6 Disruptive Technology Trends that Will Shape 2014

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It’s a new year, and that means one thing — time to look back at the dramatic evolution of the technology world, draw some lessons in futurology, and attempt once again to look into the looking glass.

Last year, I came up with 6 trends that I thought would be important drivers of the market, so let’s first review my scorecard there.

6 Disruptive Technology Trends I Predicted Would Impact 2013

1) Big Data Will Become Mainstream

Did it? Well, yes and no. Yes because everyone talks about Big Data. There are many companies aiming to provide Big Data technology in some shape or form. No because Big Data is still not yet “mainstream” the way marketing automation or daily deals sites are.

The Big Data market is extremely exciting, and this year at OpenView we have been very fortunate to meet many great Big Data startups that are gaining scale very rapidly. But my prediction that Big Data tools would be massively adopted last year appears to have been too optimistic.

I am quite convinced though, that Big Data will continue to grow and may become a mainstream technology market by the end of 2014. More of the startups of today will likely emerge as scaled businesses offering a range of verticalized and segmented Big Data tools and services. Moreover, I’m betting additional standards and best practices will emerge that will allow customers to compare these products and adopt the ones that are most appropriate for their needs.

2) Tablets Will Define Everything We Do

Was I right? Yes, of course. This was not a hard prediction to make, because by the time I wrote my post last year, tablets were already well on their way to overtake PCs.

3) Get Ready for More HR Software Disruptions

Right on the money. The HR software space continues to evolve at a very rapid pace. We are seeing startups offering new ways to help recruiters find talent and for talent to find the perfect jobs, and meanwhile there is a whole field of HR analytics being born and feted in media such as the Atlantic and Businessweek.

4) We’ll See a New Wave of Marketing Technologies

Correct. After all, I’ve enjoyed a very close view of the evolution of marketing automation tools in the last five years. The consolidation of the first generation of marketing automation tools (the acquisition of Eloqua, then ExactTarget, etc.) provided an impetus for the rise of new marketing platforms to serve the niches of customers who are yet to be fully served by those mature players. It is amazing how much innovation there was and will be in this rapidly evolving market.

5) Rise of New Content Platforms

This was proven, as well. Medium is the newest fad in the blogging world even as Tumblr got acquired for a nice sum, and there more than a few startups automating the creation of sophisticated sales and marketing content.

6) Wearable Computing

Right again. Samsung unveiled Samsung Gear in a big way, Google unleashed the 2nd version of Google Glass, and health tracking apps and gadgets continue to proliferate. What I did not anticipate was that I even became a convert to wearables, as well. It’s a phenomena that’s only going to get bigger.

Result: 5.5 out of 6

I know what you’re thinking — I was either too conservative in my predictions or I am looking back at them with the 20/20 lens of hindsight and only see where I hit the mark. That’s a justifiable opinion, so this year I am going to try to push the envelope a little more.

What are the tech trends I’m predicting for 2014? I wouldn’t be going out on a limb at all if I mentioned Big Data, robotics, or genetic testing. Those are irreversible trends that everyone can anticipate. This year, I’m going to switch things up. Take a look at the trends I’m most excited to predict below, and let me know if you agree.

6 Disruptive Technology Trends that Will Shape 2014

1) Get Ready for an Explosion of Technology Platforms that Serve Local Businesses

I believe that tech serving the needs of local businesses such as marketing, scheduling, supply chain, and supply chain management tools is poised for massive growth and innovation. Why? The recovery of the economy and job growth will increase local spending which will boost sales and growth of local businesses. At the same time, in recent years thanks to the Open Data movement, more local data has become public, and the penetration of mobile devices has reached a point where it is possible have rich data at the neighborhood level to allow for efficient automation of marketing, scheduling, customer services and delivery.

The third thing that will help is that local business owners are now more internet savvy and more willing to try new mobile apps that help their businesses, because they are already using a variety in their personal lives.

OpenView has already made a bet in this space with Signpost, a small business marketing automation platform, and we expect to see more opportunities in adjacent markets.

2) Healthcare Software Technologies Will Actually Get Put to Work

The private sector will take the lead during a new year of healthcare software innovation, with a focus on new applications in healthcare management technology, insurance enrollment platforms, and healthcare information networks.

While there has always been enthusiasm for healthcare technologies because of their far reaching impact and implications, the new innovations will be driven by the inexorable rise in healthcare costs. They will be focused on helping hospitals become more efficient, patients save more costs on both insurance and treatments, and insurers find more customers and be smarter about their products.

3) Virtual Currencies Will Go Mainstream

What 2014 predictions list would be complete without a nod to Bitcoin and other virtual currencies? This year virtual currencies will gain widespread acceptance, starting first within the tech world, then the sector known as the “sharing economy,” and soon businesses will find that they need to figure out how to incorporate the cash flow of virtual currencies through their books.

4) The Markets’ Borders Will Be Disappearing Rapidly

The world will continue to shrink as emerging market techs giants leap over political borders, executing acquisitions and expanding their markets while bringing fresh capital, business models, and the spirit of competition to the US technology markets. Already, some US-based startups are taking investments from Asian investors, and there seems to be no limit to the grand fusion of these markets.

Even as foreign players pose a competitive threat to US companies, they will also open up tremendous market opportunities in the emerging markets for those who are sharp and agile enough to seize them.

5) Collaboration Becomes a Way of Life

You might say the hype around collaboration is so five years ago, and you’d be right. We have been watching the many waves of innovation in the collaboration space for a long time. But now technology-enabled collaboration has truly become indispensable to any organization, regardless of their industry or level of technological adoption.

This is because the way everyone does work has already changed. New workers now expect to collaborate on their mobile devices and in the cloud first. The concept of virtual working will be the norm, not the exception. The latest crop of collaboration platforms such as Asana, Dropbox, and Box.net are mobile and cloud native, and they fit naturally into the way workers who are joining the workforce now operate.

6) Technology for Space Exploration Will Become Cool Again

This last point is an emotional moonshot. A few months back, when the space probe Voyager was found to have entered interstellar space, I wrote a little essay about the inspirational importance of space exploration and my desire for more to be invested in the field. I think that will happen — the success of the movie “Gravity,” the worldwide attention given to the comet ISON, and the success of both the Chinese moon probe, the NASA’s latest Mars rover, as well as the rise in prominence of private space companies like SpaceX have all raised the profile of space exploration.

Consider these two signs that space exploration is about to become both more accessible and disruptive:

  1. People are building mini satellites (CubeSats) and launching them through commercial payload providers.
  2. The deodorant brand Axe is conducting a worldwide contest to find a single winner to send into space as a private citizen.

I think within the next couple of years, we will see a dramatic reduction of costs and an efflorescence of new private ventures that offer new ways for humankind to participate in this grand endeavor.

What do you think of my predictions? Do you have any of your own you’d like to share?