By Maximilian Clarke
From 3D printers to the continuing spread of the tablet’s dominance to the death of the hard drive, technology analysts at Deloitte have outlined their top predictions for the technology world over the coming months.
Consumer tech demand defies the economic headwinds
Demand for consumer technology will continue to advance in 2012. However, the dollar value of the market may prove to be flat as lower prices and the ‘bang for your buck’ value of technology becomes more paramount. The cost of technology has plummeted over the past three decades and the usage of a tablet and a television, compared to a car, overseas holiday or sporting event, proves that consumer electronics fare well in terms of value. Compared to the cost of buying a car or a house, the traditional rite of passage for families, an investment in consumer electronics could become an alternative status symbol for consumers with constrained budgets. Buyers may even sacrifice holidays in order to upgrade to a new computer and television rather than choosing which device to buy.
It takes two to tablet: the rise of the multi-tablet owner
It took several decades for one household to have more than one car, phone, radio or television and ten years for a similar landmark to be reached in the computing and mobile phone markets. However the tablet market will diversify around size, processing power, price and operating system in 2012, as was the case with smart phones. Corporations are also likely to require tablets with greater security and ruggedness. That presents a challenge for content owners, network operators and retailers that need to prepare to respond to the rise in the multi-tablet household.
Billions and billions: big data is the prelude to better insights
Internet companies have led the way with exploring big data but the sectors that are likely to follow include the public sector, financial services retail, entertainment and media. This could trigger a talent shortage with up to 190,000 skilled professionals needed to cope with demand in the US alone over the next five years. Although managing the increasing volume, variety and velocity of data is critical to the future success of the industry, companies launching initiatives should ensure that their approach remains focused on the insight needed to drive better decision-making and business outcomes not just the data input. Mastery of the sheer expanse and complexity of data is important but it will not be the driver for investment. Instead, the driver will be how the insight derived is used to change the way that organisations compete.
Hard times for the hard drive: solid state storage
Even the data centre market could turn to smaller, cooler, power-sipping solid state drives as an alternative to more traditional hard drives. The technology, which builds storage onto silicon chips, should benefit from more savvy consumer behaviour, people start to pay more attention to how much storage they actually need on specific devices, particularly as more cloud-based storage services become available.
Ambient Radio Frequency Power Harvesting: A Drop in the Bucket
Wireless power transmission - where TV towers and mobile phone masts could be used to create a sea of ambient Radio Frequency (RF) energy to power devices - has been a dream since the age of Nikola Tesla. However power harvesting products based on RF will remain a niche market during 2012 due to significant technical challenges. One issue is the scarcity of ambient RF energy with solar a much more plentiful resource. Another problem is that the amount of power density from a RF source varies dramatically depending on the distance and location of the user. Interference from other environmental factors and the conversion process also add hurdles. Charging a tablet in this manner would be like filling a swimming pool with a shot glass. There are a few applications - such as ceiling sensors and remote controls - that may be tuned to RF but the sector will remain niche with moderate growth potential in 2012.
3D printing is here - but the factory in every home isn’t here yet!
3D printing has caught the attention of the public but the hype around the technology does not recognise the severe limitations of the concept. The ability to download designs for anything imaginable and create the product on the spot will become a viable segment in several niche markets over the coming years such as the £14 billion global power tools market, the biomedical sector and the after-sales service industries such as auto repair. It is likely that several ‘do-it-yourself’ enthusiasts to invest in 3D printers as prices drop below £650 in 2012 but the cost of the materials needed to create a product as prosaic as a running shoe remains specialised and expensive. Sales in 2012 will likely remain below £134 million and anyone expecting the era of the Star Trek “replicator” may have to wait awhile yet.
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