• November 2015

Harnessing the Future of Technology

By Michael Vidikan
CEO and President
Future In Focus

At the strategic foresight research and consulting firm Future In Focus, our mission is to help organizations think critically about the future to make better long-term strategic decisions.

Our specialty is studying what’s likely to be on the horizon in the next two to 10 years, and sharing our findings through a subscription-based foresight research service — as well as custom research and consulting offerings.

So it is with great gusto that this fall we published an update to our “Technology Values” research, which features the values that drive consumer demand for technology.

In September, I had the privilege of sharing that study at the 2015 Foresight and Trends Conference in Los Angeles. I hope you’ll review and discuss the findings with your colleagues with as much energy and excitement as the audience in LA did.

Scroll down for a synopsis of my speech. As always, feel free to email me with questions, thoughts, and ideas at Michael@FutureInFocus.com. Here’s to the future!

The Power of Technology Foresight

For more than a decade, our team has studied how consumers around the world are responding to changes in technology. Our goal is to share this research with corporations that are building tech products and services, and marketing them to consumers.

For example, consumers want to have a say in the design of the products they are buying, so how can companies incorporate that creative input into their strategy?

Until very recently, this research — which was developed in large part by the University of Houston’s Dr. Andy Hines in 2006 — had been shared only with our subscribers. This year, we decided to update our findings and make a portion available to the public.

Why? Because we think that the 12 Technology Values will serve as a springboard for inspiration and innovation for all companies that are interested in staying on the cutting edge.

Following are the 12 Technology Values broken into four categories:

I. It’s All About People

The first three values are about designing for people and giving them a say about the design process.

1. Appropriateness: The idea that products and services will need to be suitably designed and delivered to match the different needs of different consumers. And while that may sound obvious, think about how many products are overextended into a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are attributes of the consumer to keep in mind:

  • Life stage — which is especially important with an aging global population
    Physical and mental abilities — which includes literacy
  • Geography — and the restraints posed by some locations and infrastructure
  • Economic situation
  • Cultural, ethnic, and religious practices
  • Example: A service that exemplifies appropriateness is PillPack. Created by a new, online pharmacy, PillPack is designed to help Americans who take more than five prescriptions each day. Rather than receive prescriptions in traditional pill bottles, which then need to be divided up, customers receive their medications pre-sorted in a roll of individual packets organized by the time and date they need to be taken.

2. User Creativity: The notion that consumers will increasingly want to modify, augment, and influence how their products are created and used. You can see the proliferation of social networks — such as Pinterest and Instagram — that allow users to be creative and express themselves. We feel it will become more important to create products that can take advantage of these impulses and give consumers ways to put their creative energy to work for you.

  • Example: Domino’s “Pizza Mogul was a co-creation initiative started in 2014 in Australia that lets consumers design their own pizzas, share them on social networks, and then get paid a commission every time someone else buys it. In the first six months of the campaign, 55K moguls created 160K different pizzas, and user-generated content transformed the chain’s customers into champions of the brand.

3. Personalization: Consumers will increasingly look for products and services that align with their individual needs and preferences and give the consumer the power to alter or adapt features. This includes a variety of areas, from personalized food and medicine to media and entertainment.

  • Example: Lost My Name is a company that sells personalized picture books for kids. The premise of the book is that the child in the story has lost his or her name, and on each page of the story, a character helps the child find one of the missing letters (ex: the pirate helps find the letter ‘P’). At the end of the story, the letters reveal the child’s name. A partner at Google Ventures described the book as “the best personalized content for children’s entertainment on multiple platforms.”

II. Helping Consumers Regain a Sense of Control

The next three values focus on helping consumers regain a feeling of control over their lives. The global economic slowdown created feelings of uncertainty that still linger, and consumers report feeling overwhelmed by the increased pace of life. To remedy that, products need to offer:

4. Simplicity: A growing value for consumers who are dealing with information overload, time stress, and growing technological complexity. Simplicity is about making technology easy and almost instinctive for consumers to use by reducing choices and unnecessary steps, and narrowing clutter.

  • Example: Uber’s app really exemplifies this technology value to me — its minimalist interface conceals a highly complex back-end that involves mapping, GPS, easy payment-processing, a surge pricing algorithm that calculates supply and demand, and more.

5. Connectedness: Consumers expect to have access to people and information continuously. At some time in the near future, we might even want to call connectedness something like “convergence.” We’ve moved from an era where connectedness meant access to websites and email to the world of personal mobile devices and social networks, and connectivity will continue to morph and be redefined again over the next decade. This is where machine-to-machine connections are going to be a bigger part of the connected world and thus a bigger part of people’s connected lives.

  • Example: Google and Novartis are developing a contact lens capable of monitoring the wearer’s glucose levels and reporting back to the user’s mobile device in real-time. We see a lot of evidence that health monitoring will become ongoing and pervasive in society. Once people get used to having access to their health information in real-time, they will always want to be connected to it.

6. Convenience: A mainstream concept. We’re all familiar with the consumer demand for convenience. What’s driving this demand is increasing time pressure. Many people feel they have less time to manage rising levels of activity, information, and choices — and the result is an accelerated pace of life. This belief that more needs to be done in less time drives — and will continue to drive — the search for convenience.

  • Example: Fiverr — an online marketplace where you can find people willing to do just about anything for $5.

III. Increasing Performance

Consumers are looking to technologies to help them perform better in all areas of their lives. These three are about performance:

7. Efficiency: Doing more with less. Efficiency in the context of our Technology Values is about helping consumers manage resources — including natural resources, money, and even attention — as consumers seek help processing increasing flows of information. Companies have recognized the value of energy efficiency in everything from cars to mobile phones to smart thermostats (like the one Nest sells). But efficiency can also relate to things like healthcare.

