The 10 Social And Tech Trends That Could Shape The Next Decade

A decade ago the idea of driverless fully electric cars, digital currencies and deep sea mining seemed like science fiction. It is testament to the rapid pace of social, economic and technological change that we are witnessing that these concepts no longer seem impossible with Bitcoin trading at values that are best described as outlandish and the UN giving licenses away for companies to mine the sea beds. As such, a revolution is under way, where gadgets, large and small, are changing our society. And this stuff is not make-believe any more. In less than a decade, many of these trends will be embedded in our daily lives.

These revolutionary changes equate to great opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses, and they can prosper from it if they are the first to spot and adapt to these major global societal and transformative forces, which I call “Mega Trends.” The knowledge of these Mega Trends is only a first step towards understanding your future opportunities. The “macro to micro” exercise of translating the macro (Mega Trends) to micro opportunities at your industry, country or even personal level is when the rubber hits the road in benefiting from these trends. The top 10 Mega Trends and their micro implications are:

1.   Connectivity and Convergence:

By 2020, there will be over 5 billion internet users, with over half of them accessing the internet over handheld tablet devices and 80 billion connected devices worldwide. This connectivity will spread to our daily lives bringing the three silos of work, home and our surrounding environment into one seamless experience termed by Frost & Sullivan as “connected living.” Connected living will involve digital assistants that guide our everyday lives, music that seamlessly moves from our homes to cars as soon as we shut the house door to our house to start our commute as everything will sit in a cloud that we can access anywhere anytime. A new range of technology enabled services such as smart lighting, mobile working solutions, and smart governance will define and shape our everyday experiences.

This connectivity will push other sub trends, like big data to create market opportunities for new products and services; some that already here today, like social sentiment analysis, open innovation, new insurance business models and micro personalized marketing and medicines.

2.   “Bricks and Clicks” will become the retailing norm of the future, with every retailer expected to have an online identity as well as a brick and mortar presence by 2020. Nearly 19 percent of global B2C retail will happen online, with online retail sales expected to reach $4.3 trillion by 2025, resulting in the emergence of virtual stores, virtual hypermarkets, interactive stores, and “Click and Collect” retailing models. B2B e-Retailing which has lagged so far is now ready to take off and we will see more IPOs from e-Commerce companies than from brick stores. Even car companies will start offering digital urban stores and selling more cars online, perhaps more in the developing world as protective policies and lobbyists will hold back this market’s potential in some developed countries, like the United States.

A key micro impact of this will be the focus by businesses on creating a seamless online/off-line customer journey and a unique and personalized customer experience throughout the life cycle of the product/service.

3.   Future of Mobility: In the future, people and organizations will want personal mobility (not necessarily cars or trucks) to travel from A to B, as journeys will become integrated with intelligent and smart technologies, enabled by a single ticket or membership to provide seamless travel on multi-modal transport systems with the car becoming an integral part of a wider transport network. Car companies will measure mobility share and not market share, as they move away from not just selling cars to also providing corporate mobility solutions, thus integrating all travel needs. Car sharing will become a commonplace model and they will become autonomous, as first pilots will be trialled by car and technology companies in a closed environment like at an airport or small community. Ordering and sharing cars with Apps will be a commonplace and legislators might need to start thinking whether they need to remove drunk driving laws or not, as the cars will ultimately drive you home on their own.

4.   Urbanization – City as a Customer: Mahatma Gandhi once said, “India is to be found not in its cities, but in its 700,000 villages.” Though it might have been true in the 19th century, this will not be the case in the 21st century, as we will see cities expanding to form mega cities, mega regions and even mega corridors, such as the Boston to Washington, DC (BosWash) corridor, which will have a population of 58.2 million and account for 20 percent of United States GDP in 2025.

These “mega districts” will be so large that businesses will increasingly regard them as key focus centers for investment and put “city as a customer” as a central piece of their strategy, as opposed to nations. Some city mayors might even ask for UN seats, as they will contribute more to their overall country’s wealth currently seen through cities like Bogota, Seoul and Brussels.

5.   Social Trends Changing: Social trends in Generation-Y, rise of middle class, an aging population, reverse brain drain, Halal economy, a heterogeneous society, generational political change in nations like India, abolition of single child policy and hukou system in China, aging population and women’s empowerment will usher in some deep socioeconomic changes in our future society.

6.   Health, Wellness and Well-being: If we follow the logic of the Kondratieff cycle, this is the next biggest mega cycle stretching all the way to the 2050 and beyond. The definition of healthcare will change as economies struggle to afford healthcare costs, which will affect 20 percent of a nation’s GDP in a developed world. Focus will shift to mass prevention and diagnoses and to wellness aspects of the mind, body and soul.

7.   “Innovating to Zero” is the mega vision of a “Zero Concept” world where we will shift focus and develop products and technologies that “Innovate to Zero” in real life, thereby bringing social innovation to the forefront. We will have cars with zero emissions, zero accidents and zero fatalities. Cities and buildings will want to be carbon neutral, just like Copenhagen wants to be first carbon neutral capital of the world where one could even have a carbon neutral beer in a carbon neutral brewery, and spend a night in a carbon neutral hotel. Organizations are already taking this as a key vision for business as seen by Atos developing a “zero email” or “zero inbox” strategy (which will be great for when you are back from a long holiday)!

8.   Smart is the New Green: “Green” was a mega trend of the last decade and while it will continue to be important, there will be a shift towards “smart” products, which are intelligent, connected and have the ability to sense, process, report, and take corrective action.

Smart products will be everywhere around us from smart clothing, watches, phones, to smart buildings and smart cities. The smart city market in particular will take off with the industry expected to be worth $1.5 trillion by 2020. Smart city market participants will assume one or more of the four main roles in the ecosystem: integrators (the end-to-end service provider); network operators (the M2M and connectivity providers); product vendors (hardware and asset providers); and managed service providers (overseeing management/operation)

9.   Value for Many: The emergence of a global middle class of 4 billion people and a connected community on the internet of 5 billion will allow entrepreneurs and businesses to “make one, sell many,” a concept that will be ever more important and usher in a new business model of “value for many.” The concept implies that businesses can produce and sell the same product or service to the masses in both the developing and developed worlds using either a platform like the internet or through developing an affordable products strategy. The most interesting feature of the “value for many” business model is that it drives innovation across a whole spectrum of industries, from low-cost flights to low-cost affordable healthcare products for the masses, to selling and scaling your business to the global market from day one.

10.   Future of Energy: The energy industry will converge with several related industries to develop efficient and environment friendly solutions. Key trends we will see in this area will be the Smart Grid, the future ‘Energy Internet’, the contribution of shale gas in the U.S. gas supply to surpass 40 percent in the 2030s, deep sea drilling for oil to become 20 percent of global oil production and technology for deep sea exploration to expand to deep sea mining. We will see more micro grids and energy storage technologies leveraging electric car batteries second life, and possibly also, for the first time, space-based solar power satellites that beam electricity to the earth.

This article is based off of a recently completed Frost & Sullivan analysis titled, “World’s Top Global Mega Trends To 2025 and Implications to Business, Society and Cultures (2014 Edition).”