Mastering the bubbles and filters in 2021

Traditions. Looking ahead into the new year. It is a fine tradition I think. Not to pretend to be able to make predictions all right, it is not a competition, but set your mind in another mode.
Last year I did more than ever forecasts on developments in mobility and energy, autonomous systems, and mailboxes, all furthermore in the future, like 2030, 2040, or 2050 even. Doing these is always arbitrary too. You try to spot bigger developments and weak signals as the innovations for the next 20 years started today, and the future is a continuum, meaning that a future state is a framing of a moment on a future time.

It is also said before: some of the consequences of turning society into a virus defense mode is like a speeding up of longer predicted changes like e-commerce, homework, video calling replacing normal call, and more. But other developments were frustrated; the mobility hubs with social communicating are setback with everyone working from home.

So what to say about 2021. Let me first set a frame; I am focusing on our relationship with intelligent and autonomous operating technology. The Cities of Things Lab that we have been building and will continue to bring into practice with a field lab is the context of the explorations. Nevertheless, I like to keep a broad spectrum to watch, as everything is connected, and the weak signals can be found in all kinds of changes.

To start with the COVID developments. I am not surprising anyone to say that we are entering a new phase if vaccines start to become part of our lives. And I am also not surprising anyone with the opinion that it will probably take far into the new year to experience real effects. Not everyone needs to be vaccinated to relieve society significantly, but still, it takes time. And how will it play out? Will we leave our home bubbles into vaccinated bubbles? In certain industries (like film crews) the art of bubbling groups is already happening. Will we see more of these concepts; with gated communities that lock their neighborhoods for the external entrance of strangers? Will there be a smart testing kit to prevent quarantine times?
Whatever happens, you can expect 2021 to be a transformational year where we will find ways to move from bubble to bubble. And hopefully, we can pop more and more bubbles!

(illustration by Raf Schoenmaekers)

Let’s also hope we will grow into a new balance end of the year where we have a sort of control on the virus, we know what to expect, and there are not all kinds of new hard-to-master mutations… Like we see now, in the first months of the new year we might expect a worsening in the dangerous mix of people feeling relieved and bored with the virus-life, and new mutations making more infections than before.

Back to the main framing of this blog; tech and intelligent partnering systems and things. As happened before a crisis is intensifying new technology adoption. This might happen with the delivery pods that can support the overflow of delivery services. The hyper-personalization is interesting. And deep fake used to create a together mode in our virtual environments. We might be tired of video-calls, we also will have gained capabilities we never had before in communicating via online tools, as a new toolset for the digital natives…

In more longer developing trends is the translating layer that is entering in our lives; everything real is filtered before it reaches us. It started with the Instagram pictures, but with the speeding up of deepfakes, also all the digital systems we use for operating our life, we will grow into a significant shift. And it is super important to realize this and keep track of who is influencing this filtered reality layer.
It is much more hidden than sketched in the hyper-reality visions of a couple of years ago. As all controls are taken over by digital controls, but also all of our senses become more and more filtered, starting with hearing via transparency earbuds. Apple is a silent frontrunner here, even more than they have been a frontrunner before. Hard to predict if the next step will be a vision-filter (the AR glasses made accessible) already this year, but it is especially interesting to watch the developments of the engines; the OS’s, both with Google and Apple, but also Amazon, and not to forget China-based tech.

The virtual worlds are also part of this filtered reality, as it became more and more the substitute for social contacts last year. Question is if it will go mainstream or stay the go-to-place for the millennial and digital natives. It is another driver for the filtered reality adoption for sure.

Filtered is not the only thing to keep track of, how will it behave in relation to us? Will it be the (ideal) co-performance, or will it be driven by the big tech? In the awareness of the dangers of big tech dominance (antitrust cases), it might be even more likely the control is transformed to governments, especially under the influence of COVID measures; ‘never waste a good crisis to get more grip’.

To close, with this extraordinary year is it valid to check upon last year’s thoughts; have the year been an acceleration or a detour? Last year I took the moment to look into a new decade more than one year, and also mentioned the roaring twenties as a metaphor, not knowing how that would be triggered at large.
Techlash was predicted and happened, we have lost our trust even more in the heroes of the 10s. We see that Microsoft is back in business with Teams, and new players as Zoom will try to find a place, also if we open-up more. People are more aware than ever how these tools invade our personal space though.

The longer trends are still valid: boosted humanity, relations human-nonhumans, living together with pal-tech:

(…) we shift from a decade of empowering products and services with computational capabilities towards empowering humans with boosting human capabilities on all levels. For that, we will see a further shift from new gadget-like devices towards integrated infrastructures in all things we use. To begin in creating tech that we can modify and hack into our own pals. Where we will build a new type of relations, based on hopefully more human-driven economical systems. Let that be our new-decade resolution.

from Look into 2020

This is still the path into the future. Our dependencies on tech for social communications have accelerated embedding tech in our lives, but at the same time makes it sharp what we miss in a fully digital context; we need hybrid tech relations. That is the real boosted humanity we are looking for. Keeping the focus on humanity vs controlled societies will be a balance we need to find in the coming year.

I wish everyone to stay healthy, and I hope we can pop some bubbles this year!

3 Drivers for the Next Decade; and a Look into 2020

Traditionally I look into the next year after the turn towards the new year. This year is a bit different for a lot of people as we are entering a new decade. So is at least the common feeling. What are the roaring twenties of the 21st century? It is the theme for a lot of thinkers (I like this one of Kara Swisher to name just one). However it remains interesting to have a peek into 2020 too and see how it will contribute to bigger changes.

But good to start with a look back to the last decade. Many is said, and I think there is not a discussion on what is the most changing development in tech, and also stretching beyond: the developing of the smart phone as center of everything. I think here it is not so much about features and sizes, but on how it changed the role of tech in our world. More than the introduction of the smart phone in its current form back in 2007 almost simultaneously by Apple and Android, the real breakthrough was the app-system that caters endless possibilities for makers to create new functions for the wearable technology, and the adding of the GPS made into a reality device, a link of our real life and digital life, and that is what turned out to be key. That was the driver for new transformational services, that the phone is now the hub of a huge knowledge graph the internet was already before and our real-life. And that can be linked to the impact of tech now in society, data ecosystem and the root for the current techlash.

In sketching developments in Internet of Things — one of my focus areas of the last decade for sure — I think that the phone is often too much seen as the IoT device in itself, and that this triggers uninteresting concepts where the object gets a remote control in the form of an app. That is however changing. The objects become more intelligent, more part of a product-service system with the phone only as connector to that system, and the first iteration to the edge-computing that became popular the last years. We only just now see the objects become more smart themselves, intelligence is becoming embedded in the objects, think AirPods as poster child. Keep this in mind for the look into the next decade.

So what really changed the last decade is the place of tech in our real-life. Computing was a tool used for specific functions, first word-processing and then with the first iteration of the world wide web as library and communication service. Now we have the possibility to create an app for everything we do. If it is navigating or taking pictures, that glass slab is the center of our personal universe. I don’t know if Steve Jobs had foreseen this when he introduced the iPhone as an integration of three functions: the phone, internet communication device and music player. The real power was the role of the phone as infrastructure for services.

We now see peak smart phone. At least in the form factor. A glass slab to interaction, with computational powerhouse and connectivity. It will be optimized, it will be foldable. It will in essence return to a single purpose device, the window to the system behind it. That system is becoming independent from the smart phone, a development started with the AirPods, HomePods, watches as intelligent touchpoints. Not limited as an Apple-centric development, Google is building a strong foundational infrastructure with services like Duplex and computational photography, and shifting towards more quality in the devices to stimulate different valuations of products that just features. The looks are becoming important.

This will continue, and I think a shift in the relation with the technology we use is key for the coming decade. AI is far away from artificial general intelligence (AGI), robots will not fully taking over humans, that will take more time, and more important, it makes no sense to strive for that. We will extend our human capabilities with technology on a deeper personal level. You can say that in the last decade the phone mainly made the services more intelligent facing towards we as users, in the coming decade the focus will be the human facing outwards. I think there are three drivers:

  1. Boosted humanity. Technology is extending human capabilities. From electric last mile mobility to power to reason. We see also how daily life is now monitored continuously and planned rigorously. This is a feeding ground for the urge of improving/boosting. Doing Bodytec gym, etc. Even developments in DNA sequencing is a form of boosting humans by making it able to create better medicine.
  2. Relations human-nonhumans. In the use of the technology we will not anymore see it as a tool, as a slave if you wish. We will build relations with the intelligent partners, value what they can achieve and respect how they bring a reflection to our own life choices. However the starting point will be boosting the human capabilities, the practice is one of mutual understanding.
  3. Living together with pal-tech. Follow through with this we will (later) not only have this attitude in working together as a relation, we will allow the tech as part of our human systems. First in cities. Cities of things with things as citizens, the research program at TU Delft we run is linked to this.

Describing the third driver feels as if the artificial life, the nonhuman fellow inhabitants could be taking over, a fear that is sometimes expressed in AI ethics. We need to start understanding what the roles are. The first step here is to lose the meme that tech is neutral. We are still the designers of the tech, although we see that tech will become a creative force here too. Like the Spotify design process where the AI is part of the design team initiating new ideas for products instead of being only the ingredient of the end product.

It will be a super interesting decade we will live. But we need to be aware of doing it right. Breaking the power of the big players as the possibilities of an implementation that does not stimulate but harm freedom of living together with the tech, what a system based on the surveillance capitalism creates. A public stack could work, based on open source governance. We need a similar system as the app-store did for mobile; a way to cater creators and makers to build the partnering technology. And based on more human-based values, not economic values. We want objects that live longer. As a necessity to become more sustainable. Without losing the options to update. Fashion that adepts, cars that update, etc. We like to keep our stuff up to date. Phones were fashion items but are now longer around. The inside remains changing.

Looking into one year ahead, we will see in devices that the phones do not change fundamentally. They become more basic in the outside and more intelligent in the inside. The intelligence will be opened up for developers even more, hopefully that is the step Apple can take in the next OS-stack. The AR glasses are not so important, or foldables. More interesting is what is happening in the integration of the intelligence in the infrastructure. The alliance of the big players for an open IoT stack is here a first sign; in 2020 more examples will be introduced, compare IKEA Tradfri. The big boom will be later as the infrastructure is more stable.

Same goes for mobility. As the mobility revolution in the beginning of the 20th century drove developments, the unbundling of physical functions (cars) and infrastructure (engines, software) with the acceleration of electric cars, but also bikes and last mile vehicles (boosted boards, scooters) will continue and yielding for next forms of mobility services in this century.

There is of course happening more than tech. A lot of politics, geo-political changes, risks of serious crashes in both US and China leading to new kinds of internal conflicts. Tech plays here a great role too however. Think only on the surveillance systems in China and the counter attacks by the a new kind of ad-hoc demonstrating.

So to wrap up; we shift from a decade of empowering products and services with computational capabilities towards empowering humans with boosting human capabilities on all levels. For that we will see a further shift from new gadget-like devices towards integrated infrastructures in all things we use. To begin in creating tech that we can modify and hack into our own pals. Where we will build a new type of relations, based on hopefully more human-driven economical systems. Let that be our new-decade resolution. Have a good 2020(s)!

Moving towards the ecosystem of digital twins in 2019

As usual I like to do some reflections on the coming year. It is always strange to connect the kind of trends to one year, the value of predictions is more to track systematic changes, forcing yourself to mark the year is a nice exercise though. I am often asked to share thoughts on future developments through the year. Last week a piece was published on the drivers for mobility in Emerce (in Dutch). And earlier last year I did so as part of a research group of Dutch Associations of Architects, where we tried to look into the future of the city in 2040 and beyond. Longterm concepts as ‘Living as a service’, ‘Assisted/Boosted human’, ‘Code/space’.

Read more on Medium: https://labsinfo.nl/moving-towards-the-ecosystem-of-digital-twins-in-2019-7289a2b6b825

The year that will be the end of the smartphone as we know it

Image for post

Last Friday I attended a cosy new meetup Fraiday. All attendees shared their ideas for future applications of AI in their personal life. As I was telling about my plans the host Jim Stolze asked how I got my insights for future developments. I did not really think about that a lot, and I answered it is just an attitude of an open mind.

