Posts Tagged trends

One tech trend to rule them all

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I was going to write one of those “Top 10 tech trends for 2017” articles but you soon realise that they are all underpinned by one fundamental trend – the ever accelerating rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

As humans we generally abhor complexity. We want things to be easy, simple and straightforward. We want to do and experience more in less time and get frustrated when we have to overcome hurdles to achieve this.

Why should I have to dig around on the sofa to find the TV remote when I could just say “TV on”?

I want to get to my medical appointment on time, and I don’t want to leave the house only discover that I am stuck in a traffic jam and arrive an hour late. Why isn’t my watch giving me a heads-up when I should leave and as I get into the car, the car displays the route that guarantees I will get there on time?

While I am it, how about an automatic reservation of a parking slot just round the corner? In fact, why doesn’t the car just drive me there on it’s own? Hang on a sec, why am I even going to a medical appointment? Why aren’t my physiological metrics being continuously monitored and if something looks a bit off whack I’m getting some advice on how best to proceed?

All of this is of course possible today. Voice controlled assistants picked up their game in 2016 – Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Alexa – are starting on their path to ubiquity. However they’re still pretty dumb. In most cases, they are limited to taking and understanding simple requests and acting on them – “Countdown 10 minutes”, “Play Coldplay on Spotify”, “What will the weather be today?”, etc. etc.

They are a replacement user interface. They replace some touches and swipes in an app on your phone.

There is little by way of true delegation. Delegation is where we’re headed though and this is where our simple, hurdle-phobic souls may start to rejoice;

“Hi Siri, get all my family’s Christmas presents”.

I jest but as a delegated task it exposes some of the interesting challenges that need to be overcome.

The system needs to understand who is in your family, what does each of them like, what are you budgetary constraints, what makes a good Christmas present, what do they already have, can everything be delivered on time, is the family gathering somewhere, etc. etc. Endless questions each with strategies that they system could employ to get answers for and then figure out how to use.

For example, it could come back and ask you “How much would you like to spend overall?” or maybe it could look at your expenditure around Christmas for the last couple of years and take an educated guess. Maybe it could go and talk to members of your family, “Hey John, you seem to quite like fishing, anything you’ve been thinking of getting?”.

To successfully delegate a complex task, like getting all of your family’s Christmas presents, you would currently have to employ a personal shopper armed with the skills and experience to get the job done. You don’t want to have to micromanage your personal shopper; you might need to provide pointers and guidance but you would expect a human to learn and improve how attuned they are to your preferences. As AIs develop we’re increasingly going to be transferring human expertise – knowledge and skills – to these systems. In many cases these systems won’t be a single system entity but rather an ecosystem of collaborative systems embedded in our physical world and the cloud.

The economic and social ramifications are going to be immense.

Things are already well underway and few spheres of employment won’t be feeling the impact.

Uber self-driving cars have started transporting passengers in San Francisco.

IBM’s cognitive computer Watson is providing legal advice  and medical services. AIs are primarily found in a support role in such professions but we can expect even greater levels of delegation, particularly for more routine legal and medical proceedures.

Creative industries aren’t immune either with AI’s writing music and news articles.

What role does empathy and other human emotions play in all this? What are peoples’ needs and wants as our physical and digital worlds converge? The questions are endless and preparing for this future promises to be exciting and fascinating.

Never before has the technology required to develop AI applications been so accessible or available. With so many potential targets, the pace of startup activity is set to accelerate. For the digital titans like Google, Apple, Facebook and Uber having a top-tier AI engineering team has become table stakes. It’s going to be fascinating to see what emerges from the labs in 2017 as we progress from the challenges of connecting and communicating to those of coordinating and collaborating.

“Siri, please write me a blog post.”

Ready for Takeoff: Three trends for riding the wave with travelers of the future

It feels like everyone is constantly on vacation – and filling up our Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook feeds with the minute details of their flight paths, what they are eating, and the amazing adventures they are enjoying. Taking ‘bragcations’ have become so ubiquitous that you are probably starting to wonder how people in your network have both the time and the money to do so –  and when your next vacation is!

