1. Predicting the future is easy: A look back on the 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2017

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Predicting the future is easy: A look back on the 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2017

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Soon we will release our annual 10 Hot Consumer Trends report, and we are just now putting the final touches to a report that really feels like the future!

But as Kelly and Zach Weinersmith say in their intriguing book Soonish (Penguin Press, 2017), it is pretty easy to predict the future. The only thing that’s hard is to be right.

So in order for you to judge how right we will be about 2018, I would like to take a look back at our 2017 trend report and see how our predictions fared this year.

Our key trend was called AI Everywhere, and I don’t think I even need to show proof to convince you that this was the year when AI was really everywhere. People have obviously talked about this for years, but in 2017 it literally exploded. And I mean literally: when Putin said the nation that leads in AI will rule the world, Elon Musk responded by saying competition for AI superiority would be the most likely cause of a third world war. AI can’t get more everywhere than that.

We called another trend Pedestrians Drive Autonomous Cars. Maybe that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but 2017 certainly was the year when the talk about autonomous cars in live traffic got real. Hence, companies are realizing cars need to interact with less techy participants in traffic, such as bicyclists and pedestrians. One example is Ford, who are now focusing their autonomous car development specifically at such groups.

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Speaking about cars, the trend Bodies Out of Synch talked about the potential need for motion sickness pills when riding in self-driving cars, as well as when using virtual reality. And now Uber is trying to prevent motion sickness when their cars start driving autonomously.

When the borders between AR, VR and the physical world disappear, we said that consumers will experience a Merged Reality. For this reason, it was a welcome surprise to see Intel saying their Project Alloy headset launched at CES in January was all about merged reality.

Furthermore, Microsoft later brought their Windows Mixed Reality headsets to market. However, from an experience perspective, when you mix something it doesn’t always merge. Try oil and water and you’ll get the point. In any case 2017 was the year when the need to focus on a more integrated user experience for AR and VR really came to the fore!

We also had a couple of trends that were related to the role of social media in society. One was called Social Silos, with the idea that people willingly turn their social networks into silos by unfriending people who disagree with them and trusting their contacts’ opinions more than politicians’ viewpoints.

Not only was that a hot topic during the year, but it was also related to the debate about fake news, which brings us to trend, Augmented Personal Reality. This trend pinpoints 2017 as the year when the idea of post-truth turned serious. Although we highlighted the expectation that AR will create a wholly subjective reality, we have seen similar issues with AI during the year.  As a consequence it makes much sense that the theme for the 2018 Ericsson Innovation Awards competition is ‘The Future of Truth.’

Ericsson-blog-privacy-consumer-trends-2017Another extremely important trend was The Privacy Divide, where even advanced internet users are divided in their approach to the dilemma of privacy. In one corner are those who want to use only encrypted services, whereas in the other corner we find those who believe privacy no longer exists. In relation to the latter group, 2017 saw the Equifax breach, where names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses for up to 145 million Americans where compromised.

However, Ericsson ConsumerLab started talking about this issue already back in 2015, when we released the trend Everything Gets Hacked. Predicting the future somehow feels even harder when you get it right.

Finally, I would like to highlight Big Tech for All. This trend pointed out that more than two out of five advanced internet users would like to get all their products from the biggest five IT companies. With such concentration of commercial power, there are now people calling for such companies to be treated as states. Although we did not publish the particular figure last year, a third of the respondents in our survey stated they could in fact imagine being a citizen of such a state.

To sum up, I can honestly think our trends very much captured the gist of what was important during 2017. That puts us exactly in the right spot to do the same for 2018. Predicting the future may be easy, but Ericsson ConsumerLab’s track record of getting things right is harder to achieve!

Written by Michael Björn

Michael Björn is Head of Research at Ericsson ConsumerLab and has a PhD in data modeling from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. One of Michael's keen research interests is the process of assimilation of ICT into everyday consumer life.

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