…or not. Yes, clickbait is still a trend. End-of-year trends articles are trending. So are cuffed jeans, tattoos, information overload and attention scarcity. TLDR: we know you’ve lost faith in predictions, but we’re going to take some risks here in the hope we will inspire you to think about the unprecedented opportunities the next year will bring us.
Heads Up Computing
Amazon Echo is a wonderful example of technology that lets us stay engaged with the real world instead of pulling us into a screen. Alexa, Echo’s built-in virtual assistant lets you speak your commands without picking up a phone or tablet. Alexa is joined by Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, Google Home, and Microsoft’s Cortana, all of which use voice interface and machine learning.
Our prediction: Technology will progressively move further into the background, to let us access computed functionality without disengaging from the real world around us. Microsoft HoloLens and MagicLeap are preparing the next step to what we are calling “Heads up” computing: realistic 3D images that integrate with the real world around us.
Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are on track to transform our lives and landscapes. AVs will lead to an increase in on-demand ride services and a consequent decline in personal car ownership. The automobile industry will be turned on its head. Parking lots will be repurposed and cities will become more pedestrian-friendly.
Our prediction: The next step in the AV revolution will be containerised personal transport. Your personal travel pod will be picked up at your front door, loaded onto your plane, and then to your beach-side accommodation seamlessly and efficiently. Containerisation will bring the same gains in efficiency and convenience to personal travel as it brought to the commercial freight industry. It looks like aircraft makers are already thinking along these lines.
Big Data Backlash
In the aftermath of a general failure to predict some important elections and referendums, we expect to see a new and healthy skepticism toward the benefits of big data. Too often, analysts “miss the forest for the trees”. Netflix CEO Chris Hastings described their approach as, “We start with the data, but the final call is always gut. It’s informed intuition.”
Our prediction: We’ll continue to rely on big data, but we’ll find techniques to better measure the more qualitative factors, like Google’s recently launched Cloud Natural Language API sentiment analysis.
Shifting Security Frontiers
The early days of consumer computing were like the Wild West. Standards were immature and most systems didn’t work together. New software brands and applications appeared and disappeared every week. We hadn’t yet had enough time to know who we could really trust …or not. Windows competed with DOS and OS/2 as well as Apple. Word competed with WordPerfect, WordStar. Excel with Lotus123 or Quattro. Law and order was not established; and trusting citizens were prey to outlaws distributing computer viruses. We needed a sheriff. Shareware antivirus programs like Avast stepped in to preserve order, first on desktop, then on mobile devices.
In recent years, the Wild Frontier of computing has moved to a growing range of smart home devices including online thermostats, smoke detectors, lights, cameras, televisions and yes, refrigerators. As in the early days, there are few standards or proven brands, and consumers need protection.
Our prediction: Whole-home network protection is the next frontier for consumer online security.
10 years ago, we consulted a map before leaving the house. 5 years ago, we got directions on our phone after we’d already left the house to meet our friends at the agreed time and place. Today, we’re just as likely to post an update to see if anyone wants to meet up for lunch at the Pho food truck we just saw. Technology makes us agile.
Harry’s offers razor-blades as a service, Blue Apron offers meal planning and shopping as a service, and Amazon Dash is edging toward condoms as a service. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) allow on-demand education. The variety of consumer services will continue to grow. The “gig economy” even promises on-demand employment.
Our prediction: more of the same. Technology will continue to empower us with instant communication, services-on-demand, and immediate gratification. But there may be a social and emotional cost: without a map, some people will lose their sense of direction.
Dawn of the Smart Router
The router industry today is like the mobile phone industry in 2007, when the mobile phone industry was disrupted by the smartphone.
|Ubiquitous computing devices consumers rely on every day.||Mobile phone||Router|
|Distribution through telcos…||Mobile phone||Router|
|Drives commoditization, eroding profitability.||Mobile phone||Router|
|Device computing power on an upward curve.||Mobile phone||Router|
|Competitors try to differentiate on features||Mobile phone||Router|
|…but consumers mostly just want reliable connectivity.||Mobile phone||Router|
In 2007 the iPhone changed what consumers expected from their phones. “Feature Phones”, which were designed around voice calls, began to be replaced by “Smart Phones”, which offered voice calls plus a wide variety of other services, including music, maps, and photos, to name only three.
Like mobile phones in 2006, routers today compete on features that add marginal extra value to their core function. Like mobile phones, we believe routers are strategically located to provide a wide variety of services, including media, security, and home automation, to name only three.
Our prediction: Feature Routers will be replaced by Smart Routers. Our Chime project is leading the way.
Never before have the words “everything you say may be used against you” been more true. But now it may also be used for your advantage. A lot of data is collected on us – whether we’re aware of it or not, and whether we agree to it or not – browsing, location, social media posts, interests, purchases, etc. And services start to use this data – sometime to our benefit, sometimes not.
Admiral Insurance recently proposed a system that analysed Facebook accounts of first-time car owners to find personality traits linked to safe driving. Individuals who scored well were offered better rates. Facebook blocked deployment after criticism from privacy advocates, but there are potential benefits as well as risks.
Access to personal data lets businesses offer credit without credit cards. Based on address, browsing behaviour, and type of product, services like Klaarna let consumers can order products without paying until they actually receive the product. By reducing typing and user input, these services also make it easier to make purchases on mobile devices.
Our prediction: Personal pricing will find valuable business applications that balance privacy with personalisation and convenience. When the mix is right businesses and consumers stand to gain.
Clean Energy: Virtuous Reality
Over the past seven years, the cost of wind power in the US has dropped by 75%, and the cost of solar power by 73%. In some parts of the country, Wind power is the cheapest source of energy, beating even natural gas. (Morgan Stanley). With Elon Musk delivering on his vision of solar-roof-with-battery-powered houses and electric-powered cars, the once distant dream of sustainable energy is becoming a reality.
Our prediction: The falling prices of clean energy will accelerate adoption of electric cars, challenge the status countries that rely on fossil fuel as to feed their GDP, and spur the renewal of civic infrastructure.
Blockchain makes itself useful
It’s been exciting to watch Blockchain — the distributed secure ledger system that is the foundation for digital currencies including Bitcoin — find it’s place in the world. The core promise of Blockchain is to enable trusted transactions directly with unfamiliar parties, where otherwise a middleman, such as a broker, agent, or regulator would be required. Removing middlemen can lower cost and increase speed, creating opportunities for new services.
Financial service and insurance providers in particular are experimenting with new products, including:
- A system to share property surveyor information among mortgage lenders in Hong Kong. (The Financial Times).
A Facebook Messenger-based system to easily insure high-value items (e.g. cameras, smartphones, tablets) between individuals for just a few days, or weeks. (Stratumn)
Our prediction: The price of Bitcoin has been driven up in 2016 by investors who believe the digital currency is the new Gold, a safe place to store your wealth in turbulent times. Like Gold, the value of digital currencies is faith-based. Unlike Gold, Bitcoin does not have the long history to support the faith. We predict a crash.
In 2016, the US government handed control of the Internet Domain Naming System (DNS) to ICANN. We predict the DNS registry will eventually move to blockchain, continuing the transition toward global accountability and transparency.