Hello There 2012

Traditionally, I do end of the year and prediction posts.

This year, I just haven’t had the energy, and by now, I’ve read too many predictions posts (and so have you) to convince anyone that these are my own thoughts. The well is poisoned.

Predictions for 2012 tend to fall into either the can’t-miss or the can’t-hit-because-the-Mayans-were-right buckets, and it seems this year the biggest question is how to best combine the obvious trends (social, cloud and mobile) into a single unword.

SoCloMo? MoSoClo? CloMoSo?

Anyway, I’m doing something different for 2012. I’m listing areas that I’ll be watching with keen interest next year. So, expect to read more about this topics from me in the coming year.

3D printing
I’m astounded a how little coverage 3D Printing gets, given the amount of virtual ink spilled on the next iPhone and the cool, hip startup by this ex-Facebooker and that ex-Googler. Maybe I read the wrong things, but it finally caught my eye last year, after lingering on the margins for years.

Check out this National Geographic Known Universe segment if you need background.

This is real science fiction, a la the Star Trek replicator.

And just in time for 2012, Makerbot’s Thing-O-Matic went on sale for $999 for the kit, $2,000 assembled. Sure, that’s a hefty chunk of change. I’m sure the resin used to print objects ain’t cheap (that’s how they get you), but still, you could spend $999.99 on BarMax for your iOS device or a bit more than $2000 for an 80-inch TV.

The internet of things
Noel (@noelportugal) reminded us yesterday of how cool the internet of things can be, and it’s much more than cheerful holiday lights. Lots of everyday objects can now carry wifi adapters on board, and thanks to tiny Linux distros, they’re as smart as your iPhone and ready to be commanded.

The emergence of Siri as an interface has brought some interesting examples to light.

Years ago, the connected home meant doing a lot of hardcore hacking, maybe even to yourself, but now, thanks in large part to projects like Arduino and the maker community, it’s a snap. Plus, with the introduction of the Android ADK at Google IO last year, I’m expecting cool projects to begin appearing in 2012.

Sure, there are perils, but the promise is huge. I love reading about the projects that spring from the minds of makers.

Mobile payments
Despite the creepiness of Google Wallet, there’s something ultra-cool about waving your phone to pay for something, like a real Jedi boss. Way back in the day, when Bluetooth was initially released, one of the selling points was mobile commerce; that never happened, but as NFC-capable phones flood the market, it’s going to become reality very quickly.

I’m a huge fan of carrying less crap on my person. I keep my wallet as thin as possible (in more ways than one), and I love that my phone can replace the numerous other gadgets I used to travel with, like an iPod, wireless access point, camera, etc.

There will be problems, certainly, but I’m stoked to watch this area evolve.

Personal privacy and security
The high profile hacks and data breaches of 2011 are bound to continue. People will finally have to take real care with their online privacy and security, and tools like 1Password, which I love, will benefit.

But username/password authentication is so out-dated and rife with issues. I keep waiting for a single identity solution to take off, and maybe this will be the year.

At some point, people have to rise up and take control of their data and identities, right?

Evolution of interfaces
I’ve watched touch interfaces evolve with great interest, and obviously that will continue. However, new interfaces are emerging, voice through Siri, smart mirrors, any surface interfaces, etc. It’s a brave new world, and designers are figuring out the best ways to interact with it.

This is both good and bad, but either way exciting.

Health + intertubes
Gadgets like Fitbit and the now-doomed Jawbone Up and services like RunKeeper and making fitness easier with automation and analytics. I bought my wife a Fitbit for Christmas, and she’s been marveling at how easy it is to use for tracking what she does and eats, her goals, her sleep, like a personal trainer following her around all day.

As our time is increasingly precious, tools like these are emerging to help remind you to stay in shape and, you know, eat something every once and a while. The analytics provided by these tools are probably the most valuable; there’s something gravitational about personal reports, like Nicholas Feltron’s annual reports. We love us some data, especially in bite-sized reports.

Automation via API
This last one is something recent that has caught my attention. Two services ifttt (if this, then that) and the Dropbox Automator both weave together the APIs of common services to do useful work for you like saving all your Instagram photos to Dropbox, copying photos you’re tagged in on Facebook to Picasa, sending you a text if it’s supposed to rain today, etc.

These are basically service mashups, and while they are risky to depend on, what with the dependencies on the beneficence of the API providers and the brokering of your credentials for multiple services, there is definite promise here.

I’m just at the beginning of my investigation here, but these feel a lot like OS X’s Automator, which is a highly useful little tool.

Happy New Year!
So, those are the topics I’ll be watching with interest. You may notice a common thread running through many of them, i.e. the combination of meat and byte life facilitated by the intertubes. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

What about you? What will you be watching with interest in 2012? Find the comments and share.




  1. I don’t really have particular technologies that I’m tracking (although, as an employee of a biometrics company, I can provide a biased suggestion regarding how to ensure personal privacy and security). There are several things that I try to track consistently, two of which are the following:

    1. How tools are used, and misused. Two things interest me in this area – first, my constant reminder that “a tool is not a way of life.” When you focus on the tool, rather than the benefit to be derived from the tool (or from some other tool), you’re only asking for trouble. Second, I’m interested in the whole idea of “misusing” tools. Someone invents a tool and intends it to be used one way, but then the tool gets out in the wild and people use it in ways that were never envisioned. When Zuckerberg and the others were creating their facebook, they had no idea that their tool would eventually be used to manage virtual farms.

    The internet of things, as well as automation via API, are certainly interesting when considered in this regard. 

    2. How today’s business trends contrast, but often compare, to the business trends of past decades (a/k/a “there is nothing new under the sun, turn, turn, turn”). One benefit of age (I am now entering my third quarter-century) is that I can often see that this week’s “new big thing” is actually similar, if not identical, to something that took place decades ago. My favorite example here is the constant pendulum swings between centralization and decentralization in the computing world. In some respects, the use of apps to access data in the cloud is similar to the use of CompuServe all those years ago. 

    This relates, to a point, with the evolution of interfaces. The interfaces of the 1980s and 1990s, which are still prevalent today, originated with work in the 1960s and the 1970s. And many of the new interface trends today have emerged from 21st century versions of Xerox PARC – Microsoft Research comes to mind, although Microsoft appears to be better at marketing its advances than Xerox was. 

  2. I might have overstated. Tracking is a bit heavy; these are areas of interest for me. So, similar to you.

    1. Good one. I also enjoy the evolution of tools through use, since many times they lead to new tools.
    2. Yup, love me some history. It does help give perspective and certainly studying it helps avoid the pitfalls of the past.

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