What’s ahead in 2014…?

There’s a lot going on these days — and much you can say about the year ahead. You could focus on the obvious, like the growth of mobile, or the obscure, like the subtle changes in the ways consumers pay for products and services. The most interesting development for me is the growth of what I refer to as assistive or concierge software.

A few years ago, my friend John Agnew and I were discussing the causes of the dot com crash. At that point, people blamed it on bad IPOs, weak financials, world conditions, and a host of other causes. John had a different viewpoint.

John believed that too many new technologies hit the market when the world couldn’t provide the necessary bandwidth. This surge in new technologies demanded both overall bandwidth and bandwidth to the home at a time when very few businesses, and people, had such access.

In John’s estimation, when these new technologies hit a wall, they were viewed as failures. Until the bandwidth caught up, we were unable to see the potential for progress and innovation.

At the time, I thought it was an interesting thought. In hind sight, he was absolutely right. Now, the bandwidth is here and we’re seeing a tremendous amount of new technologies. Everyone has smartphones and tablets. App stores are growing exponentially. More and more devices (cameras, refrigerators, TVs, sound systems, HVAC controllers, lights, security, etc.) are network-enabled every day. You could call it overwhelming.

My belief is that a future area of growth will be products that don’t do anything other than allow you to manage your own use of your own technology. I predict there will be several manifestations of concierge tech:

1)      Just help me wade through the mess:

These are solutions that help you do what you’re already doing. Shop smarter, schedule better, travel cheaper, etc. Coordinate, prioritize, search, and assist in doing the things you’re already trying to plow through on your own.

2)      Help me accomplish something:

Although everything we do boils down to a bunch of individual tasks, one thing that makes humans special is that we think in terms of groups. We say, “I’ve got to get ready for my trip.” We don’t say, “I’ve got to do these twenty things and when properly completed I will be prepared to travel.” Next generation concierge tech will help us with this type of problem. We’ll be notified that our calendar shows we’re leaving in a few days and asked if we want to prepare for the trip. Then, our helpful tech will know to contact the post office and hold the mail, turn the lights on and off to look like we’re home, turn the heat/AC down to save energy, create an out-of-office reply, and so on and so on.

Now, I’m not saying that all these solutions will be in place and ready to go in the next 12 months. What I am saying is that the market will recognize that the average person is completely inundated. This will prompt a dramatic movement forward to provide concierge solutions to consumers. It will trigger the early stages of two major turning points in the way we live.

First, people will ‘trust’ tech to make decisions and recommendations for them to a degree we’ve never seen before. Second, businesses will market to providers of these solutions almost as much as to consumers because of the revenue potential.

It is a fundamental shift that will have a major impact on how we manage our lives. Future generations will grow up with this tech in place – raised to rely on being ‘assisted.’ That will lead to an entirely different way to look at what technology means in our daily lives.

We live in a very exciting time, and the world is changing faster than ever.