The Trend and Foresight Blog

innovaro


Leave a comment

Futurists as Crystal Ball Gazers? Maybe to Lazy Bloggers

image: h koppdelaney (flickr)

image: h koppdelaney (flickr)

A recent job post at Hershey’s made for some good headlines about a “chocolate futurist” and in a quiet corner of Internet, it caused a bit of a sensation.

Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic was first to opine and gave some reasons why the position is not “outlandish.” Not exactly a glowing endorsement of the work Futurists do. Then Tom Gara at The WSJ picked up the story but didn’t waste his time exploring why Hershey’s would want to explore the future of chocolate. Instead, he mostly focused “corporate jargon.”

And then came Mary Beth Quirk at Consumerist, who mischaracterized “futurists” as fortune tellers using crystal balls. We poked a little fun at these kind of people a couple years ago in our “What people think we do – Futurists” post.

For the lazy blogger, let me google “futurist” for you: “A professional futurist is a person who studies the future in order to help people understand, anticipate, prepare for and gain advantage from coming changes.  It is not the goal of a futurist to predict what will happen in the future.  The futurist uses foresight to describe what could happen in the future and, in some cases, what should happen in the future.”

Scott Smith, a professional futurist, captures more of the “ridiculous” coverage over at Quartz.

The futurists I know are trying to move government policy and corporate planning toward a better future. They are trying to help their organizations understand what happens when emerging technologies and shifting consumer values converge. Entire industries can be disrupted overnight. Companies and governments that fail to respond to consumers’ changing needs will be toppled and replaced by organizations that can. The risks and opportunities are very real. Hiring a futurist might be the best thing an organization can do!

 

~Mike Vidikan

Trends & Foresight, Innovaro


Leave a comment

Happier Holidays – The Future in 2025

As I drove 200 miles to visit family for Thanksgiving, I remembered how much I hated long drives with traffic jams, rubbernecking, busy rest stops, and all that good stuff and whether the future really holds the promise of a better holiday travel experience. More generally, I also started thinking about how the holidays might be different in the next decade.

Here are some ideas about what we might be able to look forward to:

Easier Holiday Travel for Drivers

Google's self driving car

Google’s self driving car

Between Thanksgiving and New Years lots of people pack their cars and make the drive to spend time with their families. According to AAA,  more than 80 million Americans at year-end make a 50 mile drive and tens of millions drive several hundred miles. In 2025, with smarter vehicles on the road we should expect to see less accidents jamming up the roads, smarter guidance systems that help us reduce and optimize traffic, and even self-driving vehicles that get us from point A to point B while we nap, work, or play. Self-driving cars could significantly impact holiday travel by reducing the burden of long haul trips on families who could load up the car and leave at night and sleep on the way. Cars could even fuel themselves and sense when the passengers need a pit stop of their own.

Spending Time with the Family Virtually

Cisco Telepresence

Cisco Telepresence

New technologies will make it easier for families and friends around the world to spend time together virtually. Consider the leap from speaking over the telephone to speaking face to face using Skype and FaceTime. Its likely in 10 years that another leap will take place in communication technologies. New interfaces and haptics, and even clothes with sensors, could allow hugs and kisses to be shared and felt across long distances, literally making reaching out and touching someone possible. Integrated wall displays, projectors, or even holograms will allow families to participate in meals together and feel as connected as if they were in the same room together, even allowing them to experience the smells of each-others homes, like mom’s homemade apple pie.

A Tastier Holiday Dinner

Farmed Here

Farmed Here

The holidays are a time for family and religion, but they are also associated with celebratory and abundant eating. As America grows more diverse, menu items and ingredients may change over time to include more ethnic cuisines, but a bigger way the meal is likely to change is how the food is sourced to include produce grown locally in vertical farms. More Americans are interested in sustainable and organic produce and ‘local’ has also become fashionable. But frankly, fresher fruits and vegetables taste better. Most shoppers don’t realize their meat and produce spend days, weeks, or even months in shipping containers before making it to their market. Vertical farms will allow city residents access to fresher food – and that will make for a better dinner. And while many will still enjoy the tradition of cooking a real turkey or ham for the holiday meal, a number of families will opt instead for a more environmentally friendly option - lab-grown meat that tastes like the real thing.

MAKERBOT-3D-PRINTER_HOUSE

Makerbot

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat to the likelihood of 3D printed foods at holiday meals. Food fabricators could be used to add flare, such as a perfect replica of the family’s home as a gingerbread house, or the entire family could be posed as edible figures on a centerpiece.

More Personal and Convenient Shopping

Ebay Digital Storefront

Ebay Digital Storefront

According to the National Retail Federation, for some retailers “the holiday season can represent as much as 20-40% of annual sales.” This is one reason retailers push special deals so hard at the end of the year, but most consumers hate the large unruly crowds and will continue to stay home and shop online. That is, unless and until retailers end their Black Friday sales to bring real shoppers back to stores by offering a better shopping experience.

