Churchill Club: 13th Annual List Of Top 10 Tech Trends

Last week the Silicon Valley was abuzz as The Churchill Club held their annual Top 10 Tech Trends event in Santa Clara.  The annual event is much anticipated by the Silicon Valley crowd….as well as VC-types as it can provide an interesting perspective on what the future might hold for the software industry. 

As always, I have my radar up to capture any insights I can from events like these. I could not attend the event, but thanks to some bloggers and news articles, I am able to report what was discussed.

As the 10 trends were presented, four leading industry panelists were on stage to debate the worthiness of each trend.

Below is a list of the ten trends on the Churchill Club’s list along with my take on the pace of adoption of each trend.    From sources I’ve read, the panelists themselves only agreed on a couple of the trends. Which ones do you agree on?

1) Age before beauty:  This trend asserts that the Baby boomer generation will dictate the technology trends of the future.  The premise is that this is such a large market that is largely unserved today. 

  • My take: I don’t agree.  Although the retired population is a largely untapped market, it is not one that gets excited about technology trends.  They are not digital natives.  I don’t see my parents flocking to buy the latest Ipad or the latest 3D TV.

2) The doctor is in: The trend is toward complete automation: a combination of artificial intelligence, the Internet, and very low-cost medical instrumentation to provide high-quality diagnostics and advice—including answering patient questions—online to a worldwide audience.  

  • My take:  I see this trend happening, but the focus will be first on specialized medicine.  The trend will be very slow to adopt to a mass market.  Privacy, culture, and behavioral issues will make changing over to online medial practices a long road.  

3) Made for me:   Manufacturing is undergoing a revolution. This trend is about the one-off production of physical goods in widely distributed micro-factories: the ultimate customization of products.  It is becoming technically and economically possible to make products that are unique to the specific needs of individuals.   

  • My take:  Consumers and Businesses are all expecting more and more customization of products and services.  The enabler of this trend for product manufacturing is the 3D printer technology trend.  For services, it is the software and advanced analytics that drive Internet-based services. 

4) Pay me now: The trend is technology and business models based on attracting consumers to share large amounts of information exclusively with service providers.  Why?  Because information can be very valuable. This knowledge is becoming a key asset and a major competitive advantage for the companies that gather it and analyze it.  Businesses will become increasingly smarter and more aggressive in convincing us to share our information with them and not with their competitors  

  • My take:  I am not sure about the name of this trend here, but this all ties into the trends of privacy, cloud computing / storage, and database analytics trends.  Businesses who figure out how to use analytics to make sense of all the information they gather will know better how to target and customize services to individuals that are most likely to buy.

5) Rosie at last: Rosie was the Jetson’s robot who did most everything for the Jetsons and even had a personality anyone could love.  Robots ARE slowly becoming embedded in our environments.  They will take full advantage of the cloud and advanced analytics in order to anticipate, understand and fulfill our needs. 

  • My take:  I do see a future for personal robots. See my post:  A Primer on the Consumer Market for Household Robots.  This will be another long term trend.  We are not going to see explosive growth overnight.  However, there will be a gigantic industry in the future all around the robot and robot Industry … both for consumers and businesses.

6) Social, really: The rise of true social networks, creating real respectful relationships online. 

  • My take:  The key here is the word relationships.  The value of social technology is it can enable better relationships.  If businesses can find ways to leverage social technology to form better relationships, then their sales will benefit.

7) Augmented Reality: Augmented reality will become indistinguishable from actual reality. 

  • My take:  AR will transform how we receive and process information throughout the day.  The AR trend will take another 15-25 years to take hold in the mass market, but it will take allot longer (1-200 years) to get to the point where AR is indistinguishable from actual reality.

8) Engineering by biologists: practical engineered artifacts, devices, and computers based on biology rather than just on silicon. 

  • My take:  This is all about the convergence of computers, biology, chemistry, and nanotechnology.  This is another of the long-term trends that will have profound impacts on human lives over the next 200-300 years, but I don’t see much impact in the next 25 years.  

9) Tis a gift to be simple: Cyber defense through wide spread adoption of simple, low-feature software for consumers and businesses. 

  • My take:  The security industry is secure.  That is, the need for security solutions will only increase as technology becomes embedded in every part of our business and personal lives.  While these solutions may look simple and low-featured, there will be a huge technology capability under the covers.

