Sometimes a new technology appears on the market that completely changes human behavior. One minute we don’t even know something exists and the next we can’t imagine our lives without it. Think about the advent of electricity, TV or the iPhone. These disruptive technologies actually created new consumer habits. However, some innovations are born in response to pre-existing consumer trends. There is a demand for a new product, and the market is simply waiting for the technology to exist to make it a reality. The car was undoubtedly a disruptive technology. The self-driving car is the inevitable design innovation that simply needs a little more time in the oven. While we wait, here are just a few ways that recent consumer habits have created new technological trends.
The first generation of GPS-enabled watches to hit the scene were clunky, heavy boxes that could barely make it a few hours on a single charge. Still, they were the first attempt to use design to solve a simple problem: how do we make a hands-free technology that is easily accessible and can help simplify some of life’s common tasks? The advent of smartphones suggested that a small, compact device could handle the workload, but it wasn’t until last year that smartwatches finally fulfilled the promise offered by those early models. The Apple Watch was quick to set the standard, but companies like Samsung and HTC have also answered the consumer call with their own multi-function watches. It was really always a matter of time.
As consumer spending habits shift further into the digital realm, the need for physical currency has decreased. Sure, you still might want to hang onto some cash for the farmers’ market or a baseball game, but we are quickly moving toward a cashless society. A report by the Javelin Strategy and Research Firm suggests that credit and debit will account for 77 percent of all in-person transactions by 2017. In response, developers like Apple and Google have created digital wallet applications that reflect the consumer shift away from bills and coins. Both allow users to store credit cards for use in participating retailers. The technology is firmly in place, so it’s only a matter of stores and credit card companies implementing it. And as digital wallets become more and more prevalent, a new breed of privacy issues are sure to arise. Whether your wallet is in your pocket or on your phone, always take measures to protect your identity.
The years between the release of DVD technology and Blu-ray technology were quite volatile for the entertainment industry. Although Netflix made renting movies on DVD easier than ever, the proliferation of digital piracy suggested that consumers were far more interested in ease of access than they were physical media (or intellectual property law). In a sense, Internet piracy served as a tutorial for a new age of digital content consumption. Spotify, Hulu and even Netflix, designed services that catered directly to this new market. By the time Blu-ray inherited the physical media mantle from DVD, the tide had already turned. Now streaming is poised to be the primary mode of media delivery. Piracy might be illegal, but it can also signal to those who design our technology that we’re ready to live in a newer, faster world.