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This should be only good news for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), as 90% of travelers have online touchpoints for research or booking, up from 58% in 2006, according to a study conducted with high-end Chinese travelers by GfK. Furthermore, this trend is moving into mobile – by the end of 2016, the majority of online travel bookers from the US will use their mobile device to book their travel according to emarketer’s estimates of digital and travel research and booking.

From a business perspective, the name of the game is consolidation as Expedia and Priceline together own 95% of the market share following their acquisitions in recent years. This is spurred by the need for volume to make up for the small amount they make on every transaction. Their shared scale gives them enhanced negotiating power with their travel partners. The individual OTAs appear untouched by the holding companies to keep brand loyalists on board and keep their business models differentiated. For instance, when Expedia acquired Travelocity in January 2015 for $280 million in cash, it was a stated strategy that they would leave the Travelocity brand intact – with Expedia’s brand spokesperson quoted as saying “the Travelocity team will be part of the Brand Expedia group within the Expedia, Inc. family allowing it to tap into Brand Expedia’s scale and expertise while still maintaining a strong independent brand.”

However, from a consumer point of view, it can feel like there are too many places to start looking  – KAYAK, Trivago, Booking.com – the list goes on. The number of startup options is overwhelming too – with Hipmunk, Skiplagged, Hotel Tonight and others all trying to reinvent how we book and experience travel. The plethora of choices available to help you make your choices can stop you in your tracks before you even start exploring your next trip. Consumers often resort to being price-driven (rather than brand-driven) since they can’t make sense of all the places to look.

Given this competitive climate, how can OTAs make meaningful, differentiated stakes in the ground about why to go with them?

Future traveler trends lend themselves to provocations of how OTAs to ride the wave to win with the traveler of the future:

  • Travelers are looking for more ways to discover and explore their next travel experience before they book to make sure they are making the right choice for them – while also feeling like they are getting a unique experience that hasn’t been done a million times before.
    • How can OTAs extend the enjoyment of the travel experience to booking by making discovery and exploration a thrilling part of process – rather than a price-driven item on the ‘to do’ list?
    • How can OTAs share a bit of the experience to come while keeping some of mystery of what is to be discovered (akin to what a movie trailer is to a full-length feature)?
    • What is the potential for interactive video content and virtual reality technology that can immerse travelers in a travel experience before any money is put on the line?

  • There is also a shift towards seeking more authentic and localized experiences while traveling (this is in stark contrast to the cookie cutter, consistent experiences that ruled the early stages of travel).
    • How can OTAs tie meaningful local experiences into their suggestions and offerings?
    • Could offering homestays, connections with local “peers,” and experiences that can’t be found in guidebooks give OTAs a unique edge in the market?
    • What is the potential for AI-enabled digital assistants to develop highly personalized travel plans without the time commitment on the part of the traveler?

  • Travelers are looking for vacations that help them escape from their daily lives – and the mental escape is just as important – if not more important – than the physical escape.
    • How can OTAs offer peace of mind regarding the traveler’s home life while they are on the road (for instance providing services to assure travels that their home is secure)?
    • What are options for helping travelers mentally escape from their work obligations in this age of always-on connectivity?

While the travel booking market is saturated in terms of number of players, OTAs can cut through the competition by innovating from a consumer benefit point of view. Meaningful differentiation can arise by understanding the core needs travelers have today and tomorrow, then ideating on how your business can solve for these needs to fit into their lives. The outer bounds of consumer wanderlust are yet to be seen — and the potential for growth within the travel industry is immense.

At antedote, we love to hunt down new opportunities for our clients and have a range of approaches and award-winning tools and techniques to do this. Get in touch with us at hello@antedote.com to learn more.

