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My insight on the future of packaging is featured in the May/June issue of Frame magazine, ostensibly the the leading global publications focused on all things ‘design.’

The article offers up all the thoughts I have on the future of packaging in the world of retail – hyperconnected, aware, interactive, and a world in which the package is the brand. I’ve been speaking and writing about the future of packaging for almost 20 years — take a look at some of the posts in this link here.

I’m working on getting the text and will link to it, but for now, here’s the article in image form. Click to make it bigger!

Here’s the text:

Shopping is becoming a matter of seconds
Frame Magazine, May/June 2017

‘I did all of my Christmas shopping on Amazon this year and didn’t visit a single store,’ says American futurist Jim Carroll, an expert in spotting trends and innovative advances. ‘It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. It is in a state of upheaval.’

Some of the trends? He mentions ‘shopper or proximity marketing’, which combines location intelligence, constant mobile connection and in-store display to create a new form of instantaneously personalized in-store promotion. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay is ticking upwards, and – also pioneered by the likes of Apple – the cash register is disappearing, replaced by portable wireless credit-card devices.

>Big brands like Google, Amazon and the John Lewis department stores continue their move to same-day shipping. Even the automobile is being turned into an online shopping and credit-card platform. Tech like Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots require no more than a spoken word to add a product to our shopping cart for delivery within an hour, while a ‘click and collect’ infrastructure allows for same-day pick-up, at a bricks-and-mortar location, of an online purchase.

It’s clear that active intelligent packaging and Internet of Things products, which have been disrupting product life cycles, are accelerating product obsolescence and affecting both inventory and supply chain. ‘This means,’ says Carroll, ‘that faster “store fashion” with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction will become critically important.’

Although the average consumer can scan 3.6 m of shelf space per second, consumers wander around stores today glued to the screens of mobile devices, paying only incidental attention to merchandise, store layout, branding or promotional messages. No wonder TV screens and video projections are filling stores. ‘Mobile interactions in the retail space are the new normal for purchasing influence,’ Carroll says. ‘Retailers have got only micro-seconds to grab the attention of the low-attention-span shopper, which means that we will have to constantly innovate and adapt our retail space. The very nature of in-store interaction, flow and layout is changing very fast.’

How designers will respond to these rapid changes imaginatively is still a blank page for designers to fill. ‘We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next five years than we have seen in the last 100. That doesn’t mean traditional design parameters and methodologies will disappear. It’s just that we now have opportunities to integrate unique technology interaction into retail design in a wide variety of ways,’ Carroll says. ‘I think there’sopportunity coming for innovation in the design of retail space, not less.’

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I do a tremendous amount of research as I customize for my keynotes, often reading several hundred articles on a particular issue or topic as I prepare.

A few months back I was going through a set of articles about the Jetsons, a new keynote topic for me that is getting a huge amount of attention! In doing so, I came across a fascinating story about a school in Seattle that just opened a time capsule that was put away in 1962. The article took a look at what was predicted in 1962, where we are today, and what the kids of 1962 now thought we would see in 2062! You can read it below.

This got me thinking — why not get involved in a project to do the same thing! And so I turned to my good buddy Ian Bates, a Grade 5 teacher. I’ve previously written about him in a post, Things I’ve Learned from Golfing with a Grade 5 Teacher, to see if this might be an idea worth pursuing. (I also went into his classroom last year for a fun little project – What’s the Future of Education? Let the Kids Have a Say — with his Grade 5 kids about careers in the future.)


It took him about 30 seconds before he responded, and so we’ve got a project underway. I went into the classroom and spoke to the kids about the project. They are now busy preparing their predictions and ideas; we’ll revisit in April and put away an actual time capsule to be opened in the year 2045.

This should be interesting! Stay tuned! But to really find out what they are thinking, you are going to have to wait a number of years…..


Pocket phones to flying cars: Third-graders predicted them in ’62
15 April 2012, The Seattle Times

How did Laurelhurst’s 1962 third-graders do at predicting the future?

For expert input, we turned to the Pacific Science Center, which tapped two of its “Science Communication Fellows” — Erika Harnett, a University of Washington professor in Earth and space sciences, and Alex Miller, a UW postdoctoral researcher in chemistry.

We also asked the former Laurelhurst students for predictions about life 50 years from now.

Bert Kolde, 57, Mercer Island, senior director of Vulcan
His 1962 prediction: In space “we will eat paste from tubes.”
The reality: Astronauts don’t eat paste from tubes, but they do eat ice cream from foil packets, and other things, too. The word I’ve heard from astronauts is that the food in space is much like what we eat on Earth, and quite good, too — much better than one would find in many a school cafeteria. — Harnett
Kolde’s prediction for 2062: Rosie the Robot, from “The Jetsons,” will be a mainstream household appliance.

