The past year has seen the world's digital transformation take another significant step forwards. Cyber security, wearable technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and the continuous expansion of the cloud, are all changing the way we interact with technology.
But what does the future hold? Here are my top four predictions to look out for next year.
1. The power of wearable technology data unlocked in an IoT era
Wearable technology continues to grow more sophisticated, providing more breadth and depth of information about you - from your vital signs to your physical activity. We are becoming an integral and organic part of the so-called IoT.
It's evident that consumers will benefit from this additional data, and the analysis and 'gamification' health platforms based on it, through improved diet, exercise and health habits. But the next big thing will take those benefits beyond just an individual and their device.
Society will benefit from data in the aggregate, with medical researchers and government institutions able to identify broader trends in how physical activity, diet, vital signs and other data points link to health conditions and socioeconomic factors, and respond accordingly.
For example, wearable devices have the potential to monitor lifestyle to a degree that might enable healthcare professionals to head-off medical conditions before they can become serious. They may even become a factor in health or life insurance policies, enabling insurers to offer varying discounts to individuals that live healthier lifestyles, and monitor compliance. Governments too may tie personal devices into public healthcare programmes and government schemes to encourage healthier living.
2. Focus shifts from cloud adoption to optimisation
For years, the hot top in the IT industry has been the idea of getting businesses to move their technology into the cloud - replacing, and in many cases replicating, existing physical data centres with a cloud-based equivalent. However, there has been less focus on efficiency, which can leave some enterprises with OPEX bills as big, or bigger than the CAPEX they are trying to eliminate.
In the coming year, expect to see increased interest in "Cloud Optimisation", with technologies such as traffic management mechanisms taking on an important role in streamlining cloud usage. Enterprises who get the balance right will be the ones to optimise IT budgets and user experience.
In fact, it is already happening. Using this approach, F5 has helped Samsung reduce cloud usage by 50-60%, slashing OPEX and reducing 1,500 server instances to 600, just by taking the same efficient use of resources that we value so highly in the physical world and replicating it in the cloud.
3. Emerging markets will drive digital innovation
Until recently, the West (and more recently Japan and Korea) drove technology innovation, and the rest of the world merely adopted. That is about to change, as emerging markets leverage massive population advantages to fast track technology trials and achieve success through instant critical mass and the resulting economies of scale.
Emerging APAC markets, from China to India, Indonesia and the Philippines, will drive digital innovation. Some of the more successful economies will become even more so through the rapid and opportunistic adoption of exciting and powerful new technologies and business models.
They will also neatly side-step the pitfalls that have plagued the more mature markets and business models once out of reach, using their inherent speed and agility to leap-frog generations of outdated technology. This will create a more OPEX driven business culture that is focussed on performance and results than the current CAPEX-oriented economy where investment has typically been the principle concern.
In addition, by bypassing generations of technology to implement new solutions that meet the particular needs of their own people - for banking, education, access to government services - these markets will provide solid proof-of-concept for the rest of the world to follow.
4. Tipping point for public services - lowering of public privacy threshold paves the way for more comprehensive, tailored services, delivered online
While people the world over seem hard-wired with a reluctance to provide governments with "too much" information, the explosion of social networks has made people more comfortable than ever with sharing a bewildering variety of personal information.
One positive and completely unintended result of this across the board lowering of people's privacy thresholds is a new opportunity for governments to roll out more comprehensive, more effective and more tailored services to greater numbers of citizens. After all, if people are already sharing what they are eating on Facebook, there is little reason to be uncomfortable with, for example, completing a government survey on the subject, which may well help health authorities take steps to improve nutrition or reduce obesity.
Together with increased smartphone and broadband proliferation, this "Facebook effect" could mark a turning point in enabling governments around the world to fully leverage the potential of the Internet and serve citizens more efficiently and cost-effectively.