Top Innovative Business Ideas from Fashion & Beauty

The fashion and beauty industry has evolved over the years. And with the emergence of new technologies – such as 3D printing and sensors – many companies, from the big time-old players to newer startups, are disrupting the way they conduct business and build their products to drive their industry forward.

Springwise recently released their Top 10 Innovative Business Ideas from Fashion & Beauty. Here are our favorites from the list, plus a few more we thought were interesting:

Wearable Innovation in Fashion
Jacket Uses Vibrations to Guide Wearers Around Paris: Australian based start up Wearable:Experiments introduced their “Navigate Paris“, an elegant location-based jacket that guides you throughout the city of Paris with slight vibrations in your sleeve indicating left or right turns. This clever design uses technology to allows tourists to actually be free from technology and to experience the city how it was meant to be experienced: through your own eyes, and not through a mobile screen.

Stealth Tech Innovation in Fashion
Orwell-inspired Clothing Stops Phones From Being Hacked: Bringing style to stealth tech, fashion brand The Affair has launched a line that features the Unpocket created with metalized-fabrics which blocks all radio signals in and out (wifi, GPS, cell, and RFID).

Try Innovation in Fashion
Try-Before-You-Buy Service Only Charges Customers for the Clothes They Keep: Try is Google Chrome plug supporteing lenient return policies,  allowing customers to try on clothes from participating retailers (from brands like J.Crew, Nike, and Zara) at home for 10 days and pay for the ones they don’t return to the retailers.

3d skin innovation
3d Printed Skin Could Become the Standard for Cosmetic Testing: We’ve seen the magic of 3D printing with the Kickstarter Pancake Bot, MX3D’s Metal and Resin Drawing Robot, and Adidas’s Futurecraft 3D printed shoes. Now the beauty industry is also tapping into one of the biggest innovation trends this year. Bioprinting startup Organovo teamed up with L’Oreal to create 3D printed skin for cosmetic testing.

Smart Bra - Wearables - Tech Fashion
Smart Sports Bra Cools You Down When You Perspire: Debuted at MADE Fashion Week, the smart bra from Chromat measures your temperature and perspiration levels and opens and closes vents to cool you down or warm you up.

Smart Jewelry - Wearable - Innovation
Smart Jewelry Alerts You for Most Urgent Notifications: In an effort to combat the common urge to check the mobile phone every second, Altruis smart jewelry is a ‘modern day pager’ that passes through only the most important alerts based on predetermined keywords.

Check out the complete Springwise list here.

Image credits: Springwise, Wareable

Dieting in a world of technology and “holistic health”

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For the first time in about 15 years, I’m on a diet.

This diet is loud, proud, and unashamed of what it us. Unlike the “cleanses” and “detoxes” I’ve undertaken in the past decade, this time I’m happy to call it what it is. Last night my friend offered me some pizza, and I just looked at him with disdain. “You know I’m on a diet”.

My open acceptance of my current diet was spurred on by an office weight loss challenge as part of DietBet, a website/app that runs “games”, challenging participants to lose a set percent of their body weight by a specific date. In our challenge, each player puts down $30 that they will lose 4% of their body weight in 4 weeks. All weigh-ins are private and digital, using code words of the day and pictures taken in mirrors to ensure that players aren’t cheating. By the final weigh-in, if you haven’t lost the weight, you get no money back – and those who have lost it get to split the pot.

How is DietBet getting away with encouraging dieting-out-loud, in this era of love-your-body and holistic wellness? They’re able to safely break the rules by tapping into some of the existing mega trends of the moment:

  • It’s completely curated by and for the person. There are no rules, no pace you have to follow, no regimented food lists or exercise plans. Each player has to decide how they want to play the game.
  • It’s also self-motivated. No one is checking in on you or pushing you (except the “Daily Carrot” emails); players have to push themselves to the finish line.
  • On the other hand, it leverages the power of social, encouraging folks to share their experiences and empower each other with motivation.
  • It challenges players to create stakes, betting real money on tangible results – raising the importance of the challenge for each player.
  • It also gamifies the challenge, with titles and prizes for inviting friends and weighing in.

