The Coming Decentralization of the Utility Sector

Bloom Energy Fuel Cell Courtesy Bloom Energy

Bloom Energy Fuel Cell
Courtesy Bloom Energy

Several trend waves are heading for a thunderous collision and are going to change the course of the utility sector. When billions of dollars were poured into energy “cleanies” and “greenies”, few thought about the third order ramifications and potential by-products. But, alternative energy is just that. It means we don’t need the same old companies providing the same old things that they’ve provided for the last 50 years. In fact the alternatives are starting to line up nicely. Like the telecommunications infrastructure that has rapidly gone from big infrastructure to mobile wireless due to rapid advancements in battery power, bandwidth, and miniaturization, so goes the utility sector. The three big waves that are about to hit are miniaturization and efficiencies through nanotechnologies, improvements in battery power and storage systems; and improved human economization of energy. [Read more…]

The Future of Telecom – Eaten by Mobile Computing

googleglassTime is a wondrous thing. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Seconds, days, years go by with little tribute until cataclysmic events change the course of history.

First of all technology advances mixed with telecom deregulation unleashed a market place that has gone wild with personal communications and a remaking of the telecom industry as a whole. The Trends Digest™ team of experts has been performing research in this market for more than fifteen years and has captured, through hundreds of studies and analyses, trends foreshadowing the future. While we will give you a glimpse of the future right here in Trends Digest™ online, you can always find more data in our in-depth research studies.

An Increasingly Wireless World — Nearly Two Thirds of the World’s Population has access to a Mobile Phone! And in 2013 nearly two thirds of the world’s population was connected to the internet!

If only Alexander Graham Bell could be alive to see the telecom market today. Bell obtained the patent for the first telephone in 1876. Grown from his invention have been thousands of companies and tens of thousands of communications devices. Ok, you saw it coming, and we, at Trends Digest™, saw it coming about ten years ago. But the 2009 numbers spell the death of the landline as the economy pulled the final plug on wire-line services particularly in the U.S. where the “Baby Bells” are now practically giving away service. A lot of alternatives have been fighting for this market including cable, wireless, and satellite. For now, in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, mobile wireless is winning as hard wired communications become a thing of the past. In North America, 2010 saw the demise of Canadian company Nortel, the continued remaking of AT&T, and cable operators advance in packaged offerings for voice, data, and video services. In 2013, mobile computing eats everything including the mobile phone which finally brings reality to video calling (thank goodness you can turn those pesky cameras off if you want to).

The U.S. has actually been somewhat late to the party in full mobile wireless adoption, partly because of the rivalry between standards, incompatibility issues between coverage areas, handsets challenges, and regulatory issues. This tumult has created a lot of unknowns for the consumer. But, with competition, volume, and cheap handsets, the balance has finally been tipped. Many of the contributing factors included the 1996 Telecom Act’s provisions for permanent number portability (keeping your number if you switch carriers), escalation of email, text messaging, and a cultural shift in “being connected”. As North America has been playing tug-of-war with regulations and the old Bell operating companies, the rest of the world skipped wires, went straight to cell phones, and is now plunging full throttle into wireless banking from cell phones. Even though thatch houses in Kenya might not have many of today’s western conveniences, cell phones rule. Mobile computing is now reaching product maturation globally. So, now what? Devices are going to get even smaller as the computer and human begin to merge. Augmented reality by Google in the form of glasses is only the beginning. TD
Copyright Trends Digest™ All rights reserved. 2013

