Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about future technology trends. Two years later, I wrote another post looking back to my predictions and found that while I was spot on for major themes like mobile payment and cloud computing, I missed the growth of daily deal sites and the socialization of education technology, and underestimated the sea change in mobile health technologies.
I was also over enthusiastic on power management platforms — but the advent and popularity of Nest was definitely a step in the right direction — and e-government — perhaps because a lot of investment has actually gone into cyber-security (on the public side), or grassroots organizational capability (on the private side, in support of the recent hotly contested election cycles).
However, my main takeaway from the exercise in 2012 was that I needed to make my review and new predictions more often, lest my predictions be outdated and hopelessly outstripped by the rapid pace of disruptions in technologies nowadays.
For example, some of my 2012 predictions have already been borne out: crowdsourcing has really achieved mainstream success, people are spending more and more time on non-search engine driven discovery platforms, and mobile devices are surely revolutionizing how people work in traditional industries such as manufacturing and service.
So, what is in store for the year 2013?
1) Big Data Will Become Mainstream
Big Data has been a buzzword for the last few years, but I predict that 2013 will be the breakout year for all manner of Big Data, from NoSQL databases to high performance business analytics platforms. The technologies are already there, but many startups and major players have been toiling away at building market-ready solutions and the market for them. In 2013, they will find the mass acceptance of customers and the maturity of business use cases for Big Data platforms.
2) Tablets Will Define Everything We Do
Tablets — all shapes and forms — are rapidly becoming the device of choice for many people. The great rivalry raging between Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft only helps to empower the innovative impetus that leads to better applications, better user interface, and more versatile usage of the tablets at work and in everyday life.
An example of this trend is the app “Chromatik“, which aims to revolutionize how people learn music by making the process of reading and practicing with sheet music — with or without a teacher or other musicians — incredibly simple and portable.
3) Get Ready for More HR Software Disruptions
What I did not anticipate in 2012 was the rapid consolidation of the Human Resource Management technology market, with the acquisitions of Taleo and SuccessFactors. However, in 2013, this market is ripe for disruption. Younger, more nimble companies are making disruptive innovation in all aspects of human resource software and technologies.
Job boards are becoming more interactive and engaging, company review websites like Glassdoor are gaining traction, and data-heavy applications are transforming performance management and employee motivation at major corporations. Meanwhile, employee-oriented benefits and health management platforms are helping companies make dramatic strides in providing better work environment and benefits for their employees.
4) We’ll See a New Wave of Marketing Technologies
Last year saw the coming of age of SaaS marketing companies, with the successful IPOs of ExactTarget and then Eloqua (which has since been acquired by Oracle). Innovations are happening at such a rapid pace in this space that in 2013, we’ll see a whole wave of new marketing technologies that will challenge the dominance of larger players and conventional wisdom about how marketing should be done.
The newcomers will offer best-of-breed solutions, focused on specific, discrete areas of marketing automation, such as retargeting, high volume delivery (Sendgrid), high volume content optimization (Sailthru), automated list vending (Marketfish), automation of local marketing tasks, and social CRM.
5) Rise of New Content Platforms
In 2013, I believe that content creation will be taken to a whole new level, as companies are now finally finding out ways to help customers deal with the information overload of the social media age.
For example, LinkedIn has developed an extremely successful content platform with thought leaders providing extremely high-quality content for its business-oriented network. Social media aggregators like Circa or Rebelmouse let users define ways to filter through the mass of content they receive through their social networks and other information sources. Then there are platforms like Medium or Storify that allow users to reproduce that data in their preferred format and republish it back to the world, but along with their own words and perspectives.
I fully expect to see more innovations in this space and a definite trend towards empowering content creation and delivery by the end users themselves.
6) Wearable Computing
Wearable computing is truly coming of age because the technologies have finally caught up with the vision and people have become used to having and carrying “smart” devices. These devices — such as the Shine by startup Misfit Wearables — are also becoming more standardized and easily connected to the cloud or other devices, which make sharing of the data easy and effective.
Furthermore, wearable computing is being commercialized not only by major players (like Google with its 3D goggles), but by startups and enthusiasts, powered both by traditional VC funding and crowd-sourced efforts on Kickstarter. I expect this trend to continue, and by the end of 2013 many people will be very used to wearing the devices. We may even see an entire network of users develop for them.