While 2014 was a relatively quiet year for IT, a few global news stories pointed the way to game-changing trends for 2015.
This is according to JJ Milner, MD and founder of SA technology company, Global Micro Solutions, who provided insight into what to expect in the sector next year:
- Big hack horror
One of the biggest IT news stories of the year was iCloud being hacked, resulting in celebrity nude photos being released to the public. Despite all the endless warnings, people still don’t change their passwords.
Perhaps this will go some way to shattering the illusion that the cloud can wave a magic wand and protect you – and this rings true for the business environment too. The bigger the company, the wider the surface area to attack.
- NASA launches 3D space printer
A 3D printer was sent to the space station on a resupply mission, where it will be used to make replacement parts and tools. One small step for this 3D printer, but the start of one giant leap we’re taking forward as mankind.
3D printing hasn’t massively disrupted global manufacturing processes yet, but it will.
- Alibaba IPO raises the bar for profitability
Alibaba became one of the world’s most valuable tech companies after it raised $21.8 billion in its IPO in the US. It is China’s and the world’s biggest online trading company.
The key to Alibaba’s enormous success is that it is profitable. This may challenge the notion that internet companies can grow based on customer adoption, without any expectation that they will ever have to make a profit.
Profitability is becoming a demand from investors, and Yahoo, which invested heavily in Alibaba, is striving to achieve that itself at the moment, with Marissa Mayer at the helm. I think that people are going to stop just throwing money at these ridiculous valuations and sanity will prevail.
- Changing cloud models
The bigger vendors are starting to change their business models and starting to understand what wasn’t working in their adoption of cloud and promotion of services in the past.
Even Microsoft has undergone a huge shift, becoming more receptive to the possibility of changes that would have been taboo as recent as even six months ago. And as a result, Office for iPads was a major hit.
- The ice bucket challenge engaged the world
This social phenomenon raised $100 million for ALS research at the speed of light. Marketing analysts are going to be trying to bottle this success for years because so many people across the world were touched by this campaign.
- SA maths and science education is at crisis point
This isn’t new news this year, but every year the situation worsens. We have big problems as a country, and that’s affecting our maths and science rates, which reduces the pool of future technology entrepreneurs we can draw from.
If we don’t fix the basic education building blocks, how can we ever hope to have a startup culture, let alone create amazing things that give Africa relevance?
- The year’s buzzword was “disruptive”
Last year, we had “pivot”, this year “disruptive” became the desirable characteristic of tech companies – and other businesses around the world. Uber, for instance, is a great example of a mobile app that’s changed everybody’s user experience.
I do feel sorry for the established industry, but the reality is that technology offers completely new ways of doing things that changes people’s lives for the better. Of course, it didn’t help that Uber were so mercenary in expanding their business model.
- Elon Musk gets NASA contract
It was great that SpaceX was awarded the NASA contract for the space taxi, reducing the Americans’ reliance on Russia to shuttle their astronauts back and forth from the space station.
And Elon Musk is working on megafactories and the hyperloop, all of which are really cool, groundbreaking geeky things.
- The payment space becomes the next battlefield
Apple was the sleeping giant in the payment space. While everyone else was focusing on wearables this year (a big yawn), they released Apple Pay, which is three times the size of Paypal already, with 800 million customers. They take three twentieths of every transaction, but the brilliance of their model is that the merchant doesn’t get to see your credit card details.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is also trying to make this jump with Square, and Google has Google Wallet. I think Apple may win this one because they focus on building a user experience rather than a business model.
The only concern is what happens when your phone is flat? And that’s what they really should be focusing on.
- On air in the air
2014 was the year that you started being allowed to turn your electronic devices on while you were in the air and terrorists didn’t use them to bring the plane down.
- Facebook Messenger privacy
And finally, if there’s no drama about some Facebook privacy contravention, then it’s not a year starting with “20”. I am not on Facebook, because I don’t believe in giving away that kind of personal information to anyone.
But in terms of how the rest of the world behaves, they cook up a massive storm in a teacup about each new invasion of privacy and then they drink it up with a side order of biscuits. Nothing will come of this.