I had to think about this again last evening when someone om Twitter shared an article on the current activities of former inventor of Androidworking on a new kind of mobile device. It combines with some thoughts on the future mobile ecosystem triggered my own experiences and observations of the use of the Airpods and a discussion we had earlier that day at Info.nl about interesting technology developments with serverless computing. So I have to add to the question of Jim Stolze that the combining of impulses and finding the pattern is important part of thinking on future.

So lets elaborate a bit on this interesting development: will we see a shift to a new kind of mobile device, or devices. It is not a super new subject to think about maybe, but without a doubt this device changed our lives the most the last decade (we just celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPhone last week). The decade the we got a computer in our pocket with all the consequences in changes of behaviour from instant knowledge all the time and instant contact with our peers, that are not our close friends anymore but with our strong and weak ties.
And with instant tools for all the needs in life that can be solved by a computerised service. An all-purpose device.

The phone is our center of the personal universe, the gravitation center, the hub for a functioning life, a black hole of attention. We are glass slab zombies. 
Still: how connected our phone is in all his 4G, iCloud continuity and (Google) Now-features, the dominant form factor is a device that bundles everything. I think there are signs now that this could very well change dramatically in the coming year(s). And I think there is a growing consensus how that can look. We’ve seen it in the movie Her: a continuous connection with the smart cloud by ‘beyond-screen’ voice interactions and a device for supporting functions that cannot be solved by voice interactions. This is a model that looks to become true. The parts of the puzzle have been introduced in its first iterations, only in need to be integrated.

First, the Cloud as a concept for more than storage, but also for computing is something that Stephen Wolfram is building for some time. And Amazon introduced Lambda some time ago as part of their cloud strategy.

Second, The Alexa-platform is also rather matured, not only in technology (Alexa as operating system) but also in use. These shifts take time, we need to get acquainted to talking to products for instructions. Nobody doubts that this will be one of the main trends in 2017, let alone all the introductions of Alexa-enabled products at CES.

Third, AI is of course part of this shift. The first mass iteration will be dialogue intelligence mainly. Google is showing how they believe in it and adding “Ok Google” into everything. But also the acquisition of Viv by Samsung can mean an acceleration here. This technology showed impressive demos. We need an understanding assistant to make us comfortable to use voice as interface paradigm.

Fourth, as said above: the inventor of Android Andy Rubin seems to be busy with the ultimate glass slab device. I can imagine that this could be very well be the information device as is used in Her. The company is called Essential, see if that will be the nature of the device indeed.

Fifth, And does Apple play a role here? Definitely. As always they seem to go for the ‘above and beyond’ strategy. Suck in all emerged knowledge from the pioneers and come up with the ultimate execution that is not build on technology push but with a user focus. Of course they still need to prove this but I am looking forward to the release of the next iOS that will merge MacOS and iOS and have a serious step in experiencing AI as a service. 
The Airpods are a very important step in this. Building a voice controlling device with a mini computer in it, that focuses on one of the important barriers; lousy connecting experiences. I feel that Apple will shift the experience of the services from the phone to cloud, controlled by the voice activation devices like the Airpods and next iterations. It is not so strange they create a range of those devices with the Beats acquisition. I expect that Apple will be able with a human design focus to make a voice interface workable as soon as it is socially acceptable, and that we wear the Airpods all the time we are in transit. I already feel the urge to keep my pods in also without using them for listening.

2017 will be a building year, we will see new devices appear, and we will see AI mature in the dialogue engine. Apple could very well launch an iteration of Swift that is a variant of Amazon Lambda in iCloud that can be the start for developers to seriously start making these serverless applications. This all together is important to ramp up to the next wave of interactions. That are independent from the device and more connected to the actions. Where all the things we use can be function as a platform for these services.

I don’t expect a revolutionary new device ecosystem this year, the phone is to0 much of a cash cow still. But in hindsight, we might see that 2017 is the year that was the start of the end of the smartphone as we know it.

Published originally on Medium https://labsinfo.nl/the-year-that-will-be-the-end-of-the-smartphone-as-we-know-it-884e696fe3d1

2016; capitalizing on the platforms

As always I like to look forward to the new year. Starting with a look back at the predictions of last year. I have to say that I was pretty accurate last year. Check it yourself.