One way they will try to improve that experience is with digital storefronts. See Ebay’s latest innovation. In the future, these digital interfaces will be able to recognize users through digital beacons and facial recognition, giving recommendations based on the users past browsing and purchasing profile or basic physical characteristics (e.g., male, aged 40, 6’0, 215lbs), showing the consumer what they would look like with the product on or in hand, and then allowing them to place the order with their phone and have it delivered same day via Amazon Prime Air.

Retail stores will use similar technology to make shopping more personal. Empowered with AI assistants, the sales staff will be able to make much more helpful suggestions based on the customers personal data history, for example knowing the customer’s favorite colors or style of clothing. Stores may also offer virtual fitting rooms where the consumer can get a full body scan allowing them to receive a perfect fit for shoes and clothes which are then fabricated on 3D printers at a local fab center. In fact, higher end retail stores could soon offer custom design services to give consumers that personal touch, such as taking a familiar design (think Burberry) and changing the colors and patterns to better reflect that individuals personal skin tone or body type. And armed with 3D scans of family and friends, gift buying would become an incredibly customized experience.

All this should provide for a happier holiday season. Agree? Disagree? Tweet your thoughts at me!

@MikeVidikan

Trends & Foresight, Innovaro


Leave a comment

Is Paying with Exercise the Future?

This subway ticket machine has the Internet abuzz. Instead of paying with cash, this machine accepts squats and lunges.

It raises some pretty interesting ideas for organizations that want to encourage people to exercise. Perhaps office vending machines could be equipped with such a program to offer employees that candy bar for free if they get their heart rate up first. Maybe life and health insurance companies should offer customers the ability to pay for part of the policy through running, yoga, or other healthy physical activities. Or maybe some sporting good companies could launch promotions this way – for example, if you can do 100 pushups in a row or run in place for 30 minutes, it’ll dispense a unique product.

Heathervescent writes about the Future of Money and alternative forms of currency – perhaps she’ll add exercise to the list.

@MikeVidikan

Trends & Foresight, Innovaro


Leave a comment

The Mab Won’t Fly – Design Concept Goes a Little Too Far

Many columns have devoted space to this year’s winner of the Electrolux Design Lab competition pictured here.

Mab

Mab - Stage - Concept Development

“Mab is an automated cleaning system consisting of hundreds of flying mini-robots. The robots clean surfaces by touching them with a drop of water. Mab scans the house, determine the areas to clean and sends the robots flying.”

While the design is quite beautiful, the Mab will never be a feasible solution for cleaning a home. The design utilizes hundreds or thousands of synchronous and autonomous micro-UAVs to sweep for and remove dirt. I don’t doubt the technology will exist to make this possible, it just doesn’t make sense in a home. These micro aerial bots (is that what Mab stands for?) could pose a serious choking hazard for babies and pets, and a swarm of flying bots doesn’t seem like the ideal house guest.

Advanced surface coatings with self-cleaning nanomaterials are more likely to be incorporated in the home of the future. Perhaps the designer should have gone a step further to imagine trillions of nanobots crawling around, devouring every dust particle in sight, repairing scratched surfaces, and eliminating viruses to boot.  At least in that scenario, they would be out of sight, and out of mind, creating a robotic biome that could mimic our own human biome.

The concept of a host carrying hundreds or thousands of micro-UAVs is still valid and this concept might lend itself pretty well to inspecting complex structures. For example, an emergency response unit could deploy the Mab after earthquakes, tornados, or other catastrophic events and these mini flying robots could get into tiny spaces to scan for signs of life in rubble or even to check the structural integrity of buildings. Or the military might deploy such a unit for intelligence gathering.

If the designer and Electrolux were married to the “cleaning” concept, they could consider commercial or industrial applications instead. For example, the Mab could be used to clean up after a fire or flood, where there is heavy distributed damage and it would operate out of the way of residents. Or a hotel could provide the Mab to its housekeepers who would work alongside the tiny robots, going from room to room with guests unaware of the interaction.

Putting aside the merits of this particular concept, I’m certain we’ll see robots and different size UAVs working alongside humans in the workplace, at home, and everywhere in between.

 

@MikeVidikan

Trends & Foresight, Innovaro


1 Comment

Kitchen Concepts for your Future Home?

Design competitions are a great source of inspiration for future products. Electrolux, the household appliance manufacturer, hosted a design competition this year with the theme “Inspired Urban Living.”

The following are some of the Design Lab concepts that help stretch the imagination:

Kitchen Hub

“Kitchen Hub is a household food stock controller helping you know what ingredients you have at home and when they expire. You can reduce food waste, find recipes and coordinate with the individual diets of each family member.”

This concept fits perfectly with consumers interest in reducing Food Waste, having connected food experiences, and monitoring health and diet.  It also looks like a screen that could be called upon for watching cooking tutorials – perhaps with added sensors and camera it could even provide feedback: “Don’t chop it so finely” or “Smells like something is burning!”

