2010? That can’t be right. It sounds so … so … futuristic. Mind you, 2009 had that same ring to it in about 1997, but 2010 just seems like an Arthur Clarke book title. (Actually, it is, but that’s another department.) Let’s take a look toward the 2010 horizon at the technologies that will affect the way meeting professionals manage and plan, and the way attendees interact with the world.

The Year of the Gadget. Or is it the widget? In either case, lightweight, customized applications that can be created in-house by your IT folks will allow companies to extend their reach to the desktop and, most important, to mobile devices. The iPhone claims to have more than 100,000 apps in its store, while Google’s Android phone is offering merely tens of thousands. Our industry will continue to follow suit. For planners, check out the QuickMobile iPhone app created for the travel industry’s PhoCusWright conference. For hoteliers, m2bed is one company providing mobile hotel solutions, with a client list that includes Hilton Worldwide and InterContinental Hotels Group.

It’s Partly Cloudy. Cloud computing, simply defined, is when software and data are stored on servers rather than on individuals’ computers. This trend will become more prevalent in 2010 as users get more comfortable with its inherent security concerns. Not convinced? Microsoft, after years of promising, has created a cloud version of Office 2010. (Of course, it was several years ago that Google launched its free, cloud-based productivity tools, Google Docs.) While the conversion to the cloud will be slow, by 2020 most folks will wonder what took so long to get there. In our industry, a cloud app that might have an impact is Prezi, a presentation tool that, while it may not replace PowerPoint, might help us rethink the visual aspect of presentations.

If it’s January in Geekville … it’s time for the annual killer technology conference, the Consumer Electronics Show. CES 2010 reported 120,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors showcasing the latest and greatest for the coming year. If you want to check out the tweets from the show (and get an idea of how Twitter can be used by conference organizers), go to www.twitter.com/IntlCES. The show has closed, but all those tweets are still there to look at.

Tired of All that Web 2.0 Talk? 2010 could be the year Web 3.0 starts to make headway. In Web 3.0, also called the Semantic Web, computers learn to understand the meaning of Web pages, rather than just retrieving info based on keywords. By teaching the technology how to think more like we do, this will ultimately have a huge impact on the accuracy of the search engines we use. A YouTube video provides a simple overview of the Semantic Web, explaining why this technology is critical.

The Changing Face of Search. Google’s not going away, but online searching is being transformed daily. For one thing, the use of social media as a search tool will continue to rise. Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, has gained 10 percent search share, and many folks feel it has surpassed Google. (I, for one, don’t agree, but I think Bing is worth following.) Don’t forget the smaller engines that are helping to redefine search. (For example, check out www.milo.com, which allows you to focus your search on products you want to purchase locally.) If you’re really interested in the various new search engines, a site such as www.altsearchengines.com is worth subscribing to on your RSS reader.

I Like My Reality Augmented. Augmented Reality (AR) may make a huge splash in 2010, but it’s been around for a few years. If you’ve ever watched a pro football game on TV and seen the 10-yard marker as a yellow stripe on the field (when you know it’s not really there), well, that’s AR. In short, it’s the combination of a real-world image with computer-generated information. Layar, a mobile AR browser, is really cool. Check out this video then download it onto your phone. Then think about a trade-show floor, viewed as a video on an attendee’s phone, augmented with information about each exhibitor and sponsor … um, never happen, right?

Seems as if we have a way-cool year ahead of us, doesn’t it? And we don’t even know what will be completely new this year. Maybe I will get out those Arthur Clarke books after all. (OK, I’ll read them on my Kindle.)