20 Tech Trends That Will Define 2013, Selected By Frog
AUTOMATED INTELLIGENCE AIDS OUR DIGITAL DOPPELGÄNGERS
Executive Technology Director Robert Tuttle, Austin
Monitoring and responding to the ever-increasing volume and complexity of the various feeds, threads, walls, streams, notifications, updates, and requests that permeate our digital lives has long become a full-time job. Current personal, professional, and commercial social-networking services offer relatively crude aggregation and classification interaction models for managing and directing our online personas. In 2013, we’ll be able to find more qualified hired help.
Emerging tools and services will help translate our needs and desires into cloud-based automation. They will proactively work on our behalf, guided by our permission and divining our intent. Existing services such asGoogle’s Prediction API, which offers pattern-matching and trainable machine learning capabilities to developers, and IFTTT, which offers intuitive, user-friendly, and cloud-based rules engine expressed in simple “if this, then that” terms, are representative of the trend toward empowering more automated, if not quite yet artificial, intelligence for our digital alter-egos.
WE REACH THE TABLET TIPPING POINT
Creative Director Mario van der Meulen, Shanghai
Crystal-balling next year’s trends is never far off from what we see now, but nothing happens overnight. One solution that could make its long promised impact in 2013: the dropping price point of tablets. This will start to bring a shift from tablets being mini-computers to their role as the widespread replacement of printed media, from payment receipts to newspapers to textbooks. Lower prices will prompt people to buy numerous tablets, each optimized for different purposes. Lower prices will also make tablets a game-changing device in emerging economies in Africa, South America, and Asia, and will bring new challenges to the interaction model worldwide.
There has been a documented reduction in the media industry’s paper usage because of the adoption of tablets. These devices also use less energy compared to PCs, and could work well with renewable solutions, such as the solar energy grid. These factors, combined with less of a reliance on a physical transportation and distribution model, where combustion engines still rule, will also help push forward tablets as the timely, earth-friendly, and cost-saving alternative to paper.
USSD IS THE FUTURE OF FINANCIAL INCLUSION
Executive Strategy Director Ravi Chhatpar, Johannesburg
Although the promise of low-cost smartphones has the potential to fundamentally revolutionize emerging markets, the quotidian reality for many people in Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia, and South America is the simple and functional feature phone.
For most consumers in these markets, the sophistication of mobile interaction is defined by the familiarity with which cumbersome Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, or USSD, codes (keypad commands, e.g. *141*12-digit-number#dial) are used for any service outside of voice and SMS (e.g., adding airtime). For mobile innovators, this is arguably the lowest of the lowest common denominators in technology, but it in fact is the most compelling.
Financial institutions are realizing that attempting to replicate a service borne out of unique and aged local conditions is a losing proposition. For several years, Kenya’s M-Pesa has been touted as the seminal example of emerging-market innovation, but the reality is that it was a brilliant example of being at the right place at the right time, at that perfect intersection of hyper-connectivity (mobile) and non-connectivity (infrastructure) in a country that needed a remittance solution more than anything. It does not neatly translate into other scenarios; it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and neither should it be.
Since M-Pesa’s debut, entrepreneurs and institutions have tried to replicate it in many countries over the years and have consistently failed. Real financial services disruption that acknowledges the role of the informal sector, the importance of community, the need for alternative assessments of risk, and the blending of traditional financial product categories is what will define truly meaningful innovation. And all of these will still be delivered through that most simple, basest, crudest of mobile technologies—USSD. In 2013, an aspiring innovator will define success with this approach.