10) Reverse innovation: the trend for developing countries to turn around the flow of innovation: Silicon Valley will begin to learn more from them about innovative applications than they need to learn from us about underlying technology. 

  • My take:  History has shown us that innovation (agriculture, industrial, military, technology) leads to good things.  The quest for innovation will always be an important part of the human journey.  Successful businesses must ensure they enable innovation daily, whether that innovation happens in America Valley or in BRIC or in other emerging markets.

For more information about the Churchill Club event

Leveraging Social Media and Communities for Foresight

Last Wednesday evening I delivered a keynote presentation at an end of the year student event at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendozza College of Business MBA program (http://business.nd.edu/). 

Mendozza Keynote

The students are all required to take a class in Futures Studies and this was their end of year event.  During the late afternoon Poster Session that was held in the atrium of the Mendozza building, they all assembled and displayed posters that communicated the results of their semester long projects.  The topics covered a wide variety of subjects, from the future of Electric Cars to Solar Technology, to how to solve water irrigation in Africa.   In all there were over 50 projects from teams of 4-5 students.   I was impressed with the students projects and the level of research, analysis and insight generation that went into the poster presentations.   I learned a lot just by walking from poster to poster.

After the poster session was done, we all assembled into the auditorium where I delivered my keynote to the students “Leveraging Social Media and Communities for Foresight”.  The deck has been uploaded to my HorizonWatching account on Slideshare and is also embedded below. 

During the keynote, I discussed how the emergence of online social media and communities is transforming communication around the world.  The shift from traditional institutional-led communications that is relatively controlled by a small number of companies to an era where any individual can create and publish content is a shift that is transforming the way individuals learn, collaborate, and create content.   This has a ripple effect across all business professionals and certainly is impacting the way we research, analyze and develop insights about emerging trends, technologies and issues impacting businesses and individual citizens.

I provide the students with my personal story of how I’ve led an internal IBM community called HorizonWatch since early 2001 and how I started blogging internally in 2006.  I also discussed my public social community effort called HorizonWatching.   Both efforts have helped me do a better job of scanning for emerging trends and then developing insights from those scanning activities.

I ended the talk with some advice to the students on how they could get started leveraging social media in their own careers.  My main advice was that they should all think about taking control of their personal online brand.  As they are soon to turn their attention to job searching, now is the time for them to think hard about what their digital brand looks like to recruiters and potential employers.  But after the job search is over, I believe those who will be successful in their careers are the ones that will figure out ways to leverage social media and communities to build their expertise.

As this was their last day of class, they were all eager to go out and celebrate, so the Q&A session was short and sweet.  However the 5-6 questions raised were smart and right on topic.  I wish all the students good luck and best wishes over the summer and challenge them to begin using social media and communities as a strategy to better understand the future(s).

My presentation is embedded below.

World Future Society: 2011 Top 10 Forecasts

The World Future Society Outlook 2011 report was released about 6 months ago, but I came across it again today and thought it would be a good post for my readers. 

The video below is 4 minutes long and provides a summary of the top 10 forecasts from the World Future Society.

Every year the WFS Outlook report (published by the The Futurist Magazine) examines the key trends in technology, the environment, the economy, etc and provides a summary of top ten forecasts for the coming year.  You can access these forecasts at http://www.wfs.org/Forecasts_From_The_Futurist_Magazine

The 2011 report provided the following ten forecasts:

1. Physicists could become tomorrow’s leading economic forecasters.

2. Environmentalists may embrace genetically modified crops as a carbon-reduction technology.

3. Search engines will soon include spoken results, not just text.

4. Will there be garbage wars in the future? Trash producers in the developed world will ship much more of their debris to repositories in developing countries.

5. The notion of class time as separate from non-class time will vanish.

6. The future is crowded with PhDs. 

7. Cities in developed countries could learn sustainability from so-called slums in the developing world. Dwellers of "slums," favelas, and ghettos have learned to use and reuse resources and commodities more efficiently than their wealthier counterparts.

