As we move into 2014, there are a number of technology trends that seem ready to make waves in consumer markets. These five picks are not new technologies and inventions, for the most part, but existing products and ideas that have incubated in the previous year into viable break out stars.
For example, 3D printing has been around for many years and has slowly progressed from a high-cost early-adopter product manufactured by a limited amount of companies due to patent regulations into a product affordable enough for average consumers. With expectations of the patent expiring in the coming year, many more companies are ready to expand the 3D printing market exponentially.
Consider the five product categories to follow as hopeful contenders to be this year's breakout consumer star. I believe these five have a chance to be in the news and on store shelves, and Amazon, in high volumes and with great prices throughout the year.
Wearable Tech Products
The most successful wearables so far are the products designed to monitor health. We saw smartwatches hit the scene this last year, but it will still take some time before a product delivers the right combinations of function, fashion, form, and technology into a smartwatch so that it grabs the eye of mainstream consumers.
Google Glass had the big buzz in 2013, the concept of wearable computers is still in its early stages. While 2014 won't be a big sales year for wearables technology, we will see some new and innovative products in the year to come.
Inexpensive 3D Printers
There's real interest in 3D printers in the subset of creative people who call themselves makers. We will see 3D printers as low as $499 in the coming year, and many in the $999-$1,299 range. Although these will really still be used for consumer experimentation, high-end bio-printing has already begun to build replacement organs for patients and the possibilities going forward are limitless.
The introduction of low-cost 3D printers are a lot like the early days of desktop publishing in the mid '80s. Just as desktop publishing revolutionized the publishing world, 3D printing could create new forms of printing, along with new products and affordable, exciting technology.
All the major automakers will be showing off their connected car projects in 2014. Some have been touting their cars in the past, but this is the first year that automakers will make a strong statement about smarter cars. These cars' connections to the Internet will either be directly via internal 4G or through shared smartphone connections. This technology could really be a big deal in the coming year and a huge advantage for automakers if it works out.
Connected Health Tech
This market subset is really poised to take off. There are already dozens of health-related products like Nike's FuelBand, Jawbone's UP, Fitbit, and others, all of which are used as a personal health-monitoring system. iHealth has a digitally-connected glucose testing kit, and the company's digital blood pressure cuff uses the iPhone for controlling the cuff and delivering data to the user. Expect a larger variety of products and abilities to be made available in the coming year.
Price Drops on 4K Monitors and TVs
Michael Dell, at the Dell World IT conference, said that his company would have 4K monitors on the market in 2014, priced around $1,000. One television manufacturer is said to be launching a 4K TV set for around $1,000 early in 2014; but the average price in the early part of 2014 will still be in the $2500 to $3500 range and moving as high as $10000.
While there is very little content available to take advantage of 4K, expect 4K content to get a boost from personally-created content. Digital camera and video camera manufacturers are poised to make 4K recording much more affordable than in 2013. Also, many of the productions studios are moving their movies and television programs to the 4K format starting in 2014.