What’s Next for 2019? 6 Tech & Innovation Trends

Below, Lucie Greene, Director of JWT, introduces the firm’s 2019 innovation report, which covers several upcoming trends for the year.

1. Humanizing tech

Tech brands are increasingly trying to blend in, carving out space in our homes and on our bodies to integrate into everyday life and establish more human, intimate relationships with consumers. Dating app Grindr created a new initiative called Kindr for fall 2018, in an effort to “foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment on Grindr and elsewhere within the queer community.” Google’s new design approach to hardward is emphatically “human” with buds and speakers in comforting rounded shapes, and woven textile covers and tactile textures. Elsewhere, Google has been using hand illustration and animations on campaigns. More to follow. Honda, meanwhile, has unveiled concepts at CES 2018, inspired by “empathy” “empowerment” and “experience”.

2. Social media wellbeing

The conversation around social media’s negative impact on mental health has been public speculation over the past few years as high-profile names including Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber speak out their owns trugles. As a result, tech companies attempting to regain trust by putting consumer wellbeing first. Facebook has an “online wellbeing” section on its site which includes a Youth Portal. Instagram debuted a Wellbeing division in April 2018. Google launched a new Digital Wellbeing initiative in May 2018 aiming to help users find the “right balance” by monitoring habits. YouTube has also introduced its Take a Break feature.

3. Sound empires

From the explosion of audible entertainment to the rapid expansion of key brand formats, from companies including Pandora and Spotify, to a wave of new luxury earphone products and the rise of devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, the ears are becoming a key gateway to audiences. Audio entertainment is also expanding quickly as the demand for podcasts, audio books and plays, and branded audiotainment grows. Spotify has begun moving beyond music by introducing video content and original podcasts. Amazon-owned Audible has released 77 original audio works between 2017 and 2018, according to the New York Times. With nearly 150 more in various stages of production, the brand is also commissioning one and two-person plays, as well as developing audio originals with actress Reese Witherspoon. Make way for the sound era.

4. Ethical internet

A growing tide of think tanks, prominent critics, brands, and even tech leaders are calling for a rethink of today’s Big Tech behaviour and a more proactive approach to scenario planning the calamitous, or damaging impact of new innovations. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has proposed a new vision for an alternative decentralized, fairer internet. Tech leaders are jumping in: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is currently looking to hire a chief ethical and humane use officer. Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook made headlines at a conference of European privacy commissioners in Brussels in October 2018 by calling for stricter privacy protections and calling for a bill of US digital rights.

5. Tech’s hidden figures

A wave of new books and movies is set to explore the female experience of Silicon Valley, from unearthing women’s little-publicized (but critical) contributions to the growth of tech to exploring the experience of key whistleblowers on treatment of women in the industry. The film rights have already been snapped up for former Uber-worker Susan Fowler’s experience at the brand. TV maven Shonda Rhimes and Netflix have acquired the TV rights to former venture capitalist Ellen Pao’s memoir. Julian Guthrie’s book Alpha Girls has also been signed for movie development. Alpha Girls is about the invisible female heroes of Silicon Valley. Jennifer Lawrence is also set to take a star turn as infamous Theranos tech founder Elizabeth Holmes.

6. Future tech cities

Tech brands are turning their attention to every aspect of life from healthcare to education to transportation, reimagining or “fixing” these areas with tech solutions. Next? Cities. Urban design is the newest subject to grab the attention of Silicon Valley and China tech. Sidewalk Labs—owned by Google parent Alphabet—is building a new neighborhood from scratch by the waterfront southeast of downtown Toronto. Tech giant Alibaba is also developing a City Brain artificial intelligence layer for a new special economic zone 60 miles southwest of Beijing. The company is already testing elements in its hometown of Hangzhou, where thousands of street cameras are used to collect data to control traffic lights and optimize traffic flow, detect accidents and deploy respondents.

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