When 2013 saw the commoditization of mobile phones, one consumer technology trend which really stood out was the wearable computing devices. According to Gartner, the number of connected devices are expected to grow from 900 million in 2009 to 26 billion by 2020. A number of tech giants and innovative start-ups threw their weight behind this tech trend, and the traction that the technology gained is well reflected in the successful fund raising of Pebble. Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, tried to solve a problem: he wanted to use his cell phone, safely, while riding his bicycle. Four years later when he asked the consumers to fund his product through Kickstarer, a crowd funding portal, he received 100 times the desired funding. The product was a simple watch which connected to your cell phone and pulled relevant information when needed. So, now you do not need to take out your cell phones and go through a number of button presses/ steps to learn about the weather or to check your emails.
Apart from pebble, Samsung’s Galaxy Gears and, Jawbone’s Up and FitBit’s fitness tracking devices are some of the other products which try to solve similar problem. Clearly, Design thinking is critical to solving problems and it is going to drive the future of technological innovation. The best example of how user centric design has been key to successful product is Aeron Chair. In the era when bulky, heavy, cushiony, wooden furniture were considered the best designed ones, Aeron chair solved the exact problem of the consumers without any frills attached to it. You can read about the birth of Aeron chairs here: http://goo.gl/z0VmD4
Wearable devices discussion would be incomplete without discussing Google Glasses, the most awaited product of 2013, which I had the opportunity to test last fall. Here again, the product catered to the design goals that were laid, namely: “Don’t get in the way”, “Keep it Relevant”, “Avoid the unexpected” and “Build for people”.
Next major tech trend which was witnessed in 2013 was the advent of Temporary Social Media. Snapchat rejected FaceBook’s $3 billion acquisition offer and proved that the market of social networking can still be disrupted. According to Business Insider, as of November 2013, users exchange 400 million snaps per day on Snapchat whereas the same numbers for Facebook and Instagram are 350 million and 55 million respectively. A similar application was attempted by Facebook but it failed badly because of the positioning of the Facebook brand. Twitter’s successful IPO and the re-positioning of its revenue model, added to the competition.
This year saw the advent of iOS7 with complete redesign of the user interface showcasing the power of minimalist UX design. The year ended with the news of Google acquisition of Boston Dynamics, and Google’s partnership with Audi to supply the latter’s car infotainment system. Apple also announced its iOS for cars in 2013. IHS automotive predicts that the connected car market in next 10 years is going to be worth more than $550 billion. We saw many of the software companies entering the devices market to keep themselves relevant in the future. Microsoft re-positioned themselves as devices and services companies and acquired Nokia’s devices division to keep up with the changing scenario. SAP’s also ventured into connected cars technology and is expected to play a significant role with its already strong infrastructure and supporting big data and cloud computing ecosystem. These companies will be in a better shape to solve some of the critical problems because of the tighter integration of hardware and software. In all, we can expect better products, focused on solving “not yet defined” problems. However 2014 unfolds, one thing is for sure, design-thinking and its marriage with technology is going to make our lives better.