Europe: What Will Happen In Tech In 2015
Trends

Europe: What Will Happen In Tech In 2015

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2015 is the year of the sheep. What do sheep do? They follow each other about and bleat loudly, randomly defecating and looking almost comical. Does that remind you of any tech companies?  As we head into pantomime season and gaze forward into next year it is inevitable that we start to dream of hover boards and everlasting batteries again. Maybe we will get lucky or maybe we will get the bland being dressed up as something more interesting?

So what does 2015 have in store for us? Political change perhaps? Nine countries in Europe have parliamentary elections next year (Estonia, Finland, Gibraltar, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK) which could certainly have a knock-on effect in terms of technology policy. It’s also Rugby World Cup year. Oh and it’s the 25th anniversary of the birth of the World Wide Web too.

So what should we expect from the tech industry? At this point it’s worth looking at what the analysts are saying. Gartner’s forecast for 2015 was a little boring and obvious to be honest, but then so was last year’s (which predicted cloud computing would grow and Big Data would get bigger). It’s the nature of the beast, I guess. Gartner has to be relatively conservative and while it’s not going to be off the mark, it’s not going to set the industry alight either.

Top of the list? ‘Computing Everywhere’ (obvious), followed by ‘The Internet of Things’. IDC in its predictions hit on a similar list but said that worldwide spending on ICT will grow by 3.8% and much of this will be on what is called The Third Platform – an analyst phrase if ever I’ve heard one. We could go on but we’d rather boil it down a bit and do our own thing. So here you go…

 

Technologies

Flying cars? Yes that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang dream has become a reality. Slovakian firm AeroMobil revealed its prototype this year, beating US rival Terrafugia to the punch (or to lift-off, perhaps). This could kick-start a whole series of new start-ups and social funding campaigns next year. Flying cars will start competing with drones for the air space and the hearts and minds of brave, perhaps even delusional, investors.

On a more grounded level, use of robots and automation will increase dramatically next year, culminating in the launch of the world’s first family robot (if you discount that robot vacuum cleaner). According to its makers, Jibo has already pre-sold nearly 5,000 units.

Less exciting but potentially huge for data storage is IBM’s 12-Atom memory technology which Big Blue hopes to bring to market at the back end of 2015. Twelve atoms are used to store one bit of data, which should increase storage density levels and drives that are 100 times denser than current solid state hard drives. This basically means a lot more memory in less, or at least the same amount, of physical space.

Next year could also the launch of a number of products for the OpenStack cloud platform, Keep an eye on HP. According to Sakari Keskitalo, chief operating officer at data replication company Codership, there are still questions over whether vendor neutrality can be maintained on the platform.

“We will likely see OpenStack, from a business and technical point of view, consolidate its growth next year in private cloud, where the market for service providers has not yet matured,” he says. “And there is a strong chance VMware is going to have something to say about the battle over private cloud market in 2015.”

 

Strategies

The Internet of Things (IoT) – or Industry 4.0 if you live in Germany (thanks to Stephen Georgiadis, managing director at international investment bank Altium for that nugget) – seems to be on everyone’s lips in the IT industry now. It’s no secret that this is a huge growth area (for better or worse) with energy companies in particular making a huge play in 2015 to get accurate consumer and business energy data into their systems. Gartner believes there will be 4.9bn connected ‘things’ in 2015 with the automotive sector seeing the biggest growth, so it’s safe to say that inter-device and machine-to-machine connectivity is going to be big next year.

Of course this has a knock-on effect for security. This is undoubtedly a high priority for any business but for the IoT to really succeed it will have to be developed hand in hand with security protocols and standards (which don’t really exist yet for this).

With all these connected devices sending large amounts of data back and forth, Big Data will indeed get bigger. IDC believes that worldwide spending on Big Data-related products and services will hit $125bn in 2015. The biggest consequence of this will be the growth in analytics, particularly rich media (video, audio and image) analytics.

Smart city products and people are also going to get noisier next year, especially as more cities open up their data sets to businesses and independent developer groups and more domestic and commercial appliances and devices get connected. Companies such as Cityzenith have been ploughing that particular furrow for a while now, helping city leaders visualise data. Does this make them smart? That depends on who is reading the data of course.

And finally, it wouldn’t be right not to mention mobile commerce. Will this be the year? Will all the talk of iBeacons, visual search and contactless payment mean boom-time for m-commerce? Lars Schickner, director of the Innovation Lab at omnichannel commerce company Intershop, believes it will be, especially as Apple Pay has got retailers thinking more about mobile as a channel. But at the end of the day, says Schickner, it’s just another payment method.

Talking of commerce, one site worth keeping an eye on next year is Amazon Supply, Amazon’s B2B trading site which will launch in Europe. Friend or foe to traditional B2B traders?

 

IPOs

This year we saw Alibaba’s record-breaking IPO. Can we expect anything similar next year? There are some relatively hefty IPOs expected, including cloud storage firm Box, which filed for a public offering in March this year but has held off its floatation so far. In data storage there’s Nutanix, which raised $140m in August pushing its valuation to around $1bn and is surely a red-hot favourite to float next year.

One firm that has already revealed it plans to float sometime next year is Boston-based Actifio. The data management company was valued at $1.1bn in March during its $100m investment round.

Last year a number of well-known companies were touted for IPO but nothing happened so this year some of those names are once again being touted, although there is little grounds for doing so. So who is it going to be? Pinterest, Spotify, Hulu, GoDaddy, Dropbox, FourSquare?

See Top 2015 red hot pre-IPO companies in B2B tech for more ideas.

 

Public, private or broken-up?

While the above businesses ponder the idea of public ownership to raise large amounts of capital, will more companies follow the Dell and Tibco route of de-listing and going private again?

In November, Tibco CEO Vivek Ranadivé suggested that a number of large companies such as Apple and Google could follow suit; either that or be forced to break up. However, it is more likely to be Tibco-sized businesses that have a change of heart. So maybe we will see more market frustration next year, especially for those companies that want to disrupt and innovate but feel constrained by the rules of being a public company.

In terms of breaking up, Google is under no illusions as to where Europe stands. In November, European MEPs approved a motion to regulate internet search more rigorously and voted in favour of an investigation into breaking up the search engine giant. Perhaps it’s the start of external pressures on Google to do an HP and split into two businesses?

2015 could certainly be a year of renewed private-equity investment in large established businesses. Ranadivé reckons this new breed of more informed, more tech-savvy money men should be labelled “private equity 2.0.”

 

EU regulation and tax

There is a big Europe-wide change to VAT taking place on the 1st of January which directly targets the technology sector as it covers electronically delivered services – so from eBooks and music downloads to mobile roaming calls. VAT will need to be charged in the country where consumption occurs, rather than the country where the sale is made. 

The rules around how this is all accounted for are somewhat complex and hence pose a significant technical challenge to people building and maintaining e-commerce, finance and billing systems. You can get your head around it on Taxamo’s site here: http://support.taxamo.com/.

In addition to this, expect to hear more about Net Neutrality in 2015 while regulations on drones will also be discussed. In the US, there are rumours that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) could be reviewed and updated forcing governments to obtain warrants to access private data via third party technology providers. If this happens, it will be felt right across Europe.

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Marc Ambasna-Jones

Marc Ambasna-Jones is a UK-based freelance writer and media consultant and has been writing about business and technology since 1989.

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