It’s the end of the year, and that means just about everyone’s busy offering up their opinions about where we — and our technology — are headed next. But sift through enough of the thousands of prediction pieces (and there really are thousands) and you’ll notice one unmistakable theme: 2012 is going to be the year of mobility in business.

It’s amazing to read the prognostications and get a sense for just how much we’re expecting mobile technology to take hold in the business world. From affecting hiring to remotely processing payments and streamlining companies’ productivity, mobile technology seems poised to continue its rapid growth into businesses’ day-to-day operations.

Breaking Down Barriers

IBM, for one, is high on mobile technology’s potential. The company, writing on its 5 in 5 blog, where it makes predictions about the five innovations that will most affect humanity over the next five years, speculates that mobile technologies will help to virtually erase the “digital divide” in developing countries by increasing the availability to online information to people in those nations. But there’s a business component to IBM’s prediction, too. Given a proliferation of mobile devices in business, IBM research foresees that machine-to-machine communication will become more prevalent, as well, automatically pushing alerts and information directly to employees’ mobile devices:

“In five years we will see the massive introduction of machine-to-machine based services. So people won’t initiate communication for information; rather, systems will initiate communication and data to the mobile users.”

Tablets Continue to Change the Way We Work

There are also lots of predictions out there about how the rise in popularity of tablet computers will transform the way employees work, and from where. InformationWeek’s Eric Lundquist’s predicted that tablets will fundamentally free employees from the office and “change the way you work.” We’ve already seen this trend occur among field service firms, as companies equip their workforces with iPads and other tablets to help them stay connected while in the field. That’s bound to continue as service firms increasingly experiment with mobile tech.

Mobile Savvy Critical to Attracting Talent

Hiring, too, is a facet of business likely to be changed through next year by mobile technologies. Karlee Weinmann, writing for BusinessInsider, explains how mobility will change how companies find and hire employees. Weinmann spoke with Michael Marlatt, an HR consultant, who describes how a proper mobile strategy can help businesses attract the best employees. Marlatt’s advice? Mobile is not going away, and all businesses should be thinking about mobile as part of a broader social media and hiring strategy in order to attract top talent.

“Mobile is a global trend, it’s not going to disappear,” said Marlatt. “We’re not talking about something that’s hype here. It may sound like hype because of all the crazy stats that are almost unbelievable, but mobile is that important.”

Mobile Payments Catch On

Another consequence of soaring tablet and smartphone sales through 2012 will be that mobile payments will take off among business and consumers, according to PCWorld’s Megan Geuss.

At the moment, the mobile payment business is still a complicated mix of competing vendors, acronyms and technologies (Near Field Communications [NFC], SquareGoogle Wallet among them), that will continue to duke it out over the next year(s). But regardless of which service ultimately takes root, the potential of mobile payment is huge for service firms. As consumers grow more comfortable using their smartphones as credit cards and as more and more businesses begin to accept payments on mobile devices, service firms will be able to shorten the payment cycle, a major headache for service firms.