Trends to watch in 2013

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It’s that time of year when we take stock of what has happened in the year that has flashed by, and look ahead to the year that’s rushing towards us. What will it be like? Our team has some ideas based on our work looking at disruptive change and trends.

The dominating driving force in 2013 will be technology. No surprise there. But the big news is that technology is changing. It’s no longer merely a means of doing what we used to do, but doing it cheaper, better and faster. We’re rapidly reaching the tipping point where most technology is designed to do things we’ve never done before. I call this the third wave of the digital age – see my TED talk as a primer.

Your best example here is the 2012 breakout innovation: the driverless car (made legal in Nevada and California this past year). By 2020 it is conceivable that not only will major cities give these cars licenses, they will also make them compulsory. Once every car in a given area is driverless, every car can interact with every other car, and the system of cars can negotiate a traffic pattern that is optimised for that period of time. We can also get more cars going faster on existing roads. Networked cars can do things humans cannot do. This use of technology to do things we cannot do is what we will begin to see more and more of in 2013 (and beyond).

2013 is also going to be a year of revenue boosting for tech companies. Market research company, IDC predicts that consumer spending on IT will increase globally by 6% in 2013, to a whopping $2.1 trillion in the year. Companies are in dire need of upgrading their tech, and will fuel this trend. That 6% prediction is just a global average, however. Tech growth in emerging economies will roar ahead, with 10%+ growth in the year. In this environment, the winners will be the big companies that dominate and the small innovators who come out with new products and services. Struggling mid-market companies will be unlikely to survive. At TomorrowToday, we track trends, and tend to steer clear of specific market predictions, especially in the short term, but we’d not be surprised at all to see both Nokia and RIM bought out in 2013.

In this context, then, here are some specific trends to keep an eye on:


Mobile

Forbes research forecasts that in 2013, mobile devices will pass PCs to be most common Web access tools. By 2015, over 80% of handsets in mature markets will be smartphones (only 20% of those will be Windows phones – Andriod and iPhone are set the continue dominating this space). By 2015, tablet shipments will be 50% of laptop shipments. Companies that want to stay abreast of the changing world must ensure they have a mobile strategy. This is more than just making sure your website works on mobile phones, but also that you connect with smartphone users in ways that are appealing to them, providing them with mobile access to what they need and want.

BYOD becomes BYID

We found this phrase at Business Insider’s summary of IDC’s tech predictions for 2013. And we like it. Bring Your Own Device is slowly catching on in the world of work, but with the convergence of cloud, mobile, smart, and data-center technologies, actually you don’t even need a dedicated work machine anymore. All you need is to Bring Your ID, and you can log in from anywhere, on any device and access all of your work profiles, data and software. Now, if only corporate IT would sign off on the idea…

The Internet of Things

It is predicted that there will be up to 100 billion Internet-connected objects by 2020. For us as individuals this will enable us to control everything in our homes and offices, from temperature, lighting, garden irrigation and security to remotely using devices to brew coffee, manage utilities, programme entertainment, check health records, and conduct numerous other tasks. Companies will also get a lot from these technologies as they use them for tracking physical assets, managing customer relationships, and creating efficiencies in business operations and supply chains. A recent Forrester Research survey noted that 15% of surveyed companies currently have an Internet of Things solution in place. However, 53% of companies said they planned to implement an Internet of Things solution in the next 24 months.

TrendsTo make all of this a reality, 2013 is likely to see an explosion of startups, applications and research projects aimed at leveraging the Internet of Things’ immense potential to change our lives.

Geolocation of data and the integration of pre-emptive, context-sensitive information

A fancy title for something that is so simple – well, conceptually anyway (the technology is tricky, mainly because it integrates so many components). There are things you do every day – repetitive things that are part of your daily routine – that can be given to our smartphones to do for us. For example, when sitting at a restaurant reading the menu, you wonder what will be the healthiest option to choose (or just how many calories are in each dish). Let your smartphone find out for you. Or, as you leave home in the morning in your car, you switch the radio on to find the latest traffic report and select a route to drive to work. Let your smartphone find out for you. Or, you’re wondering what the weather will be like for your regular Sunday morning bike ride with your mates. Let your smartphone find out for you.

