The tech trends that could shape 2012

For our final feature of the year, we decided to take a leaf out of the books of the tech press. With just a few short weeks of the year left, we take a look at some of the developments in technology that could be shaping the headlines for the next 12 months.

Whatever happens next year, all of the indicators so far are that it’s going to be a year of major change. London 2012, a swinging global economy, ongoing progress in the sciences and – of course – the end of the Mayan calendar all suggest that 2012 could be a year that lives long in the memory (unless the last of those turns out to be true).

Joking aside, in technology terms, 2011 has often felt like the warm-up act to what could be a monumental year ahead. Phenomenal developments in everything from motion control to processing, networking to speech recognition, is paving the way for what should be a hugely exciting 12 months.

So, and without further ado, we present our thoughts on the trends we think could make a big impact in 2012.

1. Consumerisaton of data
We thought long and hard about what to call this one. Shared ownership of information? The democratisation of data?

In the end, ‘consumerisation of data’ seemed to do the idea the greatest justice. We’ve all heard plenty about the consumerisation of IT, the idea that workplace technology is improving primarily because we want the same standard of kit that we have in our personal lives, and one that caused a nation of IT managers to yell “thanks, Gen Y!” in unison.

As yet, no one is really talking actively about similar strides in the land of information management. 2012 could be the year in which that changes. A recent survey we carried out into mobile working showed that 47% of us reckon that the technology we use to access information in our personal lives is better than what we have at work.

As the volume of data that we deal with explodes, that’s going to have a big impact on the way we work. As expectation rises in terms of being able to share, access, consume and manipulate information, data’s going to be less the property of the IT department, and more about belonging to whoever needs it most.

2. Voice and motion
2011 changed the way that we interact with machines forever. Siri’s arrival in November showed just how smart voice recognition can be (not to mention what a wry sense of humour it can have, too). And while Microsoft’s Kinect actually joined the party in late 2010, the 12 months following have been the ones in which the ‘killer apps’ have been demonstrated for its wider use outside of chopping virtual fruit.

But this trend isn’t about either of these products in isolation. Instead, it’s about the aggregated impact that this pioneering tech is likely to have on the industry at large.

Both motion (or, gestural, to be precise) control and reactive voice recognition are only likely to creep further towards our working lives as we go through 2012. They are, after all, very clever natural extensions of the way in which we interact with eachother.

So maybe 2012 will be less about the consumerisation of IT, and more about the personalisation of our technology itself. [Though hopefully not too personal.]

3. Everything in the cloud
Okay, so making outlandish prophecies about next year being the one in which the UK finally benefits from full scale ‘cloud cover’ is nothing new. But 2012 has all the hallmarks of being the year in which cloud could become a genuinely useful proposition for business, rather than just a great idea.

A certain amount of that line of thinking is that – just like the sharing of data – it’s the people, not the vision that will make cloud a reality. Mobility is the big buzzword right now, and for good reason. The associated productivity benefits are well stated, and now that we have the devices and apps to deliver on the promise of real mobile working, cloud is less of a nice-to-have and more of a necessity.

All in all, with improvements to everything from tech specs to network speeds, expect less conversation and (a lot) more action in the cloud space next year.

4. Fab tabs
Judging by our own research, not to mention predictions from the crystal ball like gaze of Gartner and Deloitte, tablets are on the up in the enterprise. Nine percent of us have been using tablets in our working lives this year according to our recent survey of 400 information workers, and that’s true across a range of organisations, not just public sector.

Deloitte, which predicted at the end of last year that 25 percent of the 50million tablets sold world-wide would be purchased for business, clearly sees a big future for this most mobile of devices.

Gartner’s prediction for 2012 that 35 percent of tech spending will occur outside of the IT department’s control is likely to be fuelled in a big part by employees seeing what they can do with tablets at home and wanting to replicate the experience in the office.

As a result, we see next year being the one in which the tablet becomes a widely accepted part of the enterprise toolkit.

5. The SoMe business process
Social media for business is nothing new – tips, advice, trends and more have been filling column inches (this column included) for months now. But in 2012, we reckon it’ll be less about how businesses market and sell over social media, and more about how they transform their operation using the social model.

Take a look around the web and you’ll see great ideas on how social media can be used on everything from recruitment and HR to financial processes. At the end of the day, social media is just a great way of aggregating information out and getting better answers back in – which means that the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ can be applied to just about anything.

So, expect 2012 to be less about who shouts the loudest online, and more about who comes up with the most sophisticated way of bettering their business through social media.

Do you agree with the list above? Have we missed something big? Let us know in the comments section below.


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