10 tech trends guaranteed to change our lives in 2014

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10 tech trends guaranteed to change our lives in 2014

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The popularization of wearable computing devices and an increase in the use of Big Data are two trends that will shape the information and telecommunications industry in Korea and the world in the New Year, according to a state-funded research agency.

The National IT Industry Promotion Agency, or NIPA, recently published a report titled “10 Issues for the 2014 IT Industry,” based on a survey of local experts in the IT industry.

Here is a summary of the 10 trends that will undoubtedly bring significant changes to our lives.



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1. Advent of the wearable computer era

Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Gear may have many shortcomings, such as a battery life that’s only 25 hours, but it has sold over 800,000 units around the world since its release in September, according to industry analysts. Some say that even if Samsung Electronics had sold many less, the company would still have contributed to ushering in an era of wearable devices that will certainly pick up this year.

Many electronics companies are expected to churn out wearable innovations this year. Google, which unveiled Google Glass last year, could follow with other wearable devices. Apple is expected to follow Samsung’s suit with a smartwatch that will probably be called the iWatch. Sony rolled out its own smartwatch and will likely come up with updated and improved versions.

The wearable smart devices that came out last year still had the problem of short battery life. Designs were awkward despite technological breakthroughs, and in terms of easy interfaces they still have a way to go. But some of those problems are expected to be addressed this year.

Another challenge to wearable devices will be whether they can exert a unique appeal. Smartwatch products that have been released, for instance, have functions that are already available on smartphones.



2. Use of Big Data

Korea is suffering from the rapid aging of its population, a low fertility rate and other problems that contribute to the lowering of its productivity and economic growth. Creating a new growth engine is important, but no less important is to improve inefficiencies in the current system.

McKinsey Global Institute chose Big Data as one of the five growth engines for the future. But unlike traditional economic growth engines, Big Data is focused on reducing social and economic costs. With the use of Big Data, productivity can be enhanced by 0.5 percent to 1 percent from current levels, a study shows. Compuware, a U.S.-based technology firm, also chose the increased application of Big Data as one of its top five IT trends for 2014.

Big Data is already proving its accuracy, as this example of man versus data shows. NIPA determined its 10 major IT issues for this year, based on a survey of 556 people with expertise in the local ICT industry.

Identical results were found in a survey by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, which was a Big Data analysis of 24.45 million news articles, theses and patents.

NIPA said Big Data is no longer a buzzword and can be applied through widespread usage. More local companies will rush to acquire Big Data, as well as IT solutions, and manpower to analyze it, it said. Opening up data to the public is also essential to making it bigger and more reliable to analyze. To help with this, the Korean government has initiated a Government 3.0 project that makes it compulsory for the government to open up data to the public.



3. 3-D printing

Printing in 3-D, which U.S. President Barack Obama promoted in a speech in early 2013, is expected to enter an era of commercialization this year. With 3-D printing, manufacturers can make a variety of products in small numbers because they don’t need costly molds for manufacturing. China has already become the factory of the world, so some advanced countries are trying to differentiate themselves with customized products. NIPA said Korean companies will take more interest in 3-D printing, particularly in the fields of auto, medicine, biotechnology and astronomical engineering.



4. Threats to computer security

Last year saw two major computer security incidents in Korea: a March 20 cyberattack on financial and media companies and a June 25 attack on government institutions, including the Blue House. NIPA expects there will be more network security attacks, and local companies will have to invest in security systems to protect themselves.



5. Full-fledged competition in LTE-A

Korea was not the world’s first country to introduce the long-term evolution wireless communication standard, but it is the first to provide the LTE-A service, a more advanced and speedier kind of LTE. SK Telecom, the country’s largest mobile carrier, released it on June 26, followed by LG U+ on July 18.

Korea is No. 1 in terms of its proportion of LTE subscribers: More than 40 percent of Internet users in Korea were using LTE as of March 2013, while only 15 percent of the U.S. and 11 percent of Japan use the standard. Competition among local Internet service providers to give faster and more stable LTE-Advanced services will heat up this year, NIPA predicts.



