Let's Talk Trends

2020 Trend Report

Jeanette Numbers

Bright Futures

In 2020, wearables will go further, digital media will expand farther, and automotive innovation will move faster. Here are Loft’s forecasts for the next year in tech, design, and engineering.

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Digital Media: The Stream Is Officially a Flood

The most pivotal year of the streaming wars has commenced. Longtime players Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime will fight to keep their ground as entertainment titan Disney+ and newcomer Quibi pick up market share. As the battle rages on, Loft client Reelgood is adding value to the customer experience — helping viewers aggregate their platforms to find what they were looking for in the first place: fresh content at their fingertips. Meanwhile, Neon, a Loft client based in Latin America, is betting that as streaming goes mainstream internationally, customers in underserved markets (or continents) have an appetite for novel business models and regional exclusivity.

The real winner of the streaming wars? Creatives. As we move into 2020 and beyond, they’ll have more and more resources at their disposal. Loft clients Lifeprint and Lyve, a stealth mode Seagate brand, are giving everyone the tools to capture the moment and share it far and wide. Streaming has opened up opportunities outside of traditional formats and the prize goes to whoever can rise to the top of the algorithm. The future of media is virtually limitless.

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Digital Health: Proactive Wearables Are Where It's At

At Loft, we know that in order to be successful in an increasingly competitive market, the wearables of 2020 will need to go further than simply monitoring heart rate, steps, and calories. They’ll sense the needs of the body, and then act on them by delivering interventions such as micropulses, heating and cooling, and more. 

We call these devices “proactive wearables” and see them as representative of a larger trend towards proactivity that leads to prevention. The outlook for proactive wearables is good. In 2019, our client Embr Labs demonstrated that the market was ready — raising $6 million in fundraising and being selected as AARP’s “Innovator in Aging.” Consumers themselves have shown that they’re willing to pay out of pocket for wellness solutions — in the last two years alone, $4.2 trillion was spent on wellness. 

However, in order to win these discretionary dollars, wearables must do better for the people who wear them. They must go beyond over-engineered devices pasted on bodies to understand the day-to-day user experience of the wearer — and that’s where we come in. As designers, we have the opportunity to marry healthcare and technology in a way that drives positive patient outcomes while delivering a seamless user experience. We’re working with clients like Brilliantly, Cambridge Heartwear, Allergy Amulet, and Embr Labs to do just that.

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Consumer IoT: Smart Things Still Need People

In 2019 smart devices went fully mainstream with the help of 5G’s ultra-low lag times, real-time connectivity, and super fast speed. The connected home was just the beginning… In the twenties we’ll see the growth of the connected boat, yard, factory, and city.

While our devices continue to learn and get smarter, they still need people to interact with them. Robots aren’t taking over the world (yet). At Loft we understand that the best smart “things” work together with people to create a unified experience. We seek to empower humans in complex systems, to enhance their lived experience. Our research has proven over and over that people don’t want to control their smart “things.” In fact, they may even be intimidated by them. When Loft client Hayward came to us with a concept for a “smart pool” for homeowners that simplified pool care and streamlined recreation, it was the perfect opportunity to apply these insights. Informed by our research, we created a solution that made pool care more approachable with an intuitive, simple display of status and controls. An “interface” that invites the most intimidated users and delights the most confident. The result? A smart “thing” that works seamlessly with human counterparts to get the job done.

That’s where the future of smart “things” lie: as (mostly) silent partners that make it easier for us to be humans.

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Industrial IoT: Taking the Science Into the Field

In 2020 and beyond, connected experiences will empower new business models. Medical devices, life sciences, and drug discovery are becoming smart IoT-enabled platform systems. Research and discovery that was traditionally performed by highly skilled PhD scientists and physicians has become wearable/distributed/cloud-based. With a simple and well-designed interface and custom connected product solution, larger teams of technicians and field operators can use these smart ecosystems to perform and exchange scientifically relevant data points using sophisticated sensing and measuring technologies; speeding up highly specialized industries like life sciences, drug discovery, medical imaging, drug delivery, and laboratory diagnostics.

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Evolution of Drug Detection: To Sense and Protect

Technology is the great democratizer. It’s disrupted the means and scale of how information is shared and put powerful tools into the hands of the many. Until recently however, the world of hard sciences and laboratory testing remained inaccessible to most. Testing for air quality, contaminants, sensing allergens at a micro level — by nature, these were all “behind closed doors” pursuits seemingly understood by only scientists, researchers, and PhD’s. In 2020, these barriers are beginning to break down. We can use the power of design to simplify testing and visualize results for the everyday user. There’s a huge market for this: from finding allergens in food, to cannabis and nicotine detection, to fentanyl testing and warehouse protection.

Loft client Allergy Amulet is putting food safety in the hands of end users by allowing them to test their food in real-time for allergens such as soy, peanut, and dairy. And while the opioid epidemic rages on, there are companies providing testing tools to drug users to ensure that the substances they are using do not contain more dangerous elements.

This trend towards sensing for the sake of protecting goes beyond the individual, too. It provides huge value to businesses as well. Sensors can be used to monitor the conditions of a warehouse and detect any fluctuations in the environment that could lead to issues, as Loft client C2 Sense has demonstrated. And while Hayward is leveraging IoT to simplify pool maintenance for customers, its sensors are also being used to deliver maintenance insights to pool manufacturers and installers. Hotels, Airbnbs, and ride share services can turn to FreshAir to sense the presence of smoke — and then go one step further to detect whether the smoke is from nicotine or cannabis.

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Automotive Innovation: Self-Driving Cars Will Finally Go Places

Fresh off the heels of a CES filled with self-driving car displays came the announcement that Tesla has become America’s most valuable car company ever, officially confirming what we already knew: Americans are ready for autonomous vehicles. Yes, the age of the self-driving car is here, and it’s going to revolutionize the entire transportation industry. 

The best part? You don’t have to pay Tesla prices to get a self-driving car. Our friends at Ghost are giving vehicles an after-life. An autonomous after-life, that is…

As for concerns over regulatory hurdles and consumer safety? This month at CES, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced the new AV 4.0 guidance: a three principle document that prioritizes 1) protecting users and communities, 2) promoting efficient markets, and 3) improving transportation systems overall. As Chao put it, “It should not be the role of the federal government to pick winners or losers...We will remain technology neutral...Regulations are needed, but when they become obsolete...they need to be changed.” Sounds like permission to innovate. Start your engines.

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