8. Cooperatively owned smart cars and roads will replace dumb, individual gas guzzlers.

9. Fighting the global threat of climate change could unite countries—or inflame rivalries.

10. We may not be able to move mountains with our minds, but robots will await our mental commands.

All of these forecasts plus dozens more were included in the report that was published in The Futurist Magazine.  In fact, The Futurist, has also made public the contents from Outlook 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. You can access these forecasts at http://www.wfs.org/Forecasts_From_The_Futurist_Magazine

About HorizonWatching

Profile pic from TwitterWhat is HorizonWatching?:   HorizonWatching was launched in 2006 to encourage sharing information and collaborating about emerging trends, technologies, and business issues that will impact businesses of all sizes in the future.  We’re also interested in discussing how businesses plan for the future.  So what is your vision of the future for the business/technology topic that you are focused on?

About Me: I’m an IBMer who is interested in understanding the potential futures that await us.  I’ve spent most of my career in marketing research and strategy roles.  So, I like to do research on emerging trends, technologies and business issues.  Anything I say or do related to the HorizonWatching effort is my own work and does represent the views of the company I work for (IBM).   I won’t bore you here with my background.  For more on me, see my LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/whchamb

Follow HorizonWatching:

A Primer on Futurists

As organizations increasingly try to grapple with the seemingly endless scorching rate of technological innovation and change, more are engaging the services of self-described futurists for advice on how to adapt.

What Is A Futurist?

Basically, futurists are those who look to and provide analysis and insights on potential futures.  They help others anticipate and prepare for potential changes and disruptions in order to make better decisions today.   Think of futurists as in the same league as historians.  Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past.   Historians are  concerned with origins, roots, stories/points of view of where we have been in the past and how we got to where we are today.   Futurists are interested in emerging trends, technologies, goals, purposes.  In short, futurists are interested in where we might be going in the future and how we can get there.   It’s interesting to note that in many cases good futurists have a little bit of a historian inside of them (e.g. studying the past can help predict potential futures.)

 

What Do Futurists Do?

Futurists research and explore the full range of potential / plausible futures.  A futures consultant or facilitator helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities.  They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality.
The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready whatever does happen.  The objective is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong–that is, not to be surprised.  Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic.  Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of futures studies.

Futurists take an inter-disciplinary approach and employ a wide range of methods, from trend analysis to scenario planning, to simulations, to strategic planning and visioning.  Since the future does not exist, we must study ideas about the future. Futurists use data from the past and present, and our concepts and methods to understand how the present will evolve into possible alternative futures. We also borrow liberally from other fields, such as creativity, complexity science, organization development, systems analysis, and philosophy.

What Type Of BackGround Do Futurists Have?

Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds. What they have in common is big picture thinking, strong pattern recognition, and innate curiosity.
Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds and walks of life, be it liberal arts, psychology, engineering, the sciences. A growing number are coming from the dozen or so futures degree programs worldwide.
Other characteristics typical of futurists include openness to new experiences, comfort with ambiguity, thinking systematically, seeing options and alternatives, questioning and challenging assumptions, a global outlook, a long-term time horizon, optimistic, and having a sense of purpose.

How Can I Train To Become A Futurist?

The formal study of the future goes by a number of names, including “Strategic Foresight”, “Futures Studies”, and “Prospective Studies”. 

Formal futurist higher education options are somewhat limited.  There are about a dozen degree programs worldwide.   Within the United States there are two main academic programs created that focus on training futurists 1) the University of Houston (M.S.) and  2) University of Hawaii (M.A. and Ph.D.).  Both programs have been around for over 30 years.

Futurists without the formal education learn on the job through professional development.  Many professionals become futurists by acquainting themselves with futures concepts, tools and methods, familiarizing themselves with the literature, and participating in futures conferences and organizations.

What Professional Networks Are There?

Here are some places to go to find more information….

  • World Future Society  20-25,000 members who subscribe to The Futurist magazine and attend annual meetings; mostly centered in the U.S.  www.wfs.org
  • World Futures Studies Federation   Several hundred members spread across the globe with a rotating secretariat, includes many academics  www.wfsf.org
  • Millennium Project  Volunteer group around the globe that produces the annual State of the Future report and other futures studies, as well as the Futures Research Methodology.  www.millennium-project.org 
  • Association of Professional Futurists  200+ professional futurists and students in futures degree programs.  http://www.profuturists.org/
  • The World Future Council.  http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org. The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making.  The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

Being a futurist sure sounds like fun….and there might just be a future for futurists.  🙂