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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.

Google pushes broadband forward

When Google Fiber launched in Kansas City, Time Warner Cable apparently got antsy and announced it would increase its fastest service to 100 megabits per second (mbps) in that city. TWC also said it would match anything Google rolls out in Austin. AT&T also took the bait: when Google announced plans for gigabit-fast fiber broadband service in Austin, AT&T immediately outlined plans to offer fiber-based gigabit-per-second broadband service in that city as well.

Google's fiber march is very likely to continue on to new cities during 2014, and the slow and complacent ISPs in those markets will be forced to respond with higher home and business broadband speeds. By the end of next year, gigabit per second broadband service could reach half the large U.S. markets, largely because of competitive pressure created by Google Fiber.

Wi-Fi begins to feel ubiquitous 

A group of major cable companies have already banded together to put more than 300,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in major markets around the U.S. Cities like San Francisco and New York are beginning to install free Wi-Fi hotspots in downtown areas and in public transportation. The wireless companies are using Wi-Fi hotspots to offload traffic from their cellular networks. Major food chains like Starbucks and McDonalds offer free Wi-Fi in and around thousands of stores, and more retailers are likely to follow suit. More and more smaller businesses are setting up hotspots as a free service to customers. In 2014, free Wi-Fi will become something we come to expect, not the novelty it's been in the past.

Browser cookies give way to device ID

In 2014 the advertising industry will move away from using browser cookies to track our identities, interests, and preferences online. Cookies don't actually work very well because the advertisers never really know who is using the browser being tracked. And cookies may not last very long in the browser: Security software is often set to delete cookies once a week. 

Increasingly, advertisers will track us using unique device IDs associated with our smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and wearable computers. Advertisers feel device IDs are more accurate, and that they might reveal more about all the things people do on their mobile devices. For instance they might learn how often we make purchases in a certain part of town, or whether or not we research the product online before we make the purchase in a brick and mortar store. Yes, you're giving more of your privacy away in 2014.

To wrap it all up with a nice Christmas bow: the tech trends in 2014 will be about the extension of the internet to a million previously dumb objects around us, and increasingly to our own bodies with wearable tech and biometrics. Connecting to the internet will seem possible from almost anywhere, and will be fast enough to do things like stream video to and from all kinds of devices. The entire tech industry (including publishers and advertisers) will focus on optimizing content, media, apps, and services for use on mobile devices, while building for the desktop will start to feel like an afterthought.

 

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