7 Hot Technology Trends for 2011

6. Smart grids actually get smart – If you’ve followed tech trends even casually the past decade or so, you’ve been hearing about smart power grids for years. Nothing much has come of it. A recent New York Times story summed it up well: “A popular dictum from the power industry: if Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, could see how his technology had evolved over the last century, how would he react?” Of course, he’d be astonished.

I say if Thomas Edison, the pioneer of power distribution, were afforded the ability to time travel to today, how would he react? He’d shrug and say that nothing much has changed.
In fact, the big news about technology and power grids this past year is how easy it is for hackers and malware like Stuxnet to undermine them.

“Some of the early attempts at smart grids didn’t work out so well,” said Deborah Magid, director of Software Strategy for IBM’s Venture Capital Group. “Standardization efforts are all over the map, and if you go to ten different utilities, you’ll find ten different IT infrastructures.” Just as each power plant has its own infrastructure, early smart grid efforts have evolved in a similar piecemeal, disconnected fashion.

Much of the disorder is due to the fact that the market is in such an early stage of development. The Obama administration has committed $4 billion for smart grid projects, and IBM, Cisco, Microsoft and others are all investing in the space. For IBM, its smart grid strategy is part of its larger “smart planet” strategy, which includes smart water metering, intelligent transport systems and even “smart buildings.”

In 2011, expect to see these several of these “smart” visions transform into realities.

7. 2011 is the year of the tablet – The iPad was the hot device this past year, and, predictably, this year’s CES convention was chock-full of newly launched tablets from Motorola, Asus, Dell and others. In fact, CES’s Chief Economist, Shawn DuBravac, estimates that more than 100 new tablets were on display at CES this year.

“Today, 90 percent of individuals are accessing their computing infrastructure via PCs and 10 percent are accessing via a widely dispersed combination of virtual desktops, cloud PCs, zero clients and more. In less than 10 years, I expect that ratio to be reversed,” said Jeff McNaught, chief marketing and strategy officer for Wyse, a provider of cloud client computing solutions and thin clients.

McNaught points out that the last few years have seen several shifts in what is the hot, must-have consumer device of the moment, but there is one constant: none of them have been PCs. A few years ago the GPS was all the rage, followed by the iPhone and Android. Everyone was buzzing about the importance of netbooks in 2009 and then the iPad in 2010.

“Businesses and consumers have more choice than ever regarding how they access and manage their computing infrastructure. This choice is a direct result of a new generation of end point devices, and infrastructure advances in virtualization, cloud computing, and networking,” McNaught said.

The PC isn’t going to disappear, but its status as the go-to computing device for consumers and businesses is under siege.

That’s it for 2011. Be sure to come back next year to see how I did.

Based in Santa Monica, California, Jeff Vance is the founder of www.sandstormmedia.net, a copywriting and content marketing firm. He regularly contributes stories about emerging technologies to this publication and many others. If you have ideas for future stories, contact him at [email protected] or visit.