This is Part 2 of a five-part series on the hottest trends for 2015. Today, we focus on Technology Trends.

Coming off a year when technology stocks were up 17% in the U.S., the behemoth technology companies are fighting for position on several fronts. The next frontier is the intersection of cloud storage and mobile computing. Acceptance by consumers, the emergence of SAAS, and the end of the life cycle for managed private clouds set the stage for Amazon, Apple, Dropbox and others to duke it out for a share of the $60 Billion cloud storage market.

Even laggard Microsoft has adopted a “cloud-first strategy”. [i] Wireless infrastructure will grow 40% in the next five years. The big telecom and technology firms are investing in it heavily (including AT&T, Verizon, and Intel).[ii]

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple have a combined valuation of $1.8 Trillion, greater than the top 30 companies on the DAX index, the largest exchange in Germany ($1.3 Trillion). In a period of austerity and low tax base, U.S. tech firms will face headwinds in Europe and other parts of the world.[iii]

2015 may be the year where the confluence of relational databases, big data and the Internet of things reach their potential.

Hot trends for 2015:

Wearables: The Next Killer App – CEO Tim Cooke is touting the Apple Watch, as its latest in a string of revolutionary products. Activity trackers have been a hot category. However, the utility of products such as Fitbit and Nike Fuelband, have been limited. Some have no data display at all, and the information gathered from them is limited to trivial measurements such as the number of steps we take.

Zealot fans of activity trackers claim they affect behavior. What if the Apple Watch materially improves the health of users? The Apple Watch has the potential to connect the human body to a device that measures our every move, and reports on our activities in ways we can’t even imagine.

This level of connectivity between man and machine is truly unique and could have deep implications for how we live, work, exercise, eat and sleep. Apple Watch will not just be a watch; it will be an extension of ourselves. Amongst its many features are new ways to connect with others in a different social context.

While the Apple Watch may begin as a niche product outside the reach of many consumers ($349 and up), we will see if the Apple Watch will garner the type of attention that the iPod, iPhone, and iPad did.

Meanwhile, the incumbents in the activity tracker market are moving to more elegant and fashionable designs in an attempt to combine fashion and technology. New products include the Misfit Shine, the Guardian Angel and Netatmo June that are worn more like necklaces and pendants[iv].

Mobile Payments – Forrester estimates mobile payments to grow from $31 Billion this year to $90 Billion by 2017. While solutions such as Foursquare are exploding on the scene, merchants and providers have had difficulty convincing consumers of the security and ease of use of mobile payments.

Apple Pay could revolutionize the business, as it will be embedded with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, will not require that consumers open an app to use it, and is enabled by a consumer fingerprint.

The Internet of Things goes Mainstream – If you go into a Best Buy, you will notice the store has been run over by Nest, Sonos and other wireless appliances that network our home security, thermostats, music and other things with our devices, anytime, anywhere. In 2015, B2B companies will begin to view digital business products in a commercial context.

Over the course of the last 50 years, there have been three waves of technology that have impacted every enterprise. In the mid-1900’s, businesses found methods to automate production, supply chain and back office tasks such as invoicing[v]. The advent of the personal computer, computer networks, and the internet represented the second wave, where businesses could be connected to one another providing quicker access to information.

The third wave (which is only now emerging) will be the most radical because technology is inherent in almost every product or service. Technologies such as connected smart devices are embedded in physical products we buy, and technology drives many of the activities that surround services we provide to customers. Products that were once made up of electronic or mechanical parts are morphing into complex systems (that include data storage, microchips, and software), which connect seamlessly with one another. For the first time in history, smart devices will provide a complete snapshot and history of every facet of a product’s life.

Cyber Security – The well-publicized data losses at Home Depot and Target as well as the recent calamity at Sony, have put cyber security center stage. Companies are employing multi-faceted approaches including security aware application design, dynamic/static application security testing and runtime application self-protection[vi].

Meanwhile, state governments such as California and Delaware are imposing new consumer protection laws, as of January 1st. Companies will have to provide services to hacked consumers and destroy records containing personal information. [vii]

Commoditization of Smart Devices – Industry disruption is coming from the bottom, as low-cost alternatives will drive demand (long live Clayton Christensen). The consumer has figured out that tablets do not replace PC’s (demand for PC’s has flattened after a five-year growth decline.) [viii] The average price for a smartphone fell from $335 in 2012 to $314 this year. Microsoft Windows 10 is its first release to run across PCs, smartphones and tablets. [ix]

Entrepreneurial Firms Leverage Big Data – Entrepreneurial and mid-market companies appear puzzled by big data. The problem is that they have difficulty managing the information they already have. Many lack business rules required to standardize data[x].

As it turns out, companies are beginning to understand that big data is a bit of a misnomer and that analytics provides the opportunity to make many smaller decisions about inventory, pricing, discounts, etc.

IT spend on analytics exceeds $30 Billion annually. Undoubtedly, as companies move to the cloud and integrate their databases, big data will be levered by smaller companies to gain better information about their customers.

Other trends emerging include:

Smart Dashboards – Automakers, with an eye on innovation offered by Tesla, begin to embed more technology in vehicles including smart dashboards with new functions and utility. [xi]

Virtual Reality Gaming – Google, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft enter the fray with new headsets and devices. Advances in 3D graphics and improvements in sensor speed allow for new simulations. [xii] 

Video Games for Adults – The “deep games movement” is targeted to older audiences, where gamers are encouraged to be more enlightened and emphatic people. [xiii] In Gone Home, gamers explore an abandoned house to try to solve the mystery of what has happened to the family who used to reside there.

Gamification techniques are commonly being used by web developers to provide users with incentives that drive particular behaviors.

3D Printing – Just a couple of years ago 3D seemed like something out of a Star Trek movie. Expansion on markets such as biomedical, industrial and consumer backpacking will provide more variability and reduce costs. [xiv]

Conclusion – Moore’s Law (Gordon Moore’s observation that computing speed doubles every two years) is still a driver of technology innovation. Companies must understand how technology will be a competitive advantage, or face the threat of it quickly becoming a disadvantage.

In particular, B2B businesses are crossing a threshold where technology trends (such as the internet of things) provides the opportunity to improve the customer experience and offers powerful tools that can be used to develop customer insights and analytics.

Management teams must become directly involved in the assessment, selection and integration of technologies that can drive business performance. 2015 will be about the interconnectivity of multiple platforms, networks, and devices, and we all need to be aware of the extraordinary upside of emerging technologies.



[i] Forrester Research

[ii] The Kiplinger Letter November 7th, 1014

[iii] Europe vs. U.S. Tech Giants

[iv] Wearables with style by Sarah Kessler, Fast Company

[v] Adapted from How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition by Michael Porter and James Hepplemann, HBR November 2014

[vi] Gartners Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015

[vii] The Kiplinger Letter December 19, 2015

[viii] The Budget Mobile Era Arrives, Bloomberg Businessweek

[ix] The PC Comeback, Bloomberg Business week

[x] You May Not Need Big Data After All by Ross Beath and Quadras The Harvard Business Review

[xi] The Budget Mobile Era Arrives, Bloomberg Businessweek

[xii] A Virtual Feast, Bloomberg Businessweek

[xiii] Video games for grown ups by Adam Bluestein Fast Company

[xiv] Gartners Top 10 Technology Trends for 2015