Last night I attended an IPA 44 Club event with David Rowan, editor of WIRED, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Rowan explored the trends currently playing on his mind – particularly looking at how technology is shaping our lives and changing the consumer landscape. Ten thought-starting points were used to shape the presentation, which was then peppered with innovative examples from the world of technology.
Rowan’s 10 core points
1. The transformative power of mobile
Whilst the internet now reaches 1.7 billion, mobile reaches 5 billion. And that’s an important statistic for us all to consider. Smartphone supply cannot keep up with demand, and as the number of devices on the mobile internet continues to increase at a rapid rate, we’ll all become more connected than ever before – having a huge impact on how we utilise technology in the future.
2. Power comes to those who tap the data
Leon would have loved this part. Because Rowan is an advocate of data and the power it holds. As we come to collect more and more data, we can also begin to monitor trends and patterns within it, leading to huge advances in how we understand all sorts of things that happen in the world. Data has lead to initiatives such as 23 & Me, which allows you to analyse your DNA simply by spitting in a tube, and health-tracking monitors such as Asthmapolis:
3. Geolocation connects the digital world with the physical world
The way that we can link the physical and digital worlds through geotechnology has allowed technology to become integrated into our lives unlike ever before. An excellent example of the way this can be used is this app which allows you to rebuild the Berlin Wall.
4. Get used to SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile)
John Doerr, an American venture capitalist famed for funding tech start-ups including Google and Amazon, recently proclaimed the importance of technology that was social, local and mobile. Many brands are doing this already, such as Giant Nerd which is bringing a social dimension to the retail experience, but look for much, much more of this in the not-so-distant future.
5. Commerce is going social and mobile
The changing shape of the way we use technology is starting to impact on commerce. More than ever, we’re using the opinions of our friends, family, and people whose opinion we trust and value, as the deciding factors for our purchasing decisions – and all industries need to adapt to fit this model.
6. For all the clever technology, people are weird and irrational
Probably my favourite point of the evening – that, no matter how much you try to predict what’s going to be popular, there’s always going to be something to surprise you. Whether it is as simple as monitoring our Klout score or more extreme, such as spending $40,000 pimping our online casino, digital narcissism can affect us all and, as Andrew Keen has warned, it may not always be a good thing.
7. The crowd is cutting out the incumbent – fast!
Despite the potential dangers of digital, there’s also the fantastic possibilities that it provides for letting people change the rules. There isn’t an industry in existence that can’t be bypassed by the internet and, to that end, we all need to more deeply discover the value that we’re adding to the internet. This point came with a whole host of exciting examples from Rowan, including ideas such as M-Pesa, a Kenyan initiative which allows the transfer of small amounts of money using a simple mobile phone – and cuts out the impractical banking system in place in the country. An equally excellent idea is iZettle, a small device that clips on to an iPhone and allows anyone, anywhere, to take card payments:
8. Atoms are the new bits
Advances such as 3D printing mean that anything can be replicated – posing questions for the laws of copyright and holding the potential to turn us all into manufacturers and perhaps, one day, a completely “open-sourced world”.
9. Privacy, meanwhile, has become a tradeable commodity
In an age where we’re all living online, including sharing the most intimate details of our lives, suddenly privacy has become a commodity. This rather alarmist video, produced by the American Council for Civil Liberties to warn of the dangers of consumerism, demonstrates how – quite plausibly, actually – our data could be harnessed and used in the future:
10. You are the natural user interface
Technology is adapting to become an intuitive as possible – and inventions such as Tobii’s eye-tracking technology means that we’ll soon be able to control our technology simply with a flick of an eyeball.
Apologies for possibly the longest Interestingness post ever, but it’s all exciting and innovative stuff. The most important outtake from the presentation for me, however, was Rowan’s assertion that the real question about future trends is not about technology itself but simple, human needs and how technology can serve these needs. Whilst the digital landscape and its trends may be changing at lightning pace, human nature remains the same. And that’s something that we can all take away as advertising professionals – think of people first, technology second.