Phoebe Russell, 59, West Seattle, soccer scheduler and registrar
Her 1962 prediction: “There will be a rocket for everyone.”
The reality: While we don’t each have a rocket yet, a commercial spaceport is being built in New Mexico and a firm, Virgin Galactic, is taking bookings for the public to fly into space, for a brief few minutes. — Harnett
Russell’s prediction for 2062: “Government-supplied, accident-proof, sustainable nano-tech-fueled vehicles for all.”

Chris Rich, 58, Seattle, forest-resource company executive
Her 1962 prediction: “You will be able to have a telephone in your pocket.”
The reality: Not only do we have pocket phones, but they have cameras, video cameras, music players and the Internet inside them. — Miller
Rich’s prediction for 2062: “We will have a cashless society and use digital money stored on an all-purpose device that fits in your pocket.”

Tom Greene, 58, Bainbridge Island, co-founded frozen-food company
His 1962 prediction: “The best change will be to go way past Pluto in a rocket so we can find more planets and find out if there is any more life way out in space.”
The reality: Four spacecraft have traveled past Pluto’s orbit, Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2. We still receive signals from the Voyager spacecraft with useful science and hope to do so until 2025, when the power systems will fail. — Harnett

Tom Norwalk, 58, Bothell, heads Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau
His 1962 prediction: “If I went to Pluto. Then I could see the Earth as a star.”
The reality: ∫ A spacecraft, called New Horizons, will be flying past Pluto in 2015 … Scientists will likely try to take an image of the Earth but I don’t know how sensitive the optics are and what the Earth will look like. — Harnett
Norwalk’s prediction for 2062: Seattle will finally have an NBA team and our city will be in the top five destinations to visit in America.

David Shulman, 59, Seattle, film-institute founder
His 1962 prediction: “I want to go to Jupiter because it is the largest planet.”
The reality: Although people have not traveled to Jupiter, the U.S. has sent several spacecraft past Jupiter and one, Galileo, not only spent several years orbiting Jupiter, it launched a probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere and then took a final, fatal plunge into Jupiter’s atmosphere. — Harnett
Shulman’s prediction for 2062: Communication occurs through touch, voice, and even thought. Global warming and rising sea levels; U.S. power concentrated by wealthy under a near-totalitarian government.

Bruce Williams, 58, Leavenworth, retired bank head
His 1962 prediction: Cars that will “float through the air … without stopping for gasoline.”
The reality: A startup company, Terrafugia, has a working prototype of a flying car, and it is taking pre-sales orders … So, flying cars do exist, but not for everyone yet, but soon. We don’t yet have cars that can travel without stopping for fuel, apart from prototypes. Some spacecraft don’t have to stop for fuel because they use solar panels to generate electricity to power the instruments. — Miller
Williams’ prediction for 2062: Zero communicable-disease deaths; 15 percent probability of a catastrophe, such as a nuclear attack, pandemic, mega-earthquake, volcanic eruption or environmental disaster.

Webb Nelson, 59, Seattle, co-founded toy company
Third-grade prediction: “We would have a new invention to get us somewhere under the Earth … something different. And faster.”
The reality: Subways and tunnels conduct below-ground traffic, but largely in transportation forms that have existed for decades. Nelson’s prediction for 2062: Concrete gets harder and stronger with age; the Space Needle will have a centennial anniversary. — Miller
Nelson’s prediction for 2062: Concrete gets harder and stronger with age; the Space Needle will have a centennial anniversary.

 

For years, I’ve explained to my global client base that access to skills and talent will been to the key element for success going forward. Two good examples? Fast trends in the world of self-driving cars, and the acceleration of trends in retail.

I was thinking about this today as two articles floated through my news clipping service: an article in Fortune that outlined how “Walmart Is Launching a Tech Incubator in Silicon Valley.” The second involved quite a few articles that spoke about the new partnerships occurring in the world of self-driving car technology, such as one in Sci-Tech: “Intel’s Not the Only Big Company To Find a Self-Driving Partner.

There are two big issues that are in play here that can be summarized quite nicely, which I’ve explained for quite some time:

  •  every industry is becoming a tech industry, and every company is becoming a software company – with the result that companies such as Walmart have to set up in the heart of the tech world in order to get ahead
  • companies are quickly discovering that they don’t have the skills to do what needs to be done – hence, they need to partner up to get things done — which is the key trend occurring in the world of autonomous vehicles right now

This is echoed by some research I presented in several recent meetings with major private equity investors, based on a study by GE, which found that among senior executives:

  • 85% 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
  • 85% indicated such initiatives were growing over the last year

Key trend? The race for tech skills is going to accelerate; new forms of partnership will be established faster; lots of money will be made by those who have the requisite skills; and this will be a defining issue for success going forward!

