Thomas Frey: 2005 was defined by Google, iPods, the “World is Flat”, natural disasters, blogs, podcasting, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a dramatic influx of new technologies designed to give us freedom and control of our lives. But 2006 will feel quite different as we shift into a new gear. Here are some of the key trends that will make the coming year one to remember.
In the past it would take several weeks for news stories to build and for changes to happen. But now it will only take a few days. And this will affect many areas of the world. Demand for certain products will almost instantly take off like a rocket or totally crater. Businesses will seemingly disappear over night, and others will come from nowhere and become mega-businesses in a similar fashion.
Celebrities will also see their fame rise and fall at the speed of light. The life cycle of fad products will have even shorter and steeper up and down curves.
The business world will have little time to react, and as a result we will see what looks like chaos in the stock market until executives start to gain a handle on this new tempo for business.
At the same time we are compressing more and more into our 24 hour days. We have to work fast, act fast, eat fast, and we make far more decisions in a day than ever before in history. And we need products that support this lifestyle.
We need products that are simple and easy to use that make decisions for us. We need smart products that know what we want and when we want it. The technology behind the products may be very complicated, but the user interface will be simple and easy to use. There will be an enormous market over the next several years for this seemingly really simple stuff.
In the telecom world the Baby Bells are shifting their business models as money from traditional “wired” phones are in decline and more and more of their revenues are coming in from cell phones. But the VOIP phones are making major inroads. Voice Over Internet Protocol phones work through the Internet and if you make calls to other VOIP phones, the calls are free. We are already seeing dual mode cell phones that can switch from cellular to WiFi, and soon all phone calls will be made wirelessly through WiMax connections.
It will be a few years, but eventually power lines will also go away. Wireless Power has long been a possibility, but the industry still operates like a monopoly with little incentive to change. But change will happen, and the ugly power lines will eventually come down.
An Empire of One business is a one-person business with far reaching influence. Typically the business out-sources everything – products manufactured in China or India, sent to a distribution center in the US, with customers in the UK and Brazil. Manufacturing, marketing, bookkeeping, accounting, legal, and operations are all out-sourced to other businesses around the world.
The Empire of One business model is one with great appeal to former corporate executives with global contacts and good ability to manage things remotely. We will see a sharp increase in these types of businesses starting in 2006.
Despite the gloomy forecasts about job loss and negative economic impact being bandied about in the media, the “streak” of positive job growth now stands at 30 straight months even as the Gulf region continues to struggle. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) also continued to grow, reaching the surprisingly strong rate of 4.3 percent in the third quarter. Unemployment held steady despite the displacement of thousands of workers from the storm-ravaged area. And the nation’s oil supply recovered far more quickly than expected.
The analogy I like to make is that the dot com boom in the late 90’s was largely fueled by money spent to fix the Y2K problem. This money worked its way through the system and supercharged the emerging dot com world. The $200 billion spent to rebuild New Orleans will work its way through the system causing a boom in surrounding industries.
Weather control technology is not new. If you think about it we’ve been trying to control the weather ever since man was first placed on the earth. First in micro-environments, wearing skins and clothing to keep us warm and to protect us from the elements. Later building shelters and homes, again to protect us from the weather. Now we find ourselves at a point where we will need to control things on a more macro scale, and scientists will start to emerge with credible plans for regulating the weather.
We are faced with an unending stream of new products. In the past, products that only appealed to one in 35,000 people would have never made it to the store shelves, but today the Internet creates marketing channels that make this type of product viable. On Amazon we can find 2 million books, on iTunes, over a million songs. On the Software Superstore, over a million software products. There are currently 19 million known chemical substances today, and the number is constantly doubling every 13 years… reaching 80 million by 2025. Grocery store products are being created at the rate of one every 30 minutes.
Now more than ever we can define who we are and what we care about with the millions of micro-defining choices we make. And people will become more and more complicated.
The global marketplace is huge and growing with the promise of lucrative foreign markets, which are growing more quickly than in the United States. Some overseas opportunities are now even bigger than here, such as cell-phone sales in China.
The Silicon Valley model of nurturing start-ups has spread to other regions around the world. Venture capitalists are opening offices in those countries and are getting more comfortable with helping to nurture companies in those foreign markets.
It’s been very difficult to effectively measure the cultural pulse of the various user communities, but it is the seemingly minor shifts that spawn entire new industries. People who are early adopters rarely understand the thinking of the cultural mainstream. Nor are they particularly good predictors of coming trends. But the driving forces of freedom and control offer great insights into people’s needs.
People are demanding a larger sensory experience. They want larger screens and more of them. They want to interact with information quickly, easily, and whenever they want to. They want the flow of ideas to sync perfectly with their own idiosyncrasies, and they want to be surrounded with smart appliances that can read their minds and know what they want. We no longer have the time or patience to figure out complicated interface devices. Our brains are just too cluttered for that.
The world watched in amazement as the NASA Deep Impact probe collided with the comet and sent a cloud of brilliantly lighted dust into the air. Photos of the impact were downloaded over two billion times, showing industry watchers the immense appetite people have for understanding the rest of the universe.
In December 2005, Virgin Galactic, the British company created by Richard Branson to send tourists into space announced plans to build a $225 million spaceport in New Mexico. This announcement has set the stage for a massive building project, but more importantly, has set the stage for a massive shift towards the privatization of space.
- Hygridders: The New Power Generation – Across the US some 185,000 households have switched from the local power company to their own homegrown, renewable energy. They’re staying connected to the grid, just to be safe, but in many cases, they’re operating as mini-utilities, selling excess electricity back to the power company.
- The New Puritans – The Neo-Croms (short for Neo-Cromwellians) are a fast-growing group who support the curtailing of consumption, be that of alcohol, cigarettes, rich foods or pollutant technology.
- Do It Yourself Cemeteries – No coffins, no embalming, all natural, just dig your own grave, prepare your own eulogies and cover the hole when you’re finished.
- Vitamins Cause Obesity – It’s been a well-known fact that some vitamins make you hungry and our nutrient-enhanced diets may have ramped up our hunger levels to un-healthy levels.
- The ‘PharmFree’ Ethics Battle – Rouge medical practitioners have created a movement which will likely end in the separation of church and state between the medical industry and the big pharmaceutical companies.
- Do-It-Yourself Cartography – The introduction of Google Maps has enabled people to do unique mash-ups placing data of personal importance on personal maps. This democratization of mapping is unique and Google sits squarely at the center of this cartographic explosion.
- McSpa – The rapidly growing $50 billion spa industry has never lent itself to mass marketing until now. Look for spa franchises, formulaic spa businesses, and some ingenious new features to fall under the spa umbrella.
- Generational Warfare – The younger generation has been weaned on a massively interconnected global world, and has rejected many of the accepted legal principles of intellectual property, the role of government, censorship, and environmental matters.
- The End of Light Bulbs – Recent discoveries with LED lighting have given rise to the notion that your light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork, but not a bulb.
- World has become Much More Peaceful – Today, the world is a much more peaceful place than it was a little more than a decade ago. Since the end of the Cold War, the number of armed conflicts has declined by more than 40 per cent, while the number of the deadliest conflicts — those involving more than 1,000 battle-related deaths — has dropped by 80 per cent.