x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The top technological trends for 2014

Here are the changes, movements, technologies and cultural sweeps that will change the way we live in the coming 12 months.

Illustration by Mathew Kurian
Illustration by Mathew Kurian

Opportunities, challenges, resolutions, good intentions, plans made, plans revised, muddles resolved: all the machinations of another year are ahead.

Before you plunge in, you’re probably taking a few moments to steel yourself. Maybe even to wonder if you’ll ever lose those extra kilos, finally quit smoking, manage to stay off Facebook for longer than an hour at a time, be happier, find a new life partner or dump an existing one.

But, of course, you can’t lifestyle plan in the dark. To aid your thinking, then, here are five key trends for this year, as brought to you by the consumer trends firm trendwatching.com. They help encapsulate our view of the changes, movements, technologies and cultural sweeps that will change the way we live in the coming 12 months.

Guilt-free status

In 2014, guilt-free is the new status symbol.

Currently, many of us are trapped in a never-ending guilt spiral when it comes to the impact of our lifestyles and consumption habits. But we do little, or nothing, to change our habits. Give up international air travel, disposable fashion and double cheeseburgers? Unthinkable! A recent study by GlobeScan identified 2.5 billion “aspirational consumers” identified by their love of shopping (78 per cent) and their desire for responsible consumerism (92 per cent).

This year, expect trendsetters to embrace a new kind of status: the status that comes with a visibly, proudly guilt-free (or at least reduced-guilt) lifestyle. Want to drive a supercar? Only the Tesla Model S electric sedan will do. Want some bling on your wrist? Turn to Liberty United’s bracelets: the US company works with local governments to take firearms off the streets and then upcycles the reclaimed metal to make its jewellery. In 2014, zero guilt is where it’s at.

Crowd-shaping

The connected crowd comes of age in 2014.

You already know that your online life creates reams of data. But this year will see cutting-edge start-ups and other tech entities putting your data to use in a new way, to amazing new effect. Crowd-shaping is all about products and services shaped in real time by the aggregated data or preferences of groups of people.

If that seems a lot to get your head around, check out this example: CheckinDJ is a crowd-shaped jukebox that intelligently aggregates the music preferences of those present (at a party, say, or in a shop) by sneaking into your smartphone and finding your playlists. It will then play a track selection based on the preferences it discovered: your tastes will be reflected, as will those of others around you.

I know what you’re thinking: privacy. But this Brave New World is coming, like it or not. For more on privacy, see No Data.

Digital everything

The Quantified Self (QS) movement is now mainstream. If you haven’t heard, it’s all about using new digital tech to track personal metrics such as sleep, miles walked, heart rate, blood sugar and more.

So far, QS has focused on physical metrics. But in 2014, expect that to change. New technologies are allowing us to track and gain new insight into mental and emotional health and well-being, too.

Shadow, an app funded on Kickstarter in 2013, encourages users to record their dreams upon waking. Not only do users diarise their dreams upon waking, but each entry can be pushed to the cloud, creating an online database of dreams that shows users the dream content and sentiment of other users around the world.

Meanwhile, the Melon headband and app allows users to track their focus during a range of activities. Users can input external conditions to monitor how factors such as time of day, fatigue, weather and more affect their focus.

No data

First there was an endless stream of brand-based privacy breaches. Then there was the mother lode: Edward Snowden and the revelation that the NSA is accessing our emails, our smartphones, our Facebooks and basically knows everything we have done, said or thought, ever.

No wonder it’s no longer just a paranoid minority who are freaked out over privacy. According to Adobe, 82 per cent of us believe that companies collect too much information on ­consumers.

In 2014, then, expect more of us to go in search of truly “no data” alternatives. A social network that doesn’t spy on us. A search engine that doesn’t track us. An email account that will rebuff even the most determined NSA agent. They must be out there somewhere. Maybe your friends are already using them. Best spy on them and find out.

Caring things

The physical objects around us are being woven into the digital space. Thanks to sensors, GPS technologies and more, the Internet of Things is coming and it will enable you to control your car, fridge, thermostat and pretty much everything from your smartphone.

But in 2014, the Internet of Things takes on a human dimension: it starts caring. Expect more of us to embrace connected objects that look after us: helping us improve health, save money, get chores done and reduce personal risk.

Just one example? In September 2013, Ford unveiled the S-MAX Concept, an intelligent car that includes many caring features, including a seat with built-in ECG to help monitor the risk of heart attacks at the wheel and an on-board glucose monitoring system.

Perhaps 2014 will see the Internet of Things take on other dimensions, too. Internet of Loved Things. Internet of City Things. Internet of Scary Things. You can (and definitely should) keep thinking of new variations all year.

David Mattin is head of trends and insights at trendwatching.com

artslife@thenational.ae