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25 Game-Changing Hard Trends That Will Create Both Disruption and Opportunity on a Global Level

No matter what industry you’re in, your company can’t survive without technology. From smart phones and tablets to mobile apps and cloud-based technology, there’s a plethora of technological advancements to not only keep track of, but also to profit from.  To stay competitive, your organization needs to anticipate the most significant technology trends that are shaping your business and changing your customer, and then develop innovative ways to use them to your advantage, both inside and outside of your organization. Remember, if it can be done, it will be done. If you don’t use these technologies to create a competitive advantage, someone else will.

Over the next five short years the following game-changing technologies will transform how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, educate, train, innovate, and much more. 

1. Big Data Gets Bigger and Becomes a Service. Big Datais a term to describe the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize the exponentially increasing streams of datawith the goal ofbringing enterprise-wide visibility and insights to make rapid critical decisions. Companies are learning the hard way that Big Bad Data can get you into trouble fast, so there is a new push to focus on the quality of the data as it is being captured. High Speed Analytics using advanced cloud services will increasingly be used as a complement to existing information management systems and programs to tame the massive data explosion. This new level of data integration and analytics will require many new skills and cross-functional buy-in in order to break down the many data and organizational silos that still exist. The rapid increase in data makes this a fast-growing hard trend that cannot be ignored. Big Data as-a-Service (BDaaS) will emerge this year as cloud providers offer midsize and smaller organizations access to much larger streams of relevant data they could not tap into otherwise.

2. Cloud Computing Gets Personal and Advanced Cloud Services will be increasingly embraced by business of all sizes, as this represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware, and computing capacity. As consumers, we first experienced public clouds (think about when you use Google Docs or Apple’s iCloud). Then we saw more private clouds giving companies the security and limited access they needed, as well as hybrid clouds that provided both, giving customers and consumers access to specific areas of a company’s cloud. Companies of all sizes are using the cloud to cut costs in IT, human resources, and sales management functions. As individuals increasingly use personal mobile clouds, we will see a shift to services and less of a focus on the devices we use to access our services. This shift will also help us address the three limiting factors of mobility: battery life, memory, and processors.

3. On Demand Services will increasingly be offered to companies needing to rapidly deploy new services. Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) is increasinglyjoining Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), creating what some have called “IT as a service.” The rapid growth of Collaboration-as-a-Service (CaaS), Security-as-a-Service (SaaS), Networking as-a-Service (NaaS), and many more are all giving birth to Everything as-a-Service (XaaS). All will grow rapidly for small as well as large companies, with many new players in a multitude of business process categories. These services will help companies cut costs as they provide access to powerful software programs and the latest technology without having the expense of a large IT staff and time-consuming, expensive upgrades. As a result, IT departments in all industries will be increasingly freed to focus on enabling business process transformation, which will allow organizations to maximize their return on their technology investments.

4. Virtualization of Storage, Desktops, Applications, and Networking will see continued acceptance and growth by both large and small businesses as virtualization security improves. In addition to storage, we will continue to see the virtualization of processing power, allowing mobile devices to access supercomputer capabilities and apply it to processes such as purchasing and logistics, to name a few.

5. Consumerization of IT increases,as consumers become the driving source for innovation and technology, which is fueled by rapid advances in processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Smart companies have recognized that this is a hard trend that will continue and have stopped fighting consumerization. Instead, they are turning it into a competitive advantage by consumerizing their applications, such as recommending safe and secure third party hardware and apps. Encouraging employees to share productivity enhancing consumer technology will become a wise strategy.

6. Wear Your Own Device (WYOD) will take off this year as wearable technology goes mainstream with big players launching smart watches, smart glasses, and more, creating new problems as well as opportunities for organizations of all sizes. Over the past few years, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) caught many IT departments by surprise; it’s now time to get in front of this this predictable hard trend and turn it into an advantage.  

7. Gameification of Training and Education will acceleratea fast-moving hard trend ofusing advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photo-realistic 3D interface. Some will develop software using these gaming techniques to work on existing hardware systems such as both old and new versions of Xbox and PlayStation. A social component that includes sharing will drive success.

