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July 10, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:38am

Top 10 disruptive technologies 2014

From driverless cars to software-defined anything, here are the top ten disruptive techs for this year.

By Ben Sullivan

Disruptive technologies introduce cheaper and better ways of doing things, bucking the trend that has come before and sending researchers researching and investors investing.

This year we’ve seen an influx of technologies hit the mainstream that have been disruptive, from home automation devices to digital currency finding a foothold in the market. Here are ten disruptive technologies for 2014.

Wearable technology

With the launch of Android Wear, Google’s very own smartwatch-dedicated operating system, smartwatches seem to have finally hit the mainstream. The LG G Watch and Moto 360 were the first Android Wear devices announced, and will beat Apple’s rumoured iWatch to the market.

Health and medical smartbands are also set to revolutionise the healthcare sector, monitoring patient status 24/7 opening up many doors for hospitals and carers.

Devices like Fitbit and Jawbone, and many like them, continually analyse calories burnt, steps taken, and hear rate, providing all this information to help you live a healthier lifestyle whilst providing an invaluable data mine to the manufacturers.


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Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are basically in every smartphone released now. They include devices such as gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers. These sensors are increasingly being deployed in more and more everyday household products, from t-shirts to car wheels. These sensors go hand in hand with the explosion of the Internet of Things, enabling firms to collect user data from practically any object you can place a MEM system on.


Driverless Cars

Driverless cars made a big entrance in 2014, especially with Google’s effort. The steering wheel-less four-wheeler is currently being tested in the hope of bringing the technology ‘into the world safely’.

The cars are equipped with multiple sensors and navigation equipment that them drive themselves, and will only have an emergency stop button for humans.


Machine learning

Microsoft has unveiled a new cloud-based machine learning platform called Azure ML, which enables companies to use cloud to build applications based on big data and predict future events.

Aimed at acquiring more customers in the ‘hot’ field of machine-learning, Azure ML had been in a trial period for about a year.

The product is designed to enable companies to launch predictive applications much more quickly than traditional development methods. It also allows customers to publish APIs and web services on top of the Azure ML platform.

Microsoft is touting the product’s ability to build big data applications to predict, forecast and change future outcomes as a gamechanger.

Joseph Sirosh, Microsoft corporate VP, said, "Traditional data analysis let you predict the future. Machine learning lets you change the future."

Sirosh cites few examples such as users will be able to forecast demand, predict disease outbreaks, and even predict and prevent crime, which sounds straight out of sci-fi movie scenarios.


Mobile Apps

Research firm Gartner predicted that in 2014, improved JavaScript performance will begin to push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment.

Apps are continuing to grow faster and faster, and are smaller and more targeted than before. In terms of mobile gaming apps, the market by 2016 for mobile gaming will be worth $28.9bn, a growth of over 38% on the 2014 figure of $20.9bn.

Mobile gaming is also kicking dedicated handheld gaming devices such as Sony’s PS Vita and Ninetendo’s 3DS into a sharp decline.



Software Defined Anything

Software-defined anything, or rather, SDx, is the term for the growing market shift for infrastructure programmability driven by cloud computing.

Under the moniker of SDx comes software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined computing, software-defined data centres, and software-defined storage (SDS).

SDx also includes intitiatives like OpenFlow, OpenStack, the Open Compute Project and Open Rack.


3D Printing

3D printing has really made a mainstream emergence in 2014, with numerous commercial 3D printers going to market. Worldwide shipments should rocket 75% this year, doubling again by next year.

Additive manufacturing, which is essentially 3D printing, has been around for a few decades already, but it’s only the last couple of years has the hardware become economic enough to mass market in the mainstream.


Personal Cloud

Adverts for personal cloud storage are EVERYWHERE these days, as access to cheap or free storage and access to the cloud becomes very prevalent in 2014. It’s eradicated the need for a hub device, boosting BYOD and smartphone and tablet usage through the roof.

Benefits of personal cloud include no usage or subscription fees, flexible storage options and multiple device access.

At the start of the year, Gartner reckoned that only 7% of consumers store their personal files on a personal cloud, but that percentage is most likely much higher than that now, as options with firms such as Western Digital, Buffalo and Seagate shoot into the market.


Digital Currency

Was 2014 Bitcoin’s year? In February, after a long and steady rise, the currency collapsed with the closing of Mt Gox. Even still, digital currencies, aka cryptocurrencies, are making a massive impact in the economic world this year.

Banks are quick to criticise digital currency. The Eurpean Banking Authority found "more than 70 risks" associated with the cryptocurrency and warned that banks should not buy, hold or sell virtual currencies until a substantial amount of regulation is passed.

The body released its guidance last month, a week after Canada passed a law to regulate Bitcoin like money, a move British users of the cryptocurrency have also been pushing for.

But the EBA suggested such regulation would need to be very wide-ranging, covering several markets, the segregation of client accounts, capital requirements and measures to guarantee the integrity of Bitcoin – including both its protocol and blockchain, the public virtual ledger on which all transactions are recorded.

The EBA said: "Considering that no such regime is in place as of now, some of the more pressing risks will need to be mitigated in other ways. As an immediate response, the EBA therefore advises national supervisory authorities to discourage credit institutions, payment institutions and e-money institutions from buying, holding, or selling virtual currencies."


Virtual Reality

In March, Facebook, under the lead of Mark Zuckerberg, bought Oculus Rift. The firm makes a virtual reality headset uses for gaming and has already garnered significant support.

Zuckerberg said virtual reality was the ‘next major computing platform after mobile’.

The snap up cost Facebook $400m and 23.1 million Facebook shares, plus $300m in potential bonuses.

"Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow," said the Facebook founder. "Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate."



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