For those of us who geek out on new and cutting edge technology, I call this post-CES period the absorption period. That time when the new tech (CES) explodes into the universe and those of us that look at it, evaluate it and begin to see does it fit? Does this new idea actually create, augment or burst into a market?
The hit rate for futurists is low. Really low in fact. Why? Because the future is an ever-changing reality. What is now, isn’t tomorrow. Watching the trends, you are pretty safe in some channels and really highly at risk in others. Usually the ones that you end up being most wrong about are when you wander into the area well covered by analysts that are paid by companies to see a future bright with a specific company’s products and solutions.
In the world of 3d printers, for example, they are still just a little too hard for the average consumer. Not impossible, but with a learning curve. That forces many people to consider them too hard. Other’s consider that the cost of staying current. But that means that 3d printers are still at the edge of the larger market rather than bursting into the everyone has to have one.
People always point to Steve Jobs on stage with the Apple iPhone and call that 2007 event the birth of the smartphone. It wasn’t. It’s time we pull the wrapped off reality. The smart existed many years before apple created the iPhone. What Apple did that was a game changer was too fold. They took the existing market, that had been cheaper hardware and expensive software and flipped it. Completely. Destroyed the old market and make the old players change to Apple’s game. Expensive hardware and cheap software, and by cheap, I mean 99 cents. Which really was pulling the Amazon/Walmart model into the technology space. You can sell a few with high margins and make a profit. Or sell millions with low margins and still make profits!
The moment that pundits call the revolution should instead be the moment that Apple went out to small developers and opened the door to the new iTunes. Google did the same thing with the play store, after Apple but those two stores changed everything!
All of this a revolution.
What then, as a futurist do I see as the next revolution? I think if you had asked me two years ago, I would have said 3d printers. I still see that as a market changer yet. What I see right now as a game changer is the world of drones. But not for the someone is going to deliver goods to your home via a drone. Not for delivery of a taco from Bob’s Taco truck and hunting shop. No, rather drones as an extension of what people do. Drones for joggers, to increase personal safety. Hard to kidnap a jogger if their drone is out of reach and there, sharing pictures of the jogger. If you shoot the drone out of the sky it would then report the issue, as well. Jogger safety is a great future use of drones. Same for kid safety. Drones walk the kids to school, parents see them the whole way and the drone returns to charge going back to walk them home from school at the end of the day.
The other thing I see coming, just over the edge of the horizon. Is a true information age? Not the presence of information. Not the many systems needed that both produce and evaluate information but the integration across all these disparate systems to create the concepts of Information merchants (people that sell information that is validated) and information brokers (organizations that offer access to verified information merchants in a specific field or specialty).
If you asked me in 2006 did I see the iPhone changing the world I would have laughed at you? If you asked me in 2007 I still would have laughed. If you asked me in 2010 I would have said yes. Sometimes trends take a while to percolate. Sometimes, we don’t want to see things because it is painful. The birth of the information age is such a thing. Everyone has rushed us into an age that we just aren’t ready for.
Images today from the digital collection of Dr. Hans O Andersen.