What is The State We’re In? Global trends forecaster and analyst, Dion Chang, outlines 10 trends for the coming year that he describes as a “curated mix of lifestyle, retail, business and socio- economic trends that will affect industries across the board”. His deep dive into The State We’re In will be revealed in his annual Flux Trends report that will unfold during the course of the year, and is launched in February in Johannesburg (10th) and Cape Town (12th) 2015
1. Disorder – The way of the new world order
Rules and regulations be damned, the new world order is rife with non-state combatants and rebel groups who flout the Geneva Convention international laws with regard to war. A UN report states that the majority of peacekeepers are in Africa, facing groups like Boko Haram who target innocent civilians, schools and churches.
Perhaps the most disturbing disorder is the IS recruiting campaign aimed at Westerners and, alarmingly, how the ‘Islamic State’ targets Non-Muslims and recent converts in the West. Their recruitment campaign so far, has proven to be highly successful. Add to this the disruption caused by cyber hackers like Guardians of Peace, responsible for the Sony hack, and the enemy of the new world order is not only within, but also virtual.
Back home, with Parliament descending into chaos as insults and walkouts create mayhem and disarray, disorder is also right here on our doorstep. Whether the issues are political, social, economic or technological, brace yourselves for an unpredictable 2015.
2. The politics of food
Last year, a Russian consumer watchdog agency shut down four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations – a move seen by critics as a tit-for-tat sanctions war with the America.
In the same month, President Putin ordered an embargo on meat, poultry, fish, dairy and produce from the USA, Canada, Australia, Norway and the European Union in response to those countries’ economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
Back home in South Africa, members of the Congress of SA Students made a highly publicised political statement, by placing a pig’s head in the kosher section of Woolworth’s Sea Point branch in Cape Town, in protest of the retailer’s trade relationship with Israel.
Food, fast or otherwise, seems to be the new political weapon for diplomatic protest. The saying, “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” might just need to be revised to, “a way to push through a political view, is via the drive through”.
3. Nesting later and the rise of the egg-freezing party
Companies like Facebook and Apple have made egg-freezing a standard health benefit for a young workforce faced with the decision on whether to delay parenthood.
This follows a growing trend of women having children much later in life, many having their first child in their 40’s. But it’s not only big tech companies making the ‘nesting later’ option possible. Sisters are doing it for themselves at egg-freezing parties where, after work and over drinks, women learn more about the egg-freezing process from a fertility expert.
However, delayed parenthood doesn’t work well for men. A new study in JAMA Psychiatry journal suggests that men may have a limited reproductive timeline. A study of 2.6 million children has suggested that the children of fathers ages 45 and over were 3 times more likely to have autism spectrum disorder, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, and 24 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the children of fathers aged 20 to 24.
4. Move over Millennials, here come Generation Z.
Competing for the attention of the social media-savvy generation, companies are relentless in their pursuit of appealing to Millennials. In 2015 they’ll have a new focus; grabbing the attention and meeting the demands of Generation Z. For example, as Generation Z is beginning to make their own decisions about where they go out to eat, restaurants will have to start trying to appeal to a new breed of customer in 2015 and beyond. That means upping the ante with high-tech service and heightened experiences.
Born between 1994 and 2010, Generation Zs will also be a prime target in 2015 for intern recruitments by forward-thinking companies.
Companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and VMware are already paying high school students thousands of dollars as interns. Companies are desperately trying to close the skills gap and, in an ever-increasing competitive market, companies are vying for the very best talent. Grab their attention early and it may lead to the illusive Holy Grail: brand loyalty.
5. Wearable tech becomes “computational couture”
2014 was wearable tech’s big debut but 2015 sees a high tech fashion romance blossoming. Style met wearable technology with ‘smart’ jewellery at New York Fashion Week last year with novel accessories like an 18k gold-plated ring featuring semiprecious stones that connects to a Smartphone and alerts the user to any notifications. But wearable tech is moving beyond smart watches and jewelry, and into smart garments and wearable textiles. “Companies are making gadgets that are attached to your body.
That’s not innovation, really”, says product engineer, Amanda Parkes, of Skinteractive Studios. She’s designed a dress that uses piezoelectric material to generate electricity from wearer’s body movement. The energy is then stored in a battery that can later be used to charge a device. The sports industry has been the frontrunner in using nano technology in textiles to monitor athlete’s performances. 2015 sees this technology move from the laboratories and onto the streets.
