Emerging Technologies

10 trends to watch in 2016

Arwen Armbrecht
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how The Digital Economy is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

The Digital Economy

Will you use virtual reality to test out potential holidays before you book? Do you want your car to pay for your petrol? Which trends are set to gain momentum in 2016? A new report from Fjord, a design and innovation consultancy owned by Accenture, highlights 10 trends that have the potential to influence business and society in the year ahead.

The ‘micromoment’

You used to have two options available when buying something: put in the research, or go for the impulse buy. Technology is moving us in a new, third direction. “Listening technologies” are following our every move and giving us feedback constantly. If you buy a book by one author, a similar one pops up on your shopping page. If you listen to a song, other artists in a similar genre appear alongside. This kind of feedback is being constantly expanded. Wearable technologies in particular are giving us data in real time, allowing us to make faster, more informed decisions. We know exactly how many calories we burned, how many kilometers we jogged or even how many strokes we made with our toothbrush. All of this information is allowing us to make decisions in “micromoments”, a trend which will have an impact on how and what we consume.

Services with manners

Three out of four consumers say they don’t mind some data being collected if it means their experience is more personalized. The tension between giving a company your personal data for a better experience and trusting what that company will do with the data will continue to be a major factor in the development of technologies.

The result is that companies in particular will have to emphasize digital etiquette and respect for privacy. Properly informing consumers about what they are locking into at each stage, rather than simply relying on terms and conditions, protects both them and the company from misunderstandings later on.

The employee experience

The “corporate ladder” is a thing of the past. Employees no longer follow a linear journey in their career, but rather use new and often different jobs to establish their own path, often in many different companies. The fact that technology-based jobs are transferable across different industries has only made this easier. In order to keep talent in-house, companies will have to rethink their “employee experience” and build cultures of purpose through empowerment, individuality and reward.

Disappearing apps

We are living on a “planet of the apps”, but technology is moving so quickly that this might soon be coming to an end. Once user-controlled, many apps are now proactively a part of the user’s life. A high amount of automation is prompting apps to merge together, and break out of their traditional place on your smartphone or tablet. How about a car that is able to pay for groceries, takeaways and petrol for you? It’s already in the research stages.

The flattening of privilege

Many services that would have been considered high end are now readily available to everyone. Chauffeurs, dry-cleaning delivery or a meal in a five-star restaurant have now been brought to the general public through apps and discount services.

Government for the people

Technology has not only allowed citizens to be better informed about their governments, it has let them become players in global issues through citizen-led projects (such as Kickstarter) and social media campaigns. As Europe tries to cope with the housing of refugees, for example, numerous websites have popped up offering “refugee Airbnbs” which connect displaced people with available homes.

Health in our own hands

Our health has never been so readily in our hands. Apps now exist to help us understand what we eat and how we exercise. Wearable technologies that track our health are on the rise. By 2019, the industry is expected to grow by 600%. Such technology is increasingly accessible: many applications can be downloaded for free, and sophisticated wearables are now available for less than $100.

All of this data is also contributing to better healthcare. Medical approaches that are tailored to an individual’s lifestyle and genetic profile are becoming more common.

Virtual reality is finally a reality

In many ways, virtual reality (VR) is being positioned as the next step in video games. But its implications in education, tourism and health are not to be overlooked. Much improved technology and affordable pricing mean that VR has the real potential to be a part of our lives, from virtual tourism to immersive journalism and exposure therapy.

The return of simplicity

As consumers, we now have more choices than ever before. In fact, it has been suggested that the average consumer makes more than 200 decisions a day on food alone. In a world of overwhelming possibilities, simplicity is making a comeback. By reducing one shampoo line from 26 options to 15, Proctor and Gamble saw a 10% increase in sales.

Design from within

Innovation has become the key to survival. A Standard & Poor’s company can expect to survive just 15 years. That’s down from 67 years in 1920. By 2027, 75% of the S&P 500 firms today will be replaced by new ones. Despite a $1.6 trillion investment in research and development in 2014, companies are still seeing more than 85% of consumer goods products fail. Design-led innovation has become a must, and the merging of departments in the conversation about those innovations is equally as important. Back in 1997, Steve Jobs pointed out: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” That’s possibly more true today than it ever has been before.

Author: Donald Armbrecht is a freelance writer and social media producer.

Image: An attendee tries out Sony’s Morpheus virtual reality headset at the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo, known as E3, in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian  

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Why Africa could provide the next semiconductor ecosystem for the chip business

Nii Simmonds and Ayodele Okeowo

July 17, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum