2013; Value as guidance

We are at the turn of the year so time for some reflections on the coming year. As always it will be an interesting year, and especially for someone like me turning my focus on the Internet of Things in the last years, many are predicting a break-through year for the connected physical world. Not so strange, a lot is happened in 2012 to pave the way, like IPv6 and some icon products. Both Google and Apple seems to invest a lot in this field.

So it is a no brainer that in 2013 the Internet of Things will be ubiquitous. I predicted it as important for 2012 too, and in a way I was right. Kickstarter had a lot of interesting connecting products and some important new introductions were done like the Philips Hue. Still the real turning point will be in 2013 and 2014 I think now.

To look at 2013 I think a couple of developments are interesting to watch, a bit more meta trends than usual maybe.

The first is DIO; do-it-ourselves.
We will see a break-through of 3D printing the coming year, but still in the stage of for example the early DTP-software early nineties. Some people are gifted to make nice things themselves, the majority will be rather poor. We will combine the new possibilities with the social behavior we developed, do it ourselves will be more important the coming year than DIY. Groups will find eachother, community sites will appear, groups in Facebook and Google will hangout making real stuff. There will be a hype as the printers keep falling in prize. At the end the trough of disillusionment will emerge. Nevertheless some valuable concepts of half fabricated/scripted products will come to market as signs for the coming time. The ones with a social angle will be most successful.

A second development is the added smartness to everything. Smartness emerges from awareness of things on their own behaviour, but more important from the usage data by the user. Quantified self will be part of product features, not a separate thing.
Robotics will become more important. Smart products are not just smart, they are replacing tasks. We will see more and more household appliances like the Roomba, or like the Nest, which is in the end also task replacement. The key of these connected products is the intelligence and the move to replace repetitive tasks.

Third is the growing data literacy. Was a trend for 2012 and will go on into 2013 even more. People are becoming more aware on the way Facebook works, and become more critical users. We will not stop using the social tools, but people will be conscious and choosing the channels based on the way data is treated. And we more and more will create a version of ourselves on social media. There will be a serious space in the market for a fair-play social platform.
Data literacy is more than social media. We are just beginning with all the data trails from products use and services like Google Now will trigger our sense for data. Still no revolution to expect though, but definitely space for smart propositions in this area.

Last one is one that is the glue for these all and the most important for the coming year(s): value in all.
We see a romantic quest for craftsmanship as a counter reaction to the post digital world we live in where everything is connected and digital. Value in the form of genuine experiences will become part of premium products and services. But also in convenient goods the story of the products, the history of the making, will be a distinction and important brand characteristic. Making stuff personal is one way to create this value, and is an important driver for the do-it-ourself movement.

Value is not just a differentiating feature, it is also crucial in using services where we exhaust data. We will more and more be aware of the privacy sacrifices that we do for using services. Data literacy and consciousness will at first result in our wish for more balance and transparency, we only share our data if direct value is the result. Like we sketched in this little movie earlier this year.

In contrast to the automated smart environment we will see that we value the imperfections, the seams. Hiding all technology is not better for a start. Depending the product, but we will like to see what is happening, feel our products.

What does this mean for 2013? More products with stories, more critical consumers, more community based consumption. With the continuing crisis (real of feel) people will mix this value-based consumption with cheap mass products. Genuine value will be part of the successful products and services of 2013.

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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.

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