After a blah 2013, New Year brings clearer images on future of technology

From wearable technology to Google getting robots, we take a look at the areas of technology to watch over the coming year

Tech enthusiasts didn't have much to cheer about in 2013.

There wasn't a lot of jaw-dropping or game-changing technology introduced. Instead, it was a year in which old guard companies, such as BlackBerry, Microsoft and Intel, struggled to remain relevant, set new goals and looked for new leadership. Newer companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, matured — at least enough to make some money — but still haven't proved they have a long-term business plan.

And it was a year that brought questions about consumer privacy and security to the forefront, with high-profile data breaches and revelations about surveillance programs at the National Security Agency.

In short, 2013 was a year that raised a lot of questions but provided few answers. Analysts say 2014 could be when the rough sketches about the future of technology, and how it affects our lives, get fleshed out.

Here are the areas of tech to watch in 2014:

Wearables:

Technology has become a part of our daily lives, but 2013 showed the promise of what could happen if it becomes part of our bodies.

From our socks to our glasses, tech companies have found ways to add sensors to everyday items that turned them into mini computers. Fitness trackers and Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which can take photos and answer phone calls, showed consumers the potential of wearables.

Companies are "increasingly putting consumers at the center of a host of digital technologies, devices and services," said John Curran, a managing director at Accenture.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear: a device that showed the potential of wearables, but that was more prototype than product

And there's far more expected in the pipeline. The Google Glass headset, which pushes users' smartphone alerts to a screen hovering just above a user's eye, is expected to see a wide consumer release in 2014.

Analysts also expect Apple, which has yet to offer even a whisper about a wearable device, to release a smartwatch of its own sometime this year.

Analysts say that the market is already a billion-dollar industry and is on pace to hit $6 billion to $8 billion by 2018.

But tech developers' ability to collect a range of personal data about users — your heartbeat, eating habits and location — has some privacy advocates concerned. The Federal Trade Commission has scheduled a February workshop to examine how companies and consumers can deal with the influx of data being held by these companies.

Different forms:

Consumers can also expect some of their high-end devices to change form in 2014 with the wider introduction of curved screens for smartphones and televisions.

Tech companies have been studying how to curve screens for years and now appear ready to introduce it more widely to the public, said Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, which tests and calibrates screens.

Curved screen TVs were produced by the likes of Samsung and LG.

Samsung and LG have both already announced that their largest TVs will have a bit of a bend in them, and some firms are considering curved or flexible screens for smartphones that would fit more naturally against a users face. Screens can also be curved so that they perform better in direct light, said Soneira.

But manufacturing these new screens is a costly process, Soneira said. While consumers will see more of them in 2014, they'll probably stay confined to high-end or specialty products, he said. "They'll make a major technical statement in 2014, but not a major consumer statement," he said.

Flying above:

Flying drones and advanced robots will generate a lot of buzz in 2014, but probably won't be in every home by the end of the year.

Google and Amazon.com invested heavily in the development of unmanned aircraft and robots this year, raising expectations for 2014.

Google's purchase of Boston Dynamics, best known for making robots for the Defense Department, raised expectations the tech giant would develop robots for a mainstream audience. Their robots can carry heavy loads even on bumpy terrain.

Google purchased Boston Dynamics, a pioneering robotics firm known for creations such as the LS3 (above).

Amazon says it is planning to use drones to deliver some packages within 30 minutes of being ordered online.

But commercially produced drones will face a few more roadblocks before they take to the skies. The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that it selected six states to test unmanned aircraft system, but it's unclear when drones will have easy access to the nation's airspace.

Companies to watch:

Microsoft endured a tumultuous 2013, including the continued deterioration of the PC market and the retirement of longtime chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Now all eyes are on the company as it attempts to find its footing.

"Their successes are overwhelmed by their failures," said Rob Enderle, technology analyst for the Enderle Group. "They do need to simplify the company. They're fighting too many battles and they need to bring it back to something that can be managed."

Twitter, on the other hand, has the opposite problem — the social media company needs to grow, and grow quickly. Fresh off its 2013 market debut, the six-year-old company can boast that 18 percent of all Americans have an account on the service, according to data from the Pew Center for Internet and American Life.

The Twitter gang – minus Noah Glass – celebrate their company’s sale

And though Twitter must focus on aggressive growth to satisfy investors, it also has to be careful not to lose its scrappy start-up vibe, particularly as it faces competition from an ever-growing wave of new messaging services such as Snapchat, which lets users send private messages that erase themselves after 10 seconds.

Watch your back:

Cybercrime is expected to become even more common in 2014, posing a tricky challenge for tech companies and retailers encouraging consumers to share information online.

Most recently, hackers gained access to as many as 40 million credit and debit cards used by customers of Target during the height of the holiday shopping season, and analysts say that breach was only the tip of the iceberg.

Data breaches jumped from about 1,700 incidents in 2012 to 2,200 in 2013, according to an end-of-the-year report from financial information services firm Experian. The firm forecast that at least two-thirds of companies will buy cyber-breach insurance by the end of 2014. Many of those, the report said, will be in health-care sector as more doctors and hospitals put their data in online databases.

Vishant Patel of Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit shows a heatmap of the Citadel botnet, one of the world's largest, that was partially disabled last yearl.

One in four Americans has received at least one notice of a data breach, said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of data breach resolution at Experian's consumer services unit. That's led to apathy from some consumers who are tired of changing their passwords and canceling their credit cards — a trend that Bruemmer calls "data breach fatigue."

But not all consumers are taking the growing number of breaches lying down; Bruemmer said that there's also been a spike in lawsuits against companies whose systems are cracked into by cybercriminals.

"There's been a corresponding increase in class-action lawsuits, and I think you'll see that into 2014," he said.

(c) 2014, The Washington Post; Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    .NET Developer - .NET & SharePoint - Coventry

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + bonus: Ampersand Consulting LLP: .NET a...

    Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Technical Business Analyst/SQL Development - London - Permanent - £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Admin - £35,000 - 5 month FTC

    £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 5 month Fixed Term Contract - Telecommunicati...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?