6. Doctors go digital. Healthcare 3.0
Remote patient monitoring – a trend linked and enabled by wearable tech – is poised to revolutionise the healthcare industry. Cisco, a multinational technology corporation, presented their offering of remote patient monitoring at My World of Tomorrow in Johannesburg last year. A system whereby a satellite clinic in a remote area run by nursing staff, is able to consult with a network of doctors for patients who have ailments that they can’t treat or who need further diagnosis. A patient’s vital signs are uploaded into a cloud-based system, which the doctor accesses in real time and via webcam, and allows the doctor to speak to the patient and nurse.
By March this year, South Africa will be introduced to My Doctor24, a local online service that puts you in touch with a doctor who will assess the urgency of your ailment, via remote consultation.
For healthcare professionals Figure 1 is an app for discussing medical issues on a global scale, and is already proving invaluable in South Africa, connecting doctors in rural areas with city centres.
7. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just another drone.
From delivering pizzas to saving lives, the sky’s the limit for drone technology.
Ambulance Drone is an all-purpose medical toolkit that can be automatically flown to any emergency situation and used to guide people to make non-technical lifesaving procedures.
London based Bizzby Sky is already creating a drone-on-demand service, which operates much like the Uber taxi app. A Bizzby drone can transport anything up to 500grams (like a set of keys if you’ve locked yourself out). Amazon has already promised drone delivery by 2016.
Last year the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) clamped down on the use of drones for commercial purposes without a special license, but the drone revolution is unstoppable.
Drones are already widely in used in South Africa for commercial filming and anti-poaching operations. The City of Cape Town has plans to test drones to monitor land occupations, crime, scrap yards suspected of harbouring stolen copper and disasters.
A Pretoria-based company is developing a drone that could spray tear gas and fire rubber bullets at protesters. The company revealed that an unnamed mining company ordered twenty five units.
8. Click and collect. Fetch and go.
A survey from Which?, a company that reviews products and services, found that over 60 % of people shopping online last year had problems with delivery. Enter Click and Collect. A convenient solution for online shopping that offers customers the option of collecting their purchases at convenient locations like shopping centres or petrol stations.
In the US, Amazon has installed Click and Collect lockers in shopping centres. Pioneering Click and Collect in South Africa, Makro finalised an agreement with Sasol last year, which will provide nationwide access to Sasol’s extensive forecourt network.
Makro is also acquiring access to other sites to enable click and collect delivery. Using a proven technology already deployed in other markets (a code sent to customers’ cell phones opens the locker) these lockers will be located in safe and accessible locations including fast food restaurants, office parks and other Makro stores.
9. Social media laws come of age
As a result of the explosion of social media culture, employment relations and employment law is set to get more complicated.
Social media litigation is on the increase both internationally and locally, and as a result, an increased number of dismissals for social media misconduct.
UK case: Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd. Employees posted a status update on the claimant’s Facebook page, without his permission:
‘Finally came out of the closet. I am gay and proud of it.’
It was posted at work, during office hours. The employees responsible for the post were held to be vicariously liable for conduct, which amounted to sexual harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Social media has generated new specialities in the legal profession like social law expert Emma Sadlier in South Africa whose expertise includes all aspects of print and electronic media law with a focus on defamation and privacy. Her clients include corporate companies, as well as parents who’s children are threatened with expulsion from school.
10. eSport: gamings parallel universe revealed
Virtual Reality comes of age with the rise of digital athletes as eSport gains more and more competitors and fans. eSport are video game competitions between professional gamers – in cyberspace. The most common video game genres associated with electronic sports are real-time strategy, hand to hand combat, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena.
Gaming events like Modern Warfare and Starcraft II are organised with military precision and sponsored by billion-dollar franchises. Players amass loyal fans and sponsorships propelling them into god-like status.
eSports is also a serious business.
Twitch TV, which boasts 55 million unique viewers a month, was bought by Amazon last year for just under $1billion, while a major Hollywood studio now sponsors StarCraft II tournaments in the US.
Big sponsors for South African eSports now include Telkom and MTN, and internationally recognised, South African shoutcasters, (people who give live commentary for eSports games, just like traditional sports commentators) like Kyle ‘Congo Kyle’ Wolmarans and Trevor ‘Qu1ksh0t’ Henry are highly respected and have huge followings.
Dion Chang’s Flux Trends forecasts trends that impact on the way we live and work in the 21st Century.
IMAGE: Drone / Wikimedia Creative Commons