3D printing for the masses?
Although I don’t like making predictions, and a single year is usually not enough time to identify significant trends – I’m going out on a limb with a few things that I believe won’t change in the coming year. I’ll frame it in the DEEPEST context and offer some thoughts about what it might take to bend the trend or even some potential game changers. So without any further ado, here are my predictions of the obvious for 2013:
The Graying of the Workforce will continue as the Baby Boom generation celebrates another birthday. Those Boomers fortunate enough to have kept their jobs through the Great Recession will likely hold on to them for at least another year, even those eligible for retirement. The long-suffering GenX will have to wait still longer for their opportunity to move up the ladder while the GenY Millennials struggle to understand why they have to show up at a particular time and stay all day.
What might change? A sudden surge in the stock market that restores the value of retirement accounts lost in the Great Recession might encourage Boomers to leave the workforce – although because many are still vigorous and healthy, they would likely seek some other form of employment such as part-time or volunteer.
Gasoline prices will continue to be volatile, but swinging within a fairly narrow range between $3 and $4. “Fracking” will drive the price of natural gas a bit lower, but the environmental concerns will begin to emerge more strongly. As a result, there will be some movement away from “dirty” energy such as coal, but no significant new development of new “clean” energy such as wind.
What might change? A crisis in the Middle East involving Iran, Israel, Syria, Egypt or even Saudi Arabia could send oil prices skyrocketing.
In 2013, several areas will experience a drought while others will have flooding. It will be hotter than normal, except where it’s colder than normal. Hurricanes will threaten the coast and tornadoes will tear through the midwest. In other words – a normal year. Some experts will blame any unusual weather on global warming, while others will point out that any single weather event can’t be attributed to any single cause. There will be no significant pollution or climate legislation passed (see Politics.) 2013 will end up as one of the warmest years on record.
What might change? It is possible that another Katrina or Sandy hitting a major metropolitan area could bring climate change to the forefront, but I see that as unlikely (the conversation, not the weather event.)
The gridlock in Washington will continue unabated. Major political/economic disasters will be avoided (fiscal cliff, default) but just barely. Any agreements between parties will be narrow, short-term and less than necessary, kicking the proverbial can ever farther down the road. Although there may be more open discussion about the need for moderation and bipartisanship, the hard-line, ideological, partisan voices will still dominate, drowning out more moderate voices on both sides of the aisle.
What might change? A failure to reach any agreement on a significant issue could result in real political or economic damage to the US. The popular backlash could be enough to force both parties to engage in true negotiation and compromise. On the other hand, a significant external threat to the country (North Korea? Iran?) might shift the focus away from partisan bickering to uniting for the good of the nation.
The recovery will muddle along, with consumer confidence slowly growing and unemployment slowly shrinking – but nothing anyone will get excited about. The stock market will continue to reflect political rather than economic realities, rising and falling based more on what’s happening in Washington or Berlin than in Greenville and Franklin.
What might change? Greece and Spain could implode, sucking the rest of Europe into another recession or depression – with serious implications for the US. Or the Congress could choose to default on the debt (see Politics,) sending the US economy back into recession.
The “culture of celebrity” will continue with everyone from the royal baby to Honey BooBoo receiving front-page coverage. So-called “reality” TV will still make stars out of the worst examples of “ordinary” people and we will still express our distaste for their exploitation – even as we tune in each week.
What might change? Some reality show or celebrity gossip could cross the line either by showing something taboo or causing some tragic event. That might then cause a backlash from the public and a rethinking by the entertainment industry.
The proliferation of handheld devices will continue, with a few challengers to Apple’s iDominance. There will be more tablets sold than laptops in 2013 even while the line between tablet and cellphone blurs. More and more people will do business online, and will expect instant access to their own information, instant service, and increasingly, instant delivery. Facebook will continue to grow, although its prominence may recede somewhat due to the growth of other social media such as Pinterest.
What might change? A new “Apple-killer” device or software could come on the market, significantly changing the way people interact with the technology and with each other.
So there you have it! It’s pretty easy to predict the future when you expect that tomorrow will be just like today, only more of it.
But we know that’s not how it works. TrendSurfing is about taking what’s happening now and imaging what it would take to change things, and more importantly what to do to prepare for whatever might happen.
May your 2013 bring you only happy surprises!
The New York Times did a story recently on the future of the RIM BlackBerry called “The BlackBerry, Aiming to Avoid the Hall of Fallen Giants.” The article lists several products that were once the pinnacle of technology – everybody either had one or wanted on – but were superseded by other disruptive technologies.
For now the iPhone and iPad are the giants. I wonder what’s lurking just over the horizon that might make them obsolete?
From the article:
SONY WALKMAN (1979-2010) Before the Walkman, “personal audio” meant holding a transistor radio to your ear. Sony’s invention created an entire category of devices and helped make the company the technology leader of the 1980s. New models (Thinner! Auto-reverse!) were eagerly anticipated, the LP was relegated to the attic and tender moments spent listening to mix tapes from that certain someone proliferated across teenage bedrooms. Sony seemed incapable of putting a foot wrong. It successfully moved the brand into compact discs with the Discman, then bought record labels and movie studios to bring about that illusory marriage of technology and content. When the digital revolution hit, Sony was too beholden to its proprietary formats, as well as to the inertia inside its media companies. Enter Apple and the iPod.
