A Glimpse at Emerging Technologies in 2016

The brand landscape of 3D Printing will continue to change in 2016
In 2016 the influence of major IT brands will be seen in the high end of the 3D printing market even if these companies are not yet shipping products. While most revenues in the 3D printing space come from the industrial and professional high end of the market where brands such as HP, Canon, Ricoh, Toshiba Machines and others will enter, the landscape of the nascent desktop/personal 3D printer space is set to change as well. No major IT company has announced any great plans to enter this side of the market in the near future, but at CES 2016 we did see the likes of the licensing company Polaroid toss its name into the ring and others are expected to follow.

The desktop/personal 3D printer market is still regionally fragmented and start-ups can quickly gain share by way of crowd sourced efforts. A global market leader has yet to emerge but XYZprinting currently carries that banner, having taken it away from the previous poster-child MakerBot (now owned by Stratasys). In the near future, it seems, both sides of the 3D printing industry are set for brand shake-ups.

The Internet of Things – we need some education about benefits
For the last few years, people have been predicting that the following year will herald the big take-off of the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly in the home environment. However, 2016 will be a year of steady progress, rather than ‘the year’ for IoT as many are forecasting.

What we’ll see is more jostling between vendors as tech firms try to firm up their foothold in the developing market. They will do this primarily with single-use devices – smart lights, IP cameras, sound systems and thermostats. No one ecosystem will emerge as dominant yet, although Samsung SmartThings, Google Nest, Apple Homekit, AllSeen Alliance, Amazon Echo and others will all try in 2016.

Ultimately, until product standards improve, prices fall, and there is a greater level of education about the benefits of the IoT, it won’t hit the mainstream. Our recent smart home survey supports this: a whopping 63% of Europeans do not yet understand the smart home concept, while over a third (37%) fail to see the benefits of smart home products.

..and steady progress in wearables
Even if there truly were such a thing as the year of anything, 2016 would not be it for wearables. There will be no killer app, no single added software functionality that will redeem its hardware host. Apple Pay? Come on! People are simply not that inconvenienced by classic card usage – especially now most of us have contactless cards. And this reflects a larger problem for tech companies trying to carve out a space in the emerging consumer IoT: there simply aren’t that many problems left to be solved.

Of course companies will continue to successfully build solutions for the myriad minor ‘challenges’ we face day to day, like wielding out wallets or getting up to turn the lights off, but no single solution will lead to anything like the stratospheric rise of the smartphone. Rather, we can expect to see a more gradual uptake over the next few years as wearables increasingly integrate with the rest of the consumer IOT and find ever more small ‘wins’ for their owners, eventually building up to a compelling purchase proposition.

Virtual reality – substance over hype
2016 is going to be the year that retail VR products start rolling into the market but they won’t snowball. At CES, Oculus announced the launch date and price for the first retail version of their headset and accessories at £500 which looks quite high. For those of us who have been waiting almost their entire life for truly immersive gaming – ever since the rise and fall of the risible Virtual Boy – the next three months should be enough time to save up. However the vast majority of consumers, who have not yet been able to experience sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and reaching out to stroke Chewie’s mane, will see the technology as a luxurious curiosity.

Oculus and other manufacturers are looking to the product life cycles of other emergent technologies which often started off expensive before coming down in price as they became more mainstream. Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey recently spoke out in defence of their pricing, stating that they didn’t want to compromise on quality in the first-generation of headsets. It looks like the lessons of Virtual Boy have been learned: substance is more important than hype.

by AS, TG, JW & CC

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Filed under 3D Printing, Connectivity, IoT, Smart Home, Wearables

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