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.

RFID Enabled Cell phones – What it Means for Marketing

NFC Enabled Courtesy Microsoft

NFC Enabled
Courtesy Microsoft

Just picture yourself enjoying a new wine at a restaurant.  You love the ’91’ Pinot Noir and want to order a case for your wine cellar. So, you hold your phone close to the wine label, and zing! Up pops a tantalizing description of your wine with links to ratings and ordering information. All you need to do is enter “yes” to the “order now?” prompt. Well, pretty soon, you might be in luck because if all goes well, RFID enabled cell phones might open up a whole new avenue of shopping. Ok, just on the off-chance you haven’t heard of Radio Frequency Identification or better known as RFID, it’s basically a little chip that gets embedded into a label or money, or credit cards or whatever the object and transmits a signal to a reader. Of course, right now, RFID works best in situations where the object is closer to the reader. Quite intentionally — because you don’t want the object you are connecting with to be confused with other tagged objects. Future cell phone generations equipped with RFID readers may have some major uses for marketers. Thus far, the RFID industry has been a bit sluggish — stalled by privacy issues, costs, trying to get better scans of the target, and mitigating signal interference issues. The recreational uses present a new frontier for marketers looking for innovative ways of breaking through all of the messaging noise to sell their products. Future iPhone generations are supposedly planned to be equipped with RFID readers. Imagine all those new apps! According to the NFC Forum, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology provides global interoperability of contactless identification and interconnection technologies. NFC operates in the 13.56 MHz frequency range, over a typical distance of a few centimeters. The underlying technology is based upon common technology standards supported by global communication device manufacturers and network operators with the intention of being compatible with hundreds of millions of cards and readers already deployed globally. TD

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