In the second part of our three-part series exploring the evolving Internet of Things (IoT), Annie Hsu, Associate Strategy Director in frog’s San Francisco studio, examines what standards and platforms are needed to enable its expansion.
(Click to view frog's 2013 Tech Trends poster)
Yes, it’s already that transitional time when our current year ends and another begins, and today and tomorrow are quickly changing hands. Rather than look back at significant trends of the past 366 days (2012 was a leap year, remember?), we asked a wide variety of technologists, designers, and strategists across frog’s studios around the world to take a look into the future. The near future, that is. “Near” in that 2013 is not only upon us, but also very “near” that these technologies are highly feasible, commercially viable, and are bubbling up to the surface of the global zeitgeist. We believe you’ll be hearing a lot more about these trends within the next 12 months, and possibly be experiencing them in some form, too.
Stop for a second and listen. Close your eyes, use your ears, and just listen.
Whether you are in a quiet office environment or out on a busy street, you'll be amazed by how many sounds there are around you. Most of us do not pay attention to the ambient sounds that surround us. Our brains filter them out and we don't listen. Yet the sounds we miss can be very enjoyable.
Today, what we hear in our daily lives is often designed sound- music and sound effects carefully crafted for games, devices, and products. For example, mission-critical products, such as heart rate monitors used during medical surgery or a plane’s flight deck controls, use distinctive alarming sounds that are designed to be easy to perceive and raise a sense of urgency or danger.
In interfaces for everyday tasks, sound is used to create engaging and beautiful experiences. Sounds can generate a special feeling or underline brand identity while simultaneously providing cues that a command has been received by the system. Most smart phones today come with subtle sounds that indicate the pressing of a touch screen’s virtual buttons. Since there is no way to feel if a virtual button has been pressed, the sounds reinforce the action for the user. Another example can be found in industrial design, where the latest electric cars are being designed with artificial motor sounds. The sounds alert pedestrians to the car as well as reinforce the sense of driving a powerful vehicle. These examples underline the overall trend of sound being used to create an aesthetic experience rather than serving as purely a functional aid to improve interaction.
According to the book, Strategy and Business, by Booz and Company’s Barry Jaruzelski, Richard Holman, and Omar Daud, “Globalization has created scores of nimble competitors in every industry; as a result, the product development environment is too volatile for linear, standardized processes. In such a landscape, an approach that embraces the value of flexibility and unpredictability is needed to generate more stable and successful outcomes. Paradoxically, although gated processes are focused on linearity and order, they often result in chaos. In contrast, the agile model, driven by chaos and uncertainty at the front end, yields greater order at the latter stages of product development.” frog has adopted a facet of the agile model, Scrum Methodology, to create a flexible process that adapts to the constantly evolving needs of a client.
“One of Albert Heijn’s greatest strengths as a company is our ability to understand what the customer wants and translate that insight into innovative products and services.” - Dick Boer, President and CEO
Studying the habits of early adopters can give insight into what is going to become mainstream. Following on from my study of media consumption and prediction that cable cord cutting will become mainstream in 2012, I decided to see where my fellow frogs stood on “smart home” or "connected home" products and services. Smart homes has been promised for so long that it has become something of an industry insider joke but in the past couple of years we have seen a revival in interest driven by lower cost sensors and increased connectivity.
It used to work something like this: when you had a design problem, you called in the pros. Let's say you sought the ultimate ergonomic office chair, or a device that redefined portable audio. You called in the industry elite to create an innovative product for you. For decades, we've approached design as the province of experts. But in recent years, there has been an explosion of user-generated design. Talented people are going it alone and bringing their designs directly to market.
While the Internet is buzzing with ways to survive the last year of the world (according to the ancient Mayan Calendar), frogs are thinking of other things that will shape culture this year. We asked frogs from across the globe to share their personal favorite tech trends that’ll crop up this year and what their impact would be on design, business, entertainment, and our daily routines. We had frogs from all disciplines—from strategy to engineering—draw from their passions and expertise to offer their input. Without doubt, 2012 is shaping up to be a year of hyper-connected, highly-personal, ultra-smart computing that, well, might just skip the computer altogether.
At frog, we are often asked to think about the future. Clients come to us and ask us to think about “the future of X,” and we have developed a series of methods and techniques to study possible futures. One method to understand possible futures is to look at “lead users.” The assumption here is eloquently summed by writer William Gibson, “The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.” That insight, combined with Everett Rogers’s classic diffusion of innovation framework created in the 1960s and popularized in high tech by Geoffrey Moore in the 90s, and we arrive at the notion that some things that lead users do will become mainstream down the road.
Music is the stuff of cultural reflection, personal identity, and universal connection—how many times have you asked someone what they’re listening to lately? But somewhere along the way, the jukebox, that beloved piece of Americana, lost its edge. Though they serve up thousands of songs, today’s jukeboxes frustrate users with complex and tiresome interfaces, overwhelming music catalogues, and an overall experience that has become generic and less engaging. The jukebox needs to modernize in order to engage with users who are accustomed to digital, on-demand music selection and curation.