So to sum up I think the home will be the main playground of the digital developments in 2015, with the internet of daily life as silent revolution. Impacting some of our habits and devices we use. The move to private messaging communities will have big impact and next to that we could be really preparing for a new sensing communication language that will however fly later.

More than ever the first seeds were planted for the things to happen later, like in 2016. As the messaging as platform, a lot is said on that in 2015 and is happening big time in China. It will definitely execute in 2016.

The new platforms for our smart homes as silent revolution is also something that happened with a couple of players. Samsung got into the market with the acquisition of SmartThings, the new Apple TV as platform can be seen as a move into the home, Amazon Echo products, and of course NEST platform from Google. That one is the most interesting to watch. It is clear that Google is trying to enter the home to collect user data there. Nothing secret there anymore. The big question is what they will do with the data. Expect more products and services connected to the platform to generate data. Leveraging the platform as service to – for instance – advertisers will follow later (2017). I am very interested if Google will make some serious steps in making the new invisible design patterns for data driven real life products at the next I/O.

Apple is also always interesting to take as reference for predictions. Everyone predicting the future talks on Artificial Intelligence as the thing to go big in 2016. Apple will try to play an important role. The way they build in more helping functionality in iOS building on your data is paving the way for more serious AI driven services. We will also see the first tangible products that use the SDK for making the product smart. If the SDK is opened up of course to external use…
The same goes for haptics. I was right last year that the integration of haptics in Apple Watch is important but very basic. With the roll-out of 3D touch to the phone and laptop will continue this year. Only if there is a serious installed base we can expect to open up the possibilities of haptic to use for real functions instead of the limited possibilities now. Expect that with iOS10.

Twitter is in decline. Not falling yet in 2016 but if they do not find a new purpose it will be hard in the years after. It moved very rapidly to Instagram, and Snapchat.
Snapchat did grow strong in 2015 indeed, even more than expected. Will continue to do so and is more and more adopted with broader audiences. There will be more discussion on the business model of the service. A connection can be made with VR. 2015 was not yet the year for VR breakthrough but certainly the first steps are taken to have a bigger impact in 2016. Snapchat is showing how to augment real video with animations. It is acclaimed they storing the visual information of our faces as valuable data. VR concepts could very well leverage that. Expect some examples on that.

A lot more can be said on 2016 and beyond, but I keep it to this. The platforms created in 2015 will start to collect our behavioral data and will offering helpful services as tradeoff. We will start to get used to have a dialogue with the products we use, and have more tangible interactions at the same time.
I hope we will remain gaining more awareness on the systems we live in and the consequences our behavior has. Just using the P word without offering actionable tools is not useful. We will see new forms of design thinking on systems (like design for agency, meta design, playful), good signposts for some increased literacy in 2016.

Have a great 2016!

On a wristful 2015

The year 2015 has started. Traditionally I look forward to the coming year. Some thoughts for 2014 are still in the expectation. One important development we all thought would go fast were the wearables. Glass did not fly yet and is not expected to enter a consumer market soon. The principles in the Glass interaction for relevant services turned out to be the fundamentals for the wrist-interactions too. The postponing of the Apple Watch launch and the not optimal implementation of Android Wear made it slower getting traction.

I’m still looking forward to is the launch of the Apple Watch and the possible impact on this category. I have stated before my belief in the haptic aspect of the watch. I think it will be a very low tech implementation in the first version, just like traditional Apple product strategy: small steps that look disappointing but have serious impact in our perception and behavior. Our research in Labs on haptic and adaptive interactions will continue of course, being more relevant than ever.

I think that the one of the consequences of a serious movement to the wrist can be the growth of the use of phablets. It is of course already an important trend but it will be even more dominant.
The telephone-like device will have more importance in the home-browsing, becoming the first screen with the TV as second screen. The tablet with the current form-factor will lose its interest further. I am curious if we will see the 12/13” tablets come to market as the entertainment slate to have lying around at the coffee table. The use will change. In combination with a bigger screen it can replace the TV-settop box. Let’s see if the TV providers will upgrade their apps to a serious competitor to traditional TV set-up.

