As I write, it’s the anniversary of Benedict XVI becoming the first Pope to tweet. (In the unlikely event that you’ve forgotten, it read: "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.") There were plenty of other unanticipated events over the past twelve months – scientists 3D printing a living ear in a lab using collagen, the cloning of human embryonic stem cells, Iran agreeing to limit its nuclear programme – and, um, Benedict XVI becoming the first Pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign from the position.
Similarly, most of what will happen in 2014 is unpredictable. But I’ll stick my neck out and make a prognostication: Moore’s Law will continue to apply. In case you’ve not come across it, Moore’s Law is a widely accepted notion of advancement made by the Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the processing power and storage capacity of computer chips doubles, or their prices halve roughly every 18 months. To offer some perspective on this, if you own an iPhone you have more processing power in your pocket than NASA had in 1969 when it landed a man on the moon.
Moore’s law can be seen clearly in the rapid advances in mobile technology that we’ve seen in the past five years and its principles apply to the technology in use in some of the three key trends of the coming year.
1) Wearable technology
In May 2012, the Pebble watch became the most backed project ever on Kickstarter. The smartwatch with an open API is one of a number of products, including Google Glass, that herald a new era in which we augment our bodies with technology. We’re moving from an era of devices to that we can turn off, put down and forget to a third wave of computing of always-on, always present devices that will be attached to our bodies and constantly connected to the internet.
2) The internet of things
You will, of course, be familiar with the internet of things via the example that’s most often cited at conferences: the internet connected fridge that will fill your online shopping basket when it notices you’ve run out of milk. The truth is that the growing number of smart objects in our lives – from devices that measure our health to the sensors in our home heating systems that allow us to monitor our energy consumption and carbon footprint – are at the very beginning of creating a vast web of data that goes way beyond ordering a pint of semi-skilled. Objects will communicate with each other and with us and allow users to tailor individual objects to their own requirements. This change will mean that each of us will have to start thinking about everything we see around us as an interconnected information generation system. In terms of data generation, we ain’t seen nothing yet.
3) Real-time data
I gave a talk at the Marketing Society recently about the power of real-time data. The tools we now have at our disposal mean that, for instance, a teenager in Chile can hack a domestic tremor detector and connect it to a server so that it can tweet warnings about imminent earthquakes – simple tool combined with innovative thinking means that thousands of people now have access to powerful information. We can analyse real-time data streams from the web so that we understand contextual data – for instance, by applying semantic analysis to social media we can understand the connections between people, topics, location and products. We can launch online products and split test them so that our customer becomes part of the design process and promotes deeper engagement. Real-time means that consumers can create their own meaning and transform their own passions into loyalty. To facilitate this we have to create the knowledge flows to tap into this value.
Greg Williams is the Executive Editor of WIRED. His novel, The Nero Decree, is a number one bestseller on Kindle. @GWillia66