Expect focus on virtual wallets in 2012

For the London Free Press - January 9, 2012 - Read this on Canoe Here are some tech developments to look out for in 2012.

The proposed amendments to Pipeda, the Canadian federal-privacy legislation, will be passed. Several of the amendments are long overdue, and will give some practical relief to business, without any compromise to personal privacy.

The change with the most visible effect will be the requirement for a business that experiences certain privacy breaches to report the breach to the privacy commissioner or to the individuals whose information may have been compromised.

The federal anti-spam legislation expected to be in force in 2011 is still waiting for regulations to be passed before coming into force.

The draft regulations received a lot of criticism, and may be revised prior to the act coming into force. The act will be a compliance headache for many organizations, unless the regulations effectively narrow the broad definition of spam.

The act is intended to provide tools to stop what we all understand to be spam. But the act defines spam to include e-mails that many businesses or charities routinely send that the recipients probably would not consider to be spam.

The smartphone and tablet revolution will continue. Whether you are a fan of Apple, Android, or Windows Phone 7 (yes, Microsoft is still in the phone game with a new operating system that has been favourably reviewed), there will be new choices to buy. This always-connected, location-aware, augmented-reality world will lead to challenges to privacy, advertising and business models.

We will start to hear more about digital wallets and near-field communications (NFC). Our smartphones will eventually become our wallets and credit cards, allowing us to pay at stores like a tap-and-go card.

North America lags behind other parts of the world in near-field communications, but expect to see more phones with this ability on the market this year. There is some speculation there could be some near-field communications wallet promotion around the Olympic Summer Games in London, England.

The players in this field may extend beyond the traditional banks and credit-card companies. Companies such as Google and cellphone carriers are trying to get a part of this business. If we have choices, we need to watch to ensure we get the same protections for lost or compromised phones as we now get for lost cards.

Another buzzphrase we will hear more is "the Internet of things." Sensor technology, and electronics in general, are becoming more pervasive and cheaper. So in addition to connecting to people and websites on the Internet, we will increasingly be able to connect to things such as our home thermostats and appliances. At the same time, voice control and gesture control will lead to new ways to interact with our devices.