Back in 2007, I was doing some consulting work for Siemens and was given a copy of their five year forecast for lifestyle technology trends. As I was cleaning out some space in the office this weekend, I ran across this report seven years later, and decided to take a look to see how close they came to what was going to happen (or not) and why. As an economist, I love to look back and see how accurate forecasts turned out to be…..
In 2007, Siemens forecasted five trends, based on a global study from Spring 2006, to see how lifestyle technology would evolve over the next five years (through 2012). The research was done by trend scouts in major cities throughout the world, via street interviews, web research, observation and photography.
The key findings of ‘hotspots’ areas from this study published in 2007 were:
- Escape: separating oneself from the frantic pace of life
- Me: self-identity in technology
- Departure: equipping oneself for any eventuality
- Robots: from sci-fi to reality
- Services: transformation of technology ownership
To summarise, what came true and what did not (and why)?
- Escape: This one obviously came about, with the rise of headset wearing and video watching escapists. Mobile internet also comes under this trend, where movies, gaming and ‘big music’ (full sound, full service) are in daily use. The rise of multiplayer online games was one of the drivers for this trend.
- Me: Fitbit, Google Glass, designer iPhone cases – you name it, we customize IT these days. Siemens had positioned this trend as technology and fashion interlinked, but it turned out that technology became fashion. This is particularly true on our use of mobile devices. Although technology has become more commoditized, the case for personalization to reflect lifestyle and personal choice has risen and driven a number of complementary businesses, such as phone cases, jewelry, USB keys, etc. The concept of the “virtual self” from Korea with your own personalized icon and avatar has not come to pass in Western Europe, perhaps due to the decreasing interest in a second life kind of world.
- Departure: This trends was around portability, ruggedness and the incorporation of ‘outdoor’ technology (i.e. GPS, back-up power supplies, wireless connections). Although we do have WiFi, tablets, etc., this trend on technology and environmental instability did not come through. Why not? My point of view is that because technology has become cheaper and more disposable (except for the cost of an iPhone) and the actual endpoint device does not need to be rugged as it is more replaceable. This trend is starting to take off in terms of unbreakable phone screens, but the other aspects of freedom and flexibility have happened more with the infrastructure than the consumer device.
- Robots: With the rising interest in drone and drone functionality, I can see this one was a definite trend. It is still not that much of a toy trend, based on cost, but more mainstream use of robotic technologies is still on the up.
- Services: This trend came true in two different ways. First, the rise of cloud allowed the user to store data remotely, allowing technology to become more of an experience and less of an item. Secondly, as the device market has consolidated, we are more reliant on services (and have more choices for services) than we do on the manufacturers. In several countries, the mobile device comes with the service provider contract, so the relationship to the device already has a service component associated with it. (Thankfully in Belgium I am not tie to a provider for my device, so I still have choice. This is the business model I prefer, but in the UK, US and Luxembourg, they do not enjoy device choice as much.)
One of the points made in the report which is very accurate is that consumers will want technology to reflect themselves and how they see the world (and how the world sees them). That technology will be both a means of escape and an instrument of collaboration also became true.
However, one point not raised back then is that technology cannot be escaped from, and in an always-on world, that mobile device is both an enabler and an enslaver. One needs to manage consumer technology more actively than we did in 2006.
My thanks to Siemens for letting me take a look back at what they thought would happen and revisit their insights.