Atomium

Atomium - Stage - Concept Development

“Atomium is a 3D printer that uses molecular ingredients to construct food layer by layer. Draw the shape of the food you would like to eat and show it to the appliance. Atomium scans the image and prints food in the desired shape.”

This is basically a home 3D food printer concept with a fun spin. Imagine printing your mashed potatoes into a recreation of the roman colosseum or a vehicle with moving parts. This food printer would take playing with your food to a whole new level. NASA has invested in 3D printed foods and we’re seeing advancement all the time in the commercial space.  3D Systems recent acquisition of The Sugar Lab has led to speculation that a eventually food printer for professionals and consumers could be in the works. Avi Reichental, President and CEO of 3D Systems said, “I believe there is a social covenant for indulgence that begins with desserts and The Sugar Lab will accelerate our ability to bring edible 3D printables to the masses while empowering chefs, restaurateurs and confectioners with never before explored digital creation tools for food.”

As a cook and frequent host, the Atomium would be a welcome addition to my kitchen.

Nutrima

“Nutrima calculates the nutritional values, possible toxins and freshness of your food. The appliance is foldable, easy to bring along and supported by an app mapping your experiences giving tips of resellers with high quality ingredients.”

While some consumers would definitely like a device that can instantly calculate the nutritional content of foods, I think the ability to monitor freshness and toxins at the point of sale is of greater interest. Innovaro has written about trends and forecasts for intelligent, smart, and active packaging which go beyond passively containing food and displaying nutritional info, to protecting it, sensing the environment within or around the package, and communicating that information. It would be far more beneficial to consumers, whose appetites for fresh and on-the-go foods have increased, to have smarter packaging, protecting the food and providing better real-time indicators of whether the food has gone bad. Its likely consumers will start seeing these packaging innovations roll out in the near future.

The Nutrima concept could still play a key part in healthy diets if it actually integrated into our servingware. If our plates could reveal exactly how many calories we were about to consume and what type of nutrition we were about to recieve, it could change quite a few people’s eating habits. That’s some food for thought.

@MikeVidikan

Trends & Foresight, Innovaro


3 Comments

Millennials and Food [Infographic] – Changing the Landscape

This infographic is based on Innovaro’s Trends & Foresight research about Millennials food preferences with implications and opportunities for the next decade.

In the US, there will be an estimated 64 million Millennials over age 25 by 2020 and they will have a supersize impact on the food landscape over the next decade. Many of the retailers, processors, and distributors are catering to the older Boomer population and ignoring Millennials. However, its important they understand the distinct preferences of Millennials and start thinking about the tremendous implications and business opportunities presented by this growing demographic.

(Special thanks to Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, experts on the Millennial generation who graciously conducted an informal food-oriented focus group of Millennials in preparation for their interaction with Innovaro Global Lifestyles).

Innovaro_Millennials_and_Food_InfographicInnovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_supersize_impact
Innovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_adventurous_eatersInnovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_splurgeInnovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_cooking_gender_neutralInnovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_Millennials_vs_BoomersInnovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_business_implications_opportunitiesInnovaro_Millennials_and_Food_Infographic_learn_more

This infographic was based on Innovaro’s “Millennials and Food” research brief.  To download the full Millennials and Food report, click here

UPDATED: 

High res version now available

High Res version

High Res version

Excerpts from the Millennials and Food report:

SUMMARY
Driven by the unique experiences of their generation, Millennials’ food choices, shopping patterns, preparation of food at home, and selection of food away from home are all different from those of earlier generations. And in coming years, Millennials will have an oversized impact on the food behavior of Americans. According to a recent report from Jefferies Alix Partners, “the maturation of the Millennials and the aging of the baby boomers, in our opinion, appear poised to rapidly transform the food-at-home industry, long thought of as a bastion of stability.”

The impact of Millennials on the food landscape will spread and persist over time. As the blog Millennial Marketing points out, “Food trends tend to trickle up the generational ladder.” At the same time, Beth Hoffman, writing about Millennials and food for Forbes, notes that Millennial food habits will have a very long range impact on the food system, because Millennials will teach their habits and preferences to their children.

This brief reviews the driving forces shaping Millennials’ relationship to food and examines trends in food preferences, food shopping, food preparation, and food away from home in the Millennial cohort. The brief is based in part on an interview with Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, experts on the Millennial generation who graciously conducted an informal food-oriented focus group of Millennials in preparation for their interaction with Innovaro Global Lifestyles.

KEY FINDINGS
• Millennials will have substantial, growing influence over the food marketplace in the coming decade.

• Diversity, self-awareness, living for today, acceptance of new gender roles, and pervasive use of information technology are all important driving forces of Millennials’ unique relationship to food.

• Millennials are seeking food options that are fresh, natural and organic, affordable, convenient, authentic, and socially responsible—and that provide choice and variety.

• Millennials are less committed to traditional grocery channels for acquiring food; more open to specialty, online, and bigbox channels; and less loyal to brands and retailers than previous generations.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers