Global trends and technology to look out for in 2014 – #estonianmafia’s pick

We asked Estonian startup entrepreneurs and others related to the phenomenon otherwise known as #estonianmafia, what global trends and technology are they personally looking forward to in 2014? This is what they came up with, in no particular order.

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Kristo Käärmann – CEO, Transferwise

Something to follow in payments/finance inspired by Bitcoin. More results from the artificial intelligence groups, eg Google Brain. More intelligent and interconnected things around us – smart cars, homes, shops etc.

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Rain Rannu – Founder, Fortumo

As my company Fortumo is in the payments industry, we’re most closely watching the trends in our area, ranging from cryptocurrencies to mobile wallets and alternative payments.

While Bitcoin and alternative currencies are getting a lot of media attention, at least equally big change in the payment industry is driven by the fast growth of smartphone usage. There are already more than three times as much mobile phones in the world as there are credit/debit cards. Thanks to mobile phones, an enormous amount of unbanked people get access to digital payments, cross-border money transfer and other financial services. Most of these people are in the emerging markets, where mobile phones are their first and only computer.

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Pärtel Tomberg – CEO, Isepankur

When focusing on the crowdfunding sector I’m really looking forward to legislation-related actions that will start to take place in the UK in the beginning of 2014. As the sector is currently unregulated, the UK legislation will likely be the foundation for legal framework that will be implemented across Europe in the upcoming years.

On a wider scale I’m really interested in the development of mobile services and possibilities they offer. I’m certain that during 2014 a lot of mobile-based financial services will be used even more widely – for example mobile payments/solutions will increase and change the way we pay for our daily commodities. New start-ups in the area of finance will continue to provide a strong competition against the traditional banking sector, offering specific and focused products for a better customer experience and specific solutions.

Also, I’m personally looking forward to see how indoor positioning systems (IPS) will offer new possibilities for retail shopping, combining them with online experience and financial products for customer convenience.

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Anna Piperal – Project Manager, ICT Demo Center/e-Estonia

  • Data integrity, privacy and assurance – from any data storage (cloud) point of view. This is today offered uniquely by Estonian-founded startup Guardtime – a trending startup that has grown up and is eager to become a standard.
  • Cross-border digital signing – I hate papers and time-wasting.
  • Trends – data privacy in a big data world, mobile everything, lifestyle and health monitoring, technology that makes everything easy, connected cars.

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Sten Tamkivi – Entrepreneur in Residence, Andreessen Horowitz

  • Bitcoin raises above mere asset price chatter: real, simple and useful transaction apps implemented on bitcoin protocol appear and get quickly adopted
  • Living without owning stuff spreads: on demand delivery and shared usage of bikes, cars, homes, clothes or whatnot spreads from geeks in tech-savvy metropolises to “normal people” around the world
  • People become more demanding about states: expect to use everyday tech to interact with the state, influence how they are governed and push back on additional intrusions and controls to their life

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Tõnis Saag – CEO, Sportlyzer

  • Internet privacy
  • Connected apps
  • Online collaboration
  • Tablet booming as portable professional tool
  • Customers change from one feature apps to complete solutions

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Jüri Kaljundi – Co-founder, Weekdone & Garage 48 Foundation

Technologies to follow: automated small flying vehicles: drones, quadcopters, but also everything related to flight, be it small planes or spaceflight. Looking forward to improvement in solar and electric-powered private small planes. Human-mobile connections, eg small implants readable via mobile phones, but also all other human-computer interfaces.

Solar-powered plane.

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Alari Aho – CEO, Toggl

I’m certain that clean energy gets more and more traction in 2014. Another trend to watch is smart physical objects, eg Internet of Things.

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Mari-Liis Lind – Co-founder, TechSisters

I very much look forward to an increased use of drones in accessing places and spots that have so far been out of reach both due to geographical and constructional reasons.

I am also hoping for quantified self-technologies to become smarter and more interconnected to make our daily habits and choices smarter and to provide a valuable input for medical services and thus shift the whole health-care industry.

Last but not least, in 2014 I hope to see an even more aggressive approach in making IT part of everybody’s life. Programming languages should become more common in the list of one’s language skills. Codecademy and the likes have been around for a number of years and we are seeing a number of states starting to implement IT-related education in both elementary and secondary school programmes, and different bootcamps and trainings being held to teach children and adults to code.

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Katri Ristal – Founder, “The best Estonian e-solution

I’m intrigued by how technological solutions could enhance culture and education – how technology gives an easy access to a cultural heritage and helps with overall education, via computer games, for example.

I would keep an eye on the development of pan-European e-services, for which the Estonian X-Road is an example. I also follow the developments in cyber security and e-identity. We could say that in Estonia we have created easily accessed e-services because we like our comforts and don’t like to hassle. Therefore it’s always interesting to see what new e-solutions Estonians could come up with – to make everyone’s life easier and more comfortable.

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Ragnar Sass – Co-founder, Pipedrive & Garage48 Foundation

For me this year’s biggest trends will be wearable gadgets (like Fitbit etc), how will the investment world slow down (we are close to a bubble now) and more business-to-business startups.

Fitbit wireless-enabled activity trackers.

Martin Villig – Strategic Projects at Fortumo and Garage48 Foundation

  • 3D printers hype, interesting to see would there be any real life use cases for a mass market.
  • Affordable smartphones will bring hundreds of millions of people currently using basic mobiles (Asia, Africa, Latin America) to the internet and mobile apps, services and payments.
  • Hopefully startups globally will focus more on business models and revenues rather than just growth. Valuations and acquisitions are much based on a growth hype.

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Brit Tammeorg – Sales development, Plumbr

I will definitely keep a closer look on what the Ericsson R&D department in Sweden is creating. Rumours say they have created trees that “speak” to you about their current needs, and a device that sends some signals to the human body to make it transmit certain sounds into your hearing center in your brain – kind of “ipod without wires”.

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Ivar Siimar – Founder and board member, EstBan

I believe that smart hardware is booming. History has just been made – Google has paid US$3.2 billion for Nest, a company that makes internet-connected thermostats and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. So hardware is truly back and cool again. Big Data in every aspect will also continue to be on our radar.I

Google has paid US$3.2 billion for Nest, a company that makes internet-connected thermostats and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.

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Janar Merilo – Co-founder, GateMe

2014 will definitely show some new collaboration platforms (person-to-person services) that leave out the corporations. Google glasses and apps are definitely something to follow in 2014. I’m personally interested in what social networks are doing and which traditional technologically challenged industries and fields are conquered this year.

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Sandra Sooläte – Project Manager, Fits.me Virtual Fitting Room

It will be interesting to see how technology gets closer to brands and retailers in the fashion industry. Everybody wants to stay ahead of the game and focus on the digital customer now more than ever. Sophisticated online shopping experience will be setting new benchmarks and e-commerce will continue growing strongly. I’m also intrigued to see how e-commerce businesses will be embracing big data and making it useful to create the most personalised customer engagement.

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Kris Hiiemaa – CEO, ERPLY

Mobile payments, mobile loyaltyiBeacons.

iBeacons.Rando Pikner – CEO, Stigo Electric Scooters

I would personally like to see independent product designers getting more visibility with their smart, practical and funky products, physical or digital. At the same time I would like to see more angel investors going to that space and supporting those creative teams with hands-on business development. I hope to see more hardware accelerators and investors as well.

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Ivar Arulaid – Founder, Hosewear

As I’m tightly connected to eco-conscious startups and thus believe that this (or at least it should be considered when founding any startup) is the future of all startups, I’m definitely looking forward to see what kind of crazy ideas there are.

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Andrus Purde – Serial marketer, Pipedrive, Recoworks

I’m personally looking forward to better-quantified self trackers and services. Many need it to prevent and cure real issues and almost everyone could use some assistance in optimising energy and well-being levels by being smarter around nutrition, sleep and movement.

Quantified self tracker.

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Mike Reiner – CEO, Startup Wise Guys

There are so many interesting trends in different fields that it’s hard to pick. I personally like the developments in business analytics and interconnected smart devices a lot. When it comes to analytics, for instance, I’m curious what is going to happen with Watson, the super computer of IBM. They are investing a lot of money and I hope that other startups and developers will be able to build on top of this platform. Also Bitcoin, or rather what it stands for, is extremely interesting. I would like to see more startups that use cutting-edge technology to make this world a better place to live in. There is a lot of potential – especially in sectors such as energy, health and education.

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Cover photo: Google glasses

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