new mobile device but many are not familiar with how to secure their devices. As mobile threats increased by 367% in 2011, now is a vital time for users to brush up on their basic mobile security knowledge. As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated
With less than half of smartphone owners using passwords to protect their devices, this new tool will be of particular value to millions of Americans. The holiday gift-giving season is a perfect time to remind consumers to take simple steps, like setting a password, to protect themselves from mobile security threats.
On a related note, the infographic below provides additional background on the importance of securing your mobile device.
Over the past year Mozilla has been developing a mobile operating system called Boot2Gecko (B2G) with the entire platform being based on web-standards compliant technology along with Gecko, which is the rendering engine behind the Firefox web browser.
For those interested in the technical aspects of the operating system, Ars Technica provides an excellent first look.
On a higher level however, what impact will this operating system have on the mobile marketplace which is already saturated by Android devices, and the iOS platform. Fighting for a small piece of the pie; or really just fighting for their lives are Research in Motion (which is already far down a downward decline) and Windows Mobile which has been putting up a decent fight over the past couple of years with the release of the “Metro” user interface in Windows Mobile 7, and also the 2011 announcement that Nokia would drop the Symbian operating system for Windows Mobile.
As there is little doubt that Android and iOS are presently here to stay, what is the purpose of a Mozilla OS? Currently it looks like Mozilla will be hitting the ground running with arrangements between a global spectrum of carriers: Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor. The main selling point of the phone is the fact the fully open operating system allows for complete integration of HTML5 which is a stumbling block for much of mobile development.
Still, as HTML5 is a markup language, will developers be able to develop high powered applications to fully take advantage of increasingly powerful hardware? Is such an operating system even necessary when Java and Objective C are fairly common and easy for many developers to pick up? Finally, considering how Java and Objective C are proven languages, it probably is a bit early to fully see the benefit of Mozillias’ operating system.
Sure the idea is great in theory however as shown by the Opera web browser which is the most standards friendly browser, users only care about features and not technical specs, until HTML5 support is better engraved in the Android and iOS platforms, the Mozilla OS will likely be more of a proof of concept rather than common platform.
Note: The print version of the article (a must see, thanks to the graphics dept. of The Statesman) can be found here
To all the women out there: how many times have you had your phone blast an embarrassing ringtone and you weren’t able to stop the beat because your phone was buried in your purse?
Well, there’s now a miraculous solution to that problem. It’s called the M-Dress, made by an appropriately named company, CuteCircuit. According the retailer, “The M-Dress is an elegant silk jersey dress that is also a functional soft electronics mobile phone. The M-Dress accepts a standard SIM card and allows the wearer to receive and make calls without carrying a cellular phone in their pocket or purse. Simplicity is elegance.”
For once, the description does not lie! The one-piece black silk dress will always look great during a night out. Since the earpiece is located right by your palm, when you’re bored at the bar counter, you can call a friend or cab simply by resting your head on your hand – a skill that is mastered by virtually every student who has had to sit through a single calculus lecture.
For those who care to know about the technical details (I had to add them formy column), the dress works by slipping your SIM card underneath the garment label. When a call arrives the user puts her hand to her ear, and the sensors of the dress will put the call through. The dress also has a standard ring tone (the boring ring), and dropping your hand ends the call.
Due to limited space for the hardware, the outbound phone capability is limited to a few pre-programmed numbers. For those worried about radiation, the antenna is located at the bottom hem, unlike most phones that require you to keep the antenna at head level.
While the dress won’t be available until 2011, CuteCircuit is not a stranger to unique dresses and notoriety. CuteCircuit sports a wide array of clothing fitted with sensors, such as their Hug-Shirt™, which connects to your phone via Bluetooth and lets you send hugs as an SMS message. In return, you’ll feel the “warmth” of a hug received via sensors that emit heat.
Even if you don’t appreciate the technology or fashion, but love trees, a post on TreeHugger titled “10 Celebrities Wearing Hot (and Weird) Green Fashion on the Red Carpet,” written by Emma Grady, mentioned Katy Perry’s gown made by CuteCircuit. Perry wore the gown to the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What sets the dress apart is the more than 3,000 LEDs, which in English means the dress had shiny lights in it and also is an engineering marvel.
On a relatively random note, after hearing about the motion sensor capabilities of the M-Dress, I contacted the makers of Bump, the application which lets users exchange information by simulating a fist bump, to see if it is possible to “Bump” and exchange data between the dress and a phone and/or other dresses. I was told by a representative that they currently only support the iOS and Android sensors and that that is their primary focus for the time being. However, down the road they are open to exploring other avenues.
Could society be drifting towards a shift where instead of a pickup line, men “Bump” into women and rather than spill a drink in return, the men will have their iPhones, or Droids’ erased? If by some chance that does catch on, who knows, maybe tin foil will be the next hot thing, just like those Duct Tape wallets and bags
Article originally published for The Statesman
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