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From Digital Disappointment ToThe End Of The App Era, Here Are Eight Trends For 2016

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Digital disappointment

The only thing that grows faster than technology are our expectations of it. The gap between what we know to be possible and what we experience is only widening. Our children are growing up in a world where all screens are interactive and every service is cloud-connected, where any song or movie ever made it at their fingertips, yet our disappointment only grows.

Why is changing my flight taking 100 key presses at the airport? Why is this film not available for streaming? Why am I using a printed ticket? How can this website be down? Surely this town should have 4G by now?

Privacy In The World Of Intimate Data

A whole new generation of people will have grown up with cameras in their faces, images and intimate thoughts shared across the world, and comments made freely without concern about their being in public. Will this group of people have any notion of privacy as a concept?

We’re continually redrawing the lines on privacy. The age of Big Data is more about more intimate data than scale, our heartbeats, locations, intentions are more interesting to everyone than millions of less personal data points. Thanks to our phones, the most personal devices ever, companies can know our bank details, locations, fingerprints, addresses, as we trade convenience and personalization to save time and think less, are we making a Faustian bargain? Is it reversible?

The near term future will see complex discussions about intractable privacy issues. Early studies show complex, contradictory, and quickly evolving feelings toward exchanges between privacy and convenience  that vary across generations and nations, but what’s clear is control, transparency and value exchange are key factors in what is acceptable.

Life Augmentation

The collision of our intimate data with machine learning and context based thinking means we’re going to see a new way that we interact with devices and a new way that they interact with us. While it sounds like a Samsung ad, we’re going to need to think of technology as a life partner, providing us with little bits of extra data, little suggested nudges, little contextual ambient information to help us.

Apps like Dark Sky live in the background to only appear when it’s about to rain near us; Apple maps integrates with our calendars to tell us when to set off for meetings based on life traffic info; and Facebook now allows us to book Ubers directly in app.

We all know our calendar tells us where to go and we can’t remember any phone number, but what happens when this sort of gentle cognitive outsourcing starts to connect and become smarter?

We’ll see predictive computing combine with more intuitive interfaces and speech recognition, devices like the Amazon echo and Siri to make the internet surround us.

We will see touch identification and Tinder-like user interfaces to make buying things more easy and most interactions increasingly frictionless. Welcome to a world where things just happen (at least until they digitally disappoint).


While virtually all graphs of future growth are based on linear projections, the future doesn’t happen that way. Adjacent technologies combine, society either accelerates trends or breaks them while legislation, financing and business models have extraordinary effects.

Our predictions about the future are not getting better. We overestimate the effects of hardware (given everyone’s predictions we should be on the moon, with levitating cars by now) and understate the effects of software, where our Teslas learn to drive, or where we are connected to every form or anything ever made.

The reality is that we live on the edges of profound new technologies that could each individually changes everything or come together and change nothing.

3D printing from companies like Dremel, Stratasys or Makerbot or could revolutionize the entire industrial age, logistics and the foundation of retail , or remain a novel way to print trinkets.

Self driving cars could change our entire societal and physical landscape or become too complex, philosophically and practically to ever work.

VR could unbundle our being from the everyday and change the way we see entertainment, work, vacations and life, or we could all feel like glass-holes.

From DJI’s Drones to Blockchain being used to change transactions online, and personalized medicine to artificial intelligence, we live on the threshold of the most profound changes that could also become pointless distractions.

Horizontalization And Platforms

A whole new world of businesses are built on the idea of owning the customer interface. We’ve Airbnb, Seamless, Facebook, Alibaba, Uber and a whole generation of companies built on putting themselves as a thin layer between vast supply systems and customers. 2016 should see incredible battles between companies aiming to be topmost. Large CPG brands could aim to supply direct to the customer using their brand as that interface.

Companies like Apple with Apple pay can own transaction data, Mobile operators could perform both ad blocking and ad injection, Smart TV makers could sell their own video ads. Facebook is showing 4 billion views per day, why isn’t this both the next large retailer and TV company, when you have over a billion eyeballs, you can do anything.

Expect 2016 to be the start of companies leapfrogging over each other to own customers.

Products As Integrated Experiences

Other than jeans, the more you use things and the older they get, the worse they became. Until now.

In the modern age software becomes more vital as software and hardware intertwine. Increasingly the design the car interface becomes as vital as the physical dashboard design. Cars like Teslas become better each year, as do our phones and televisions.   As software becomes integrated into cars, fridges, homes, TV’s, we’re seeing the physical and virtual blend.

Many expect 4K tv’s to be game-changing, when perhaps better content search would be a bigger difference. From Nest Thermostats to Hue lighting to Sonos , increasingly the point of differences is not in what things do, but how they do it.

Post-Digital Thinking

We endlessly talk about the best digital innovations, the best digital strategies, the digital economy, digital advertising, digital publishing , what does this mean?

Our world is endlessly and uselessly using the word digital.   Perhaps, and this is a dream of mine, but we may one day wake up to a modern world where “digital” is like electricity. A totally vital, totally transformative, entirely background concept.

We will talk about great ideas, wonderful businesses, superb business strategy and just accept this all happens in a modern world.


For years we’ve assumed the natural best internet experience would be the App, but for all the new apps launched every year, our habits remain stubbornly similar.

Once the home screen was there to fill, now every new app likely needs to replace an old app.  We’re slowly accepting that the modern world may move beyond apps.

Whether it’s the stubborn effectiveness of mobile websites, perfect for companies we don’t want a relationship with consumers, to app  streaming from Google (but especially because of the growing notion that IM could become the platform that replaces the browser).

Soon our first entry point for buying things, ordering things, customer service, is likely to be an IM platform with companies bolting into the back end of the messaging experience.

Featured Image: Sean Creamer/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE