2013 – The Technology Year in Review

2013 tech in review2013 brought us some new technologies, and brought some existing technologies into the mainstream. As we look back at this past year, let’s take another look at some of the hottest technologies that made big splashes during 2013. We’re not just going to limit our list to things in IT, as there have been some amazing developments outside of IT that will still impact us all.

The Cloud

When they remake Forest Gump in a few years, Bubba won’t be a shrimper; he will be an IT guy. Can’t you just hear him talking about all the ways to use the cloud? “Community clouds, private clouds, government clouds, personal clouds, cloud email, cloud apps, cloud storage, cloud CMS, cloud payroll…” Cloud computing wasn’t invented in 2013. I can’t even say that anything new was introduced to the cloud in 2013, but this was the year that the cloud went mainstream.

The Internet of Things

When your toaster can email you that it needs to be cleaned, and your refrigerator can text you that you need to stop and pick up milk on the way home, you might just be a tad too connected. But the Internet of Things is a phrase that came to prominence in 2013, and it stretches well past the confines of your kitchen. Cars can send remote diagnostics to dealerships. Sensors in your yard can notify your groundskeeping service when they need to come apply the next batch of fertilizer. Motion detectors and thermal sensors can work together to determine just where in a building people are actually located to deliver HVAC precisely to where it is needed, and jewelry can track your physical activity and update your cloud based tracking app. At some point soon we really will have to redefine what TMI means.

HTML5

With a candidate recommendation finally proposed in December 2012, 2013 was the year that HTML5 started to be considered mainstream instead of bleeding edge. “Stable” isn’t planned for until September 2014, but this was the year that 153 of the Fortune 500 were using HTML 5, content creators successfully got a form of Digital Rights Management included, YouTube started to use it by default, and all the major web browsers’ current versions supported it.

Alternative interfaces

Leap, Kinect, and other motion sensing interfaces, and touch for PCs jumped in popularity during 2013 as did other ways to interact with computers. While none of these technologies are revolutionary, the mainstreaming of them as commonplace ways to interact with computers means 2013 was the year that people started to touch laptops and were surprised if they were not touch enabled.

Wireless Power

Another technology that wasn’t created in 2013 but rather hit it big, wireless charging is just the start. Companies are now experimenting with wireless power distribution over distances, and there is a prototype automobile that is run using wireless power.

Smart Watches

Miniature extensions of smartphones rather than Dick Tracy like devices in their own right, smart watches are a growing technology and fashion accessory that many vendors are rushing to embrace. Between your phone, your Bluetooth earpiece, and your smart watch, it’s probably only a matter of time before Verizon and AT&T will be competing to introduce the first surgically implanted cellphone. Think really hard before you opt in to that “new every two” promotion!

Curved Screens

Here’s one technology I really want, as the difference in distance between the centers of my two monitors and the edges make it a real challenge so focus with my glasses. Curved screens do look really cool, and can offer some very unique form factors for everything from small screens on smart watches and phones to big display screens, but when they really hit mainstream, I will be the first to buy a 5120×1080 monitor.

The smartphone replaces the camera

High-end digital SLRs come with CMOS sensors in the 20 to 28 megapixel range, but they are also heavy and cumbersome, and certainly not pocket sized. While professional photographers will ensure that there is always a market for these devices, newer smartphones with 512MB of storage and 41 megapixel cameras mean that everyone has a camera these days…they are just disguised as cellular phones.

Drones

Both Amazon and Google are experimenting with using drones to make deliveries. These are not the multi-million dollar weapons and observation platforms used by the military and handled by pilots with years of training… these are semi-autonomous devices that will be making local deliveries someday very soon. At this point, it is less about the technology and more about the regulations! While Amazon waits for FAA approval to start delivery goods via drone, I am going to start training a conspiracy of ravens to intercept packages that enter my airspace!

Alternative Content Creation and Delivery

Companies like Netflix, WIGS, Hulu, Amazon, and others are not only trying new ways of delivering content to consumers; many of them are starting to create content as well. Serialized dramas and comedies, reality shows and news hours, and other entertainment are being created by these companies and are redefining how even traditional networks approach new shows. Pilots may be going out of style as broadcasters compete to lock in the best new shows, and the cable companies are going to become desperate to keep subscribers as more and more entertainment options become available online.

3D Printing

Art, glasses, furniture, jewelry, medical devices, and firearms are all items that can now be manufactured using 3D printing. And while you may think that $2000 is more than you would ever pay for a 3D printer, consider how much you paid for your first PC, and how much you paid for your current one, and then I think you will agree that 2013 is the year 3D printing hit the consumer marketplace in a big way.

Bitcoin

Trying to understand Bitcoin is a little bit like trying to understand the Matrix. Unfortunately, no one can be told what Bitcoin is. You have to see it for yourself. While it’s been around since 2009, no one can deny that Bitcoin hit the public awareness in 2013, with stories of speculators hitting it big, losing even bigger when they threw hard drives away full of digital currency, illicit marketplaces being shut down that used Bitcoin for payments, and even an enterprising speculator being shut down for trying to mint his own physical Bitcoins.

Self-healing materials

I might actually get a cellular phone to last the full two years I’m under contract with it if they would manufacture cases and screens out of one of the new self-healing materials to hit it big in 2013. These composites are not quite like the T1000, but can “heal” themselves of minor damage caused by what is otherwise considered normal wear and tear. Imagine a world where Fender Benders are no big deal because you’d wake up the next day to find your car fixed its own dents.

4th Generation Nuclear Reactors

While Japan and other countries are moving away from nuclear power, other countries are increasing their adoption of this energy source, and the technology is improving dramatically. The biggest problem with nuclear energy is nuclear waste, but 4th gen reactors can generate dramatically more power from nuclear material, breaking it down to the point where its radioactivity is less than the naturally occurring ore and making waste something that can be dealt with in human timescales, not geologic ones.

Nanoscale Medicine Delivery

One of the biggest challenges with chemotherapy is how the drugs impact the otherwise healthy parts of the body. Nanoscale medicine delivery can target down to the cellular level, delivering the medications that can fight infection or kill off cancer cells directly to the source of the problem without exposing the healthy surrounding tissue to the chemicals.

Water purification

Fresh, safe drinking water is a surprisingly scare resource in many parts of the world. There’s plenty of water in many of these locations… it’s just not safe to drink. Water purification has traditionally required enormous amounts of energy, but new advances in water purification will make it easier and cheaper to get safe drinking water to developing areas as well as those struck by disaster.

CO2 Harvesting

Carbon Dioxide build-ups in our atmosphere are responsible for climate change, and many companies and individuals are taking this seriously enough to track and attempt to offset the amount of CO2 their own activities generate. New technologies that have come to light this year are developing ways to harvest CO2 and create energy from it; energy that uses up these harmful waste products rather than generating more.

That’s our list… now what about you? What new technology this year did we leave off our list that you see making the biggest splash? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

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