As long as you’re willing to let your smartphone know a lot about you (for example, have access to your diary, your contacts, who your family and colleagues are, your shopping history, your favourites, and of course to know where you are and where you’re going) and to learn about your life as you carry it around, we’re only just a small step away from our smartphones not simply being a mobile portal to the world wide web, but to also start pre-empting what information you’re about to need. By the way, your smartphones, if integrated with your Facebook profile and calendar already pretty much know this stuff.

The key now is to make them pre-empt your information needs, and to match those needs to your physical location, your diary and your lifestyle.

One small step in this direction happened a few months ago, as Google released ‘Google Now’. Read FastCompany’s write up about it, and watch their launch video to get an idea of what they’re trying to achieve.

By the way, this is one of the reasons that Apple wanted control of their own map functionality. Apple users who have moaned and complained a bit about the new Apple maps will be loving the integrated functionality with Siri (see next item) by this time next year. We wrote about this earlier this year if you’re interested.

This may lead to the rise of the “personal ecosystem”, when individual smart objects interconnect to form a support network for their owner. This is when a set of connected objects becomes greater than the sum of its parts, doing things we haven’t been able to do yet.

Service design consultancy Fjord, in their 2013 predictions, point out that the past 18 months have seen the beginnings of mass-market adoption for a select few connected objects, driven by the services that make them meaningful. Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone UP, and the Nest self-learning thermostat are early pacesetters. The “battle for the wrist” will hit the mainstream in earnest in 2013, with a variety of approaches coming to market focused on everything from health and wellness to information and entertainment.

Voice – and Face – Recognition

Voice recognition will hit the mainstream in 2013, along with real-time translation through our smartphones. Along with this, we expect the first, beta versions of smartphone apps for facial recognition. Maybe it will be Facebook who pioneer this.

But it’s more than just mere recognition that this trend indicates. Siri, iPhone’s voice recognition software, is potentially the natural interface to everything a smartphone has to offer. You talk to it, and it goes and finds what you need. In this way, apps and programs become invisible.

Easier to use means more people use it

As interfaces become more intuitive and easy to use, so people who might previously have not used computers will start to engage with them. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the elderly start to use tablet computers and Skype. This will continue, especially in developing economies.

Big Data needs interpreting

We know the value of big data. 2013 will see significant advances in the software that allows us to analyse the mounds of data we’re collating, and also to represent that data in visual ways. More than infographics, we believe that 2013 will see the rise of data scientists, data detectives and data visualisers as recognised corporate jobs.

Sharing – use is more important that ownership

Zipcar led the way. Don’t own your car, share one with other people, and only use it when you need it. The Internet allows us to extend this mindset to almost any asset.

Spotify has proved that consumers are willing to pay to rent music. Jetsetter is helping to turn the concept of a luxury second home or family holiday on its head. We’ll be sharing a lot more by the end of 2013.

Bionics

Advances in computing power and reductions in their size will allow us to continue to incorporate technology into our bodies. 2013 should see augmented reality contact lenses, exoskeletons, artificial organs and 3-d printed body parts, brain controlled limbs, and much more. Get a small glimpse here.

A 3-d printer for everyone

Well, not quite. But by the end of 2013, most tech savvy people in the world will have seen a 3-d printer, and probably own a 3-d printed object. The cheapest 3-d printer on the market at the moment costs less than US$ 600. More smaller businesses will make use of the technology, and the first home uses will begin in 2013.

Robots, robots, everywhere – even in space

The trend to greater use of robotics is obvious and unstopabble. But also in 2013, India will launch it’s first major space project with a probe being sent to Mars, and China will launch an unmanned mission to the surface of the moon. And ex-NASA engineers will offer space tourism. And you’ll be able to buy robots that will also clean your house and fix you drinks. The awe-inspiring and the banal always seem to be very closely linked.

Looking a Bit Further Ahead

If you prefer your predictions to have a slightly longer horizon, then we can do no better than Fast Company’s look at the world of 2052.

Suggested Reading

And, finally, if the predictions bug has really bitten, and you want to do some more reading, here are a few books that our team have found really insightful in the past few months:

2013, here we come! It’s going to be a wild ride of a year.

What trends do you see coming?
And what books would you recommend we all read?

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