Need a bigger example? This headline: “Ford is putting $1 billion into an AI startup, Detroit’s biggest investment yet in self-driving car tech.” Think about that — essentially, it’s a billion dollar investment to get the right skills, at the right time, for the right purpose.

 

A time when technology arrives to market obsolete
Futurist Jim Carroll describes trucking trends likely to shape disruptive years to come
Mar 17, 2017 Aaron Marsh | Fleet Owner

It’s a pretty wild concept: that technology today — including that in trucking — is being eclipsed and outdated almost as soon as it can be brought to market. But if you want to know what’s around the next corner for trucking, that’s where you need to start, says futurist Jim Carroll.

According to this future trends analyst and foreseer of sorts, if you want to get out in front of the next big change in trucking, keep in mind that when it comes to the future, you may have no idea what you should really be thinking about.

To set the stage and “bring you into my world — and that is a world of extremely fast-paced change,” Carroll referenced research on the future of careers in the U.S. that suggests about 65% of children now in preschool will have a job in a career that does not yet exist.

“Think about that: if you have a daughter, son, granddaughter, niece, nephew or whatever who’s in kindergarten or grade one, roughly seven out of 10 of them are going to work in a job or career that does not even yet exist,” Carroll told listeners. He spoke at the recent Omnitracs Outlook user conference in Phoenix.

How does something like that happen? It already did recently: he gave the example of smartphones and GPS services, which have sprung up over about the same time period. It’s resulted in geographically and directions-oriented apps and location intelligence professionals. Oh, wait a minute — “location intelligence professionals”?

“Think about that phrase, and think about what’s happening in the world of trucking and logistics,” Carroll noted. “Think about how integral all of those mapping applications have become in the world of your business.”

“That’s a career that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago,” he continued. “Now, cast your mind into the world of trucking 10 years from now and think about the careers and jobs that might exist.”

Here’s another guiding example. If you take “any type of degree today based on science” at a college or university, Carroll contended, “things are evolving so quickly that it’s estimated that half of what we learn in the very first year of a degree program will be obsolete or revised by the time we graduate three years later.”

Those who are fast

The point is, technology changes are coming from seemingly everywhere, and change — including in trucks and their growing embedded technology like Internet connectivity or advanced safety products — is accelerating.

And that is so much the case, noted Carroll, that many kinds of technology are out-of-date almost as soon as they hit the market and you can buy them. Think about smartphones, which often see multiple models of a given phone issued in a single year.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence.”
—Futurist Jim Carroll

That drive for the latest model has now even filtered into social standing. “The way your friends judge you today is very much based on the technology you carry around,” Carroll observed. “So in other words, if you go to a party and take out a flip phone, people will be kind of looking at you like, ‘What a loser — he’s got something from the olden days.'”

Carroll gave another example of digital cameras — actually something of a moot point, he suggested, since “this is back in the old days five years ago when people actually bought cameras and weren’t all just using their phones” — where products have about 3-6 months after they’re brought to market before they’re obsolete.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence,” he argued, attributing that phrase to global media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Some years ago, Murdoch had pointed out that there is such change happening and at such speed, “that increasingly, the future belongs to those who are fast,” Carroll said.

Trucking: unrecognizable

Polling the audience, he asked listeners what they thought the trucking industry — its methods, its equipment, its technology — would look like in a decade. Most everyone, 86% of those who texted in, voted that they think the industry will be “barely recognizeable, or fully and completely disrupted.”

That’s a clear expectation of considerable change in trucking. “So let’s try another question: if we are in the midst of so much change,” Carroll said, “are we prepared for it?”

And on that note, he added that being prepared for the potentially disruptive/ disrupted future of trucking is to realize that change has been happening faster, particularly in these latter years, than people expected.

To illustrate how, Carroll referenced a time he’d spoken before a roomful of astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA about the future of space. Carroll’s choice of what to present on? The Jetsons. That animated TV show came out in 1962 and was meant to depict life 100 years in the future in 2062.

Except, if you watch some of those old episodes, “George [Jetson] is using Skype. He’s getting his news off the Internet,” contended Carroll. “Elroy has a drone. You can watch one episode where he’s sitting in the living room and using a controller just like we have with our drones.

Along with the Jetsons, here’s another example of the sci-fi, fictional future arriving sooner than expected: a group of scientists has prototyped this device, Carroll noted as he held it up to his head, which essentially works like the Star Trek medical tricorder set in the 23rd century.

