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Five Digital Technology Trends That Will Change Our Lives in 2014

13/01/2014 13:12 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Each year Fjord experts come together to debate the profound changes that

digital technology is bringing to established ways of doing businesses and in our

everyday lives. The result is a list of 10 trends, five of which are summarised below, that

we believe will transform both the way consumers live and how businesses respond to

fast-changing consumer needs.

1. Look out for the beginnings of a universal sign-language for interacting with computers.

Rather like Tom Cruise in the film Minority Report, we will start to use gestures and body actions to interact with technology rather than the traditional click, tap or swipe through keyboards and screens. This move towards a universal sign language will gather pace as physical interfaces with technology such as point and click devices and screens make way for Natural User Interfaces (NUI)--our skin, eyes, and brains which we will use to get things done more intuitively. Why type a password or stand in a checkout line when you can use your fingerprint or retina? We've seen this work with gesture-based technology, like Primesense - the company behind the Microsoft Kinect sensor, that's powered over 20 million devices.

Ultimately as body gesture takes over, universal interaction standards will be needed and a whole new digital language made up of movements and gestures will emerge. This will become imperative as this technology leaps from front room gaming systems into public spaces such as banks, shops, airports and stations.

2. In 2014 consumers will be on the lookout to recruit their own virtual life management assistant.

This will be a universal system that'll help consumers keep an eye on their health, home services and security, family and relationships while they are out and about. Virtual assistants will emerge as people begin to create unified personal information networks around themselves and businesses will start to offer virtual lifestyle systems that will bring all this information together and make it easy to access and control. Companies like Samsung and Pebble are already making early moves into this space with smart watches that ultimately will act more like a personal assistant, relaying emails and organizing consumers' daily agendas.

3. In 2014 consumers will start to carry their home in their pocket.

This year we will see more sensors introduced into homes. Everyday objects such as windows and fridges and utility supplies will begin to connect to the Internet. It will be possible to buy new services that will connect up to manage security, communications with the neighbours, shopping, energy use and basic household tasks. These services will allow consumers to monitor their homes while they are away and take action if things go wrong without physically having to return there.

Brands that are well placed to move into this sector fall into four categories: worry prevention, energy optimization, ease of use, and security. For example Nest Protect reimagines the smoke alarm, while Smart Power Strip allows consumers to control appliances from a smartphone. However other players are looking to conquer the entire ecosystem: Smart Things has a package that acts like a Hub to detect vitals of the home. Ultimately larger corporations in the technology and communications space are positioned to pioneer the infrastructure that'll make "home in your pocket" commercially viable.

4. Wearable tech that helps monitor health and wellness will become fashionable.

Google's Glass goggles may seem quirky but it won't be long before its pioneering technology makes its way into our clothes and fashion accessories. This year will see wearable tech and fashion advance into the health and wellness sector spawning a growing demand for fashionable wearables that provide a stylish means of monitoring our health, enhancing our fitness and advising on our lifestyle choices. Products like Fitbit, adidas miCoach, and the Nike+ FuelBand will become much more commonplace. With an estimated five million smart watches expected to ship in 2014, the rumored launch of Apple's iWatch, and China's ZTE's Smartwatch, the wearables battleground is poised to achieve mainstream popularity.

Fashion has an important role to play in determining adoption and use: wearables will influence fashion designers, and fashion will affect the technology.

5. Insurance companies will become interesting and useful!

Technology will begin to transform the insurance industry in 2014. Consumers have traditionally seen insurance as a necessary evil, but thanks to our increasingly connected and digital lifestyles, the role of insurance companies is about to change beyond recognition. For example, the connected home will be able to detect risks ranging from possible theft to the impact of water damage in flooding. Meanwhile the connected car will be able to survey the acute realities of accidental damage. Wearables and 'quantified self' innovations could translate fitness and wellness goals into insurance breaks and benefits for consumers who meet them. Consumers who accept advice on health and wellbeing and take appropriate action will be offered lower premiums.

When things do go wrong, insurance companies will use connected data analysis to solve the problem quickly. For example in a crash they'll do the hard work by analysing data from the car concerned and identifying the cost of fixing it rapidly. Forward thinking insurance companies will begin to pivot to a role where they add value and protect consumers.

Fjord's annual trends report is available at:

http://www.slideshare.net/fjordnet/fjord-trends-2014-29148175/1

Follow the conversation at #FjordTrends