It seems like there are dozens of new technologies popping up, claiming to be the Next Big Thing. It can be difficult for managers in any business to keep up with the latest and greatest innovations, especially after such spectacular failures: I recall well how, in 2010, everyone was clamoring to get an invitation to Google Buzz, a new kind of social media platform that would compete head-to-head with Facebook and Twitter. It was mothballed in a year. Other failures include Google Glass (users were frequently punched in the face because the glasses’ camera—people viewed that as violating their privacy). Other failures include Apple’s Ping (a little bit Pandora and a little bit Facebook), Windows Phone (combining two poor performers: Windows Mobile and the Zune), and the Newton (one of the earliest, but far from the best, Personal Digital Assistants).
Working for a tech company that lives and dies on our ability to predict trends in technology, I sat down with the CEO, Devon Dorrity, to get his take on how he predicts the future of tech. He broke things down into three simple steps.
1. Look for tech that integrates with larger tech systems.
No technology succeeds on its own—the operating system may come from one company, the interface from another, and the innovative “big idea” from a third. And there’s so much more. If any of these links in the chain are weak, the new tech may not necessarily fail, but it will be vulnerable to a competitor who can move in the space and do it right.
Bigger than that, we are living in a world with the “Internet of Things.” Refrigerators have cameras so you can remotely look inside while at work. Amazon’s Echo can respond to voice commands and can add shopping lists to your smartphone, turn on your sprinklers, or dim the lights.
The way a device integrates with existing systems can make or break its usefulness and security to competitors.
2. Focus on technology that improves quality of life in fundamental ways.
Is it enough for a refrigerator to take pictures of its innards, or is that just tech for tech’s sake? The Ritot Projection Watch looks like a slim watch with no face, but if you shake your wrist the watch will project the time onto your hand. Is that any better than just wearing a normal watch? What about the Smart Glove, that uses Bluetooth and Siri so you can make a phone gesture with your hand—thumb and pinkie extended—making your pretend phone a real phone! Not only do you have to have your phone nearby for the Bluetooth to work, but you have to wear a glove. This seems to be an answer in search of a problem.
3. Educate Yourself on Trends, News, New Products, and Challenges the Tech Industry Faces
People who read technology blogs daily are less likely to jump after the crazy things. Being informed helps. You need to build an interior filter to sift through all of the crap that is becoming available, and then when you finally find something good, you’ll know it when you see it. This means you may not always be the early adopter on every new piece of tech, but you’re less likely to waste your money and time on nonsensical tech.