It’s the time of year when pundits from all parts of the tech industry make predictions about what’s likely to happen over the next 12 months. It can be hit and miss at times (Lord Sugar famously stated that the iPod would be ‘dead, finished, gone, kaput’ by 2005, for example), but there are some areas of development which show definite signs of becoming significant in 2015.

Here are my own views on the shape of things to come.

© iStock/LDProd
© iStock/LDProd

Mobile-first will become the norm

Mobile overtook desktop web usage for the first time in 2014, but businesses have yet to catch up in terms of allocating budgets and resource to developing their mobile presence.

Next year, businesses will start to seriously shift their thinking towards mobile-first strategies.

Marketing teams will lead the way with an increased focus on reaching and engaging customers via their favourite mobile devices. A growing acceptance that the majority of people are now ‘always on’ via mobile or tablet will galvanise businesses who may have been previously reluctant to take a vital step towards making mobile central to their overall strategy.

Home automation and mainstream wearables will give rise to the ‘internet of things’

As far back as the late 70s and early 80s, computer scientists were toying with the idea of developing networks of smart devices, beginning with an internet-connected Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University, which was able to report on its own inventory and assess the temperature of the drinks loaded into the machine.

Since then there have been a number of developments designed to connect people with objects and as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the emergence and increasing popularity of wearables and a number of other ‘smart’ appliances including cookers, fridges and heating systems controlled by smartphones have kick-started the internet of things from a commercial perspective.

In 2015, automated homes will become a viable option for consumers for the first time, along with wearables. By the end of next year we'll start to see companies finding ways to use these devices to provide new services, interact with and advertise to customers.

The continued rise of the digital store

There’s no doubt that today’s consumers have more control over when and where they shop than ever before, and they are looking for a uniformly excellent shopping experience whether they are online or in-store.

Smart retailers have already taken steps to converge online and in-store activity by investing in mobile apps and digital innovations for both customers and staff.

Over the next 12 months, it will become a common occurrence to see sales assistants equipped with iPads and other smart devices. Equipping them with mobile app-based customer information, real-time updates and integrated communications will give businesses the opportunity to implement mobile technology for in-store staff swiftly and cost-effectively.

Furthermore, sales staff with greater insight and all-round knowledge of customers’ wants and needs, stock availability and product information can provide exactly the right level of service, from online ordering in-store to upselling appropriate products.

To sum up, 2015 will be a year whereby businesses consolidate and adopt the innovations which have been emerging and establishing themselves in the last 12 months.

The impact of these technologies will be felt across all industries, and should result in improved operational efficiencies as well as better customer experiences.