What are the trends I’m watching as we head into 2017?
In 2017, low-tech innovation will gain increasing attention as the marvel of ‘smart things’ begins to wear off, and people realize that many smart things are really ‘dumb things.
Far too many; indeed, the list is almost too long to consider. I’ve got keynotes, leadership or Board meetings in almost every sector in the coming months: transportation, construction, healthcare, retail, automotive, advanced materials and manufacturing, agriculture, insurance … the list goes on and on.
And that’s just with the confirmed bookings for the early part of the year!
This means that at any one time, I’ve got big stacks of research material on my desk as I delve into key trends and issues impacting my clients. I’m often engaged by CEO’s or association leaders to come into their organizations with concise, detailed research on the key issues that will come to impact them in the coming year. I don’t just show up and do a canned keynote: I provide some pretty detailed insight.
Given that, it’s always difficult to prepare a comprehensive trends overview – there is just so much going on! But to give you a sense of what is happening here’s a fun little list of “17 trends for 2017!”
Some of the things I am watching include the following:
1. 4D Printing: 3D printing is already so yesterday. In fact, while it’s getting a lot of attention, it’s actually 30 years old. And yes, it’s got a long way to go in terms of its real adoption and impact; it’s barely scratched the surface in the world of manufacturing. But the newest buzz is around 4D printing, or what we might call ‘customizable’ smart materials.‘ It’s the printing of an item that can change shape depending on particular conditions: a good example is a pipe that might change its size depending on the volume of water or other liquid flowing through it. It’s pretty new, involves a lot of advanced science, and has caught the imagination and attention of innovators worldwide. It’s a real game changer.
2. Amazonification of Industries: Amazon has everyone in its crosshairs as it moves beyond the sale of hard products. This include the home repair/renovation business, to optometrists or heading specialists, to automotive repair. Amazon isn’t just about selling goods — increasingly, it’s about selling the services that go with those goods. And if your industry is targeted by Amazon, you’re faced with the stark choice of a race to the bottom, forced to compete on price — or figuring out some other business model. I’m being retained by an increasing number of CEO’s or other senior executives in a wide variety of industries to come in for a talk on innovation strategies to deal with the realty of what to do when Amazon chooses to compete with you. Amazonification is real, and will pick up speed throughout 2017.
3. The Impact of Generational Time Shifting. Baby boomers are living longer and retiring later. Millennials are marrying later, having kids later, and buying houses later. The next generation moves out of their parents homes later. Take a look around, and whatever the case may be, people are doing things later in life than they used to! The implications throughout the economy and on every single industry are pretty profound: this time-shift challenges business assumptions, brand messaging, and in some cases, the very nature of the product or service being sold. If you don’t understand the impact on your business, you better take some time to do so.
4. The expectation gap: This is a huge issue for 2017, obviously, but people aren’t really thinking about what to do with it. Quite simply, people have developed expectations that won’t be met. The gap has always been there, but it is evident that it is growing! For examples, consider the perception that people have with respect to the payout that their pension plans will provide them in their retirement years, and the likely payout that they will actually receive. People expect a cleaner environment, and yet seem to continue to insist on driving large, gas guzzling SUV’s and high performance cars. People want smaller “big government” but don’t want to see any of their sacred government spending programs to be touched. They want top-notch healthcare, but don’t want to have to pay for it. They expect to be able to ‘live large,’ but don’t think that they will be impacted by the resultant lifestyle dieseases of diabetes, hypertension and more. The expectation gap will become more profound throughout 2017 as the political juggernaut of 2016 continues to play out in the US, the UK and elsewhere.
5. Ransomware of things. If you thought Internet-of-Things denial of service attacks were bad, wait until you start seeing the impact of this trend. We’ll see the emergence of fascinating new hack attacks in which someone will be able to take control of an entire range of Internet connected devices from one manufacturer — home thermostats, house alarms or other smart devices – and prevent them from operating until some type of ransomware fee is paid. Oh, the lawyers are going to make a lot of negligence-money from this trend!
6. Prognostic diagnostics takes centre stage: While autonomous and self-driving vehicles are all the rage, an equally important transformation is underway. That’s the fact that hyper connectivity (aka the Internet of Things) brings companies the ability to diagnose things from afar. It means that transportation, utility, appliance, and other companies can understand and determine when particular products are going to break down or require maintenance. That changes business models, since they are no longer restricted to selling just a physical ‘thing’, but a service. Guaranteed uptime becomes a major selling feature; skills retraining is necessary; marketing/branding messages undergo change.
7. Gadgets get dumb: In 2017, low-tech innovation will gain increasing attention as the marvel of ‘smart things’ begins to wear off. People are beginning to realize that many smart things are really ‘dumb things’ because of bad design. They’ll begin to rebel or lose interest in many aspects of the Internet of Things, and all the complexities that comes from making devices connect, work, sync and generally, behave. In addition, the trend will be driven by a desire to come up with simple solutions to the complex problems of the third world, where simplicity, low cost, and un-connectedness are the driving factors for design. This means that we can expect innovations with water, small scale energy production, and other areas, which will flow back into the Western world. Combine both of these issues, and maybe the era of hi-tech gadgetry will begin to slow or be supplanted by simple, dumb things.
