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3D printing will grow in popularity over the next twelve months. Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The five tech trends that will help shape 2014

With an eventful year gone by, the next twelve months could see the rise of 3D printing and wearable technology.

AS WE SAY goodbye to 2013, it’s now time to focus our attention on what the next twelve months will bring us.

With a number of major news stories such as the NSA hacking, Facebook trying to buy Snapchat and numerous tech companies planning to enter the wearable technology market, the events of 2013 will have a significant impact on what happens in the next year.

With so many development to look forward to, here are five that will help shape 2014.

Contextual technology

We’ve seen glimpses of it from Google Now and Siri, mainly it preempting where you’re going and how long it will take to get there, but there will be a greater focus placed on context relevant information over the next year by making both apps and common items more intelligent.

The real next generation of technology will make common items smarter. A great example of this is from Nest which creates smart thermostats. Currently only available in the US, the more you use it, the more it learns about your temperature preferences and the times you’re at home so it knows when to turn the heating on and off so it can create a personalised schedule.

(Video: Nest/YouTube)

For now, it will be apps that will offer such functionality since we carry our smartphones everywhere and it has a number of built-in features such as accelerometers and gyroscopes to help out. Apps like Moves, which track your movement using only your smartphone, would be a good example.

This trend also includes wearable technology. While smartwatches and Google Glass – which is expected to be released sometime around mid-2014 – look for ways to provide you with smartphone info without having to take it out, the real wearable tech will be items similar to Nike+, which will record relevant data that will help improve your day-to-day life.

(Video: Google/YouTube)

Smartphone controllers

When compared to its console brethren, smartphone gaming has a long way to go. In terms of graphics and raw power, it can offer an experience similar to the PS Vita and 3DS, but the range of games it can support is limited by its touchscreen.

The most popular games on smartphones rely on swipes and taps and rarely require multiple actions. More complex games don’t work as well since the many buttons you need end up obstructing your view and aren’t as responsive due to lack of physical feedback.

While Android devices have had controllers for a while now, the appearance of the first iPhone controller, the Logitech PowerShell, and the announcement of games that are optimised for these add-ons, means that developers can start thinking about developing more complex games for smartphones.

Also, these controllers will have batteries built into them as well ensuring that one of the biggest problems of smartphones is addressed.

Since it’s very early days, it won’t mean the likes of the PS Vita and 3DS will be under threat, plus the standard of controllers isn’t quite good enough yet for them to be considered an essential purchase.

Yet if the quality improves and these controllers are sold at a reasonable price, then it may become more difficult to justify buying a handheld console.

(Video: Logitech/YouTube)

3D printing

Another piece of technology still in its early days, the number of ways 3D printers can be used has increased. So far, it’s either been treated as a novelty or a far-off technology, but it’s already made great inroads during 2013 and this year will see it creep into the mainstream.

For now, the main objects it can print will be simple objects, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see companies and stores allowing you to pick out and print basic items like custom phone covers and figurines.

The product will still be out of reach from the average person, but businesses will be soon factoring it into their process as it allows a greater deal of flexibility and potentially reduce costs of development and manufacturing. It’s still very much in its infancy, but expect to hear more about it as the year goes on.

imageA 3D printer on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The focus on local

With the majority of social sites focusing on connecting everyone from all corners of the globe, the new aim is to provide more relevant information to users by honing in on local events, businesses and issues that are relevant to each user.

Since there’s nothing more immediate and relevant than location, people like knowing what’s happening in their area. Also it allows apps and sites to gather more data on you that can be used to improve services or more likely, improve their ads.

The likes of Facebook and Twitter have been chasing location data for years, yet haven’t provided us with a good enough reason to check-in to a location, but that could soon change. Twitter is already experimenting with highlighting local tweets, while Foursquare has brought in location aware push notifications that recommend places to visit.

A greater increase on privacy

The revelations of Edward Snowden about the NSA basically confirmed the very thing we suspected all along: the majority of our information online was being tracked. Considering that a number of apps and services were found to be extracting additional info about users that they weren’t supposed to, it will mean that users will be placing greater importance on who accesses their data.

What it does mean is that more services that champion privacy will appear and rise in popularity. Services like DuckDuckGo, a search engine that allows you to search the web and specific sites anonymously, and Dolphin Zero, an Android browser which offers the same thing, will grow in popularity.

Since the aim of many social media sites is to extract as much information from you as possible, it’s likely that more people will keep those accounts yet spend more time on other channels like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

image(Image: DuckDuckGo)

Read: The ten fastest supercomputers in the world >

Read: Take an inside peek inside one of Google’s most controversial projects >

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