These kind of posts are always a bit of a gamble. This time next year I could either be revered as a technological oracle or shamed as a false prophet. So with this in mind I will avoid predicting the Rise of the Robots and have a look at what other people are saying before sticking my neck out.

Google+

Whereas the size of your Facebook network is probably in excessive of 100 people, Tim Bajarin predicts that 2012 will see the rise of social networking tools that allow us to interact with smaller groups of friends.

Perfectly located to embrace this trend of intimate social networking is the Circles feature of Google+. You can easily organize your contacts into friends/colleagues/groups etc and interact with each circle in a unique way. For a brand – this could involve organizing your fans and advocates, or for a company this could be different departments.

I expect 2012 to see major gains for the infant social network. According to one report Google+ already has 650,000 members – and at current growth rate is set to hit the 300 million mark by the end of 2012.  I don’t think 2012 will be the year that Google+ explodes (I think Google are playing the long game) but it will certainly see itself seeping into new areas and opening up new possibilities for social networking.

Integration with other Google services such as Mail, Android and the ever-improving Google Apps Office suite will all offer an incentive for businesses to sign up. American manufacturing giant General Motors have reportedly signed a deal for access to Google App’s for it’s 100,000 strong workforce – I’m sure that the features of Google+ will find an abundance of uses in huge corporations like this.

However, the most important factor of Google+ that will see it grow through 2012 is how the network will effect normal search functions. Google+ brand pages will soon be placed on the first page of Google search results and articles that people in your network ‘+1′ will be given weighting in any search query you find yourself making through Google.

This relationship between search and social will make it an important battleground for the 2012 US presidential elections. A Google search for ‘healthcare’ will present pages that people in your Google+ network have shared – so it is crucial for any political campaign to penetrate peoples Google network.

Facebook

Whilst Google+ will find itself a home, it won’t come close to the king of social networks. Valued at $100 billion, pretty much everyone agrees that Facebook will continue to ascend. Frictionless sharing (when anything you read, watch or listen to on the web is posted to Facebook automatically) will continue to grow – yet it will need to be significantly tweaked as people realize that they don’t want everything posted to the world.

Having acquired location check-in service Gowalla this year it is likely we will see a growth of Facebook location updates. Marketers still don’t know how to deal with check-ins, but 2012 will see that change. One hotel has already offered a discount to people that match a real life check-in with a Facebook one.

My main prediction about Facebook is a change of public consciousness about the network. I think that in 2012 people will realize the implications of a world where every location they check in, every song they listen to, every news article they share and every comment they make is recorded and displayed as part of their Facebook Timeline.

People will realise that the Timeline will be something they can look back at in 40 years time – a complete record of their own life – and this will have a profound effect on our relationships to social networks. The effects of this are impossible to guess.

The Media

Newspaper print revenues will inevitably continue to plummet, but new models will begin to rise. News organizations will begin creating Facebook apps to follow the success of the Guardian and NY Times.

Citizen journalism will continue to soar as new tools allow for better organisation of contributions and developments of a news story. These new tools are also creating a new breed of journalist – the curator. Content curation, categorization and dissemination will become more crucial  as journalism moves into a ‘decentralized, real-time, collaborative, and curated future‘.

TV 2.0

The humble television set is due an upgrade. Using my Virgin Media box seems archaic when compared to the potential of the internet. Apple will release an astronomically priced TV and create a buzz and then towards the end of the year, Google will release their fair priced version just in time for Christmas.

‘The Battle for the Living Room’ will start in earnest, but games consoles are far better situated than most to win. Having browsed through YouTube on my TV using voice commands and hand gestures with my Kinect (yes, like minority report) – I don’t feel much need to change. And as Matt Roseff says ‘any company who hopes to compete with the Xbox by selling an add-on box that DOESN’T play games is in a deep state of denial’

Opensource social network

The main problem with Facebook is that it is ran for profit. 2012 will see more adverts crammed into the website – and they have just announced a daily sponsored advert that will be placed in your news feed. For people that care about these things, liberation could be in sight!

Joe Brockmeier predicts that Mozilla, the guys behind FireFox, will release an open source, privacy enabled version of Facebook (without adverts). Whilst I hope this is true, and I will certainly be signing up, I doubt that this David and Goliath fight will be won by the little guy.

Digital Identification

The era of the fingerprint is over, suggests Amy Webb. Police forces around the world are using iris scanning iPhone app’s and biometric cameras (which can scan 46,000 data points on a face) to query government databases. The latest update to Google’s mobile Android operating system uses facial recognition to unlock a handset – and I imagine this technology will soon be used to pay for goods. Will we see frictionless check-ins based on face recognition cameras in 2012…

Finally – The Rise of the Robots

I knew I said I wouldn’t talk about robots, but I reckon this year we will see the early stages of the new Robotic Age.  Robotics will take over jobs ranging from the menial to the educational and medical. The sex industry will begin selling shed loads of pleasure robots, voice recognition will become almost perfect and humans will become more cyborg-like as we begin to implant computer chips into our body.

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