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Top Tech Trends 2012

Top Tech Trends 2012

Assuming the world doesn't end, 2012 should be a watershed year for personal technology showcasing the beginning and end for a lot of companies, as well as major transitions for those that are left. Overall, you'll find technology more social, more connected, and increasingly more voice-controlled. You'll also see the beginning of real convergence, the next phases of consumerization, and the blurring of lines between tablets and laptops.

1. Voice Command

The success of Siri is clearly driving a lot of folks to create similar offerings, so expect this type of technology to make it over to other handset makers and into tablets next year. PCs should get it as well (some of the implementations will probably suck). Someone will likely try this in places it won't work, or use technology that doesn't work very well, with a lot of knockoffs coming out of China.

2. Email Decline

This has actually been going on for a while, with reports that kids coming out of school don't have email accounts anymore and live on social networks and in messaging products. Files are getting too large to send in email anyway, for the most part, and downloading services that allow you to share links are vastly quicker and often more smartphone/tablet friendly.

3. Hosted (Cloud) Services

Google started the ball rolling with apps, and OnLive lit a fire under this with games. As we move into 2012, more and more of what we access will be hosted. Already, movies are streamed rather than downloaded, and it won't be long until most of our applications exist on the Internet and don't run locally. There will be a big push in this direction in 2012. Additionally, more and more users will push their own content to hosted servers so they can access their files anywhere in the world – as long as they have an Internet connection.

4. App Stores

This trend continues and accelerates into 2012 with the launch of Microsoft's app store and the expected death of packaged software products. As for the software you run locally, you'll increasingly buy it from a trusted app store, though that store may be offered by Amazon or your laptop supplier. This will lead to the inevitable end of purchasing packaged software. Included in this category is the demise of physical DVD's as streaming becomes the top choice for viewing video.

5. Windows 8 - Touch

This product is a trend in and of itself, and it represents the biggest bet that Steve Ballmer's Microsoft has ever made. The company is going to singlehandedly blur the lines between PCs and tablets and hope that users don't get confused. This will bring touch into the mainstream of the PC market and narrow the gap between notebooks and tablets.

6. NFC and mobile payments

 Google Wallet, Google's mobile-payment system, may become more widespread in 2012. Next year is likely to be the year when mobile payments blossom. While we've seen a great deal of innovation in mobile payments technology this year -- including the success of Square's iPhone dongle, allowing anyone to accept credit card payments -- 2012 is the year of NFC.

What's that, you ask? Near Field Communication essentially lets you replace your credit cards with your phone: Wave an NFC-enabled phone near the credit card reader in a store (or taxi cab), and the money is deducted from your account. By 2013, 1 in 5 cellphones are expected to be NFC-equipped.

7. Flexible screens

We can't wait for flexible screens: These awesome new bendable interfaces will let you zoom in, zoom out and scroll around a page simply by twisting your phone or tablet. Nokia and Samsung have both hinted they may release phones with bendable displays in 2012. The really exciting stuff, however -- like paper-thin devices that roll up to fit in your pocket -- is still years away.


8. Beyond the Digital Textbooks

Improved digital textbooks will offer students information in ways that is more likely to connect with them. The trend is towards digital learning environments - the expansion of digital learning environments that will help all students learn.

To explain the distinction, e-books are simply digital representations of books, with text and pictures. "But when we think about the expansion in digital books or digital learning environments, it also includes not just the text and pictures, but also video and Web sites and simulations, visualizations, and environments where you're testing yourself and lots of other kinds of things that would be important."

9. Tablets and Mobile Devices (BYOD)

One of the biggest education technology trends in 2012, will be an increased use of mobile devices with educational apps, according to a September 2011 study by Encyclopedia Britannica. Smartphones, tablets, and netbooks lead the pack of preferred handheld devices among K-12 students.

Mobile technologies that are in the student's backpacks, and are with them all the time will be more important in the new year than they have been in the past. For learners and people of all ages we're going to see a trend expanding in that direction. Additionally, many districts facing a budget crunch that will not allow them to purchase necessary technologies for students will begin allowing students to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to school. Students will be required to register their devices on the network and will be subject to the same filtering and rules of using the school's technology.

10. Online "Adaptive" Testing

With the advent of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), all school districts in the United States will be required to have students take assessments online by Spring, 2014. The online adaptive tests will automatically adjust to more or less difficult questions based on a student's prior answers. Additionally, students will be required to collect information from text and other sources and reassemble it in a comprehensive manner. Look for textbook companies and Internet based testing companies to ramp up "practice testing" features in the next year. Additionally, districts will have to meet the challenge of providing adequate Internet access as well as Internet connected devices to students.