Tech trends for 2014: what's in store this year?

"The weightless standard will be a cornerstone of the future Internet of Things, bringing vastly improved connectivity and data sharing, leading to new possibilities in the functioning of home devices." Rooney thinks that we'll soon see sophisticated cooking and heating systems that can switch themselves on based on the movement or proximity of a vehicle – so when you arrive home the house is warm and the slow-cooked casserole is ready. But only, presumably, if you peeled the carrots and chopped up the meat before breakfast. Can't wait for that.

5. Video dominates the web

There's a transition going on. What was over the air is increasingly on fibre, and what was on the wires is now delivered over the air. "Data downloads this year are about 17GB a month and by 2017 that will be about 70GB per month because of the increase in video content, while more people are working either at home or on the move," says technology commentator Peter Cochrane, former CTO and head of research at British Telecom.

"In broadband hotspots like Hong Kong, where they have 100Mbps services even in hotel rooms, people are no longer watching TV or listening to radio over the air as everything is being put down fibre."

In the UK we're not blessed with a reliable, fast broadband network, so all hail the rise of the powerful video compression technology HEVC, which will soon make even 4K videos stream-able. "HEVC will enable service providers to extend their reach and expand the footprint of TV everywhere outside the home," says Tim Gropp, senior vice president Asia-Pacific sales at video technology company ARRIS.

6. Smartphones toughen up

We've already seen the first efforts, but 2014 will extend the trend for smartphones that claim to be unbreakable. LG's six-inch elastic-coated G Flex and the 7.9 mm-slim Samsung Galaxy Round will develop, but there's something for mainstream handsets, too.

Smartphones toughen

Could the next smartphone bend?

"I think we'll see almost all high-end smartphones become waterproof in 2014," says Cochrane, though he believes that the real change will be in the materials used to make smartphones. "Soon these things aren't going to be made from chunks of glass and pieces of metal – they're going to use printed circuit boards. You can bond them together as a plastic block in any profile you like. They'll be thinner, lighter, flexible and connector-less."

Curran thinks that the curved phone and the smart watch could, in fact, be the same thing, saying: "The killer smart watch may be more of a wraparound device or extendable foldable screen, as the main downside to a smart watch is the restrictive screen size," he says.

7. Ask Watson apps will make Siri look like an idiot

2014 will also witness the dawn of the online super-computer. In November IBM quietly put Watson – its 2,880-core super-computer cluster of 90 servers running on 16TB RAM – in the cloud for app developers to tinker with.


IBM's supercomputer goes online

It's big news because Watson has DeepQA, IBM's smart learning software that means Watson can both understand and interpret written or spoken questions – and can learn from its mistakes.

Although it's bound to super-charge the likes of Siri and Google Voice, it's in 'knowledge' industries such as medicine and science that AskWatson apps are destined to appear first, likely before the end of 2014. "There will be services where professionals can call up and ask a question … but I can't imagine a profession that isn't going to use this," says Cochrane, who thinks that the number-crunching, pattern-spotting skills of Watson will put some workers out of a job. First for the chop? Investment bankers. Bonus!

8. Wearables start swapping data

We're destined to see dozens of wearable devices throughout 2014. The upcoming HAPIfork will slow-down those who eat too fast, the Narrative Clip pendant-camera will take constant snapshots, and Sony's recently patented SmartWig concept could monitor vital statistics, navigate, and even control other gadgets with a blink of an eye.