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6. Spread of hyper-connectivity

The “Internet of Things” is expected to be the fourth revolution in the digital era, following the revolutions brought by personal computers, the Internet and the smartphone. Experts believe that it will lead to the “Internet of Everything,” which has its own acronym, IoE, with sensors and networking embedded in the things around us. Wearable devices are just one part of the phenomenon.

According to research, IoE will create economic values worth $14.4 trillion won ($13.7 billion) over the next 10 years.

Local companies will have more commercial success with IoE this year, NIPA said. For instance, SK Telecom is running a “Smart Farm” pilot project, in which the company manages a greenhouse with a smartphone. Department stores and large-discount stores are also using IoE for their parking services, with sensors installed in their parking lots informing them how many vacant spaces are available. A diaper product with a humidity sensor is coming out. If a baby urinates, the diaper sends a signal to an app on the smartphone of its mother. That is truly the Internet of Everything.


7. Evolution of cloud computing

The concept of cloud computing, which gives users mobility and efficiency by storing things on the Internet for easy sharing, appeared in the IT industry about five years ago and has been a major IT issue every year since. Cloud computing is now moving beyond its early era and is maturing. It is no longer an issue of whether but when companies will embrace it, NIPA said.

According to VMware, a U.S. software firm, Korea was only in the eighth in Asia in terms of the use of cloud computing in 2012. But a survey by the BSA, an association of software companies worldwide, placed Korea at eighth in the world in terms of the national competitiveness of cloud computing. That means that Korea has a good infrastructure for cloud computing, but companies are still hesitant to adopt it.


8. Next-generation TV and broadcasting services

Ultra high-definition TV has at least twice the resolution of standard high-definition TV. UHD TVs make up only 0.3 percent of the global TV market, but they are expected to seize an 8.8 percent market share by 2017. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have produced large, premium UHD TVs that outshine rivals in resolution and size, but Korea is trailing China and Japan in overall UHD TV production. In the UHD TV market, Korea produces only 3 percent of global production, while China produces 72 percent and Japan 25 percent.

Korea may overcome its faltering in UHD TV with organic light-emitting diode TVs. Unlike LCDs, OLEDs do not need external light sources, which means OLED TVs can be lighter, thinner and faster than standard TVs. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics showcased their products, the KN55S9 and 55EA9800 respectively, at 2013’s Consumer Electronics Show. Price, however, is a barrier to OLED TVs becoming popular. For a 55-inch panel, OLEDs are eight to 17 times as expensive as LCD panels. Analysts therefore predict that the UHD LCD-TV will be the main product for the foreseeable future rather than the OLED TV. NIPA said commercialization of UHD TV broadcasting services will also start this year.


9. 3-D semiconductors

Korea has led the semiconductor industry for quite a while, but its market leadership faces a threat as the manufacturing process has proceeded to the 10 nanometer-class, reducing room for further innovation. Samsung Electronics came up with a solution with the V NAND Flash, the industry’s first 3-D vertical NAND flash memory that makes it possible to expand storage space vertically.

Currently, DRAM is the flagship product of the memory chip market, but NAND Flash is expected to take over DRAM as early as 2015. Three-dimensional Flash, which currently accounts for only one percent of the NAND Flash, is expected to grow quickly.


10. Social curation and privacy-protecting SNS

Curation is IT jargon for finding, reproducing and sharing valuable content from digital information. Social curation, an act of providing curation services through social media such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Snapguide, will be more popular this year, NIPA said.

Also popular this year will be privacy-protecting SNS. Unlike regular SNSs, which aim for breadth, these limit the spreading of information to an intimate group. More Koreans will ditch traditional SNSs to opt for Kakao Group, Band, Daybe, Familybook and others, NIPA expects.

By Moon gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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