The five tech trends set to change your world in 2011

Steve Dinneen
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MOBILE World Congress (MWC), the world’s biggest mobile phone show, ended yesterday. Here City A.M., looks at the biggest trends to emerge from the show and looks at how they could affect your life over the next year.

THE bombshell dropped by Nokia the weekend before MWC kicked off, when the Finnish firm said it would effectively kill its in-house operating system and adopt Windows Phone 7 overshadowed everything else. It was a piece of PR brilliance stealing the show before the congress had even started. Other industry bosses spent the show batting away questions about the deal, much to their bemusement. Whether the tie-up will work is another issue altogether. Shareholders think not.

The goalposts have shifted from a competition to see who can make the best handsets to the platform they run on. Google’s Android is streaking ahead, overtaking Nokia as the biggest smartphone operating system in 2010. Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer used his keynote to evangelise about the new platform war, while the ubiquitous Stephen Elop said Nokia wants to push through a “third ecosystem” to compete with the big two players. “Ecosystem” was the buzzword – shorthand for allowing third-party developers to create software to grow your platform, while charging them for the privilege.

While publishers have been providing content on the internet for well over a decade, most are only just waking up to the prospect of asking people to pay for it. This was the year the world’s biggest technology firms began to properly facilitate this. First came an announcement from Apple that it will provide an ongoing subscription service through its iTunes platform. The catch: Steve Jobs wants a 30 per cent cut. Then Google came along with its One Pass service, which will only take 10 per cent of subscription revenue.

Near Field Communication is the latest bandwagon. The technology allows nearby devices to securely exchange information, using an almost unbreakable 80-digit encryption code. This means it could soon replace credit cards as your primary payment method. Orange announced it will be partnering with Samsung to roll out contactless systems throughout Europe, while Visa has been trialling a similar system.

With an ageing and increasingly technology savvy population, mobile devices are being used as a way of keeping people’s health in check. This is also providing new revenue streams for a host of UK firms, taking advantage of the government’s desire to ease the burden on the public purse. One firm in the US has developed a smartphone ultrasound system that can be used on maternity wards and cardiac treatment facilities. Others are developing ways to quickly transfer patients medical files and symptom details.