After the whirlwind of development, creation, progress, and setbacks that happened in 2016, you may wonder where we go from here. The good news? No matter what changes in the worlds of tech, politics, and policy, the wheels of innovation never stop turning. Yet, amidst endless chatter on the hot topics in the field of innovation, it can be hard to discern which trends are truly here to stay. It doesn’t matter if you have your eyes glued to the market or if you’re just a casual observer — these are the 10 innovation trends from the Fahrenheit 212 team that you need to be ready for this year (and in the years, or in some cases decades, that follow).
The demand for smart devices and connected products, aka the Internet of Things, isn’t going anywhere according to Idea Development Associate Kate Fairweather. But the way we use our smart devices is evolving. Instead of always competing for attention, brands are realizing that consumers would rather mix and match products to their preferences. Instead of being forced to purchase a specific outlet that speaks to a specific smart light bulb that speaks to a specific security system, companies are wising up and playing nice with one another to make customers’ lives easier — which was the purpose of connected devices from the beginning.
Looking to the future, brands should be prepared for consumer expectations to drive them even closer together. We’ll see smart scales providing information to fitness trackers that then power apps on smart fridges to act as a customer’s virtual personal nutritionist. We’ll see home security systems use the GPS on your smartwatch to power your smart lock, making homes safer and security more seamless for the customer. The Internet of Things is here, and now it’s forcing companies to work together in new and exciting ways.
You often hear that “______ is the new UI,” but in reality no one UI modality is going to beat out the rest, predicts Carson Miller, Head of Digital. Instead, you’ll be seeing a more well-rounded UI experience — one that involves touch, text, voice and more — as the future of interaction. Amazon Echo and Google Home, for example, have pushed voice UI into the spotlight, but VR and augmented reality apps have shown that one singular experience is no longer the cornerstone of user interface. As brands begin experimenting with AI and VR, it’s important to look beyond one platform and find ways to innovate across touch, text and voice mediums for a well-rounded experience that truly brings users into the future.
Nick Bertha, Idea Development Associate, believes that minimalism is the name of the game, and modular home design is one key result of that growing trend. If you haven’t heard: Years ago Marie Kondo released the bestselling bible on decluttering, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Since then, people have found themselves downsizing, cleaning out their homes, and leading lives with less overall “stuff.”
The growing tiny house movement, new gig economy and ability for knowledge-based workers to work from anywhere has also encouraged a more nomadic — yet always connected — lifestyle. The same way that cars are becoming more like moving houses, actual houses are becoming customizable, portable, and tailored to specific needs. The trend has also caught on for minimalists who don’t want to live a nomadic existence, resulting in tiny urban dwellings that are modular, efficient, and will allow ever-growing cities to fit more people into less space.
As your company innovates, consider how you can shape products to fit not just the modular home trend, but the entire mindset that comes with minimalism. The world is only becoming more nomadic, and future innovations will need to be accessible without putting geographic limitations on your customers.
Innovation Analyst Jack Dennen projects that while true AI can still feel like a distant future out of your nearest sci-fi movie, its accessibility is much closer than people may think. Artificial intelligence is already being used across many industries, and the companies that interact with casual consumers on a daily basis — Facebook, Apple, Microsoft — are also increasing their investments in AI this year. Not to mention the rise of chatbots, whose capabilities and uses are getting stronger and more creative by the day. AI is already a part of our daily interactions with Siri and Alexa, but as AI investment grows, the experience will improve and “I didn’t understand the question” responses will be much fewer and farther between.
Artificial intelligence growth goes hand-in-hand with the rise of smart technology and seamless interconnectivity we mentioned above. The time to begin investing in AI is now, and companies that don’t will fall behind. As AI quality improves, users will become more familiar with the technology and will begin to crave the ease of use it provides in even more of their daily interactions.
Innovation Consultant Maria Potoroczyn predicts that the field of genomics is poised to become the next trillion dollar industry. Currently we know 99 percent of the global human genome, but research and the overall field of knowledge is growing rapidly. According to Brock Peters of Complete Genomics, Inc., every newborn in the United States will have their genome screened at birth in the next 5 to 10 years. This means endless possibilities for companies in the medical field: Diseases will be diagnosed much earlier; Cancer can be found with blood samples as opposed to MRIs; Medicine will soon be design specifically for individuals’ specific genetic makeup.
