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15 December, 2011
Tech predictions for 2012: 5 key trends

Today we are presenting five of the most important things in tech and social networking to prepare for in 2012. So here is all of it: the good news, some words of caution, a few leaps of the imagination and a happy ending. Let's begin with:

More connected devices

According to a Cisco forecast in 2015 there will be 15 billion network-connected devices, or about two per person worldwide. By comparison, in 2010 this number was close to 7 billion. With this increase, the total amount of global Internet traffic will quadruple and by 2015, there will be nearly 3 billion Internet users. The PC will remain the dominant way to connect to the internet, but new types of connected devices (smart phones, tablets, TVs) will chip 10 percent of the PC's  globally dominant position as a preferred internet access point  in the next four years .

While these developments will be exponential with 2012 being just the beginning of this explosion of connectivity, there will be noticeable changes even next year. According to Cisco's numbers, by 2015 about 40% of the world's projected population will be internet-abled. This means that for an ever larger part of the world's population, the transforming power of information will start replacing isolation.

Judging by this year, we can expect more revolutions and social upheavals as 'confidential' and ‘undisclosed’ slowly become outdated terms due to the spread of the notion that all information is everyone's. We expect more and braver world-problem solutions and advanced technology ideas as previously unexplored human talent gets connected and provoked by the Web.

What will also follow, of course, is more heat on the issue of

Privacy

You may have noticed that as you get more connected, you are asked to share more information with more people – create accounts, update profiles, agree to new terms... Privacy protection will be something each one of us will be considering almost on a daily basis in the next year even more than now.

Facebook's already under heat by the US Federal Trade Commission. They have promised to fix and prevent quite a few “missteps” being accused of infringements such as making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information and sharing users' personal data with advertisers. Now if Facebook, the world's largest and most talked-about network, got away with such serious breaches for quite a while, imagine what other, less scrutinized networks might be doing. Also, and we will just drop it like this, Carrier IQ.

So we think that it is not even borderline paranoid to expect a lot of folks (corporations are also people, right) reach out for our data, not having fully thought through how they will be handling it. Or how legal their use of our data may be. Therefore, we should be the ones to do the thinking – and who will be reading weekly news about privacy protection, complete with lawsuits, tips and tricks and fine-print watching.

This said, Facebook is changing lives for the better as well, turning the digital population into a more connected, more informed bunch.

Facebook as the web's OS

Some call Facebook the social  entertainment OS of the web and others have called it the identity system of the web. It is obvious that Facebook has helped organize a vast amount of information that stood latent in our minds, was dumped into status-quo-ridden networks and cross a multitude of e-mails and chat logs, into the structured ultimate social resource - with benefits.

So if you are not thinking of Facebook as your social operational system, in 2012 you will have to adopt this notion. With all the Facebook APIs out there, the network is expanding not just within itself (with all the apps and interactive pages) but also, and much more powerfully, on the outside – connecting with websites that have nothing in common with it: blogs, news outlets, e-stores. Nothing but the fact that Facebook hosts most all of their audience.

It is no news that Facebook will continue dominating the social landscape at least in the coming year. However, we are likely to start using it in even more ways. Notice Facebook connect, the handy login to almost anywhere. Well, there will be more of this. After all, my home is still not even a little Facebooked. I expect when friends come home to receive notifications on the recent places they have been to and their latest photos and statuses so I can interrogate them fully and fill all the blanks. Just for starters.

It is also a good time to start thinking about what data-hungry businesses will come up with in order to utilize all these social riches. If they can only get their hands on a customer's profile they will be able to customize everything. We will all become unique.

And what about location? Well, that's a whole new point.

Localize, don't globalize

If you have a smart phone, you may have noticed that half the apps and services ask you to share your location with them. Well, in 2012 the makers of the other half will wake up and realize they have been missing out on much fun while their competitors always seem to know where the party is.

So what could be coming our way, locationwise? Other than a marketing weapon of choice, location-based services will be one of the few things diminishing the chaos in our everyday by always offering us the closest address to whatever it may be we are looking for – from a coffee shop to a plumber.

This convenience in mind, people will be less reluctant to protect their whereabouts, which will bring about new opportunities for marketers. We expect informal gatherings will be the next thing to target, now that the individual has become all but transparent through Google, Facebook and the like. You are throwing a house party or having a birthday at a local club? We have three taxis waiting for you right out front as your evening comes to an end. Discussing whether to get beer or wine? The proactive wine-cellar will offer a party discount exclusive to your group, as the bartender helpfully tweets a tip.

And how will everyone find out so easily where you are at the moment? Easy: you will tell them.

Near-field communication (NFC)

You can already effortlessly check-in with Foursquare using NFC and, in slightly older but more important news, pay using just your NFC-enabled phone. As Engadget elaborate in their article “mobile payments are just the tip of the NFC iceberg.” And they suggest quite a few intelligent uses of the NFC technology:

• Monitor your health
• Mobile tickets for trains/planes/mass transit (see ISIS video below)
• Unlock doors: hotel rooms, cars, etc.
• Pair bluetooth devices by tapping on your phone
• Log onto WiFi networks
• Initiate a video chat or join a conference call
• Share files between phones: music, docs, photos
• Store mobile "punch cards" for restaurants
• Replace grocery store value cards with mobile coupons

Remember all those video spots where someone interacts with their environment by just aiming a device at a building and seeing who is inside or at a person and seeing their latest tweet and facebook status? Well, NFC is your invisible bionic finger that connects our human brain with all the digital information we could use at any given moment.

Think how much this could change learning, if you can immediately reach relative information about any place or person once you establish a near-field connection. But it will take a lot of NFC tagging until this technology becomes a widespread information portal, so we might as well start now.

One question may pop up, thinking about all these changes-to-come: Can we handle it? Our answer is a resounding “Yes!” As opportunities and challenges increase, so do our abilities to work with them. So make your New Year's Eve plans with no hesitation – you are fully equipped to handle what comes next.

We wish you a wonderful, fulfilling and technologically exciting year.
NFC you later!
 


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