With a world in constant change, the trends that are shaping our personal lives, business and societies get more attention than ever. And we’re not just talking 10-20 years from now.
Between rapid technological developments and disruptive social innovations, substantial changes are constantly around the corner, and it’s necessary to stay updated on upcoming demands and opportunities even with products that are going to the market within a short time frame.
Therefore, we’ve taken a look at some of the trends and themes that we expect to see in new product development in 2016.
1. The Internet of Everything
A lot have changed since the ‘Internet of Things’ was first coined as a concept in 1999. From a business perspective – and, thus, a product development point of view – the Internet of Things is spanning so wide that it’s now commonly referred to as the Internet of Everything (IoE).
From city planning and automated production, to cars, home appliances and medical products (to name but a few), the connectedness and convergence of different product categories is going to have a dramatic and defining impact on how we use – and develop – products in the future.
In fact, many of the other trends and themes on this list are closely related to the coming of IoE. For some more background, this post takes a closer look.
2. Big Data
Big Data is one of the most pervasive themes in today’s businesses. Companies, health care providers, city planners and many other organizations are collecting vast amounts of data that can, at least potentially, provide them with rich insights about customers, users, patients and citizens.
One obvious aspect for future prdouct development is how to incorporate the necessary sensors and transmitters to collect relevant data. But just as important: how can we apply all this data, and convert it to real user insights and, consequently, new and better functionality in future products?
New technologies are not only changing what’s possible in terms of functionality and user experience. They’re also changing the fundamental ways we interact with everyday objects. One example is the increasing use of haptic feedback we’re starting to see, particularly in product categories such as smartphones, smartwatches and other wearables.
4. Advances in material technology
A huge amount of resources go into developing and commercializing new and exciting materials. Some offer new properties for existing products, others make completely new products possible. For example, graphene – a material made of carbon – will make it possible to include thin, flexible screens in a range of devices, from clothing to contact lenses.
Read more about graphene and other interesting new materials here.
5. Digital Health
Fitness bracelets and other types of self-monitoring devices have become a popular category in consumer electronics. And now, the health care sector is increasingly beginning to use the same technologies to monitor and treat patients over distances.
For developers of medical products, digital health is going to be an important theme. Some products will aim to empower individuals to self-monitor for example glucose levels for better treatment of diabetes, while others will help doctors monitor patients and guide for example dosage of medication.
While the Sharing Economy is usually focused around services, it’ll definitely impact the design and functionality of future products. For example, a service like Airbnb obviously makes a digital, connected lock for the home even more useful, just as the many services for sharing transportation creates new needs and challenges when designing cars.
That theme is becoming relevant to more and more product categories as new concepts for sharing products are introduced, for example sharing your bike.
7. Design for upgrading
One benefit of having more products rely on software for defining their functionality is that they can be upgraded. The obvious example is how we regularly gain new functionality for our smartphones with new apps or upgrades to the operating system. But as Tesla Motors showed in 2015, software upgrades can also be used to change the physical capabilities, like adding more power or assisted driving capabilities for your car.
Of course, that’s only possible if the product is designed intelligently to accommodate upgrades in the first place. And that will be a theme for still more companies as they aim to make better, more attractive products.
8. Disruption of markets and product categories
While ‘disruption’ definitely is an over-used buzz word today, there’s no denying that the rapid development of new technologies and concepts will fundamentally change many markets, product categories and businesses as we know them today.
Particularly if you’re a company operating in a long-established market, it can be challenging to anticipate where the next disruption will come from. Therefore, explore your customers and challenge your own understanding of your product – does your product still meet the users’ needs, or are new products and user habits making it neccessary to reconsider your product’s purpose?
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