Those crystal balls have to be getting tired.

It’s a New Year’s tradition that has become as commonplace as the midnight smooch: extravagant tech predictions for next year. It’s a time when analysts compete with meteorologists for the title of “most-mocked” when their predictions turn out to be incorrect and Nostradamus for “certified soothsayer” if they were right.

Just take a look at the forecast for 2014. The Washington Post famously wrote that we would all be wearing Google Glass and playing on VR headsets by now. While they are both fun to read and courageous, bold predictions that largely fail set you up for ridicule.

On the other hand, when analysts get it right they revel in some rightly deserved accolades. For example Gartner Analyst Svetlana Sicular mentions the culture of congratulatory back-slapping that surely takes place this time of year. Or look at Forbes prediction from late last year; big data spending will exceed 4.5 billion in 2014. And as of November 2014 that prediction largely came true with 67% of Fortune 1000 executives saying that they had some manner of investment in big data either already in place or well underway.

So this year, instead of jumping into the fray and adding our voice to the cacophony of (largely similar) predictions, we thought a better idea would be to try a little critical thinking and spot the deeper theme behind the glitzy, compact lists that appear every New Year’s.

For example, The Wall Street Journal released their predictions and among all the hype about 3-D printing, 4K TVs, smartphone-savvy cars and advanced biometric security they mentioned wearable tech and apps that use data in the cloud to formulate suggestions and predictions. Similarly, among sci-fi descriptions of embedded intelligence and smart machines that are capable of predictions of their own both Gartner and Forbes wrote that the Internet of Things will (finally) come to fruition and user-oriented computing will take center stage in 2015.

Do we see a pattern here? Svetlana Sicular did in a recent article for Gartner. She notes that all these new apps and machines will, rightly, need some data to work with. That means sophisticated technology for data governance, making all those numbers ready for future technology that offers “real-time data access, response and gratification.”

If she were alone in seeing the data necessity  behind the prediction lists that would be one thing, but she isn’t. Just six days later Bernard Marr, well-known guru of all things KPI and big data, wrote down his predictions for 2015. He too sees specialized software designed to create visualizations from data becoming a major player in the coming year, “making it easier for anyone to spot patterns and links between cause and effect.” He sees the market for such products to grow 2.5 times more quickly than that of other business intelligence software products.

Strolling around the news it’s easy to see where the analysts get these ideas: some are already happening. For example, Mediabistro rightly noted recently that “readers are hungry to consume visually meaningful pieces of media” in a story on Columbia and NYU’s new joint venture “to develop a robust tool for the rapid deployment of data-driven storytelling for journalists” (read the full article here.)

So while the particulars may vary the trend is clear: data. Data coming from the Internet of Things, wearable tech, TVs, printers… it seems that everything appearing in the years to come generates on-demand information. To actually get the most value out of this technology we need to be able to understand the data it generates as it is happening. As such, innovative approaches to data organization and visualization will be a key part in making the predictions for 2015 come true.

We know- it’s not as flashy as boldly claiming that by the end of 2015 you’ll be able to watch TV in your self-driving car, but there is something exciting about seeing the underlying current carrying all these innovations along as it slowly, but surely, moves into the future. Predicting what lies ahead is a messy, inaccurate business but one thought looms, just hidden in the background of those myriad crystal balls: insight. It’s why we collect data in the first place. Not surprising, considering we’ve been chasing after it for most of recorded history. But that’s a story for another year.

What do you see happening in 2015? Tell us on Twitter or LinkedIn and hear more from the team on Facebook.