  • Example: Johns Hopkins developed an innovative care model that lowers costs and reduces complications for patients that qualify to receive hospital treatment at home — and this includes things like intravenous equipment, portable X-ray machines, and monitoring equipment. Efficiency is always most important where resources are limited and expensive.

8. Assistance: Helping consumers extend their natural abilities, both mental and physical. Assistive technologies can offer aid to seniors whose capacities have diminished with age and offer a boost to healthy individuals looking to maximize their productivity.

  • Example: Provigil is a pharmaceutical that is approved for sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and people who work irregular hours. But Provigil is also used off-label to improve focus and mental endurance. It’s used by fighter pilots, programmers, and Wall Street traders to stay focused and alert. One developer talked about using Provigil so he could stay focused to program for 12 hours straight. This drug, and drugs like it, may change the workplace in the future as employees look for a competitive cognitive advantage.

9. Intelligence: Of course, intelligence is going to be part of the performance group as well. Consumers are increasingly going to look to shift the burdens of decision-making and remembering to the devices and services they use. This is already starting to happen as life gets more rushed, our attention becomes more fragmented and strained, and we look for ways to offload some responsibilities. In the past, we added our travel plans to an online calendar — but now Google sees that you reserved a hotel room and automatically adds the date and location. Things start to get interesting as systems and devices gain the ability to be contextually aware (aware of the user and the environment) and predictive (able to guess what you want or need it to do).

  • Example: Mattersight. Have you ever called customer service and heard the message, “This call is being recorded”? Well, Mattersight uses those recordings to analyze voice patterns to understand mood, tone, and personality of the caller — and uses that information to match the customer up with a customer service agent who would provide them with the best service. This might mean matching an irate customer with the person best trained for that situation.
  • Example: Shaping Tomorrow. This firm has an intelligent system for Horizon Scanning, which uses machine intelligence to pull insights about the future, including risks, threats, and opportunities for businesses. This is entirely automated, and the platform even uses linguistic intelligence to automatically summarize hundreds of sources in a short list of need-to-know information. By pulling this information together, it can save weeks or even months of time that research groups usually spend to capture this type of data. Want to know more? Email Michael Vidikan to arrange a demo.

IV. Protecting Your Customers

The final three Tech Values have to do with offering protection to your customers in different ways. Specifically:

10. Protection: Catering to the safety and security needs of consumers. The unceasing emergence of new threats creates new demands for technologies, which consumers are increasingly looking to for themselves and their families, their homes, their wealth, and even for their digital possessions. And don’t forget about protecting privacy.

  • Example: Stiletto has created a piece of jewelry with embedded electronics — it contains a high-fidelity omni-directional microphone, vibration motor, and alert speaker, and a rechargeable battery with nearly a week of standby time. When pressed, it can call 911 and record audio as evidence. And the Stiletto app can even plan routes based on crime statistics, sexual offender registries, and other databases, and instantly share your planned routes with your emergency contacts so that they receive automatic location alerts should you unexpectedly leave your planned route.

11. Health: Protection for the mind and body. Consumers will increasingly expect technologies to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle. As we’ve learned more about the effect of environment and behavior on our health, we’ve become less reactive and more proactive — encouraging healthy behaviors to prevent disease and illness. With the advent of new sensors, cloud computing, and information processing, new health technologies are beginning to emerge that will empower consumers to take their health into their own hands.

  • Example: One of the most exciting developments in my opinion is being led by Qualcomm’s Tricorder Xprize, which is “a $10 million global competition to stimulate innovation and integration of precision diagnostic technologies, helping consumers make their own reliable health diagnoses anywhere, anytime.” The requirements for the competition are to diagnose several health conditions, include anemia, diabetes, hepatitis, and urinary tract infections, just to name a few.
  • Example: The Scanadu Scout, one of the finalists in the Xprize, and the highest crowd-funded medical device, raising $1.7 million, is scheduled to be released to the public next year. This diagnostic device will check major vitals — and Scanadu Scout has three other diagnostic devices under development for urine, blood, and saliva analysis. These diagnostics will empower consumers like never before.

12. Sustainability: Improving quality of life for the consumer, while at the same minimizing the use, waste, and pollution of natural resources. We also see the definition of sustainability expanding beyond just environmental issues to encompass any present or future threats to overall well-being — such as poverty, poor education, and social unrest. Former counsel for Siemens Peter Solmssen explains that, “Sustainability is about survival. It means clean water and clean air, but it also means having an economic system that works for everyone. It means having responsible citizens, both corporate and individual.”

  • Example: Intel has invested almost $500 million in global literacy and education programs, such as teacher training. This contributes to literacy worldwide and helps nurture an expansion of potential Intel consumers.

So … which of these values are strongly present in your company today? Which are missing? And which can be strengthened to meet the needs of your consumers?


Michael Vidikan is the CEO of Future In Focus, a strategic foresight and consulting firm that helps companies see years or even decades into the future to make better long-term decisions today. Vidikan is a graduate of the MBA program at The George Washington University, where he also received his undergraduate degree in business and psychology.

When he’s not focusing on the future, you can find him experimenting in the kitchen, testing out the latest interactive gaming technologies, or volunteering in his community and raising money for Movember, a global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health.

The more than 1,400 briefs in the Future In Focus database focus on the future of everything — from cyber-security and home furnishings to robotics and food preferences, including demographic and generational trends, country and regional profiles around the world, and emerging business models. Learn more about Future in Focus.