8. Micro-personalization. We’ll witness the acceleration of the trend to the world of ‘you.’ One size solutions that don’t ‘fit-all’, but fit you. Think, for example, about advances in genomic medicine that allow for engineering of medical treatments for particular genetic profiles – a trend that is closer to reality as a result of the ongoing reduction in cost of genomic sequencing. Retail stores will speed up their adoption of location and in-store technology that will deliver a highly personalized shopping experience. Personal concierge service will become all the rage as the elite-service concepts of the airline industry become mainstream in health care and other industries. In 2017, smart companies will realize ‘it’s all about you, and discover significant business opportunity in doing so.
9. “Exercise is medicine” is the new medicine: in which physical therapy becomes a formalized part of medical treatment programs. This will include prescriptions written by doctors that provide for treatment by fitness professionals. The goal of EIM is to slow, stop or reverse the progression of chronic diseases: and as those diseases and the resultant cost accelerates, innovative programs around EiM will pick up speed.
10. Collaborative careers take over. With ongoing specialization of knowledge, organizations will find that they will have to spend more time simply coordinating access to knowledge. The trend is already playing out in health care: one study found that physicians believe they will send more time on leading teams and coordinating care, than on the delivery of care directly by themselves! This trend will pick up speed for many reasons, not the least of which is digitization, as tech comes to accelerate the complexity of many industries.
11. Green China: in 2017, the environment will be under siege: the new political reality will likely result in a pushback against anything environmental in the US. A new of uncertainty will drive away investment. The result? Many of the next wave innovations with wind, solar, tidal and other alternative forms of energy will come from a most unsurprising source: China!
12. UI Supremacy. As dumb-devices take centre stage, innovators will work to reverse the trend through better design. User interface design will be HOT, and one of the most in-demand skills going forward! Think about it: in many industries, the first efforts into the world of smart things resulted in some pretty stupid devices! Have you ever tried to use a smart-TV? Infuriating, isn’t it – since there is nothing smart about their ease-of-use at all. Consider this too: most car companies have failed in developing simple, easy to use dashboard systems, but Tesla has not. Result? The iPad design concept will increasingly dominate automotive and other forms of product design. NEST-style thermostat thinking will come to drive the design of residential, commercial and industrial appliances. In store kiosks, self-checkouts and other systems will be rebuilt from the ground up by innovative companies that recognize that good UI is the new winning formula for success. Easy, clean interfaces are in; clunky retrofits are out. Related trend? Upgradability defines future success!
13. The Yottabit era. It’s said that a self-driving car is capturing and processing 7 terabytes of data per hour !That’s a huge amount of information, and is indicative of the fact that the big shift in transportation is that cars are essentially just becoming computers on wheels. The typical truck today contains more technology than a Cessna airplane, and generates massive amounts of logistics, maintenance and other data. It’s not just self-driving cars or connected trucks — as every device becomes a computer device, volumes of data grow at a furious pace. We’re entering yottabit territory, a phrase that I wrote about way back in 1999. (Check out who owns yottabits.com). The exponentiation of data generation doesn’t just mean big data : companies will be dealing with massive data sets, and have to figure out what to do with it. Data-farming will be the new form of analytical insight!
14. IoIT takes over from IOT – Connected intelligence is the new AI, as the Intelligent-Internet-of-Things takes over from boring old Internet-of-Things devices. Quite simply, smart devices become smarter by talking to other smart devices. As they do so, insight gained from connectivity comes to redefine the future of the product. Consider this simple idea: a Cadillac CTS sports sedan can share information with other vehicles about weather, speed, accidents, as well as their own status (breaking, accelerating, etc). That changes the very nature of what the vehicle is, and provides big opportunities for innovation. In the auto-sector, we can expect a lot of advances in this field, known as V2V (or Vehicle to Vehicle communication) . That’s but one industry — what happens when thermostats in a region can talk to other thermostats and online weather sensors, and come to figure out what they should be doing in terms of heating or cooling activities? Or when health care monitoring technologies can determine the emergence of a flu outbreak, and network with other devices to build a predictive analytical healthcare dashboard?
15. Chief Robotics Officers / Chief Automation Officers . According to IDC, 30% of tech and companies in the automation space will fill such a position in the coming year. Automation is all the rage, with many dire predictions on the impact on jobs and careers. But there is more to it than that, with the result that as robotics and automation continues to be deployed after in manufacturing, travel, transportation, retail and elsewhere, companies will come to discover that they will need a senior executive position to strategize, manage and deploy such technologies.
16. Same Day Infrastructure Hubs: As ‘same day’ becomes a regular part of our daily lives, more companies will invest in the infrastructure required to support it. It won’t involve just the same day shipping of goods. For example, the trend for same food delivery is leading to the emergence of commercial kitchens being created in low-rent, low-cost facilities, strictly for the purpose of home delivery. Expect big developments in the world of commercial real estate and related industries as we see the mergence of these supportive hubs in retail, food, grocery, fashion and elsewhere.
17. Complexity partnerships drive innovation. AS things become more complex, companies realize they can’t do it all on their own. More JV’s, skills partnerships, and other forms of talent access become critical. Consider a GE study: 85% of senior executives are concerned about the velocity introduced by digitization and are open to idea collaboration; 75% indicated they are open to share the revenue stream of an innovation collaboration; and 85% indicated such initiatives were growing over the last year. Partnership is the new bedrock for innovation!
A fun little list. There’s lots more! Here’s looking forward to 2017!