Trying to nail down the biggest trends of the coming year is next to impossible. From mining asteroids to functional graphene manufacturing, the borders of micro and macro technology are expanding at rates we've never seen before. There's not a doubt in the world that this is one of the greatest moments in our history, but the standout winners of this innovation explosion are going to be those that think beyond borders and boundaries, not those that think of what they can do with what we have today.
An unprecedented software boom over the past five years has pushed the boundaries of where we might have thought technology could go and has given birth to a resurgence of hardware companies. From iPhones to smart watches and fitness trackers, connected technology is rapidly becoming as important as the engineered fibre clothing on our backs.
Without a great amount of consideration people are quick to list off trends that they see coming, which are purely extensions of where technology is already going. Whether it's the Internet of Things and connected appliances or risk reduced security features, these are simply progressions.
The technology being showcased at major technology events isn't the trend moving forward, it's the deployment of the trend conceptualized one or two years ago. This is where the true opportunity lies, especially for Canadian companies which often get to sit on the outskirts of the feeding frenzy and develop away from the pressures of Silicon Valley.
In my view, the biggest opportunities that are going to emerge as billion-dollar companies in trillion-dollar markets are: content immersion, connected technology and shared ecosystems.
1. Content immersion: We already live in a world where content is king. It stole the throne and ran away with the crown years ago. Companies like YouTube, Tumblr and Instragram have put the reins of creation firmly in the hands of the individual and in doing so, have created an entire generation of instinctual content creators.
The success of these incumbent platforms has highlighted a strong human desire to create and view, but it misses another significant aspect of human nature that centres on immersion. Creating authentic content is one large piece of the puzzle, but the real winners will be those that enable viewers not only to view content but also experience it.
Taking the user from watching to varying forms of real-time immersive participation is, in my mind, the next iteration of the content marketplace.
2. Connected technology: We live in a world where smartphones are the remote controls of our lives and this can mean that traditional, historic, hardwired incumbent systems will have a problem connecting with a new generation of users.
Take the postal service, for example, which what was once the default way to deliver news. It's become so disconnected from our minds that Canada Post had to create an awareness campaign to clarify that they are indeed relevant, and are the infrastructure responsible for turning 'buy now' online purchases into the real items that arrive at a doorstep.
We bypass traditional systems that don't offer the connectivity we need. Why send mail when I can e-mail it? Why print, sign, scan and e-mail when you can e-sign a document from your phone and automatically send a completed document in return?
I believe that the businesses created to bridge traditional infrastructural systems and the connected ecosystem are going to be valuable and game changing.
3. Predictive ecosystems: The smartphone is a beautiful marvel of technology, merging ever-upgrading hardware systems and evolving software. It has allowed the connected ecosystem to exist and with it, creates fountains of data – more so than at any other point in human history. It's only now that we're starting to take advantage of what this data means.
Taking that data play one step further, the companies that are able to target specific industries, whether it's health care, aviation, or automation and create predictive data models based on the available data sets are going to find themselves in very high demand.
Big Data is here, and it's a familiar term and, yes, one that can cause some amount of eye glazing. However, those that are able to properly harness this data, interpret it and build predictions that can be used to create everyday efficiencies within a connected ecosystem have the potential to be very big winners.
Cameron Chell is co-founder and CEO of Business Instincts Group, a venture creation firm in Calgary that finances and builds high-tech startups. To learn more about his work with sustainable startups visit www.CameronChell.com