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7 most important tech trends of 2012

John Brandon | Nov. 27, 2012
Technology trends can come and go with little more than a (Google) Wave, but seven trends of 2012 are here to stay. Some came out of nowhere, while others emerged after years of development.

Ask anyone in IT about technology trends and you might get a sideways glance. After all, what seems like a novel idea- Google Wave, anyone?-can sometime die on the vine. Few of us are ready to proclaim whether Windows 8 is a raging success or another iterative release.

However, over the past year, a few trends did emerge. Some, such as 3-D printing, took a while to germinate in the basements of arm-chair engineers. Some popped out of nowhere and took the world by storm. These trends all dominated headlines-and, in some case, even changed how we do business and manage the world of IT.

1. Big Data Takes Center Stage

Analyzing reams of data is not a new trend. Massive government labs in northern California and Chicago have sequenced genomes and analyzed nuclear fusion models for decades. What's new is how big data has gone mainstream. Tools such as Google Analytics make it easy for IT admins to analyze the flow of site visits to a company domain, even when there are millions of hits.

An ancillary trend: infographics that help explain massive data sets also became popular, if not a bit overused. Colorful charts, expanding onto multiple pages, helped take big data findings and made them comprehendible.

2. Online Training Now Crowdsourced

Corporate training rarely makes sudden lurches forward. For most large companies, online courses to help employees learn a new CRM app or accounting process are now commonplace. What changed in 2012 has to do with the folks creating the content. Sites such as Udemy and Udacity are crowd-sourced training portals where experts can post a training seminar. When the CEO of Yahoo posts a training course to understand how product development works, you know there's a trend.

3. Near-Field Communication Fills a Need

NFC first appeared in phones late last year, but the concept took several months to catch on. Now, you see it everywhere: Samsung shows two phones bumping together to exchange a playlist in its commercials. Many new models from Google and Samsung support the technology, which requires a slight contact to exchange a small amount of data. recently started offering a business card with an NFC chip, and Samsung TecTile tabs make it easy to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

The main advantage: Bluetooth is too hard to configure for many, and the immediate data exchange of NFC means people are more likely to use the technology on a whim.

4. Long-Range Biometrics

Biometric security, for example, uses a fingerprint or iris scan to grant security access. For the past 10 years, the idea has grown, but few of us use the technology on a daily basis. That could change with long-range scanners such as those made by IDair AIRprint, which captures fingerprints at 500 pixels per inch but does so from about three feet away. That means much more flexibility in how a building security checkpoint works-and much faster processing time. The AIRprint has another advantage: while the reader sits about three feet away, processing can occur anywhere over Wi-Fi.


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