Many long-awaited technologies are set to finally arrive this year. They offer businesses and consumers a wide range of new opportunities for better health, happiness and wisdom in 2015.
Here are a few to watch:
1. Smartphone-Enabled Health Devices
2015 will be the year of personal health devices. The FitBit, Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up helped consumers track their physical activities, and now manufacturers will release a slew of new devices to help consumers track and monitor their health. These smartphone-enabled devices will measure vital signs, and even perform medical diagnostics from urine, blood and saliva samples.
Millennials likely will drive adoption of these devices as they seek to better quantify their own health and demand more control over their healthcare options. The Cue has been touted as a “lab-in-a-box” that can help users understand their bodies on a molecular level and provide recommendations to optimize health outcomes. The Scanadu Scout has been likened to the StarTrek Tricorder, as it promises to monitor several vital signs and even diagnose several health conditions.
Devices that empower consumers with real-time health monitoring can create a revolution in healthcare as consumers focus more attention on prevention and health maintenance. Devices to provide round-the-clock health monitoring of babies will also gain traction. Much of this monitoring will take place in the home and health monitoring devices will become part of the home’s new information infrastructure.
- Developing health apps that integrate and synthesize data from multiple devices
- Introducing gamification concepts to health apps and creating a rewards ecosystem to encourage and promote healthy behaviors
- Creating online communities for people to share and analyze their health data
- Connecting patients at home seamlessly with a physician or nurse to interpret diagnostic results via telemedicine apps
- Creating apps that help users monitor and cope with stress and anxiety
- Developing systems to monitor the spread of diseases in real-time
- Designing home and office storage units for medical health devices
- Designing a health monitoring station specifically geared toward new parents
2. Virtual and Augmented Reality Devices
A number of virtual reality headsets will be released this year for consumer entertainment. The ones that have gained the most awareness are Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Sony’s Project Morpheus. VR headsets will offer consumers more interactive gaming experiences, as well as the opportunity to immerse themselves in other worlds from within the comfort of their homes.
There are also a wide range of applications for other spaces as well. Schools could use VR headsets to take students on virtual tours of museums or even witness a civil war battle like never before. A football coach could take his players back through a game to help them pinpoint an error—from the perspective of any player on the field. Real estate agents could give virtual property tours and a manufacturing company could do formal employee training in a virtual facility.
Augmented Reality devices, unlike their VR brethren, work by displaying information over a real world environment. Google Glass captures the lion’s share of attention in this space, but many AR applications are using non-wearable devices to project graphics onto the natural world or use cameras on smartphones and tablets to display an augmented reality. Look for interactive displays at retailers to become more prevalent. An empty wall, floor or ceiling could be entirely reimagined.
- Filming scenes to create new VR environments (the equivalent of Google street view for VR)
- Creating the 3-D cameras necessary to film these environments
- Developing the app store for VR and AR applications
- Offering the creation of VR environments as a service
- Creating eye-tracking and eye-control systems that integrate with AR
- Developing new gestural interfaces for users
- Creating apps to integrate wearable data with the virtual world (e.g. games that know when you’re scared or a virtual yoga studio that knows when you’re calm)
- Creating the next platform for DIY projects (e.g. step-by-step instructions on how to change a car battery, make beef stew or even build a cabinet)
3. Connected Everything
The vast majority of the 10 to 15 billion objects connected to the Internet today are smartphones, tablets, PCs and industrial equipment. About 20 percent of the connected devices are the “things” we hear about that will make up the “Internet of Everything.” Over the next five years, that ratio will flip: The vast majority of connected devices will become everyday objects, from outlets to auto parts.
The introduction of these devices into our homes, offices, vehicles and even unexpected places will help us paint pictures of our lives in ways never seen before. These devices will leave data trails about everything from our consumption habits and health activities to work and leisure. Consumers will get a better sense of the way they use resources; they will have more control over their environments; and they will find new opportunities to improve their health, wealth and happiness.
Consumers will likely eschew privacy concerns for the convenience that many of the devices offer, but be prepared for a backlash if sensitive data leaks out.
- As more data is generated, helping consumers and businesses visualize data will be a growing opportunity
- Developing new apps to integrate all types of devices into a unified platform
- Transforming pure product plays to service businesses (e.g. from selling glucose monitor products to selling glucose monitoring as a service)
- Selling conservation as a service. As businesses get more insight into their consumption, they are likely to pay a percentage of what they save to do so
- Helping companies increase their product transparency through tracking from raw ingredients to final product (e.g. the origin of every ingredient in a snack bar to prove it contains no genetically modified organisms and perhaps beefing up certifications through data trails)
- Finding niche areas that will need help analyzing copious amounts of data
- Teaching and training workforces to sort and parse the reams of data being generated to find what is needed or usable
These are just a handful of the emerging opportunities we’re seeing. What do you think?
Michael Vidikan is the CEO of Future in Focus, a strategic foresight research and consulting firm. Future in Focus helps organizations see years or even decades into the future so they can make better long-term decisions.