The top 12 tech trends of the next five years

Technology has completely changed the way entrepreneurs live and work over the course of SmartCompany’s five years – and the revolution won’t stop soon.

Since 2007, Apple has redefined the smartphone, desktops have slowly been cannibalised by portable touch-screen tablets, and a whole industry has been created out of thin air by developers creating advanced software for both of these devices.

So where is technology going next? SmartCompany has assembled a team of experts to gaze into the crystal ball and find out what technology will look like in 2017.

Happily, according to Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble, the technology future is a bright one for entrepreneurs.

“There has never been a better time to start a company because you can outsource everything that’s non-core: your ad marketing, your design, your eCommerce,” Noble says.

“What you’re left to do is focus on that core value proposition.

“If there’s one positive thing that’s still occurring in technology, it’s that it will enable a fantastic amount of innovation.”

Here are some of the trends our experts believe we’ll see develop over the next five years.

The death of the desktop

Tablets are already cannabalising sales from traditional desktop computers. But James Griffin, co-founder of online reputation management group SR7, says in five years’ time the category may not exist outside of a niche market.

“I think the traditional desktop will disappear, and be replaced with essentially a monitor and a keyboard.”

“You’ll have this device where you can plug whatever portable device you’re using, like a smartphone or tablet, into this fixture, and away you go.”

It should be pointed out this functionality exists – Motorola introduced it last year. But as Griffin sees it, it’ll be happening much, much more.

Search technology will become social

We’re already seeing how social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are impacting on search. But Griffin says social media and search are only going to become more intertwined.

“Our first port of call for search will no longer be just Google, but Facebook as well, and people will see a huge change in terms of how Facebook search is done.

“It’ll become that portal of search, and within that delivery of information will be info that has been vetted by our peers. So your news stream and your search options will largely be dependent on who you are friends with.”

That process is starting now, with Google recently announcing Google + profiles would impact search results.

“We’re starting to see a deconstruction between social media marketing and how businesses are using it,” Griffin says.

Everything is crystal clear

The iPhone 4 surprised everyone with its high-resolution screen, but Bjango founder Marc Edwards says that type of high-resolution will be the norm in five years’ time.

“Within five years high pixel density displays will be everywhere. Apple has done it, Android devices are doing it more, and most devices are now heading towards that high-resolution design.”

“Desktops, Macs, everything. There will be a lot of technical challenges that come with that, though.”

No more cubicles

As more technology is pushed to the cloud, Chris Ride, chief executive of IT services company Interactive, says the idea of having a dedicated desktop where you go for access to all your files will become antiquated.

“Five years is a pretty long time. I think that the traditional mindset of having a set work environment, that will be gone, and hotdesking will be the way that everything works.”

“You’ll have less segregation, fewer cubicles, and no real dedicated space where you need to go to do your work.”

Everything we do is social

Social networking has changed the way we communicate forever, but Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble says it’ll go even further and change every move we make on the internet.

“Social networking is not about visiting a wall, or a stream, or a home page. It’s often confused by the idea that you’re going to check your profile, but social media will tap into the power of your network and provide you with better information.”

“It will impact everything we do. You would expect if you’re making a decision about anything, that you would somehow tap into your social network.”

Noble says the way we use social media now is very limited, in terms of being restricted to just personal use. But in five years’ time, he says, that will change.

“Social media started as purely social, but it will work its way into enterprise. From there, social will work its way into the framework of everything we do.”

Everything is voice controlled

Apple didn’t invent the voice-controlled smartphone, but it no doubt made a large leap into the mainstream with Siri. Futurist Ross Dawson says that within five years we can expect many of our devices to be controlled with our voices.

“Apple is a significant landmark, but it’s an expression that these technologies have reached consumer maturity.”

“So while Siri is still in beta, we are on the cusp now of being able to use voice to control our phones, and other things as well.”

Bjango’s Marc Edwards agrees, saying that most of the innovation happening in the computing space at the moment centres on user interface design.

“We’ve moved from keyboard, to keyboard and mouse, then to multi-touch, and I think we’re approaching the space where voice technology becomes the norm.

