This is the time of year when you start seeing a mad dash of articles looking back on the trends of 2014 and what to expect in 2015. While this is par for the course, something much more significant occurred in 2014 -- this was the year it became clear that digital disruption is here to stay. According to a recent Zinnov study, almost 50 percent of the companies on the Forbes 2000 list will drop from the list because of disruption and the impact of the digital era. The study notes that enterprises will need to spend $70 billion in 2015 to compete with emerging digital organizations.
As we look back, 2014 will be the year wearable technology became fashionable, “things” of all types got connected to the Internet, advanced analytics made everything “smart,” 3-D printing turned the time to manufacture on its side, immersive technologies moved beyond gaming and payments finally became consumer friendly. These technologies will continue to mature in 2015, but it’s clear many of these have reached a tipping point and are now affecting how enterprises compete and survive in this new digital era.
Here’s a summary of what we experienced in 2014 and what we might expect in 2015:
Watches Got Smart
2014 may be remembered as the year watches became the vanguard of wearable computing. While Samsung, Sony, Pebble, Metawatch and others had Smart Watches on the market, it’s Apple's announcement of the Apple Watch that is likely to grab all the attention and drive more widespread adoption. Expect 2015 to be the year when we see more significant adoption.
Printers Became 3-D
We're still in the early stages of discovery for 3-D printing. Companies like Normal were first on the scene to offer consumers the ability to take a picture of their ear and get custom fit earphones within 48 hours. 2015 will see many more companies emerging to commercialize 3-D printing. Gartner predicts this will be a $13 billion industry by 2018.
More 'Things' Connected to the Internet
2014 will mark the year everyday devices -- from fitness bracelets, home controls, TVs, cars, transportation, industrial controls, etc. -- got connected to the Internet. Connecting things to the Internet is becoming the electrification of the modern age. According to Business Insider, these connected "things” will most likely surpass traditional PC and tablets by 2017. Beginning in 2015, expect the shift to move from devices to smart management. Expect to see the emergence of Smart Homes, Smart Cars, Smart Cities, Smart Offices and Smart Factories.
Virtual Reality Became a Reality
The further advancement of immersive technologies like Oculus Rift gives this technology the potential to be truly disruptive. Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus only further validated the opportunity. The open developer tools and interfaces makes it possible for companies to start creating extensions that are more than just gaming applications. While 2015 won’t make these immersive technologies part of everyday life, expect an emergence of applications such as virtual tours, interactive learning and training, eye tracking applications, etc. If you still don’t believe it, just try it: a 90 year old grandmother did just that.
Payments Went Digital
Digital payments and wallets are struggling to mature and gain widespread adoption in US markets. According to Forrester, only 11 percent of people in the US have used mobile wallets. For mobile wallets to succeed they need to integrate all of a consumer's needs such as payment, shopping, loyalty, travel, entertainment and financial needs in one convenient app. It has to be more than just providing the ability to tap and pay.
In 2015, expect to see a tsunami of new apps coming out that integrate these capabilities. And while battles raged between NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) approaches, users clamored for a simple solution. Apple did just that this past Fall with the introduction of ApplePay. You can expect adoption of payment technologies to pick up in 2015, which will drive more maturity and market consolidation of payment and wallet providers. Players to watch are Stripe, Dwolla, Level Up, Square -- and don’t expect Google, PayPal and Amazon to sit quietly.
Currency Goes Digital
Digital currencies like Bitcoin became front and center in 2014. From Bitcoin ATMs to retailers accepting bitcoin payments to bitcoin exchanges, it felt like we should start trading in our currency! Judging by the amount of investing going into Bitcoin and the types of companies that are emerging it could be a clear sign that crypto-currency may be the way of the future.
While high profile bitcoin exchanges like Mt. Gox ran into trading issues due to poor management and inexperience, it’s important to note that at its peak, it was processing 70 percent of the world’s bitcoin transactions and processing $500 million in bitcoin transactions each month. That’s a pretty impressive “experiment.” Much like mobile payments, the underlying value of digital currency will be determined by how useful it is for consumers, merchants and financial institutions adopt it. 2015 may be the year we determine if this is really the birth of a global currency or the end of an interesting experiment.
The Future Breaks Through the Cloud
Cloud computing continues to be one the trends many organizations talk about but very few adopt in a meaningful way. That is about to change as digital era applications require building with a new style and cloud-centric architecture to provide the type of engaging experience and digital capabilities demanded by mobile consumers and employees. This requires enterprises to design for web scale IT, provide rich integrations, create context-rich experiences and embed “smart” analytics. In 2015, the cloud will further emerge as the “digital glue” in making many of these applications realize these capabilities.
Year 2015 can be an exciting time for many CIOs if they continue to make progress on their digital transformation journeys. These technology advances can clearly be disrupters, but enterprises that move quickly and stay the course can continue to be viable in the digital era.