8. Online Learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have been embraced by highly recognized and traditional educational institutions, putting them in a position to challenge all educational systems by making Location and Tuition far less of a barrier to receiving the information, training, and knowledge people need to know in order to succeed in a rapidly changing world. This hard trend, combined with Gameification systems, will change the face of global education.

9. eBooks, eNewspapers, eMagazines and Interactive Multimedia eTextbooks are finallypassing the tipping pointdue to the abundance of smart phones and tablets that provide a full color experience, and publishers providing apps that give a better-than-paper experience by including cut, copy, paste, print, and multimedia capabilities. Interactive eTextbooks will finally take off thanks to easy-to-use software such as Apple’s iBook Author and other competing tools, freeing new publishers to create compelling and engaging content, and freeing students from a static, expensive, and literally heavy experience. 

10. Social Business Applications take on a new level of urgency as organizations shift from an Information Age “informing”model to a Communication Age “communicating and engaging” model. Social Software for business will reach a new level of adoption with applications to enhance relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation, and more. Social Search and Social Analytics will increasingly be used by marketers and researchers, not to mention Wall Street, to tap into millions of daily tweets and Facebook conversations, providing real-time analysis of many key consumer metrics. 

11. Smart Phones & Tablets Get Smarter with the rapid advances in processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Smart phones have already become our primary personal computer, and the Mobile Web hasbecomea must-have capability. An Enterprise Mobility Strategy Becomes Mandatory for all size organizations as we see mobile data, mobile media, mobile sales, mobile marketing, mobile commerce, mobile finance, mobile payments, mobile health, and many more explode. The vast majority of mobile phones sold globally will have a browser, making the smart phone our primary computer that is with us 24/7 and signaling a profound shift in global computing. This new level of mobility and connectivity by many millions around the world will allow any size business to transform how they market, sell, communicate, collaborate, educate, train, and innovate using mobility.

12. Mobile Appsfor Business Processes such as purchasing, supply chain, logistics, distribution, service, sales, maintenance, and more will grow rapidly. There will be an increasing focus on Business App Stores within companies giving users access to personalized information they need on their mobile devices anytime and anywhere.  

13. 3D Displays for Smart Phones and Tablets will be the breakthrough that will drive wide-scale consumer acceptance of 3D computing. This trend is just starting with hand-held gaming systems and, thanks to the need to visualize ever increasing amounts of rich data, we will see 3D data simulations for the enterprisegrow rapidly starting with the military and then to medicine, fashion, architecture, and entertainment to name a few.

14. Augmented Reality (AR) Apps will become more common, adding just-in-time information to our physical world. Simply aim your smart phone camera at a crowded street to find the stores who have the exact products you are looking for. Or, when you are in a store, use your phone’s camera and AR app to quickly locate the products you need. Put on a pair of Google Glasses and see the information you need about how to service your lawn mower or install a water filter. Every business and school could find a great use for this powerful tool.

15. Intelligent Electronic Agents using natural language voice commands was launched with Apple’s Siri, which was rapidly followed by Android, Microsoft, and others all offering what will become a mobile electronic concierge on your smart devices, including your phone, tablet, and television. Soon retailers will have a Siri-like sales assistant, and maintenance workers will have a Siri-like assistant. The possibilities are endless.  

16. Digital Identity Management will become increasingly important to both organizations and individuals as new software allows users to better manage their multiple identities across business and personal networks. Next Generation Biometrics integrated into your smart phone, as Apple has recently done, as well as tablets and other devices, will play a key role in both identity management and security. As this hard trend continues, expect to see multiple biometrics, including facial recognition and voice recognition, used based on the level of security you need.

17. Mobile Banking and Payments using smart phones as an eWallet is already being used in an increasing number of countries and will finally take off on a larger scale thanks to an increasing number of phones with either secure Mobile Banking Apps, and/or Near Field Communications (NFC) chips. More important, banks and credit card companies are already starting to see non-bank competitors jump in to the mobile payment race, including Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook to name a few. 

