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Posted: December 29, 2011

The top 28 major trends for 2012 and beyond

Here are the first seven

Thomas Frey

We are in for a very exciting year ahead. It's a year where many competing trends will collide, and through those collisions we will see new pathways emerge.

At the same time, many new trends are forming, some with enough steam to form entirely new movements, others that will run their course and splinter into other emerging ways of doing business.

The "new normal" is quickly becoming the "nothing normal," and our daily routines, the things we use to maintain our own sanity, will need to morph and change if we hope to stay competitive in the emerging job market and even stay current in our own social circles.
With this in mind, I'd like to take you on a journey into some of the trends I'll be watching in 2012 as the tectonic plates of change inch their way into new positions. Here are the first seven of the 28 major trends to watch in 2012 and beyond.

1.) Retail 2.0 - People still like getting out of the house and being around other people, but the retail world hasn't quite figured out what people are looking for. New ways of thinking about Retail 2.0 will form around phrases like "experiential entertainment," "active engagement," and "interaction with experts."
Some of the major expenses involved in traditional retail have been maintaining inventories and shelf space. Look for a new breed of retails shops that carry no inventory, only product demonstration stations with the ability to order on the spot (and receive a discount). Most will be pay-to-play product placement stations with experts on hand to answer questions. Tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft will be paving the way for these kinds of storefronts. I'll be writing more on this topic in the weeks ahead.

2.) Crowdfunding - Even though some sites like Kickstarter and Quirky have been getting traction in this space, Congress' recent effort to pass official Crowdfunding legislation will unleash an entirely new Pandora's box full of options for entrepreneurs hoping to launch their latest ventures. Many startups are waiting on the sidelines for this new option to kick in, so look for a surge of activity to take place as an entirely new finance industry begins to take shape.

3.) The Persistent "Big Lie" Opportunity - Throughout history we have seen any number of cultural truisms spring to life that were simply not true. If something is repeated enough times, society will begin to believe it. With our ability to post and repost a novel concept, new cultural memes can be formed virtually over night. Yet at the same time, our attempts to debunk any myth with over a million mentions online often runs into a murky wall of ambivalence. For this reason, even though they have been scientifically disproven, "big lies" such as these will persist:

• "In the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame"
• "You only use 10 percent of your brain"
• "The Internet is making us dumber"
• "The more you sweat, the more calories you burn"
• "Listening to classical music turns babies into geniuses"
• "Alcohol kills brain cells"
• "Being skinny means you're fit and healthy
• "Your IQ is fixed and stays the same throughout your life

If you thought some of the statements above were true, you're not alone. Many of us still do even though they have been proven false. Look for a new breed of services to appear that will offer solutions for globally debunking the persistent "big lies."

4.) Emerging Data Marketplace - The data that you currently own can become far more valuable when you mix it with other data. As an example, if you add weather conditions to your customer data, chances are you will find some connection between weather patterns and your customers' purchasing habits. Acquiring datasets such as these is presently very time consuming, expensive, and generally a pain to do. Look for emerging big data marketplaces, such as Microsoft's Azure, that will come complete with directories of the available datasets, along with counselors who can help coach you through the maze.

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5.) Smartphone Peripherals - The whole mobile apps revolution began in March of 2008 when Steve Jobs announced the software developer's kit for the Apple iPhone. When Apple's App Store officially opened on July 11, 2008, there were a whopping 552 apps to choose from. Over 60 million apps were downloaded within the first 3 days and tech companies around the world began to sense a market shift, and we now have well over a million apps to choose from.

While apps have been getting tons of attention, the piece getting very little is the exploding field of smartphone peripherals that extend our current communication systems far beyond simple person-to-person communications. Virtual every object we come into contact with has the potential for being controlled by our smartphone, and interface designers are working overtime to make this happen.
Look for literally thousands of new peripheral devices to hit the market over the coming year or two.

6.) The Coming Age of Micro-Incomers - Twitch.tv, or "Twitch," as it's called by founder Justin Kan, was built as a way to make professional video gamers more mainstream. It has a partner program similar to YouTube, where the most popular gamers can make money by running commercials during their live streams. Yes, people can actually make money by playing games.

While most of them will not make full-time incomes, they will find it relatively easy to become part of the emerging "micro-incomer" crowd. Here are a few other ways people can make partial and even full-time incomes online:

• Sell stuff on eBay or craigslist
• Sell photos to stock photo sites
• Amazon's Mechanical Turk
• Transcribing audio files
• Become a virtual assistant
• Interview people and sell the interview
• Enter online competitions
• Write articles on eHow.com

None of these are get-rich-quick schemes, but they can make all the difference between getting by and being destitute. Look for training centers to emerge with a "micro-incomers" kind of focus.

7.) Data Visualization Trends - "I remember seeing a terrific video on wireless power but cannot seem to find it no matter what I do." Mental faux pax like this are all too common. For most of us, it's very difficult to image what information looks like, and when we save a file somewhere, its very often very difficult for us to find it again. Data visualization has been a problem plaguing the online world for years and will become even more pronounced as we move further into the cloud.

Data visualization provides tools for two primary functions - explanation and exploration. While business people might think of visualization as the end result, scientists also using forms of visualization to formulate questions, and for discovering new features of a dataset. More importantly, our ability to find and work with data needs to be so easy that average everyday people can work with it. Look for a few critical new offerings in this area to revolutionize how we store and retrieve the information that will operate and manage our future selves.
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Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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