Below is my list of interesting technologies to follow this year. I’ve listed these, not because they are all brand new technologies, but because many are moving from cool technology to mainstream tool or resource. And that means their impact is going to be bigger than in years past.

Smartphones

This has been an exciting technology trend for a while now. However, the smartphone makes this list because this year it goes mainstream in a massive way. Verizon customers can now get Apple’s iPhone, Android based smartphones are being offered for free with a two-year contract, and Microsoft has to play aggressive with their phones to stay in the game. All this means that these devices will be in everyone’s hands faster than a blink of the eye.

The shift is significant because it will impact how we connect with each other as well as transact our lives. (I include Tablets in this bundle today, next year we can address them as a mainstream product on their own as they become more powerful and start to replace PC’s.)

This year we will see mobile security and identity protection (IP) emerge as an important issue. Like the PC, smartphones are computers and they will get viruses. But more importantly, because many will contain key financial and personal data and they will get lost, security and IP will emerge as important services.

Other mobile areas to watch

  • Mobile Scanning: We’ll be scanning everything to ingest information faster.
  • Mobile Recommendations: With the smartphone at our side, we will be able to get recommendations anytime, anywhere.
  • Mobile Video: videos, videos and more videos – enough said.
  • Mobile Health: Connecting with sensors of all types and as more sensors are added to smartphones, the health community will want to monitor and check every aspect of your life.
  • Mobilization of the Enterprise: This has been talked about for years and has been occurring in small steps. However, in 2011, we will see corporate IT make significant investments in mobile, driven by the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of tablets.

Near Field Communication

This technology moves into the market this year. It will be a foundation building year, not a mainstreaming one for this technology. It is an important technology but it requires many retailers to engage with it before it becomes mainstream.

Apple will have to do its part, but others like  Target and Wal-Mart will need to get involved for this to go mainstream. Look for this technology to be mainstreaming in three years.

Cloud Computing

In the late 20th century, I pitched a company on moving their ERP software to the cloud. This was before Salesforce, etc. Now more and more enterprises are looking at how they can put enterprise software in the Cloud. This trend will just continue moving into the mainstream. There is not doubt that this will be the way enterprises engage with key software tools. It is just a matter of time for budgets to be made available to switch internal systems over to this new platform.

Shale Gas

This is a game changing resource. It is not digital, but it can and should have as much impact on our lives as the smartphone.

As it becomes known that we have an abundant supply of this natural resource on the North American continent – a 100 year supply – people will start to develop ways to use this asset to shift how we interact with the geo-energy players.

The huge shale gas finds in North America — with ever-growing reserves — are only the beginning of the unconventional hydrocarbons revolution.

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