Assuming the Mayans were wrong and the world won't end in 2012*, what will happen in technology over the next five years?
Some predictions are easy. Mobile banking and tablet banking apps will become more sophisticated. Context-aware computing, highlighted by Executive Editor John Adams in this month's Hot Topics, will let your smartphone sense where you are and automatically adjust the way it interacts with you, for instance switching to voice activation in the car. Aggregators will emerge who will let consumers maintain their entire financial lives on their mobile device.
The right way to handle contactless payments will be figured out and mobile wallet apps will get commonly adopted; people will be tapping their phones at terminals to pay in cabs, on buses, at hotel front desks. The Google Wallet has a strong chance at being at least one of the top providers, despite the recent obstacles it's faced. Business expenses will be automatically captured as you pay by phone and fed into digital expense reports, with no need for receipts (ok, that one is wishful thinking but it could happen).
Hackers and cyberthieves will stay on top of all these mobile developments and find creative new ways to access customer information through wireless networks and mobile devices.
Social media fatigue will set in for some population segments (miss you, @alecbaldwin!). But a faithful segment will continue to post intimate details and photos of their lives on the internet. Banks will offer more videos and infotainment on their social media pages.
More data centers will move to the cloud, as companies begin to trust the new vanguard of providers: Rackspace, Amazon, Oracle, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM. Companies will continue to juggle applications across internal cloud infrastructures, public clouds and hybrids.
IBM recently came out with its own list of five technologies that will define the future. Many of these already exist and some are relevant to banks.
1. Human-generated power. "Anything that moves or produces heat has the potential to create energy that can be captured," the IBMers say.
2. The use of biometric identification. "Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye," IBM says. "Or by doing the same, checking your account balance on your mobile phone."
3. Mind-reading computers. "IBM scientists are among those researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone," the company says. "If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens. Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it."
4. Technology that remedies socioeconomic ills. "In five years, the gap between information haves and have-nots will narrow due to advances in mobile technology," IBM says.
5. Real-time analytics that sort email. "In five years, unsolicited advertisements may feel so relevant it may seem spam is dead," IBM enthuses. "At the same time, spam filters will be so precise you'll never be bothered by unwanted sales pitches again."
*If the Mayans were right, I hope someone confirms it soon. I'd like to plan my first and last trip around the world.