2012, the year of relevancy

It is 2012 already. It is a tradition on this blog to look ahead to the coming year. Thinking on what will happening is a good start of the year. But first, for the record, let’s look back at the predictions I did last year and in general what happened in 2011.

The breakthrough of tablets and nearby computing was a good feeling I think. In 2011 I think we saw some serious steps where digital lifestyle is becoming default for our approach to services and products. The way people adopt the home coach app in the Dutch version of The Voice of Holland for instance. Or the growing use of on demand media. And all cumulating in a new smart product like the Nest thermostat and Peel tv-guides.

I predicted (and hoped) newspapers would improve their apps to much more interesting digital content experiences. We saw some examples like the Guardian, and some magazines do good jobs like Autovisie. But many still hold on to the old models. What really did happen however was the emerge of new personalized services based on algorithms, social peers etc. Like Zite, News.me, Summify, and Livestand. This is just the beginning of what to come, I expect more of these kind of services in 2012, in all kind of categories. And we will see a Nest-like product release probably every month.

My optimism for the economy was not completely right. Halfway in a sense. Europe did get a hard time indeed, but I did not expected the Europe paralyzing act. I am not optimistic for the coming year this to change dramatically; we will suffer this pessimism, even if the real numbers will be better than expected. It will trigger some bigger trends that we saw rise in 2011; the sharing economy and the access based products and services. In 2011 Spotify reaches the masses, and different new services for car sharing next to Greenwheels appeared to the market. Car2go, Wego, Snappcar. And also in other branches like tools. This model will be more and more popular in all different kind of branches the coming year. Not all that successful, but there is a fertile ground for sure.

The virtual money layer that functions as play money and mean for exchange of profile data turned out not be as prominent as I expected for 2011. Still a trend that will be a fundamental development I believe. In different manners. If we would have a real economy crash, which I hope (and expect) not to happen, it will be triggered sooner as alternative for our devaluated real money. We will see the first steps however to virtual social currencies with the release of the NFC phones (an iPhone 5 at last) combined with more access based products and services for sure. But this will last till the end of the year and become really big not until 2013.

An interesting field could be our energy consumption. We will see that we are growing into a system where we contribute much more to the production of energy and a market place of electricity will be part of our sharing economy. Electric vehicles will trigger this, a service where private households are offering their fast charger to electric car owners via a service could be well in place soon, probably in 2012. But I think that this will not fly till 2013.

I think I was quite right with the prediction that gamification became hot in 2011, but stayed a hype at the same time. The hope for services that are designed with playfulness as one of the design principles in stead of cheap badgification is something that has indeed not been seen before 2012. There are some signs for this to happen indeed in de the coming year, hopefully with not to many lame implementations that danger the possibilities. The ROI of gamification will be a hot topic. Just like we got with socialification.

The social angle become default indeed in 2011. We see even some fatigue emerge from all social experts that did pop-up. Nevertheless, no company is neglecting to think about social and making it part of their strategies. Bigger corporations did this in 2011, in 2012 also SME will follow. At the same time we as users are grown up and will model our use to specific situations even more. The circles Google+ launched will evolve to a standard approach – that is more basic than the circles – and smaller social private groups will live next to the temporary ties we have more and more. The shift of users becoming part of the organizations as policy makers and product developers will be default.

The big data movement is developing a bit slower than expected. Google with plus and Facebook with timeline are however paving the road for even more data driven knowledge and the war of the ecosystems with Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon is acknowledged all over the industry and will sharpen. There will however be no real losers (expect maybe a disappointing IPO for Facebook), they will together shape the fundaments for the services we make. And data becomes really data science as nicely shown in this presentation. With the serious steps in emerging smart products the flood of data will be only more and we will see the first ‘profile management’ services appear that can manipulate your data presence.

I have to say that the prediction on Facebook launching a Groupon killer did not came true. In stead of trying to save Places Facebook discontinued the development. The dispute on their privacy and profiling continues as expected last year, and the new Timeline function makes us as users even more the product, that is a widespread observation. A voice function and even phone that was a rumor is still on the shelves. Let’s see what the coming year brings for that. I expect that the focus is on leveraging the timeline to all corners of the service with the connection to the pages. 2012 could be a consolidation year for Facebook, connecting all the dots and deepening existing services over all touch points.

So to sum up I think relevancy will be a leading theme. If Apple introduces the expected iTV this summer (big sport events are always a good moment) it will set a marker for relevant services. I agree with those that predict a TV-experience that will be much more a personal experience (in the context of the family) and combines the best second screen integration with tablets and cloud. Apps for the iTV will be not used on the TV set but on your personal remote, phone or tablet. And just like with iTunes connect to the PC platform, iTV could connect to other mobile platforms. Google and Windows will follow soon and integrate in their ecosystems the second screens and tv-operating systems, but Apple will set the tone in the user experience as expected, and add gesture and voice interactions.

In the mobile context I think we will see a growing importance of Android becoming more hip and happening with the developers too. Apps still rule web apps but in the second half it could change triggered by two important developments; with the market share of Windows growing to 20-25% it is becoming even more hassle to develop for all the different platforms, especially in economic weak times. And highly related with this; the ‘mobile first’ paradigm will rule 2012 and transforming full website for mobile use will be via webappsification of online services.

In 2012 we will continue to evolve in a complete digital inspired lifestyle (post digital so to say) and relevant services are the corner stones in these new experiences. With economic pessimism we will hold on to cocooning social and sharing based services. Another interesting year in prospect.

Published by


I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s