“You can watch another episode where they’ve got an Apple Watch,” he continued. “George communicates with his boss via Facetime. Obviously, they’ve got self-driving cars, autonomous vehicles, all over the place, albeit they fly.”

“My point is this: we believed that this future would arrive in 2062, and all of a sudden, it is here much sooner than we thought,” he told the audience. “Could that be the case with our future overall?”

In terms of envisioning the future, perhaps think a little offbeat but observe the trends converging. Here’s an example. “Think about trends, and think about what has happened with drone technology,” noted Carroll. “I think a trend which is going to lead us to the world of self-driving, flying cars is we’re going to learn how to scale up our drones and sit a human in them.”

Warehouses on wheels

Carroll advised trucking professionals to think big change when they’re picturing what the industry will look like in the years to come. “Think about what’s happening here,” he said. “There are people with big, bold ideas. Think about what’s happening in the transportation space.”

What kinds of things could happen? Maybe a new type of truck or vehicle will be developed. Autonomous technology could be accelerated and advanced. New distribution models could emerge. Or maybe something else could — something entirely different that turns the trucking you know now into the trucking you knew way back when.

“We’re going to talk to our truck just as we talk to our iPhone. We’re going to have augmented reality screens in the visor. We’ll probably have robotic handlers built into the truck for loading and unloading. We’ll have payment technology built into the vehicle — not only has our cell phone become a credit card, but so has our truck.

“We’ll simply do a biometric thumbprint to complete a transaction,” Carroll painted his future trucking portrait. The only thing, though, is that those technologies, and testing of them, is happening now.

There’s also this: “Part of the changes you see happening [in trucking] is we are witnessing very significant changes in what retailers and manufacturers are doing with their supply chains,” he added. Trucks can now become something more like mobile distribution hubs, for example.

Because of the rise of online shopping and fulfillment, stores will become more like showrooms, and “we’re witnessing the end of inventory,” Carroll contended. Consumers will browse these showrooms and purchase a product, he suggested, and then a streamlined distribution system will deliver that item to the purchaser’s home — hint: trucking would have to be involved here — perhaps even within an hour.

“You are becoming warehouses on wheels, and everybody has this in their sights in terms of big, transformative thinking in your industry,” he argued. “And what is really also happening is that every single industry out there is speeding up.”

Last week, I was in Palm Springs, California, with a session for a board of directors on what’s really going on with the acceleration towards self-driving cars and trucks.

To prepare, I used my secret weapon, and actually grabbed close to 850 articles from the last two months on things going on in this fast moving sector, and read through them all. Whoah! Lots happening and fast! ( That’s typical of the preparation I put into many of my leadership meetings and keynotes.)

One article in the bunch, though, really captured my attention: “Penguins could keep your self driving car safe“. The article was published in January over at the Daily Mail. 

The essence of the research reported upon in the article is this: “penguins hunt in groups and synchronize their dives to catch fish.” Studying how they do so could provide invaluable insight into the evolution of self-driving cars. Much of the article focused on how that type of behaviour could help to avoid the future hacking of cars, but I think that there is much more going on than that…..

Self-driving cars will be connected by telemetry, LIDAR and other technologies, and will operate in a pack mentality to coordinate their efforts. This permits the emergence of ‘pelotons’ — connected ‘trains’ of vehicles in communication with each other, and in communication with intelligent, connnected smart highway technology. (Did you know that Amazon has some patents with respect to the latter?) We are already seeing trials in which groups of 6, 8 or 10 trucks travel together, separated by just a few feet, travelling in a coordinated group at 60mph. Pack-activity.

Penguins are great in travelling in packs, so why not learn how they do it, and engineer that into autonomous vehicle technology…. and so studying how nature does this will provide deep insight into what to do this with cars and trucks.

If you think this through, the result? The Intel-Mobileye $15 billion deal is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, for what is to come in terms of access to skills and R&D in automotive.

You can expect Silicon Valley and car companies to be seeking out and hiring a lot of penguin-researchers, and other specialists in the study of animal behaviour. It’s called biomimicry, and its an approach that has been used for quite some time to engineer unique solutions to complex problems.

The thinking is that there are opportunities that can come from emulating the time-proven methodologies and strategies as seen in nature. Examples abound, as noted in the Daily Mail article:

  • the way that ants communicate has been used in telecommunications research
  • “Salto”, the jumping robot seen below, was developed by studying the behaviour of “bush-babies”

It goes beyond animals : I’ve been keynoting quite a few manufacturing conferences, and have spoken about the acceleration of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. Here’s something cool : Airbus is evolving its approach to 3D printing by study botany, with the thinking that if it can mimic the structural strength of plants, it can print interior structures that are lighter and stronger. Important for airplanes!