Figuring out How Y’s are Wired – Marketing to Generation Y

Gen YIt’s a good thing that Y’s can multi-task because they’ve got a lot on their shoulders in bearing the brunt of future productivity, taxation, and spinning up the creativity to fuel the world’s economic engine. So, just who are they? Y’s and Millennials, used interchangeably, were born after 1980 and many are now pushing 30. They were practically born into group behavior and the new era of social responsibility and wired lifestyle. So, multi-tasking and social networking have always been part of the package. This is the largest population group, so millennials are the up and coming market for everyone’s product – – if they have the money. Let’s talk about the money later. First of all, getting a handle on this group means understanding technology and how technology is integrated into our lives our psyche and how we use and store information. When we talk about “multi-tasking” this is not just a mechanical function like sending a text, downloading music, and holding a conversation. There are real behavioral patterns in giving the brain data to store, utilize, and retrieve. Case in point: Have you ever been writing an email or a text and looked back to realize you misspelled a word that you know very well? How we use, store, retrieve, collect, ingest, and make decisions about information is constantly being retrofitted by technology. Viral marketing truly is viral as conversations in the virtual world are done on Facebook via iPhone or Droid. No wonder companies are paying for people’s “friends” on Facebook. Collecting friends has never been so profitable. It’s pretty obvious if you’re a facebook junkie. You know what that say about six degrees of separation. The whole marketing thing gets very real when you click on your friends, your friends’ friends, and realize what social networking can really mean. Of course there are social networks for everything now. Everyone’s gossiping and sharing great info online. Some are even living in their “virtual farm houses” planting crops, and having a second job as a farmer. Yes, there is also money to be made in the virtual world if you’ve got the time. Have a great wine or a beer? Your avatar Penelope better be sharing it with others in the “virtual wine room” while it catches a buzz roller coaster on Facebook and Twitter.

While some of these tech waves will come and go, the monumental change in reaching out to Generation Y will be with us for some time as we recognize that how we reach these millennials is very different than past generations. Mobile marketing is going to grow, and the transaction times in between are going to get shorter and shorter. Why mobile marketing? Because the move to more featureful, smart phones is already eating away at the notebook PC market. The mobile smart phone continues to be the device of choice. For marketers, there are number of challenges here. Keeping the attention of a multi-tasker is challenging. Next, you’ve got to hold their attention long enough to make it through the “your credit card has been processed successfully” message.

got to hold their attention long enough to make it through the “your credit card has been processed successfully” message.

Wining and Dining with the Y’s – Refined Tastes on Beer Budgets

Ok. Now for the discussion of Gen Y’s cash problem. We know you don’t want to hear this, but we have a real marketing problem. The Y’s may not have all that much money and probably have even less opportunity than the generations that preceded them. Millennials love technology and studied art, business, and communications. The double whammy may be that this is the generation that is going to get hit the hardest by a sluggish economy and heavier tax burden. As if that’s not enough, this cohort is off the mark in aligning education with economic demand. So the dwindling ranks of doctors, scientists, and engineers will continue to become even more economically devastated. The Y’s are starting to favor smaller but smarter houses, more affordable wines, and sensible cars. Older Y’s might look more like their grandparents than their parents when it comes to spending. While frugality may not be ingrained, it will be an essential byproduct of the circumstances. TD

Copyright Trends Digest 2013 All Rights Reserved

The Next Decade: Chicken Soup, Peanut Butter, and Prozac

PBJ and ProzacPBJ and ProzacThe financial crisis of 2009 didn’t just change the last few years, but also the next decade — how we live, how we work, how long we work, and how we perceive the future.

And most people are not seeing the future very positively right now, other than the occasional uptick in housing and a few other bright spots out there.  Everything hurts and we want to be comforted. The doldrums might last longer than people think. So, while it’s not pretty, I think we’ll all be sulking looking for tiny little comforts that make us feel better. At least the next five years should see an uptick in the sale of comfort foods, anti-depressants, alcohol, and, of course, movies and entertainment to round out the escapism. People will be tight fisted in their spending habits unless they can justify that spending a few dollars makes them feel better even if it’s only for a short time. So, to pump up those coffee shop sales, how about getting some Kava tea on the menu?

So if the next decade remains a little frosty, what will people be spending their hard earned cash on?  People don’t give up cheap entertainment easily. It makes them feel better. So cable and satellite TV companies should do well if they figure out how to price and package their products. Hollywood seems short on memory when it comes to uplifting movies. But, this will be a decade where uplifting movies will do well if they’re put into play.

