12/04/2013 12:44 EST | Updated 02/03/2014 05:59 EST

2014 Tech Predictions: An Exciting Year for Connected Society and Business

In 2014, the tech world will be less about reaching for mobile devices to check social streams and more about one-to-one or one-to-few connections using apps such as SnapChat and WhatsApp. Real business impact will come from these connective apps and will continue to erode revenues for conventional telcos. The next year will be less about social networks, and more about social connections. Hopefully.

Back in December 2012, I published my technology predictions for 2013 in this very blog:

  • Convenience will send our lives into a creative low point
  • We will be tired of, yet even more addicted to, social media
  • We will start to celebrate locally connected societies more but with less conversation

It was a pretty cynical view, which for the most part rang true throughout 2013. What I feel really did happen is that connected society became a little more connected to their humanity. The rise of closed social connections, such as SnapChat and WhatsApp, has resulted in more invested connections and empathy. The 'maker movement', spearheaded by developments in 3D printing, has helped inspire home industry and shake up the retail industry. Even wearable computing, such as Google Glass, Recon Jet, FitBit, Nike FUEL, and Pebble has made people realize that life happens outside and on-the-go. Apps have become simultaneously more discrete and connective rather than always needing attention (the Moves app is a good example of this).

I feel that there is a little more hope for us in 2014 than there was in 2013, and here are my predictions:

The Decline of Social Innocence and the Rise of Storytelling

People will wake up even more to the fact that Facebook and Twitter (and soon to be Instagram) are connective and targeted advertising networks and broadcast channels, which are validated and made authentic through our submissions and interaction. 

The result will be less about reaching for mobile devices to check social streams and more about one-to-one or one-to-few connections using apps such as SnapChat and WhatsApp. Real business impact will come from these connective apps and will continue to erode revenues for conventional telcos. 

Facebook will suffer more fatigue than other social networks while starting to be seen as an aggregation tool, and it will begin to deliver less value to brands. Within three to five years, I think it will resemble an automated QVC channel -- interrupting us with product offers and pumping out C-list celebrity conversation to help convince us to consume more. Twitter will continue to be a platform more akin to a curated search engine than a social network, which is where its value will lie. It will be a solid and long-standing business.

The popularity of single-use social applications that help us tell stories through video and imagery will also rise, and we will see more brands aggregate these media and reward people for their contributions. There will be a noticeable move from 'thing consumers' to 'memory-and-inspiration consumers'. People will care less about things (purchased goods and social-status services, such as new phones, cars, and memberships to clubs etc.) but will strive for experience every day, which they will share through the power of rich personal stories and distribution via friends, influencers, and media channels. Social networking creates weak bonds in groups, and stories strengthen them and create a platform for actual emotional investment and empathy. Self-expression in new environments, bolstered by content creation and influencer networks with 'up voting', will lead us into the new world of entertainment and valuable connection. Even big players, such as GE etc., have validated the value of short-form storytelling -- the result of which will be weaker TV propositions, more cord-cutting, and increased mobile consumption. 

I also predict Netflix (and series producers) will also start to integrate short-form content in one form or another, and that we will see more integration using short-form video and transmedia storytelling, which will be used to draw people into owned, online channels. Unfortunately, advertising will not be going anywhere soon, so we will all still need to endure the marketing messaging being forced upon us.

Interactivity in Unexpected Places will Change the Way We Interact and Contribute

Urban environments will change more and more to involve people, and experience design will span digital applications, online connectivity, and physical contribution. Augmented reality and digital/physical experiences will go beyond being simply smart phone enabled and wearable computing will start to take a real hold.

The Internet of Things will gain momentum by starting to deliver value and proving its potential in smaller ways. It will be led by the Internet of people, experience-based tech, such as Arduino, and simple (and ultimately useful) executions using smartphones, interactive displays/objects, and wearable computing like HUDs and watches. Our cars, public transportion, and urban information systems that use open data will help lead the way. Free information backbones and data plans for objects, removed from consumer-usage plans, will help accelerate communication between devices and cities will need to work with service providers and local businesses to ensure they are deployed successfully. Start-up and brands will also utilize city open-data applications and this will support modern 'digital cities'.

Insights from Big Data Will Mean Organizations and their Teams Will Change

Big data is such a hot topic right now, and organizations are a little worried about what they should do about it. In an article earlier this year, I tried to address the impacts and give some advice in mobilizing capabilities in organizations.

A new kind of employee will emerge in organizations, 'The Innovator' who will have the attributes of data scientists, service/product designers, and developers who consider physical and virtual environments where consumer relationships and businesses are established. These people will feed into and lead product designer, developer, and marketer micro-teams, which will result in smaller and more agile companies (that embody a start-up philosophy) getting stronger faster and gaining adoption. This change will noticeably accelerate the crowd-sourced economy.

We are entering a year where strong relationships will form and multiply, and there will be a stronger connective tissue running through society. Organizations are really waking up to what they have to start doing, gaining precise insight accompanied by a broader view of societal needs, and learning to connect with consumers and citizens alike. I'm more excited for 2014 than I was for 2013 -- let's see how it plays out. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the above, and what you think 2014 will serve up, in the comments below.