In other words, the future doesn’t just belong to those who are fast. It belongs to those who understand the importance of penguins!

So … last week I was in Miami, and did a talk on business disruption, transformation and innovation for about 30 CEO’s of companies in the healthcare, tech and IT sectors, on behalf of a private equity firm. The meeting also included a wide ranging discussion with a panel of ‘mentor’ CEO’s.

This is one of several events of this type I’ve done; through the years, an increasing number of private wealth, family offices and private equity firms have brought me in for talks, including a keynote in Greece where there was about $1 trillion of value in the room. At the conclusion, I managed to query all of these CEO’s on the biggest perceived challenges they face going forward.

Check out their response! Talent and skills! Speed of change!

The issues in the poll were the ones that they raised as major concerns, during the discussion part of the meeting, and had to do with these issues:

  • how does a CEO establish an appropriate balance between the necessity for leadership and the criticality of strategy time?
  • how to best manage the speed of change
  • how to align their team to emerging trends, challenge and opportunities
  • getting the right talent at the right time for the right purpose
  • establishing an overall organizational culture of speed
  • how to manage the disconnect between needing to change and historical legacy (as well as legacy IT)
  • managing more complex consumer expectations
  • when to jump onto a major trend

This is just so interesting from several perspectives, but first and foremost is this: I’ve long explained to my clients that a key issue for any organization going forward is this: “getting the right skills at the right time for the right purpose.” 

Put this in the context of several recent headlines I’ve used in events : GE hiring more tech talent and purchasing startups than Silicon Valley companies; Ford hiring 27,000 computer tech staff to help it in the race for self-driving cars; and other similar issues.

Clearly talent is a major issue going forward, and workforce and skills innovation is rising to the top!

 

As with anything, the opportunity around the idea of the ‘smart home’, and the reality of what will transpire, varies to a large degree. We are in early days yet!

That was the essence of an exchange I had with a potential client in the home/condo construction market; they were looking at me for an executive offsite concerning their plans in this space, and wanted a senior level executive session that outlined opportunities with smart home construction in the future.

My key goal was to get across to them that a smart home doesn’t just involve throwing in some Internet-connected devices;  it’s not just about the Internet of Things; there is a lot more potential, and the scope of the opportunity is pretty significant in the long term. Given that, they really needed to take a substantive approach that involved not just short term goals but some long term thinking.

Here’s what I outlined:

  1. It”s bigger than you think. The smart home of the future will not only play a role in security and energy, but also also a role in economic development, healthcare virtualization, the reengineering of local energy grids and much, much more
  2. We’ve only just begun. Major organizations, such as appliance and other home device manufacturers, are only just starting to understand where they can go with the smart home. This is outlined in my recent post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture – they are coming to understand that just as Tesla is building cars that can be upgradable, they can play a role in smart homes that will be upgradable and changeable over time. That’s a pretty big scope of opportunity.
  3. The energy side is much more than just connected thermostats The real smart home of the future will be designed with major energy implications in mind. This will involve @ home energy generation, as well as sharable energy systems and support for local community micro-grids. Catch my video on this, Will the Energy Industry be Mp3’d?
  4. AI will play a big role, but no one is sure what that means yet. We are in early days with home AI devices such as Amazon Alexa and other intelligent assistants. Alexa and other devices have caught the attention of the innovators; someone out there is busy engineering future solutions that are barely an idea yet. We don’t know where this aspect will take us!
  5.  Virtual healthcare in the home is a bigger component of the smart home than you realize. Bioconnectivity – the virtualization of healthcare, is massive. The hospital is being reengineered to incorporate the monitoring of patients from afar. Big, bold thinking in the seniors care and other industries will lead to transformation of the very essence of what we think a hospital is – because the home becomes a part of the hospital. Look to the MedCottage for guidance on the opportunity with this issue.
  6. Making it work is pretty complex. An API has been built, but people are only just beginning to use it. Head over to the site, If This Then That. It’s at the vanguard of where we can go with this massive form of hyperconnctivity. It involves a series of rules -if this device does this, then do that. Talk to your phone to turn on your thermostat. Use your phone to see where you are and define a rule if your garage door should open. The number of companies joining IFTT is staggering — it is likely the World Wide Web for the Internet of Things!
  7. Existing players aren’t necessarily the major players. Google was big and early into the game with NEST, but don’t expect that big organizations like GE, Whirlpool and others will easily give up the potential market. While big companies aren’t necessarily the best innovators, I’m seeing a lot of deep, substantive thinking in these organizations as to the real nature of a smart home eco-system.
  8. The economic implications are huge. In the 1950’s, the modern suburb defined the future of economic relocation – companies made decisions based upon where the employees might live. In the future, smart communities wired by smart infrastructure, particularly those supporting the nomadic worker, will have an economic leg up. Wild card: self-driving cars and economic success.
  9. Architectural / design issues are only just being explored. If we can build ultra-smart, energy efficient, secure homes, have we yet hit an understanding of the design opportunity? In this area, think about the Jetsons – it really provides guidance!
  10. The skills issues are massive! I had one of the first Internet enabled thermostats about 17 years ago. My HVAC contractor flipped out when he saw it, complaining he didn’t know how to wire Ethernet stuff. I said that’s ok, my teenage son will do it — and he did! Its going to take a lot of knowledge re-skilling for the future of the smart home!

