I’m home from celebrating the 10th anniversary of Airfoil Public Relations in Detroit. It was great to look back over a decade of communications success, but I’m even more eager to launch into the next decade. Here are 10 trends for the next 10 years that I believe will be changing the way we communicate:
- Media platforms will converge in new ways. Today, we can watch video on one TV set in our homes, pause the show and then resume watching on another set. Very soon we’ll be able to do the same thing across devices, starting a show at home in the morning, resuming it on our mobile phone while commuting on the train, and watching the rest of the video at our desk when we arrive at the office.
- E-books will be ubiquitous. E-book readers have become much more affordable, and over the coming years e-book content is likely to soar beyond the text of novels and newspapers. Students will be taking, sharing and reviewing class notes with their e-book readers. With GPS capability, these devices will become the primary outlets for hyper-hyperlocal electronic newspapers, which will be able to change the news stories they display as people carry their readers from ZIP code to ZIP code. Individual systems and components of cars and trucks will link to e-book repair manuals so that do-it-yourselfers automatically will see in video and text exactly the information they need as they move among locations and parts on their vehicles.
- The office worker will become the exception, as the majority of employees work remotely. They will be able to use collaboration tools that are so advanced that traveling to the office would be superfluous. Co-workers will remain connected all day long via video and wireless voice connections, and updated documents will float seamlessly among employees, customers and clients.
- A similar phenomenon will happen with schools. Already students are earning their degrees from online universities. High schools will move toward an online format as well, saving tax dollars and transportation costs for residents. The new social networks are likely to be education “collectives” where teachers and students form a single social group to deliver, receive and discuss lessons by video, live interactive presentations, chat and other means.
- Face-to-face communications will become a highly coveted phenomenon. With so much connectivity driving fewer office-type work spaces and even more online entertainment, individuals will place much greater value on what once were routine encounters, like parties, local sports events and clubs. Electronic connectivity will drive us to more readily connect with each other in person, and much more of our communications will focus on announcing, reporting and interpreting these interpersonal events.
- E-mail will be largely supplanted by social media posts that will be filtered down to the level of the individual user. Combining geo-locational capabilities with mobile social sites, individuals will no longer need to “open” e-mails. Messages and links (instead of attachments) will appear instantaneously on mobile and computer screens and recipients universally will speak their replies, which also will be posted instantly.
- The computer mouse, physical keyboard and hard drive will become antiquated. Users instead will simply use gestures and motions to create messages and perform tasks, much as they can do for entertainment purposes today with Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360. All data will be stored in the cloud, so hard drives won’t be necessary.
- Technology that already is being developed by MIT’s Media Lab will allow you to project images and words onto any surface from a device you wear around your neck. Use your finger to draw an imaginary circle on your wrist and the system projects the correct time onto your arm. In similar fashion, you can access a phone pad, snap a photo or project a person’s Facebook profile on his shirt to gain an immediate introduction.
- The promise of Minority Report already is possible. Stores will change their environments as individuals move through them, displaying items that each shopper is most apt to buy (a marketing bonanza) and, through RFID technology, checking out all items at once without removing them from the shopping bags.
- Millennials will care little about the privacy of their personal information, whereabouts and buying habits. For individuals, if not for businesses, concerns for security will give way to ensuring that they remain networked, interactive and visible wherever they go.
By 2020, today’s mobile phone, computer and SUV will seem as quaint as the phone dial and bottle openers. Our job as communicators will be not just to hang on but to propel ourselves ahead of the curve to light the way.