Tech Trends makes 10 predictions


Keith Brophy delivers his technology predications to a full house at Tech Trends at the CityFlatsHotel Ballroom in Grand Rapids. Photo by Mike Nichols

The first-annual Tech Trends event was in 2002.

A lot has changed since 2002, noted Keith Brophy, the new state executive director at Michigan Small Business Development Center and speaker for the 14th-annual Tech Trends by the Grand Rapids-based technology nonprofit aimWest. The event was held Wednesday evening in the CityFlatsHotel Ballroom in downtown Grand Rapids.

“Does anybody know who the number-one-selling musical act was in 2002?” asked Brophy, the former CEO of Grand Rapids-based mobile health care startup Ideomed.


The crowd gasped.

Surprises like that are part of the magic of Brophy’s presentation style. The man even strutted on stage wearing a white sweat suit as a lead-in to a conversation about the viral sensation known as #TheDress.

“I wore this because . . . I know people look at this suit and see different things,” Brophy said. “Some of you see a light-blue suit. Some of you see a light-gold suit. The answer is there is no one answer, but it’s pretty much white.”

Tech Trends has predicted 130 trends over 13 years, said Brophy, who encouraged the packed ballroom to see the value of looking to the future.

“Just think where we were in that first event,” Brophy said. “Just think of what didn’t exist. . . . There was no Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. No iPhone. No Google self-driving car. This age we live in is unique in the history of civilization. The change is so fast and shakes up our lives.

“We want to look to the future, so we can be better prepared for it. We’re looking ahead, so we can have insight.”

Technology predictions by Keith Brophy

1. Social media stampede

Organizations scramble to better leverage social media as its expanding power becomes undeniable. Current industry forecasts of social media advertising growth ($8 billion in 2014 and up to $15 billion in 2018) turn out to be vastly understated.

2. Hyperloop revolutionizes segments of high-speed mass transit and logistics supply chain transport

The Hyperloop race is on, fueled by the brilliant strategy of providing an open source spec for the technology vision. The technology has many challenges to work out and takes longer than anticipated, but results in a revolutionary new form of transport.

3. Surface Hub gains quick, strong traction as a key platform and opens up new forms of group collaboration

Windows 10 apps lay the basis for leveraging the Surface Hub technology. The product includes mature and innovative new ways of productive collaboration, such as multi-person multi-touch. This value-added grounding results in strong adoption at the enterprise and then mainstream levels.

4. “A headtop on every noggin!” Virtual reality headsets — propelled by Microsoft’s HoloLens success — become the basic platform for computing tasks beyond gaming and entertainment

Microsoft’s HoloLens gains substantial revenue and drives strong app creation. This inspires Facebook’s Occulus Rift, Magic Leap (with Google investment) and other global competitors. The enhanced experience has such a clear value proposition that the virtual reality headset is a leading platform for computing, and the old “computer on every desk and in every house” goal becomes, in a sense, “a headtop on every noggin”.

5. The metrics-based classroom is replaced by teacher led, engagement-based small groups. The teacher leverages shared and solo holographic headset delivery experiences

Teachers lead learning scenarios with systems that help assess personalized learning goals and engage and inspire students. Performance emphasis shifts to value student engagement, self-motivation and innovation as highest order metrics.

6. Our choices are increasingly based on population analytics from expanding pools of data or big data. Our personal data is overlaid with these pools to further predict the unique impact of our choices on our own lives

We live in an age with a rapidly expanding capability to collect data, meld it with streams of past data and carry out analysis to project impact of behaviors. As the stream of legacy and new data continues to expand, the tempo of these insights will increase. We will become a society of constant research alignment to optimize our unique lifestyles.

7. Apple Watch validates smartwatch as platform and smartwatch adoption exceeds 100 million within five years

It is not the first smartwatch, but it is the one that re-defines the category. The range of capabilities, plus a good dose of marketing and distribution allow this watch to be perceived as one of the most effective forms of connectivity. The rapid user acceptance of the Apple Watch platform inspires many other competitors to provide innovative and more affordable alternatives, and smartwatch use rapidly explodes across the world.

8. By 2025 “The Internet of Dings” (drones and things) imposes powerful automatic monitoring and control over many aspects of human life in several nations, as capabilities of automated drones and “The Internet of Things” blend

Several nations deploy drones that process feedback from sensor grids to provide monitoring and control over humans — systems that are automatic with no human intervention. This control spans activities such as policing, traffic monitoring, crowd control, safety monitoring, traffic control and logistics.

9. Remote-controlled proxy bots for corporate video conferencing pave the way for widespread use of remotely driven service robots in the U.S. by 2025

Early mobile video presence platforms converge with tactile feedback systems to provide a new form of interacting remotely where you can high five fellow meeting participants from afar or fetch the a cup of coffee. Eventually this technology evolves so that a vast range of human activities from plumbing to electrical wiring to painting to walking the dog are carried out remotely.

10. Mars One fails to land humans on the planet by the 2025 target. However, it inspires another nation’s arrival by 2030 and results in creation of many spin-off technologies

The ambitious goal fails within its stated time range due to insufficient funding, but raises awareness that this bold goal can be achieved. A national space program (non-U.S.) makes it happen. The self-supporting contained living environment created for the mission generates a vast array of technology improvements from holographic immersive life to the next level 3D printer production facilities. 

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