Hello, hello and hello again. Welcome to 2019. A brand new, fresh, shiny year, and just out of the starting gate. Having said that, yes we are still talking Brexit and we still find a group of shady bankers knocking off billions. Same shit, different day, as Stephen King would say.
Being a different day or, in this case, year, brings us to the usual start of year fortune-telling. I can remember a time around a decade ago when I was the only one making FinTech predictions. Now, well, there’s hundreds of them. Anyways, I’m going to start the week by summarising some of the interesting stuff floating around out there and, next week, will start the usual general commentary.
To kick off this week and this year, I picked up the British Airways Business Life magazine in December thanks to its front page which read 2019: What to expect. They no longer release Business Life online so many of you may not have seen it, so here’s a quick summary of the top ten trends they discuss in my own weird view of the world.
Ten Trends for 2019
In at Number 10:
Yes, we will have food in the future; but no, it won’t be meat. There are a wide range of new technology start-up firms trying to mass produce meats that are meat-free and milk and mayonnaise minus the moo. Bear in mind that cows produce over 10% of global warming methane gasses and you can see why. Watch out sheep, cows and pigs – your time may be up.
At Number 9:
BIG TECH BACKLASH
This one started with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, but is now becoming a burning platform. The way in which big tech firms are using our data is a massively contentious issue, especially as Washington is weak on big tech and the big tech firms are proven to be massive tax dodgers, as well as privacy abusers.
In a related article, research was released this week that shows our time on landline usage in the UK is down by over 50% in the last five years (between 2012 and 2017, time spent on landline calls plummeted from 103 billion minutes to 54 billion minutes whilst, over the same period, mobile calls rose to 148.6 billion minutes). The article talks about how we communicate today, and the fact that we have moved from an open telephone network to a big tech corporate world of privately-owned communication networks that are non-interoperable. Interesting. I’m sure that will change in the next decade, especially as we decentralise the network).
Here is Number 8:
CHINESE BRANDS GO GLOBAL
Some have already – I’ve been saying that Alibaba, Alipay and Ant Financial have been globalising for half a decade – but this article points out that Chinese brands will start to emerge as dominant on a global scale. There are already four Chinese trainer brands – Anta, Li-Ning, Xtep and 361o – which have higher revenues than Nike in China. Expect these guys to be in your local stores soon … as long as the USA doesn’t arrest their CFO before they can make it that big.
Number 7 is always heaven:
IN-CAR VOICE SYSTEMS
Alexa, Siri and Cortana move into the dashboard. Yep, you can leave your car to drive itself and, if it doesn’t know where to go, your in-car Satnav can tell its intelligent assistant to turn left and right all on its own. Again, this one needs qualifying, as I tend to find my passenger is normally the loudest in-car voice system.
Clickety-clicks, it’s Number 6:
RISE OF THE CITY
I thought this would be news about the rise of the City of London post-Brexit but no! It’s talking about smart city infrastructure as two-thirds of the world’s population become city slickers over the next decade. This is rather worrying to be honest, as that means up to five billion people living in limited land space and generating a huge amount of heat and emissions. No wonder climate change is high on the list of humanity elsewhere.
After that cheerful update, we’re coming alive with Number 5:
There are more and more companies and technologies focused upon health and wellness. You can now screen your DNA and Genes for diseases and issues, and get personalised health plans as a result. Nestle has been trialling this in Japan where, after a DNA swab, participants get their own personalised diet sheets. Equally, several insurers such as Vitality, give you discounts on life insurance if you go to the gym and can be tracked by a Fitbit.
Shut that door, it’s Number 4:
Brands are making their perspectives clearer and dividing their customers into believers and non-believers. Nike did this with their support of Colin Kaepernick, the African-American footballer who refused to stand for the national anthem. Before the Nike commercial however, there was P&G highlighting American’s racial inequality in an emotional video called The Talk …
… and firms like Coca-Cola coming out in support of gay marriage in Brazil. In other words, brands need to have causes and those that sit on the fence will lose out.
Feeling free at Number 3:
As the machines take over more and more jobs and decision making from the humans, they will need to coded better and with sharper capabilities. In fact, consumers will demand that company virtual resources – AI, algorithms, chat-bots and such like – are fair and unbiased. Twitter is an example where, in May 2018, they installed intelligent algorithms to identify and down-rank toxic tweets. Facebook has a thing called Fairness Flow, an AI engine designed to identify and correct any biases in the platform’s own algorithms. As consumer expectations rise, expect all businesses to have to do the same.
Rhymes with poo, it’s Number 2:
People are losing their faith in governments and institutions to teach them and their children the skills for future life. What do our children need to learn? Will language still be important? Will they even have to read and write? There is the potential for a whole new world of brands and businesses moving into future life projects, and offering advice and insights to support people faced with these questions. In fact, every business should be asking: how can we help people to live better, smarter and brighter futures? Surely, that’s what business is all about?
Finally, this year’s Number 1 macro-trend is:
On every corner of every sidewalk on every building on every street someone, or rather something is watching you. By 2022, LDV Capital estimate there will be over 40 billion embedded cameras across Earth, face matching and monitoring every movement of everyone. Yes, the world of Big Brother is here … but the upside is that you get frictionless shopping with Amazon Go, so it’s all alright then, innit?
There you go. It’s all good stuff. After that list, there were a number of other trend articles worth covering. I thought I’d save them for tomorrow, so more to follow …