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Tomorrow's news today: The biggest tech stories of 2014

Mark Sullivan | Jan. 3, 2014
I write one of these "Tech Trends of 20XX" stories every year. For me, it's as big a part of the holidays as the Yule Log. I can remember some years when the big predictions for the next year were just the natural, incremental growth of current trends.

TV wherever, whenever

Facing pressure from TV services offered by telephone and satellite companies, cable companies will increasingly let subscribers watch their cable programming on multiple screens and even start a show on one device and continue viewing it on another.

For instance, you might be checking out Breaking Bad on the big TV in the living room before work, then grab your tablet and easily pick up where the show left off while you're on the bus. Cable services, probably led by Comcast and its X2 platform, will finally get the systems (and mindsets) in place to place-shift, time-shift, and device-shift video easily. It'll be clunky at first, but it will get better.

3D printing comes out of the basement

It took me awhile to "get" the utility of 3D printing, but like others (I suspect) I eventually realized that really useful objects could be printed at home with reasonably priced 3D printers. Like the back cover to the remote control that disappeared last month.

3D printers were hot in 2013, but Jupiter Research says their popularity will increase significantly over the next 12 months as HP, Samsung, and Microsoft join the party. Soon we'll be printing car parts, batteries, prosthetics, and computer chips to jewelry, clothing, and maybe even food, Juniper muses.

Your devices understand you

We are surrounded by intelligent devices. We carry them, we wear them, we talk to them and they talk to us. But increasingly our devices are getting to know us.

They're learning to understand where we are, what we're doing, the ways we work and play, the things we buy, what we need to remember, and most importantly, the ways they can help us with all of those things and more.

Google Now and Apple's Siri are good current examples of "personal assistant" tech, but similar functionality will take on more AI qualities and will start to show up in more devices, apps and services in 2014.

The 'internet of things' goes mainstream

The digital world is extending its vast tentacles into the real world. A wide array of previously dumb objects are growing eyes and ears, connecting to the internet and each other, and becoming searchable. Real world objects--both smart and dumb, active and passive--are beginning to talk to each other.

A doorway sensor at a store in the mall detects when my smartphone enters the store and when it leaves. A refrigerator passes data to a grocery store system. Sensors detect when your car passes over a bridge and when you return.

For the most part, all this new communication will be beneficial and benign. Still, a boatload of data is being generated and logged about every aspect of our lives. As the piles of data mount, some might wonder where it all goes and how it is used, and by whom. As our devices become privy to more and more intimate information about us, the more and more dangerous that data becomes if allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Like the NSA, for example.


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