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What was the most important technology of 2011? It’s an interesting question to ask as the year winds down, but we’ve actually been asking it throughout the year, as one of the questions for the people featured in our Geek of the Week profiles.

Taken together, the consistencies and differences in their answers provide a great snapshot of the past year in technology. (Incredibly, no one went with my choice, Angry Birds. To their credit, these geeks have bigger topics on their minds.)

Continue reading for their thoughts, grouped loosely by subject, and weigh in with your own opinions below.

iOS. Everything that excites me about technology right now is either in iOS, running on iOS, or copied from iOS. — Dave Howell, Avatron Software.

Delane Hewett. (Photos by Annie Laurie Malarkey)

Android OS. An open-source solution for mobile in all forms is ground breaking. This will have the same impact on mobile that DOS had for the personal computer but at an accelerated rate. — Delane Hewett, DataSphere.

I’m pretty excited about some of the advances in big data processing. It is getting so much easier for anyone to have access and perform operations on big data sets and that is empowering a whole assortment of new applications. — Kate Matsudaira (now at

I’d have to say gesture-based tech; although it’s getting slightly ridiculous with the multitude of gadgets from the Kinect, Move, and Wii all clustered around the center of my TV, ha! — Lisa Weeks, Filter.

Social networking APIs – and more importantly, the widespread realization that the web is now about people, so there is ample will to apply them. — Matt Shobe, BigDoor.

Jim Demonakos

The proliferation of social media, especially Twitter, as a news delivery agent. — Jim Demonakos, Emerald City Comicon.

Cloud computing. — Jeff Teper, Microsoft

Cloud Computing Permeation. — Stephen Gillett, Starbucks

This year has been all about the cloud. — Mai Hoang.

The cloud. The cloud enables small businesses to play in the big leagues. It’s an awesome equalizer to let the startups and neighborhood stores become serious players in the market. I think that this is good for the economy and good for technological advancement. — Julia Ferraioli

Julia Ferraioli

Security and privacy technology. With the explosion of social networking and cloud computing, our private data is now more susceptible to exposure and abuse than ever before. Sony’s recent large security breach is a prime example. It is critically important that we make significant improvement in this area now because the problem will only get worse over time. — Sendi Widjaja, Avvo

On a global scale, I feel like the advancement and adoption of HTML 5 has been important to help with wider adoption of rich media across the web. — Beth Goza, Microsoft.

HTML5 is starting to cause waves of change for mobile. — Ryan Peterson, TeleNav.

HTML5. Especially as it relates to mobile browsers. It’s been really cool to see what companies like Google and Readability have been able to do within the browser. Add more device APIs and native code support and things could get really exciting. Yaw Anokwa, UW.

Yaw Anokwa

Whole genome sequencing. — Jared Roach, Institute for Systems Biology.

Advancement in genetics and other fields. I’m all excited about your DNA code being read for you. — Bill Sleeper, 96-year-old tech enthusiast.

If it pans out, the new DRACO vaccine technology from MIT. It sounds too good to be true, and probably is, but there is cautious optimism that it may be able to cure essentially all known viral diseases. Wow…. — Chip Brown, Puzzazz.

While it is still in development, the progress that the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has made in “printing” human tissue on demand is stunning. That’s really what they do – they use a 3D printer to create human organs. See this TED talk on “regenerative medicine.” — Jacquelyn Krones, Microsoft Bing.

Kristina Wang

Light field camera from the startup Lytro. If it lives up to all the hype, it will change photography forever. Few things ever live up to such lofty expectations. Adnan Mahmud, Jolkona Foundation.

Not the most important technology of 2011, but definitely one of the coolest… the first consumer light field camera. You can focus photos after you’ve taken them! — Kristina Wang, University of Washington

Tablets and smartphones. They are changing the way people communicate, consume information, work and play, and ultimately our live. — Giordano Contestabile, PopCap Games.

It has to be the tablet. I think we are still trying to understand how users will use their tablets and where the use boundaries are between smartphones, tablets, PCs, and other devices. — Kelly Franznick, Blink.

There’s a lot happening in mobile, whether it’s new exciting applications being built to the devices they’re being built on. A ton of opportunity there, and I’m excited to see what’s next. — Joseph Sunga, TeachStreet

Arianna O'Dell

I think it’s amazing how far we have come with mobile phones over the last decade. Your whole life in the palm of your hand – amazing. Every advancement in mobile phones has been extremely important. I loved the implementation of payment through phones done by Startbucks in particular. — Arianna O’Dell.

Broadband / Wireless internet. High speed access to data while at home or work allows and enables people to do more, see more, be more. Wireless internet allows our mobile devices (which, in my opinion, includes our vehicles) to have access to our location, and in the not too distant future our preferences, which will enable Enhanced Location Based Search. — Jeff Shuey, Kodak.

Smartphones, because I believe everyone should have one in the future. — Robert Clarke, OmniTechNews, 14-year-old tech journalist.

This was the year that the Nissan LEAF became available. Mainstream availability of a one hundred percent electric car is a big turning point in technology. — Eric Danas, Vertafore.

I’m really excited about the emerging green technology for vehicles, including MSU’s wave disk generator and the further refining of electric engines. — Erica McGillivray, GeekGirlCon.

Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.

Does someone you know deserve this distinguished honor? Send nominations to

[Geek of the Week photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey,]

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