The home will be the domain of another breakthrough this year: the digital smartness in our daily life. With the leaked patent of Apple of a Bluetooth home-device and the activities of Google with Nest this will be a get some serious traction in 2015. In the Netherlands smart energy meters and thermostats are installed rapidly by the energy companies and people are getting used to more smart products. It will not be one integrated smart home as the futurist of the past thought, it will be a bottom-up development with more and more products connected to the net and controlled by the smartphone. The hubs will be integrated in the operating systems of our phones, but web based solutions will become more important as independent connector. The first new players will arrive in the market in 2015. Apple and Google will however try to move first.

This whole movement to the internet of daily life as practical execution of the internet of things is one of the big developments in 2015. As the smartness and data move into the cloud and the control and personal experience move to the mobile, we will have a silent revolution.
The world in general will remain unstable and old structures are more and more enhanced with new peer 2 peer markets and sharing services. This will be even more local based as the established sharing services grow into traditional companies that we will approach as traditional companies. The shift to more private social messaging that we have seen happening in 2014 will continue and be more part of our routine, also stimulated by the wrist to wrist interactions. The first messaging service that integrate marketplace functions will have a great success.

Snapchat will get more traction, Facebook will remain big as media for the older generation, but will be under pressure to change some of its new privacy terms. In the end it will lead to people more reluctant to share personal stuff. Google+ will remain in market but won’t develop anymore, Google will focus on messaging with Hangouts and try to add some serious private messaging platform again.

Just like a lot of other predictionairs I think that the VR-hype will not fully happen in 2015. Still, there will some real promising applications and experiences introduced.

So to sum up I think the home will be the main playground of the digital developments in 2015, with the internet of daily life as silent revolution. Impacting some of our habits and devices we use. The move to private messaging communities will have big impact and next to that we could be really preparing for a new sensing communication language that will however fly later.


Have a wristful 2015!

HappyTapping

2014; balancing our life of captured moments

A new year has started. Time for some predictions to keep up a good tradition. We published already some trends on the Christmas card of info.nl (read them here in Dutch). In short: Mobile rules digital, wearables as next wave, from social to community, lean service design as approach and data as fuel.

Looking back at the predictions for 2013 as I did last year I got a feeling that a lot came true in the attention and intentions, but at the same time I could repeat the trends for 2014. There were others that coined 2013 as a lost year. Don’t agree on that, but 2013 was a year where some foundations for changes were made more than the changes itself. The explorations on Glass where important. The leap forward for electric cars. Drone delivery concepts, and the insights we gain from NSA. All important steps.

For me the big overall trend is the merge of the digital and psychical space that is tipping this year. We expected a lot from the internet of things in 2013 and we have seen a lot of attention and separate products like Hue and Nest breaking through. Still the real full connected context that shapes total new concepts and experiences is just about to start. Glass can be a driver. We played with the device build some apps already and preaching the impulse shaped services even more.

Glass and other smart wearables as the iWatch will come to the market and will connect with the psychical world via Bluetooth smart. In 2014 the first concepts and services will be introduced, conferences like SxSW and Solid will talk a lot on this, the real connected world will only emerge as the big players Google, Apple manage to create an OS-like environment where services can interact.

Google will launch definitely a model around Glass for extracting profile data into the services (Glassware) we gonna build, and Apple will introduce a variation/extension on Passbook. All seems to be in place for some serious steps here. Apple could even be the trailblazer if they get the model right in a way users understand we are entering a different world.

The model of impulse shaped services has a big relation with our even greater valuation of the now as. Snapchat is the signature service here that will have influence in new services part of existing social services.

Quantified self made it’s way to more people as predicted, becoming more part of services and products instead of separate things. Logging will be part of all system and crucial for the impulse shaped world. Interesting is how the data sensitivity will develop. With the highly contextual based services our profile and behavior will have even more influence on the day-to-day experience. If NSA secrets finds its way to a broader audience it can mean serious threat for the adoption.

We embrace also the real. 3D printing has a slow start, but could transform in a mean to freeze our continuous disappearing now experiences. Printing our life logging, expect a service for that the coming year. We need new services to make our legacy last longer than the moment. Looking for this balance between the even more digitized context and embodied experiences could become an important driver.

Have a great 2014!

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.

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.