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Top 10 technology trends for 2012

Thursday, 5 January 2012 | By Michelle Hammond
Technology trends in 2011 were heavily influenced by the increasing uptake of mobile devices, namely smartphones and tablets, by the Australian public.


This resulted in an onslaught of mobile and web applications as developers scrambled to grab a piece of the pie. In particular, gaming and shopping apps enjoyed huge success this year.


However, reaching customers via mobile devices remains a mystery to many Aussie businesses. Indeed, many small companies still don’t even have a website.


So what’s in store for the year ahead? StartupSmart picks out the top technology trends for 2012.


1. Mobile commerce



Mobile commerce is projected to grow to more than $US100 billion globally within a couple of years, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group.


“In 2011, global shipments of smartphones and tablets exceeded those of desktops and laptops for the first time,” the report said.


“By 2015, more consumers will access the internet through their mobile devices than from their desktop computers.”


Jonathan Sharp, a Melbourne-based BCG partner and co-author of the report, says the rise of smartphones and tablets is having a dramatic effect on shopping behaviour.


“Retailers who fail to respond risk becoming unprofitable showrooms for their online competitors. This is a make-or-break threat for retailers,” Sharp says.


2. Cloud computing



Cloud computing allows businesses to shift workloads between a corporate data centre and their cloud of choice, whether it be public, private or a hybrid model.


The sector is also spawning plenty of Aussie start-ups, including OrionVM, Saasu and Cloud Central.


John Karabin, vice president of Verizon Business Australia, says cloud computing allows businesses to store and use data as they need it.


“Cloud is allowing providers, such as ourselves, to own and run the hardware and the software on behalf of other people so that they don’t have to go to the cost of setting up data centres or buying very expensive software that they might not fully use,” Karabin says.


3. Social enterprise


Karabin says social enterprise – driven by social media – will become “even more social” due to eased access, allowing businesses to produce, find and convey information more effectively.


However, businesses must ensure their social media campaigns are tailored to suit clients’ needs, with an Experian report revealing marketers are often guilty of a “one size fits all” approach.


The report reveals 29% of consumers have a low level of trust for direct communication through social media, while only 4% of consumers rate social media channels as the most trustworthy.


Seventy percent of consumers value print media more highly than social media, yet 60% of the marketers surveyed plan to invest heavily in social media over the next 12 months.


4. Video


Video is emerging to create new opportunities for small businesses through high bandwidth capabilities and the combination of global IP networks and 4G LTE wireless. The roll-out of the National Broadband Network will accelerate this take-up.


According to Karabin, video-enabled contact is becoming the preferred business-to-consumer application as well as for enterprise activities.


“Small businesses are able to start to take advantage of accessing more people in a more interactive way,” he says.


“So rather than just kind of accessing people via news adverts in the past, they’re setting up their own social networks.”



 5. Gamification



Gamification describes the trend of employing game mechanics to non-game environments. The idea is to add gaming elements to tasks and processes that are ordinarily tedious to consumers.


Broadly speaking, gamification aims to integrate game dynamics to a website, online content or campaign in a bid to drive participation and, ultimately, awareness of your brand.


Technology research company Gartner predicts gamified services will become as important to companies’ marketing departments as Facebook or Twitter.


Jon Holloway, digital strategy director at Sydney advertising agency The Works, says while gamification “isn’t yet a part of the Aussie vernacular”, it soon will be.


“It’s early days, but we know that there will be a few brands keen to come out strong to revolutionise gaming in the near future,” Holloway says.


6. Location marketing



Whether it’s via listing on Foursquare or Google Places, location marketing is becoming an increasingly important part of doing business.


A variety of other platforms use location functionality, including Yelp, while Australian start-ups such as Myzerr and Roamz have also developed their own location platforms.


Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says with so many Australian consumers now owning smartphones, location marketing will only increase.


“Smartphone penetration is essential to this type of marketing,” Fadaghi says.


Slade Sherman, of Myzerr, says while the number of businesses engaging in location marketing is “rather small”, it’s tipped to rise.


“What location [marketing] does is quite amazing – it has the potential of taking online traffic and turning it into traffic for physical stores” Sherman says.


7. Energy-efficient technologies


According to Karabin, energy-efficient technologies continue to draw the attention of small businesses.


As a result, small businesses will increasingly participate in public-private partnerships in 2012, investing in everything from energy-efficient heating to more efficient lighting.


Energy-efficient technology is still a reasonably new concept, but the industry is forecast to have a major impact on business operations.


8. Machine-to-machine-to-people communications  


Machine-to-machine-to-people communications will change the business landscape in 2012, Karabin says, playing a role in energy consumption, product inventory and digital intelligence.


“All the devices around you are starting to get smarter,” he says.


“They’re putting little processors inside them now that are increasingly able to communicate with each other and increasingly then communicate back to central data gatherers to allow them to access how to run things more efficiently.”


9. IT security



A survey by BKR International reveals SMEs in the Asia-Pacific region are falling behind in IT security, but the spate of security breaches this year could prompt businesses to up the ante.


In the last year, SMEs in the Asia-Pacific reported only 19% of the malicious attacks on IT security. However, experts warn the situation could change, urging companies to act now.


“Companies who have yet to experience a major catastrophe may be taking the ‘it won’t happen to me’ approach,” says Stephen Roger, executive director of BKR’s Asia-Pacific region.


“Yet to be reactionary rather than preventative to do something so serious, significant and recently prevalent – once the damage is done – may be too late.”


Karabin agrees, claiming the difficult economic climate and tight government regulations will lead to “increased interest in holistic security approaches” in 2012.


10. New IT skill sets


Major changes in how organisations access technology resources will drive a dramatic change in the skill sets required by IT professionals, according to a study by Ambition Technology.


The growing trend for technology operations to be outperformed under hosting or cloud computing arrangements has reduced the focus on skills associated with managing large internal teams, the study says.


Instead, managers are likely to need skills in consulting, integration and supplier management. They must also have a good grasp of finance and business operations.


“If you outsource services, it becomes more about managing performance aspects of the business,” Ambition Technology managing director Andy Cross says.


“That means companies are looking for a different breed of manager than in the past.”