PAGERS (BORN 1951) At first, pagers were attached to people who worked in fields where lives were on the line. That usually meant doctors, though the group expanded in the late 1980s to include drug dealers. Early beepers displayed only numbers, giving rise to a numerical lexicon that included codes like 911 (call me back immediately) and 07734, which resembles “hello” when read upside down. Pagers briefly gained fame in early 1990s hip-hop, showing up in songs like “Skypager,” by a Tribe Called Quest. The pager’s fall was attributable to the disruptive and destructive powers of another technology: the mobile phone. Why beep when you can talk? And a pager message is so tiny that it makes a tweet look like “The Iliad.” The beeper does live on, in limited circles: its network remains more reliable than cell networks, making it useful to E.M.S. and other rescue workers.
PALM PILOT (1997-2007) Filofax brought personal organizers to their analog apogee in the early ’90s, but Palm brought them into the digital age. Palm Pilots were dazzling when they first appeared: all of your contacts, calendars and notes in one slim, pocket-size device. A touch screen, which required a stylus, made navigation easy. And you could add software, bought through an online store. Want a Zagat guide to go along with your personal data? No problem. In later years, Palm even added telephone features, creating a compelling, all-in-one gadget. Despite boardroom dramas that affected the company’s name and its ownership, Palm’s reputation as a source of innovative hardware and software endured until Jan. 9, 2007. Why that date? That’s when Apple introduced the iPhone.
POLAROID INSTANT CAMERAS (1948-2008) Edwin Land’s invention of instant-developing film in 1948 put a darkroom inside a handheld camera. That achievement gave his Polaroid Corporation a distinct advantage over traditional film cameras. By 1980, Polaroid was selling 7.8 million cameras a year in the United States — more than half of all the 15 million cameras, instant and traditional, sold that year. In 1985, it won a major patent-infringement suit, forcing Kodak to abandon its own instant-camera efforts. The victory was short-lived. The late ’80s brought the rise of the digital camera. By 2000, digital cameras began appearing on cellphones, placing cameras in millions of pockets. Polaroid declared bankruptcy for the first time in 2001 and stopped making instant film in 2008. Kodak declared bankruptcy on Jan. 19.
ATARI 2600 (1977-c.1984) It wasn’t the first game console, but the Atari 2600 brought video games into the home and popular culture. Over its life span, more than 30 million were sold. Pong, Combat, Pitfall and Frogger soaked up children’s afternoons. Then came the PC, which could play games and do much more. Atari rushed out games, assuming that its customers would play whatever it released. They didn’t. Millions of unsold games and consoles were buried in a New Mexico landfill in 1983. Warner Communications, which bought Atari in 1976 for $28 million, sold it in 1984 for no cash.
It’s official. A study released by Google yesterday shows that mobile devices, and smart phones in particular, are now the dominant means of Internet connectivity in five key global markets.
Google conducted the study of smart phone versus feature phone ownership rates throughout last year, pulling data from the USA, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. It found that, while smart phones were were quickly pushing out older feature phones—as you can see above—together, a full 10-percent more people own these connected mobile devices than PC’s or laptops (78-percent vs 68-percent). Tablets were counted separately and are owned by an average of 13-percent of people in these markets.
The first is a Kinect-type 3D visualization tool that will allow online shoppers to virtually “try on” clothes:
The ability to try clothes on at the store has been a benefit catalogue or online channels have never been able to compete with. But now, the sophisticated depth-camera behind Kinect is being used to reveal how the clothes fit on your body-shoppers can evaluate a heat map output to see where the item is tight or loose fitting.
The second is a sort of indoor GPS that will allow shoppers to find specific items in a store and allow retailers to “push” information to consumers’ smartphones:
…enables in-store navigation to help the shopper find what they’re looking for with significant accuracy. The opportunity to have customized offers and loyalty rewards based on our proximity to the shelf will be transformative for both marketers and shoppers.
The third is printable MEMS:
Microelectro-mechanical systems are basically just very small electronic devices and they’ve redefined what even the tiniest of objects are capable of
While MEMS are not new, due to advances in printed electronics, they are increasingly enabling sensors in a range of devices and products. Nike Plus, Jawbone, FitBit and now Motorola have launched products that track your physical activity with precision. However, using MEMS for exercise, mood, sleep, and nutritional purposes is just a start. Expect to see printed sensors appearing on durable goods and disposable products – imagine the wine bottle that shows if it’s been kept at optimal temperatures, or the ability to combine automotive data with your purchase history to help you make smarter, more efficient shopping trips. Watch out because when it comes to shopping, micro sensors, not robots will inherit the earth.
Virtual dressing rooms, smart stores and smart stuff – coming soon to a retailer near you!
Apple announced today that it is getting into the e-textbook business. Will students in the future trade a backpack full of textbooks for an iPad?