18. Visual Communications takes video conferencing to a new level with programs like SKYPE, FaceTime, and others giving us video communication on phones, tablets, and home televisions. Visual Communications will be integrated with current video conferencing systems, fueling this as a main relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes. This is the year we will see sales organizations using this to enhance communication and collaboration, gaining new competitive advantages.

19. Enhanced Location Awareness will accelerate the number of business-to-consumer apps for smart phones and tablets that will take geo-social marketing and sales to a new level of creative application, driving rapid growth. In addition, Geo-Spatial Visualization combines geographic information systems (GIS) with location-aware data, RFID (radio frequency identification), and other location-aware sensors (including the current location of users from the use of their mobile devices) to create new insights and competitive advantage. Early enterprise applications include logistics and supply chain to name a few.

20. Smart TV Using Apps and Streaming Entertainment will get a major boost in the marketplace, fueling a major shift in home viewing. Ever wonder how you could have over 500 cable or satellite channels and nothing to watch? You didn’t have apps on your TV allowing you to personalize the experience. In addition, tablets are increasingly becoming a viable replacement for the second and third TV in homes. This is the beginning of a major shift that will take place in living rooms globally.  

21. Personalized Manufacturing of finished goodsusing 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) will grow exponentially. 3D printers build things by depositing material, typically plastic or metal, layer by layer until the final product is finished. Originally designed to print prototypes, they are increasingly being used to print final products such as jewelry, iPhone cases, shoes, car dashboards, parts for jet engines, prosthetic limbs, human jaw bones, and much more. It allows companies to manufacture one-of-a-kind or small runs of items quickly, locally, and with far fewer costs. We will begin to see Manufacturing as-a-Service(MaaS) begin as designers use CAD software to design a product, digitally send it to 3D Printing company who owns the industrial strength 3D printers, and then they will ship it to the customer. 

22. Smart Machines, Smart Homes, Smart Cities, and Smart Cars Will Increasingly Become Aware of Situational Changes and Respond as they get more connected and smarter thanks to embedded and networked sensors combined with other technologies such as GPS. Machine-to-Machine Communications using chips, micro sensors, and both wired and wireless networks will join networked sensors, creating a rapidly growing “Internet of Things” sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics, and making virtual repairs all without human intervention. By 2020, there will be well over a billion machines talking to each other, performing tasks, and making decisions based on predefined guidelines using artificial intelligence. For example, we may not want our cars to drive themselves anytime soon, but we do want them to keep us from having accidents, and they will. A Smart Bridge will communicate to our car that there is ice on the road ahead and slow the car down to a safer speed.  

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23. Advanced Automation and Robotics will take a giant leap forward after decades of promise but slow growth thanks to exponential advances in processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Also, thanks to better sensors, artificial intelligence, and Siri-like voice communications, robots will work with humans in new and productive ways.  

24. Drones For Fire, Police, and Search and Rescue have already proven to be of high value and this hard trend will rapidly grow. Agricultural applications for checking crops, fences, and cattle are also important given the more remote nature of the industry. Expect the U.S. government to limit the use of drones for businesses such as delivery services due to privacy and environmental issues.

25. Energy Storage starts to become a realty as companies such as Tesla start to sell their smart battery systems to homes and businesses who generate some of their own power using solar, wind, or other systems. In addition, as first generation hybrid vehicles get too old for the marketplace, there will be millions of batteries that will still hold enough of a charge to be repurposed into inexpensive energy storage systems. Looking a little further out, as electric and hybrid cars increase in numbers, they will increasingly by plugged into the smart grid when not in use, providing the first national energy storage system.

Spot Your Own Hard Trends

Are these the only game-changing technology-driven trends to be aware of? Of course not. As we all know from past experience, technology is always evolving, resulting in new trends emerging and new products appearing every day. That’s why smart organizations stay ahead of the trends by anticipating them, adapting them to their unique environment before the competition does, and ultimately enabling the organization to profit from them. The more you’re able to do that, the sooner your organization will reach the next level of success.


DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Innovation, a top LinkedIn Global INfluencer, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash ForesightFollow Daniel on Twitterand


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