By leveraging these trends, DietBet is making it okay to diet again, and, for me, it’s certainly taking some of the shame away from “diet”. At least now I can tell it like it is – to my friends, and to myself. Plus, I’m well on my way to my goal!

How can your category break some of its “rules” by tapping into current beliefs and trends?

Image credit: flickr user camknows (cc)

antedote is a strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumers and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

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Finding inspiration for innovation–without leaving your neighborhood

When most people think about gathering inspiration, they probably think about visiting a city they’ve never been to, retreating into nature, or reading up on the latest fashion trends. While there is a great of inspiration to be found in exploring the new and exciting and getting lost in thought, sometimes the best exercise for your insight muscle and creativity for innovation is simply acting as a tourist among familiar sights and sounds around you in your own city—or as we like to call it at antedote: streetscaping. Streetscaping is wandering around familiar or unfamiliar places with the lens of discovery and soaking up what’s happening, interesting, standing out, or even hiding.

Your neighborhood is your best and closest resource to gathering information, and it’s amazing what you can discover in a few short hours. As researchers, it’s important to live as a consumer, to experience things firsthand rather than as you would expect, and to walk around with your senses heightened. Here are some things that I discovered this weekend while walking through my neighborhood with a new set of eyes, and no particular destination.

Craftsman and Wolves – On special occasions I’ll run by Craftsman and Wolves for their delicious pastries. I’m usually in a hurry, but today I had all the time in the world. These people are off the charts creative. Their love of food is evident in everything from the environment, to the presentation, and of course, the tastes.

Dandelion Chocolate – I had received a gift from a friend that included some chocolates from this local shop. Intrigued by the packaging, I decided to drop by. Inside the store you can actually watch the chocolate being made. They also offer regular lectures on provenance (the next one featured someone returning from a sourcing trip to talk about what they found.) The entire place is extremely experiential.

Mission Cheese – You don’t have to go abroad to experience amazing cheese. Walking into this store is like walking into a cheese shop in Europe.

Self-edge – While food is a great way to experience the world with all five senses, self-edge is an emerging kind of space that’s all about sustainability, recycled materials, and of course, makers. At antedote we’ve done plenty of work with Makers, so I stopped by to chat with the staff about what they were doing, and of course bought a hat to replace the one I had lost in London.

Creativity Explored – Another unique kind of space, creativity explored is “where art changes life.” It’s a space that people can come and create, or walk through galleries including everything from kids drawings to professional works of art. This place is the blend of an art studio and a gallery, and is a perfect example of inviting your clientele into the creative process.

Dog-eared books – Second hand bookstores have been around for a very long time, so they are often overlooked when it comes to innovation. I made sure to drop by Dog-eared books to check out the local staff picks and to see what sort of themes are standing out to readers these days.

Chocolatier Blue – In case I hadn’t had enough chocolate, I dropped by Chocolate Blue. I paid attention to every detail in the chocolate presentation. Everything was so precise—and unlike chocolate that I normally eat—I sampled the unique options such as chili, waffles and ice cream, and caramel apple.

The Chai Cart – I’m not a chai drinker myself, but one of my employees is, and so I brought back a brochure to share with her and pass on a bit of the experience I had that day.

What’s most fascinating to me is that all of these places were right down the road from my apartment, but I felt as if I’d never been in the neighborhood before. I wasn’t working; I was driven by the love of curiosity to see what I would find. It’s obvious the implications that discovery and observation have for your work—borrowing from other categories is a key element of innovation. Practicing these skills of engagement and observation can influence your skills as a researcher as well. When you’re conducting research, you have to have your eyes and ears open to new things, or seeing old things in a new light.

I parked my car on 16th, and only made it as far as 20th and Valencia, and I was gone the entire day.