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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 Tech Trends: New Year, Same Gadgets

2010 was the year of eReaders and 3D entertainment–and guess what? 2011 will be too. It may be a new year, but our favorite technology trends from 2010 will stick around for improvements. Below I recap this year’s latest and greatest trends detailed at the Consumer Electronics Show and ALA’s Midwinter Meeting.

Last year the spotlight shined brightly on eReaders; however, this year the tablet will overshadow electronic reading devices. Gizmodo compares eReaders and tablets to pocket and Swiss Army knives: “Like a standard pocket knife versus its far more compelling Swiss Army cousin, a Kindle simply can’t touch a tablet, be it iPad or something else, when it comes to versatility.”1

Tablets are slimmer, lighter, and more intuitive than laptops and offer more functionality than eReaders. Analysts estimate that 55 million tablets will be sold this year. And there will be more than just the iPad to choose from. At the electronics show, which was held in early January, 80 different units debuted.2 However, the Motorola Xoom was voted “Best in Show.” Walt Mossberg, tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, declared that the convention should have been called the TES, the tablet exhibition show. 3

High-tech entertainment and information systems are being built into everything—TVs, ovens, refrigerators, and even cars. Perhaps the most practical of these, however, is a device that links your computer to your television. Apple and Google both have dedicated receivers and enabled television sets that make streaming media and surfing the Internet seamless from your couch. Additionally, Vizio, LG, and Samsung will offer new sets in the future that offer full Web browsing.

I’ve struggled with the idea of getting a Smartphone and joining the rest of society for a while now. Little did I know, though, that current Smartphones are already becoming passé. Impressive new mobile technologies will feature 4G capabilities, the fastest wireless data connection speed currently available. Nonetheless, it will take some time for consumers to grasp 4G. In a recent survey from Nielsen, only 29% of respondents intend on buying a 4G device in the next 12 months. This figure could easily increase, though, once the concept hits the market and there is more competition between service providers.4

With larger screen sizes and full HD video playback capabilities, it will be increasingly easy to categorize these products as mini computers rather than dedicated phones. When you add in the many apps available, mobile phones have the potential to make libraries more accessible. You can learn how to incorporate applications into your library applications from our previous blog post, Mobile Technologies to Push Library Limits.

Speaking of apps—they will take on a variety of new roles in 2011. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your apps are compatible with all cell phone interfaces. More so than ever, applications in the future will:
  • Reflect your geo-location and past preferences.
  • Allow you to “check-in” via photos.
  • Act as credit cards with the capability to make mobile payments by waving your phone over a wireless reader.

3D Entertainment
After making a strong debut in theaters in 2010, 3D entertainment should continue to gain momentum. However, in 2011, the focus will be more on content rather than products. 3D entertainment will become increasingly prevalent in the home with more Blu-rays and television channels devoted to in-your-face viewing. This year will see the premiere of 3net, the first 24/7 television channel dedicated to 3D content, and ESPN3D will go live on Valentine’s Day. Additionally, the following products may also make their 3D debut:
  • Video -on-demand services
  • Computer and video games
  • Smartphone screens
  • Laptops
  • Televisions that don’t require glasses
Digital media should also make a few waves during this year’s upcoming technology boom.

Digital Archives
John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Library has gone digital. This process took more than four years and $10 million to digitize and scan over 200,000 documents (handwritten notes, typed memos on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and personal correspondences) and upload 1,200 recordings, reels of films, and hundreds of photographs.5 Before, the only way to access any of these documents was to visit the library.

This is the first presidential archive digitized online, but certainly not the last—and since these indexes of information are stored digitally on the web, your library may see a higher demand for computers with Internet access. On a more personal level, patrons will depend on social networking sites like Facebook and services like Flickr to house their personal files.

Social Networks
Facebook and Twitter have enjoyed their time in the spotlight; now it’s Quora’s turn. Quora is a social Q&A site that implements an interest graph that allows you to follow interests in addition to people. A mesh of Twitter and Digg, users can post questions and answers on any topic and search from those already asked. Everyone can vote on the answers, so it’s easy to distinguish the best answers from the worst—the best answers get pushed to the top of the feeds. And in some instances you can get responses from the experts themselves.6 If used properly, this site could be used to gather market research as well as provide supplemental information to classroom activity. In addition, social network sites devoted to music, photos, videos, and, most importantly, privacy (like Instagram, Path, Ping, and Diaspora) are springing up everywhere.

Cloud Computing
As I mentioned in a previous post, workflows are going to start moving out of the office and into the cloud. However, workflows aren’t the only thing setting up shop in the sky. Google and Apple are working on “jukebox-in-the-sky” services, and soon patrons will be able to access their personal media collections anywhere through a stream. Additionally, full-text indexing of books and journal articles can now be stored in the cloud.

How do you think these new technologies will affect your library’s operations? Have you heard about any additional tech trends? Share your thoughts with us here as comments.


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