What are the big technology trends that will affect the relationship between companies/organisations and their customers/stakeholders over the next five years? Not the new applications, or individual start-ups, but the big trends. Here is my first go at this (with due thanks to my colleagues) and would love to know yours.
• The arrival of the first digital generation into college and the workforce. My daughter started using the net at age five when she could manipulate a mouse well enough to play Club Pengiun. The internet only really began to be useful to non-techies or academics in about 1994. This means that those born in 1989 are the first truly digital generation in that the net has been there from the start for them. They are now 19 and only now beginning to make their presence felt in the business and political world. We have not seen anything yet in terms of on-line participation and activism…it has only just begun.
• More stuff and more useful stuff. To read the popular press’ take on technology, you might get the impression that we are at the end of something in terms of how technology has become part of our lives at home as well as at work and that it is all a bit of a fad and normal service will soon be resumed and geek stuff will revert to the background again. In reality, we are only at the beginning and there will be more applications, platforms, programmes and gadgets not less and the rate of their development and launch will increase not decrease. One of the first outcomes has to be even more ‘intrusion’, ‘interaction’, ‘conversation’ or ‘relationship’ between consumers and stakeholders and the organisations those consumers and stakeholders think are important to them (rather than the other way around).
• Mobile. We are tantalisingly close to a time when pretty much all we can do via broadband and a laptop could be done via mobile devices. When these two worlds collide (notwithstanding the totally different business models of mobile service providers and ISPs) we will have the potential to be always on and super-local (I’m think with GPS and geo-tagging here). One small example of what this means to companies is that we will be able to see consumer reviews of restaurants on our PDA as we stand outside looking at the menu.
• The reinvention of TV and the couch as the family control centre. Given that the technology to link the TV with the internet is here already and in gaming and music there exist two applications in addition to old style TV programming and movie viewing that are capable of driving us back together, it seems natural that families will choose to project themselves as a unit to companies and organisations in the future. Purchasing items like holidays probably already occasions family clusters around the PC, but these would become much easier if the couch more routinely boasted a remote mouse as well as a TV remote control. Family video conferences at Christmas and holiday time to relatives and friends around the world are one use (again, technically doable now) and imagine the power of a whole family lined up on coach to complain on-line in video about a duff service they had all received.