As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time to examine the tech industry’s trajectory and predict which trends will explode in the upcoming year.
Experts from market research firm Gartner, the IEEE Computer Society, MIT, and other sources have named the tech trends they thought were super hot for businesses in 2014 or are going to become hot in 2015.
We’ve sifted through that information, and have thrown in a few of our own picks to come up with this list of the nine technologies companies will go nuts for in 2015.
Breakthroughs in 3D printing are coming in 2015, which will make this form of manufacturing attractive to nearly any business.
One such technology is something known 'micro-scale 3D printing,' according to MIT.
This is where 'inks' of different materials can be loaded into 3D printers, allowing them to print a huge range of objects.
In 2015, wearable computers will start to trickle into the workplace.
Smartwatches will keep employees plugged in without constantly looking at their phones.
Health wrist devices will encourage employees to participate in group wellness programs.
Companies will also start experimenting with smart glasses with custom apps such as repair guides, video conferencing, training videos, and the like.
HR software company Kronos and The Workforce Institute recently polled 9,000 people worldwide and found that 73% said they think wearables would be helpful at work.
IT departments used to work in phases. They wrote a new app on their test machines and only rolled it out to the real network when it was perfect, so it wouldn't crash things.
But IT departments want to be more like Facebook; they want to run experiments on their users by trying new features on their live networks, and collect data on what those employees want. That lets them rapidly make changes.
This trend is called 'devops,' which blends 'development' and 'operations' together. Devops requires IT departments to buy a lot of new technology, and change they way they are organised, so they can experiment without crashing things.
'More organisations will begin thinking, acting and building applications and infrastructure like Web giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook,' writes Gartner. 'The first step ... should be devops.'
Today, if a company wants to make a lot of changes to its network switches or storage devices after they are installed, it's a monumental task.
The new trend is to add a layer of software on top that controls everything.
This allows them to easily make changes and shift things around.
New software-defined networks and storage, 'deliver the flexibility required to make the digital business work,' Gartner says.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has given the word 'mobility' a new definition. It no longer means taking a tablet or smartphone with you as you roam.
It means that your identity lives in the cloud and travels with you from device to device, network to network.
Microsoft is one of many companies working on this idea. It will create a new generation of work apps that not only keeps track of your place, but lets your colleagues collaborate with you. Gartner calls this 'context-aware' applications.
Everyone's already got a lot of data, sometimes called big data. The emphasis in 2015 will stop being on the means to affordably collect and store that data (using technologies like Hadoop, noSQL databases) and will shift to making better use of it once they have got it.
Companies are really struggling today to get that data into the hands of the people who need it most: business managers.
What managers want is to be able to ask that data a simple question: 'Why did sales fall short of expectations last month?' They want the data to reply with charts, graphs, details of things that didn't sell well and reasons for the shortfall: shipment delays, weather, quality control issues, personnel changes, and so on.
That's a huge focus for startups and established software companies alike. Gartner calls this 'Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics.'
The industry is right now arguing over what to call the next generation of internet-enabled devices: 'internet of things,' 'internet of everything,' or 'web of things.'
But it's not about the internet at all. It's about giving sensors and chips to everyday objects and suddenly making them smart. It's also about giving intelligence to the apps we already use to make them even smarter.
For instance, your work apps will learn your work style to show you the data you need to see at the time you need to see it.
A smarter object 'takes advantage of mobile devices' and sensors' ability to observe and monitor their environments, increasing the coordination between things in the real world and their counterparts on the Web,' the IEEE explains.
For the past few years, enterprises have been slowly shifting away from buying software and hardware. They want to rent it from someone else, hosted elsewhere, paying only for what they actually use. This is known as cloud computing.
By the end of 2014, this trend has turned from a trickle to a stream. In 2015 it will become a waterfall.
IDC predicts that in 2014, companies will have spent $US56.6 billion on the cloud, and that the cloud market is growing 22% a year, six times faster than the growth of the whole IT industry. By 2018, companies will be spending $US127 billion on the cloud.