Tech watch 2014

If you’re like most business leaders, you've spent the last couple of years educating yourself about big data and analytics. After all, trend watching isn’t just for those of us who create and sell software.

As technology consumers, you have to be aware of what your competitors are doing and what technologies are available to help your business. Innovation is occurring so quickly that it’s worth dedicating at least a few minutes of your daily routine to reading and researching the latest tech trends.

One recent report worth reading is Forrester’s Top Technology trends to watch: 2014 - 2016. I like their list because they surveyed both IT and business leaders from more than 2000 organizations, which gives it a good balance. And they’re usually pretty accurate about these things.

Let’s run through Forrester’s top four, and then I’ll add a fifth of my own at the end:

  1. Mobile applications. Mobile has been No. 1 on Forrester’s list for the last three years, so this one isn’t a surprise. Smart phones are proliferating, and so is our dependence on them. How can your business capitalize on this trend? Start by learning more about mobile marketing companies like Weve and Zapfi, and apply their concepts to your business to get a few ideas of your own.
  2. Big data and real-time platforms.  We’ve been talking about this one for a couple of years too. But most business leaders are still wrapping their heads around the technologies available to deal with bigger and faster data streams and the new varieties of data. To really understand this area, you need to move past the high-level, reactionary articles on the topic, and start studying big data analytics and Hadoop.
  3. Application platforms. I’m convinced that the future of cloud and SaaS will be about two things. One, analytics services. And two, the ability to break products into smaller pieces so that business consumers can purchase only the capabilities that they need. You should be thinking not only about what you’re developing for the cloud but also what features you want to see in the cloud to help improve your own results. Learn more in this overview of cloud and big data.
  4. Customer intelligence and analytics platforms. This one might be No. 4. But we all know that getting it right requires smart technologies and strategies for the first three on the list. After all, your customers are mobile, they’re generating big data, and they’re doing more and more with cloud-based apps. How can you use analytics to reach them and understand their needs? Try reading these case studies from Family Dollar and Proctor & Gamble for some inspiration.

For the fifth item, I’ll diverge from Forrester and add a low-cost technology that I’ve been watching closely:

  1. iBeacon software.  Beacons are small wireless sensors that use bluetooth technology to cast a net around a physical space and trigger app activity based on micro-locations inside that net. They can be used to transmit flash sales, personalized offers, or directions to a specific location within a store, restaurant or coliseum.  The cost of entry is low enough for almost any business to experiment with this new technology, and the data analysis implications are as wide as you can imagine. This Gigaom article about beacons does a good job of explaining the potential uses outside of the obvious retail scenarios.

Those are the technologies on the top of my mind so far this year. What about you? What gadgets, apps and platforms are catching your attention? And how do you see your business benefiting from the ones mentioned here?

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