This is also not going to be a good decade for the “great smoke out” where the American Cancer Association encourages people to kick the habit. Giving up cigarettes just got a little harder. In fact, I expect tobacco sales to rise even further and possibly pick up a new following. Designer beers and wines are out and cheap imitators are in. This will be the decade for the “substitute” products. So you wanted the Mercedes, get the Chrysler 300 instead if Chrysler manages to survive. You wanted Prada? Don’t worry, the fact that you bought used on E-Bay is our little secret (and it’s also the secret of the woman you just admired coming out of SAKs).

Things That Should Do Well

Things that we expect to do well besides, soup, cigarettes, peanut butter, and Prozac.

What’s In:

Cigarettes, Comfort Food,  Alcoholic beverages,  Mood Drugs,  Cheap Gyms,  Used books and movies,  Generic brands,  Used everything

What’s Out:

Steak and Lobster,  Super mansions, Wines above a 92 Wines Spectator Rating,  Luxury SUVs

Copyright Trends Digest 2013-2015 Al rights reserved.  Trends Digest is a Trademark of Reperi, LLC.

It’s Downtown or the X-urbs

Houston, Texas, skyline.

Downtown or X-urbs?

A Nation on the Move?  And what’s causing this trend? Gen-Xers, and Gen-Yers want to raise their family in quality of life locations, while baby boomers are trying to locate another nest and retire early. While downtown, in cities across America, people are living closer to work, often deciding not to own a car at all.

Suburbia Moves Closer to the City

Downtown areas are being revitalized at record rates as condos, apartments, mini-grocery stores, and car rental companies cater to the city dweller.

Cities to Watch: Houston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Chicago

So what will downtowners need? Better shopping, more variety in grocery stores, urban, organic landscaping, kid-friendly developments, community-oriented housing, more convenient rental car locations, and healthier food choices. What is driving the back to the city trend? Incentives for fuel and emissions savings, suburban congestion, the commoditization of suburbia, and new opportunities created by the decline in housing and property prices.

Telecommuters Take Commuting to the Next Level

As rural dwellers, we can’t help but be fascinated by the exodus of America’s knowledge workers and professionals to more rural destinations. Pollsters and journalists seem to miss the mark when they try to point their finger at how, for example, states in the West are shifting demographically and politically. Well folks, people are homesteading again – very well, not the kind that happened at the turn of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but this time it is tech-homesteading. The acceptability of web conferencing, text messaging, and technology that, while reducing physical/personal human contact increases virtual and qualitative human contact, has freed up individuals to telecommute and perform their work functions from “virtually” anywhere.

During the last decade, this was a gradual progression as organizations allowed telecommuting and small businesses and consultants began mo

This is particularly appealing to Generation Xers and Yers who are more focused on quality of life than their parents. A major contributor to this trend has been the massive investment in telecommunications infrastructure, which is essential to the telecommuter. Rural telephone cooperatives, satellite providers, and local phone and cable companies have made broadband both real and affordable. Don’t forget overnight mail. Internet shopping has changed the world. Being able to get the same goods and services delivered to your door in Fessenden, North Dakota is a necessity. What will the next decade hold for these new rural settlers? Be prepared for more changes in local political structures, at least some small town urbanization as commuters, in getting away from the city, seem to bring some of the city with them.

These new settlers tend to be between 25 and 48, well educated, and more socially and environmentally conscious. Over the next decade, what will these urban transplants need? More small business and home office technology tools, better grocery stores and pharmacies, pet care, healthcare, social organizations and networking to keep them from getting bored. Other needs might include better convertible options for home and home office combinations that deliver voice, data, video, for work and entertainment. Additionally, some smart state and local governments might be able to think up a few tax incentives to lure these telecommuters to their areas. Join TrendsDigest in February 2009 to help us select the top new homesteading communities for telecommuters. – TD


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