The downside is that life insurers are legally allowed to discriminate based on genetic makeup, which means the concerns around genetic testing are growing. This offers an opportunity to drive innovation and will result in disruptions across the insurance industry as well.
Smartphones continue to grow in size, but the problem is our pockets, purses, and bags are staying the same. The solution? According to Managing Partner Pete Maulik, phones that fold out into larger tablets with bendable, flexible displays. It also makes sense because, as fast as smartphones are growing, tablets are shrinking, resulting in less need for two separate devices. Samsung is already teasing a foldable phone design, which allows for convenient portability while maximizing screen capacity. Flexible displays could also offer relief for those of us who are constantly shattering rigid, glass screens.
The existence of this technology opens up a world of possibilities for companies looking to innovate with both physical and virtual products. Consider what can be done with virtual reality on a flat cell phone screen —now think about how that can be amplified with a screen that is able to bend, fold, shrink and expand.
As much as large companies would love to keep up with small startups, often internal processes and bureaucratic boundaries can prevent that from happening. As such, Talent Strategist Arthur Matuszewski points out that it can be necessary to outsource innovation in order to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in tech. New innovations occur at lightning speed, and collaborating with external innovation experts has proven highly advantageous for big brands.
It’s a successful arrangement that will continue to grow in the future, since external partners can channel all their energy and creativity toward innovation without the limitations and corporate roadblocks of the core company. Everyone wants to have an edge on creative new strategies, and this is one way brands have found to do that expediently.
We all know VR is rapidly taking over the tech space — but now it may be infiltrating your office, too. Arthur also argues that the possibilities for virtual reality in the workplace are promising: Recent hires could train more quickly and effectively in an environment that simulates their actual work experience. HR training could take on an entirely new weight if employees can experience the literal perspective of those experiencing conflict, discrimination or sexual assault. Remote employees have the potential to participate in meetings that are more present and realistic than a phone call or video conference. An entirely distributed company could even have virtual meetings to reap the benefits of in-office camaraderie. And for those who work in high-risk, high-stress fields, such as pilots, police officers, and doctors, virtual reality can offer an opportunity to practice and test-run before real-life scenarios occur.
The opportunities for VR in the workplace feel virtually endless (no pun intended), which offers companies the chance to customize the technology and create solutions that are truly unique to each industry, brand and team.
Maria also highlights the increasingly huge concern of protecting personal information, especially as our homes and systems become more connected and seamless. As Wired magazine writer Lily Hay Newman put it, “This is the year everyone —not just techno-libertarians in tinfoil hats — becomes privacy advocates.”
Looking to capitalize on the vulnerabilities around our personal data, both existing insurance companies and startups have started offering an added level of security and trust to digital information. Blockchain is a technology that can change the way information and digital transactions are handled; insurance companies are utilizing its extra level of security to ensure consumers’ privacy.
As you look toward the future, it’s vital to make sure you have security provisions in place, not just for your company’s data but for your customers’ data as well. Users will begin focusing on security as a key factor as they choose which products to use and which businesses to work with.
According to Senior Innovation Associate Thomas Abraham, the increasing anxiety about whether robots may one day take all of our jobs is rooted in a potential future reality. Entry level jobs, for both blue collar and white collar industries, are likely to be displaced by automation as soon as this year. Though robots have a very high price upfront, think about the the long-term payoff; robots don’t need a salary or benefits, and there’s no need to leave room for human error. With potential ROI in 12 months or less, you may find it’s worth the investment for your business.
Thomas also believes there’s another upside. Robots won’t take every job, and new industries and positions are already rising up in place of those skills likely to be automated. And more good news is that the parts of your business that might put humans at risk, like manufacturing, can be made much safer — or at least improved — with automation.
The future is ever changing, and there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen next. However, you can prepare for innovations on the horizon and ensure that your business plays a key part in our ever-evolving future. Use these insights from the Fahrenheit 212 team to drive your company forward and create a better experience for your users, whether you’re investing in virtual reality, personal security, or the next modular home product. Maybe next year, one of your innovations will make this list.