For each of these areas, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years. By way of examples:

  •  I’ve spent time with many of the companies in the home energy sector; all of Honeywell, Trane, and Lennox have had me in for CEO level events or dealer meetings
  • with the era of smart appliances, I just keynoted a session at Whirlpool/Maytag on the implications and opportunities of the Internet of Things.
  • in the energy field, I’ve spoken about the future of micro-grids and shared energy for the CEO of PG&E, as well as many global energy conferences
  • I’ve done multiple keynotes around the future of virtualized, community oriented healthcare, most recently, for several thousand folks in the seniors care industry
  • on the economic implications , lots of talks — I’ve just been booked by the Western Nevada Economic Development Association for a keynote around this theme, by way of example
  • on the architectural / design issues, I recently had a keynote in St. Louis for Alberici Construction…. and others
  • and on the skills issues, a lot of time, including talking about the future challenges for HVAC contractors and others at the WorldSkills conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil!

One of my favourite future phases is from Bill Gates: Most people tend to overstate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change on a 10 year basis. So it is with the smart, connected home. We’re going to be in a different space 10 years from now, but we are only just starting to define that!

Closing comment? Back in the late 90’s, I wrote a monthly column for one of the world’s leading airlines — Canadian Airlines! One of my columns had to do with the smart home of the future. It’s a fun read today – and I was pretty right about the trends going forward! Have a read!

Soon you’ll be programming the drapes
September 1999 – Canadian Magazine
by Jim Carroll PDF

The last few decades have been marked by promised of innovative new technology for the home. The presumption, of course, is that more technology is good for us and that, in the process, our homes will become “smart.” Yet today, as we consider the number of people whose VCRs still flash 12:00, we wonder just how smart our homes have become.

YESTERDAY

Ever since the 1930s, many industries have predicated a variety of fanciful technologies that would find their way into our homes and make our lives much easier. Most predictions are, in retrospect, hilarious.

Perhaps one of the earliest examples was the introduction of the automatic dishwasher at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Westinghouse presented a dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern (using a Westinghouse dishwasher) and Mrs. Drudge (cleaning her dishes by hand). At the close of the contest (you know who won), the moderator commented that in addition to losing, Mrs. Drudge was not nearly as “neat and refreshed as when she started.” Yes, technology would make us feel better!

Washing dishes seemed to be a favourite theme of the World’s Fair: some 25 years later, the 1964 Fair featured the Norge Dish Maker. The appliance washed and dried plastic dishes – and then ground them up into tiny pellets, which it would then mould them into new plates, cups and saucers!

Walter Cronkite got in on the act, appearing on March 12, 1967 in At Home 2001, a half-hour show about the nature of the home at the dawn of the new millennium. He explained, for example, the duties of the host: “When a guest arrives, he just pulls out his inflatable chair – a small pressurized air capsule would inflate it and it would be ready for use. At the end of the evening he’d just pull out the plug and put the deflated chair back into his little bag.” Need to cook for the guests? Simply reach for the ultimate in convenience food. “A meal might be stored for years and then cooked in seconds,” he said, without a trace of scepticism.

Optimism continued to reign. In 1977, the Vancouver Sun reported on a “domestic android” manufactured by Quasar Industries, which could “serve your dinner, vacuum your rugs, baby-sit your kids and insult your enemies.”

There was a common undercurrent to many of the predictions about the “smart home.” We would have push-button control over everything, a “remote control for the home,” that would allow us to draw the drapes, water the plants, turn down the thermostat, and control virtually every other aspect of the house simply by punching a few buttons.

TODAY

Of course, few of us today have such capabilities – and we wonder if we’d be able to use it even if it were available. After all, how many of us could manage that “remote control for the home” when we find ourselves stymied by the typical 50-button VCR remote control?

