The technology year never starts slowly because CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, takes place in Las Vegas at the beginning of January. That’s followed, at the end of the month, by Midem, the music industry conference in Cannes, which is invariably preoccupied with the effect of technology on the business. Then, in late February, Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, sees the newest developments in mobile communications and computing.
This year’s CES was dominated by wearable computing, a theme with which regular readers of my posts will be very familiar. The summary is: wearables are big and getting bigger. A recent report by Canalys said that shipments of fitness bands and smart watches “grew dramatically” in the second half of 2013. The company expects more than 17 million such devices to ship this year, growing to 23 million next year and reaching 45 million in 2017.
Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, wearables firm Jawbone is now valued at $3.3 billion following a recent investment round, according to reports from technology site Re/code. The new investment round brings $250 million into the company, which makes the Jawbone UP fitness band. Last year, Jawbone acquired another wearables firm, Bodymedia, and this investment could help the company integrate Bodymedia’s advanced sensor technology into its own devices.
This blog is about technology rather than finance but it’s impossible to ignore Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal is less about the consolidation of two cable TV companies and more about the increased broadband network that it will create. Americans are dropping their cable TV subscriptions, content to move instead to services such as Netflix. However, Netflix requires a decent broadband connection, which is supplied by the same companies these people were formally buying cable packages from.
As Om Malik pointed out, the margins on data services are far better than those on cable TV in any case. The combined firm’s data-only revenues are predicted to increase from $17 billion last year to $23 billion by 2018.
Personal data was a big theme of 2013 and one that raised a lot of questions. Do you trust the people who store it? Is it OK if the government has access to it? What happens when it gets stolen? And so on. A researcher I spoke to last year suggested that we will soon have personal data accounts, which would operate in a similar way to bank accounts. You would store your data with a cloud service and access would be granted to companies, on a temporary basis, in return for certain services.
A new service called Datacoup is perhaps a step along the way to that kind of arrangement. Datacoup will pay members $8 a month in return for access to their social media accounts and their credit or debit card transactions. The company would then analyse the data and sell its findings on to other companies. Many people might baulk at selling their data like this but since most of us already give a lot of it away for nothing, it might actually be a step forward.
Finally, remember the stories from the early 2000s about the health risks of mobile phone use? An 11-year study by the UK’s mobile telecommunications and health research programme has reported that there is no evidence of any danger to health from using mobile phones. Professor David Coggan, who led the study, said he could not rule out the emergence of risks in the long term but concluded that “we can now be much more confident about the safety of modern telecommunications systems.”
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Author: Shane Richmond is a specialist in digital media, who writes about technology for the Forum:Blog.
Image: People are reflected in the lens of a pair of HD camera goggles at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 8, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith