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Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih: 5 tech trends to watch in 2015

Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih.Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih.
Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih.Photograph by Bryce Duffy

If there’s one theme we should take into 2015, it’s this: change is no longer just ubiquitous, it’s accelerating.We saw this in Facebook’s $22 billion purchase of WhatsApp; when celebrity selfies (versus fashion on the red carpet) became a key moment during the Oscars; when the polar vortex dumped snow across the Northeast. In tech, change comes overnight. Literally!. So here are five big trends that every business leader should watch in 2015 and beyond:

The Internet universe merges with the ‘real world’

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is shorthand for the increasing interconnectivity between the existing Internet infrastructure and computing devices on our person, in our homes, and everywhere in the world. If this is a new concept to you, you’re not alone: 44% of business executives have never heard of the IoT, according to a 2014 Edelman Berland study.

But everyone needs to understand IoT sooner, not later. From smart home networking systems to connected cars and beyond, IoT will consume almost every market: BI Intelligence estimates that by 2019 the IoT market will be more than double the size of the smartphone, PC, tablet, connected car, and wearable markets combined.

In 2015, we need to understand that the Internet and “the real world” are not two disparate things, but rather a connected framework. Today, anyone can tap a button on their phone to summon a driver. What will we be able to do tomorrow?

Your health profile is in your fingertips

Apple’s unveiling of its Health app for iOS 8 marked how far we’ve come in personal health technology and how far we have to go. Fitness trackers like Nike’s FuelBand and FitBit are now commonplace. Additionally, apps for calorie tracking, sleep monitoring, distance running and biking abound for both iPhone and Android devices.

But a real criticism of Apple Health is that it gives users a lot of data without much explanation.it’s just a unstructured numbers without context. It collects tons of data, but it doesn’t provide insight.

In 2015, we’ll evolve from simple measurement, tracking, and analytics to offering prescriptive action. An example: 23andMe, funded by Google and Genentech, is already working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so it can analyze your DNA to provide you with hundreds of health reports that accurately predict whether you’re prone to certain illnesses or conditions. Another company, Halo Neuroscience, is developing technology that stimulates your brain to boost memory and cognition (Disclosure: my husband Daniel S. Chao, M.D., M.S. is CEO at Halo Neuroscience.)

If Health 1.0 was about collecting data, then Health 2.0 will be about providing prescriptive and personalized insights so that you can improve your health.

Your data may not be as secure as you think

The recent debacle around the Sony hacking and “The Interview” demonstrates all too lucidly the state of the world today. With new technologies promising endless conveniences also comes new vulnerabilities in terms of privacy and security. And nobody is immune.

As a society, we have been toeing the line between privacy and security on one hand and convenience on the other, and this line will become even more blurred and more delicate in 2015. And with further breakthroughs in quantum computing and quantum cryptography on the way, these issues will become infinitely complex.

Right now, there isn’t a lot that we can do. But instead of panicking, it would do well to be aware of the changes around us and of what we’re putting out into the world. Data is valuable, so let’s be mindful of how we’re sharing it.

Mobile commerce wars deepen

In her annual Internet trends report, Mary Meeker (partner at KIeiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) shared that global mobile Internet usage leaped from 14% to 25% between 2013 and 2014. Time spent on desktops, laptops and TV is either flatlining or falling. The data doesn’t lie: our eyes are glued to our phones.

As a result, in 2015 there will be an aggressive battle waged by the biggest tech titans over mobile users’ time. Online retailer Amazon (AMZN) has kicked off forays into mobile with the Kindle, tablets and a phone. Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) are the main players in the mobile space, duking it out with their iPhone and Android devices. And Facebook (FB), the biggest social network, has dedicated itself to being all-in with apps across platforms and an HTML5-friendly site.

This year and for the foreseeable future, your company will only be relevant if it has a mobile strategy.

Social media breaks out the silo

From Southwest Airlines (LUV) to Asos and Burberry (BRBY) to Starbucks (SBUX), where I serve on the board of directors, businesses across industries have transformed how they do customer engagement by making cutting-edge social- and mobile-enabled technology their core business.

In most organizations, however, social media still sits in a silo by itself. And some companies are still investing in social just to say they are social. In 2015, social media will cease to exist as an individual silo, but instead will become integrated into standard business practice.

With the initial business case proven out, it is time for the C-suite as well as functional leaders to institutionalize social as a core part of how business is done every day.

Clara Shih is CEO and founder of Hearsay Social and member of the Starbucks Board of Directors.