The industry is certainly trying to deal with the problem. There is no shortage of ‘smart-home” technology available and apparently some people are buying this stuff – the U.S.-based National Association of Home Builders estimates that, worldwide, some $2 to $4 billion is spent each year on smart-home devices that link security systems, lighting, and entertainment communication systems.

Who buys them? John and Missy Butcher of Chicago, for example. They have spent $100,000 on a home automation system, which means that (if they are in the mood), they can click the “Romance” button on their home automation controller and watch as the curtains are drawn and the lights dim, while listening to music designed to get them in the mood. “Our lives are much easier,” they note.

Of course, we might think, anyone who can spend $100,000 on a home automation system already has an easy life.

TOMORROW

Will the smart home remain largely a concept, an expensive curiosity available only to the richest and most gadget-hungry among us? Likely not. This is one technology that is set to explode in terms of the number of customers it will gain and the practical role it will play in our daily lives. There are several reasons for this.

First, many people now have more than one computer in the home. The computer industry recognizes that linking them together into a home-based local area network is going to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next three years.

We won’t simply be linking the computers in our home. The technology will link all of our devices based on the computer chip into a central control panel, bringing us one step closer to the remote control concept of earlier decades. Three years from now, you may be buying a set of drapes with a microchip. Plug them in, program them – and forget about them.

Second, the emergence of the Internet plays a significant role. Though we think of it as a tool to surf the Web and read e-mail, it is also a technology that will one day link our refrigerator to its manufacturer, notifying the company when the appliance is about to break down – and, in the process, taking us through the next step in home automation.

And finally, there is the ever-decreasing cost of technology. The smart home has always been held back by the fact that the minimum investment was at least $2,000, but that figure is dropping quickly.

And, most significant of all, we’ll barely notice the technology as it sneaks into our home! We’ll be buying appliances, garage door openers, alarm systems and other things for our home, unaware that they contain the necessary intelligence to plug into our home network.

It’s not that we’ll choose to have a smart home – one day, we’ll discover that it’s already smart.

Not quite convinced? Let me quote Walter Cronkite, from that 1967 program. “Sounds preposterous,” he told his audience, with a bit of a smile, “but some people are convinced it will happen.”

Many people have a belief system that has them convinced that the world of tomorrow will look much like it does today, with the result that when they are confronted by the future, they dismiss it.

Case in point – back in 2006, I was the opening keynote speaker for a conference of telecom and cable engineers. I had about 3,000 of them in the room. One of the trends I outlined was that we would see accelerating innovation in terms of bandwidth capacities, particularly as we innovated in terms of optical fibre technology. I suggested to them, for example, that one day soon we would build a router that would stop light in its tracks, examine its packets, and in doing so, see innovative opportunities that would lead to massive increases in accelerated bandwidth.

Of course, they laughed at me. It’s ok. I get used to it.

Some complained to the conference organizers. “How can you bring in someone with such crazy ideas?” Others voiced their skepticism to an industry publication, which ended up writing an article on my crazy observation, dismissing it entirely.

But wait — after that, a number of leading optical scientists came to my defence, and said my prediction was bang on! You can read the resulting blog post which covers the industry publication, When Light Stops.

Fast forward – this news story a few weeks ago caught my attention. We seem to be getting really good at stopping light! Who would have thought? But that’s not the first story in this regard; I’ve been tracking the trend for years.

Here’s the thing about the future — it’s fast, its huge, and it increasingly involves ideas that once seemed crazy becoming a reality.

If you want to be innovative, focus on the crazy. You just might discover some gems of creativity in there. You’ll discover the future.

And realize the best time to pursue an idea is when other people laugh at it.


Need another example? How about printing solar cells on paper? Crazy idea? Not at all! Here’s a clip in which I’m talking about the fact that at MIT, they are learning how to print solar cells onto paper! Oh, and the whole issue of how we can stop light in its tracks….


Be crazy, think crazy, pursue crazy.

Ok, here goes — it’s been a fabulous 8 weeks, as I hit the road running, keynoting a wide variety of events in a number of different industries. New to this unique job – I’m working harder to get stage pictures; I use them in my daily motivational/trends quote. Follow me over on my Instagram page to get them and be inspired!

First off, can I tell you that I love my job? Here’s a picture from when I was on stage for an event in London, England, last month. Never mind that with jet lag, it was the equivalent of 3:30AM in the morning for me.

I’m on, I’m wired, I’m inspired – that’s what I do!

Here’s an overview of what I’ve been up to for the first two months of the year!

Omnitracs Outlook 2017, Phoenix, Arizona – Trucking Keynote

This is a software and logistics company in the fast moving trucking industry – my keynote was all about the future of autonomous trucks, bio-connected driver monitoring, the fast change occurring in the logistics/supply chain industry and more. There’s a blog post about it here.  I’ll have another! I’m doing more and more in the automative/trucking, and general transportation space – to such a degree, I’ve rolled out a separate keynote description: Accelerating the Auto and Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.

United Suppliers Technology Exchange – New Orleans, Louisiana, Agricultural keynote

For this event I had about 300 farmers in the room — and truth be told, I love working with these folks. Farmers are some of the most innovative people I know — they are open to new ideas, the exploration of new technologies; they are constantly in search of new methodologies and so much more. It’s a theme I capture in the agriculture section of my Web site; in particular, read the post Two Types of Farmers. I’ve got a separate keynote description for my agricultural talks : Big Trends in Agriculture: What Will the World’s Oldest Profession Look Like in 2025?

Commscope, Dallas, Texas – The Future of Technology

This company is a long time pioneer in the world of telecom and hi-tech. They know everything is changing with hyperconnectivty, the Internet of Things, massive acceleration in product innovation and product lifecyles, constant growth as every company becomes a software company, and as Moore’s law rules everything from healthcare to agriculture, cars and trucks to every other industry! (That’s a long sentence — and while it might be breathtaking, so is the speed of change). Who better to help them make sense of a future in which the future belongs to those who are fast? (Hint: Me!)

American Financial Services Association – New Orleans – Automotive keynote

Again, in New Orleans — in this case, the finance/leasing end of the automotive industry, including financing companies and the dealer network. So much change in terms of business models in this sector: what’s the future of the  financing of car purchasing, in an era in when people might not even buy cars anymore as the sharing economy takes hold? Not to mention the fact that the very essence of the vehicle is changing as innovation speeds up, the dashboard goes out of date faster, and the resale value changes quicker! Don’t forget – the very nature of what we consider a car is changing as companies like Tesla come to redefine the industry!

Pladis – Godiva Chocolates, McVities Biscuits  Ulker – Keynote on the Future of Food & Retail, London, England

This was a huge amount of fun! I love overseas trips! And what an organization — Pladis is new, with three separate, distinct brands coming together with a focus on future opportunities. My keynote covered trends in fast-changing retail, consumer behaviour, store infrastructure, brand promotion and more. It must have gone well — since Godiva is having me back for a separate supply chain event in Ghent, Belgium in May!

Scotiabank, Toronto, Canada – Future of Banking/Financial Services Keynote

More disruption — business models, the rapid evolution of technology, new competitors with PayPal, Google and Apple. Just what is a bank anymore, and who is it? What do they do in terms of innovation with fast changing expectations, business model disruption, the relentless impact of mobile, the rapid acceleration of innovation from every perspective? Whatever the case may be, agility needs to be the core focus going forward — and that was the overall message within my keynote, which took a deep look at the trends sweeping this industry.

Alberici Group, St, Louis, Missouri – The Future of Architecture and Construction

This was a smaller conference than the others, but equally important! It was a leadership meeting for this major American construction company. My keynote kicked off the event, and covered issues around the rapid emergence of new construction methodologies, new materials and design concepts, fast paced architectural trends, the acceleration of skills and knowledge. This keynote came on the heels of a talk I did in the fall on the same type of issues for the American Concrete Institute – read more here. One of my key goals – get them aligned to the trends in their industry, rather than shying away from them.

Whirlpool, Chicago, Illinois – Future Impact of Internet of Things (#IoT)

This is a company that is making a transition from being a company that sells appliances, to being a computer company that happens to sell hi-tech within appliances. The industry is speeding up as Moore’s law comes to take hold; the value proposition changes with the service-ification (Yup, I made that word up) of business models, and as big device architecture issues come into play. I’m doing a LOT of talks around the Internet of Things — and its nice to see that a senior leadership team in the forefront of what is happening here chose me to come in and share key insight on what’s next.

Stay tuned – March, April, May and June offer a whole bunch more in terms of keynotes and leadership events. I’ll be blogging, tweeting and Instagraming as I go.

I’m cleaning out some old research files, and came across this simple set of statistics: between now and 2050, we will move from 7 to 10 billion people; we need 70% more food, 50% more water, and 50% more fuel.

People always ask me, ‘where are the emerging opportunities for innovation?” Those simple statistics define it perfectly…… there is big potential in agriculture, infrastructure, energy, water …. ignoring the politics for a moment.

Back in 2008, I wrote a document, “Where’s the Growth? Global Innovation Opportunities for the Long Term”. I just read it again — and it was pretty accurate, predicting the rise of the Internet-of-Things (connected thermostats), the acceleration of solar and green tech, and other trends.

Have a read — it’s a PDF, so click on the image or read it here.

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