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3 Ways Consumers Will Discover Their Muchness in 2013

If “muchness” were actually a word, it would be that modern blend of the right things greater than the sum of their parts.  Or at least that’s the way I’d define it. So how will consumers discover their own personal muchness in 2013?

1.  “Expressive Devices”

It used to be that 3D printing was for prototyping or for people who wanted to connect their Lego blocks to their K’nex.  However, this technology is finally moving out of its geeky roots into the potential for people to make their own “art,” from Nokia allowing consumers to 3D-print device cases for the Lumia 820 or  in Paris, for Fashion WeekThe flexibility of the materials, and now the ability to combine them in a single item generates unprecedented levels of customization. And in all it’s geeky chic-ness, Wired announced a 3D Print-Off.   We think so much of this whole notion of 3D printing, it’s one of the 3 pillars our Institute for Business Value colleagues are putting in an upcoming study (more on the other two over the next few months).

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But it’s not simply additive manufacturing that driving this freedom of expression.  Juniper Research estimates the wearable device market at 1.5B by the end of 2013 – roughly doubling the current size of the market.  This goes well beyond the Google Glasses which won’t even launch this year, despite Sergey Brin turning up in NYC with them earlier this month.  Late last year, we learned of an effort called the t-shirt OS.  You can tap your shirt to send a text or to play a song. 

Thus, our freedom to express ourselves with electronics is moving well beyond the standard concept of a “device.”

2.  “Much Me,” The Quantified Self

Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare allow us to already share more data about ourselves than we thought possible.  However that is being dwarfed by the data each of us is creating every moment.  While Expressive Devices look out, “Much Me” is the inward facing view:  “what can I learn about myself?”  And “how can I make myself better?”

Examples like Nike, FitBit, Addidas, Bluetooth and Jawbone all compete to track your every step.  Now, your horizontal time is on the docket as well.  Somnus is a sleepshirt designed to tell you about the quality of your resting hours.  The Renew Sleepclock uses a radio frequency emitter to capture your movements and breathing.  A new class of asthma medicine delivery mechanisms allows a user to see how effectively he dosed in a  gamified fashion.  These bring new meaning to the words “personal electronics.”  At the same time, tennis racquets and other sports gear will provide personalized performance data – such as a new offering from Babolat.

These interaction devices will have the opportunity to take in information about us, ostensibly to guide us to improvement.  However they will also have the ability to allow us to become the medium.  We can enable sensors to share external data that enables smarter cities or at least  smarter streets.  Using a cool little application called Street Bump and your phone’s accelerometer (the functionality you use to shake your device and change the song), you can become a pothole-reporting good citizen.

And in all of our sharing, we find the last part of “Much Me” focused on managing the brand “Me.”  While we are scored through services such as Klout and Kred, and publish through paper.li or tumblr, we also find that other people’s ratings, not simply the algorithm will inform the trust economy.  That customized approach is what forms the basis of LinkedIn.com’s Endorsements service and Task Rabbit’s reference-driven personal errand runners. (See Rachel Botsman’s great TED talk for more information)

Don’t worry, someone will build a shirt that will auto-broadcast your scores and feedback, it’s probably already in the works.

3.  We will custom-augment our reality with context.

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If there is one thing CES affirms for us every year it’s that screens can get bigger, but the “and better” part of that is largely subjective.  The pieces I would want in augmented reality (AR) might not be of interest to anyone else. Any type of augmented reality appliance is focused on delivering to you standard pieces of information.  For instance, if you see a restaurant, it will be supplemented with contact details and ratings.  But let’s say I was  looking for the best Singapore Noodles in town, triangulated by walking distance between my hotel and office.  Not only is that query likely to personal to me.  It is also relevant under those unique circumstances.  For AR to become adopted, it has to have a better sense of context.  The good news is this is now becoming prevalent.

Researchers at IBM Haifa are working to bring personal preferences into the retail shopping experience.  For instance, nutrition, grain and promotions might all factor into a cereal purchase, but when you can use a device to hover over them, you can be guided to the right choice for you. 

Contact lenses with ARbuilt-in are available.  Nokia’s City Lens features the ability to add multiple customization, including pinning favorite queries or search paths.

While much of the world thinks of consumer electronics as a device, or an appliance in the kitchen, or even a semi-conductor, the next generation of devices empowers expressive consumers delighting in and sharing their context.

I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast – Alice Kingsley (Lewis Carrol)

picture credit: here -thank you.

 

Global Electronics Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value

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