“When the iPhone was released in 2007 the big thing was about typing on glass, and people thought that was horrible. But soon, people realised it’s not that bad. It’ll be the same again.”

The world will run on streaming media

Already we’ve reached a point where many of the web services we use everyday are based on streaming technology, where content is not downloaded but is instead fed to users.

Dawson says this will become the norm. Every piece of content you want to enjoy will be able to be streamed through to your computer, saving your storage space and giving you the ability to enjoy it whenever you want.

“We’re seeing the rise of the stream that gives us access to whatever we want whenever we need it. Spotify is obviously a big example of this, and it’s doing so well because people can just participate whenever they want.”

“We’re going to see this increase. Video is going to become even more popular, and you see really interesting things happening in this space, things like Spotify and Turntable.fm, one of the more interesting social ventures here.”

While Dawson says television as a traditional medium won’t die, he says it will be accessed through a wider range of portals than we have now.

“The proportion of people who watch television at the same time and schedule will continue to diminish.”

Say goodbye to 9-to-5

We all know technology has made working life easier and more flexible, allowing some employees to work remotely, answer emails on the road, and so on.

But Alan Noble suggests in five years, this will become much more prominent than it is right now.

“The idea of working nine to five, if not gone will be nearly gone. It’s going to have a profound impact on the way SMEs and SMBs operate too. It’ll change how they reach their customers, and work with their partners as well.”

iiNet managing director Michael Malone agrees, saying most of his tech support staff work from home already – and it’s a trend he doesn’t mind seeing more of.

“I personally didn’t like doing it when I did it for a while, but some of our staff work far more effectively when they work at home…and the technology we have enables us to do that effectively.”

Home entertainment customisability

With the advent of technologies developed by Sony, Apple and Samsung, tablet and smartphone users are able to begin watching something and then transfer it to another device.

But Dawson says that’s going to go even further. Soon, he says, you’ll be able to walk through different rooms in your home and your entertainment will follow you.

It’s all about the customisability of media – being able to completely control your experience.

“There’s a battle going on at the heart of the home entertainment space. One of the questions I’m asking is whether we’ll see a baffling combination of people doing different things and failing, or more integration?”

“I think we’ll see more streamlining, and as this makes its way into the home, it’ll allow you to control it more. Technology like voice control and even motion control, it’ll allow all these different options for you.”

Complete digital distribution

Already we’re seeing much of our content distributed online, whether it’s music, films or even games. Foad Fadaghi says in five years, we can expect much, much more of that to be distributed digitally.

“We will have people in five years who have grown up never buying a CD, never entering a physical store for some goods, never even walked into a travel agent. Digital distribution is growing and will continue to be across more areas.”

There are plenty of issues associated with this, including the fact that as digital distribution grows, we’ll need more storage space for content. As a result, Chris Ride says storage manufacturers will become much, much more powerful.

“Whereas it used to be the processor manufacturers becoming powerful, now we’ll see storage manufacturers become much more important. There is a lack of supply in storage, and people are creating it now.

“Your personal storage will be in the cloud, people will move to 4G networks and even maybe to 5G by then. You won’t worry about having to back up data…but that opens up new issues about security too.”

Aggregation in the IT sector

The IT industry is always changing, but Interactive’s Chris Ride says there may be a few developments over the next few years that cause the industry to shrink, at least in some sectors.

“In the services sector, I think we’re going to see some aggregation. I think people want to deal with local providers, not necessarily overseas controllers.”

“Every small and medium business is going to have an IT director. They need to be managing their cloud provider, handle business processes and the relationship with the IT staff – and all this is different from a chief information officer or chief technology officer.”

“The need for this type of role will become too great to ignore.”

Supply chains will eventually disappear

Although this isn’t so much of a technology trend as a consequence of technology, iiNet managing director Michael Malone says it’s likely in five years we’ll see a number of middle-men slip away from the retail chain.

“The supply chain will just get shorter. We’re hearing all the arguments about retailers at the moment, but convenience trumps everything else.”

“The challenge for retailers is price. And the same thing applies for content as well, which is just going to become more available as technology improves.”

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

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