At hubraum Krakow, one committed collective have been studying trends, different forms of technology and early signals of change to identify the forces shaping the behaviours of users of the future. While predicting the forces that will shape tech may seem challenging — after all, the sheer number of overlapping forecasts can seem contradictory and confusing — the collective believes it’s crucial to keep track of them. Here, they spell out three major driving forces that the collective identified that we should expect to see in play both this year and in 2020.

Image credit: Alicja Gliwa

Hyper post personalization gives designers the best of both worlds when targeting users in an increasingly complex online setting.

In 2019, user profiles aren’t always what they seem. In 2010, the internet activist Eli Pariser coined the term “filter bubble” — the idea that internet users become fenced off from other perspectives when website algorithms use the person’s previous internet searches, browsing history, location and click behaviour to selectively guess what that user would like to see. 

The upshot? We become less exposed to different viewpoints and more exposed to searches, adverts and websites that reinforce our existing perspectives – we can see this via Google’s personalized search results, for example. Internet users are increasingly attempting to fight back by intentionally typing in polarizing statements and phrases in order to broaden their bubble. We can also see this in the online behaviour of members of Generation Z or more digitally-savvy millennials, who create fake social media accounts. This way, they can enjoy all the advantages of their social media feed while also being able to avoid the usual information and ads which are targeted at their bubble. 

As a result, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for companies and organizations to accurately target users — more in-depth knowledge about users is required to truly target them effectively. We already have plenty of tools that allow us to collect and analyze user data. But can we use these tools as a basis for gaining reliable knowledge about users? Arguably, statistical modeling has its limitations and big data doesn’t give us the whole picture about users yet. Therefore, it is worth considering a switch to models that offer a broad and multifaceted image of the user. These approaches would combine large data numbers (big data) and a saturation of data (qualitative) with broad data (expectations, purchase decisions, trends, contextual insights).

Hyper post personalization is all about how a product adapts to its user. The term refers to a product being designed in a way that makes it broadly applicable to a wide range of users. However, there’s one key difference that caters to the individual — in the app layer, it should be customizable and personalizable, so users can adapt the app to their very specific preferences. 

This means modern businesses face two challenges: on the one hand, catering to universal tastes ie. creating neutral, inclusive, non-discriminatory devices. On the other hand, catering to hyper personalization, allowing users to edit settings to the nth degree so their unique, individual tastes and preferences are appealed to. In this sense, the product becomes universal, providing the perfect blank slate for individual customers/users’ to customize with their preferences, whether through external accessories or overlays.

One example of this was found at the installation A Space For Being – which was presented by Google – at Milan Design Week this year. Visitors were given wristbands which measured their physiological reaction to three different spaces. It paired visitors with the location in which they felt most “at ease” on the basis of individual data.

Image credit: Alicja Gliwa

Until recently, many of us browsed the internet with little thought to how our data was being used. But for many users, it is becoming gradually clearer that applications, websites and companies collect information about them and that these same organisations use this data — and they are never informed of how this data will be used. What’s more, data collection tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and subtle. All of this is contributing to a collective sense of anxiety about issues of privacy and security — something which has been fuelled by events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

It’s clear that moving forward, the companies that the public will be most loyal to will be the same companies who take their audience’s privacy most seriously and which are most transparent about how they use any data they collect. These firms will design their products in a way which shows they’re only collecting the minimal amount of data they need to be viable. 

Even companies that the public may have doubts about in terms of privacy are embracing this approach. At Facebook’s F8 developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that the “future is private” while Google have set up a “safety center” where users can explore the various security tools and privacy settings the search engine giant offers. But it isn’t just the big guys who are getting involved. Project Alias offers a tech “parasite” that you place on the top of a home voice assistant like Alexa. It then produces white noise so you can be sure that the device isn’t spying on you or listening to your conversations.

Image credit: Alicja Gliwa

Climate change affects our collective mood — we are constantly bombarded by the sinister apocalyptic scenarios of environmental degradation. This emptiness we feel related to the destruction of our environment is called solastalgia or “ecological grief,” a term coined by psychologist Glenn Albrecht, a specialist in climate-induced trauma and sustainability. 

It’s high time to stop talking and start doing when it comes to climate change. So what’s the answer? An increasing number of global corporations are beginning to create environmentally friendly products and are trying to be more transparent in terms of how they produce their goods and services. This isn’t just an ethically good decision (as important as this is), but has the win-win effect of being helpful for business — according to The Honest Product report, 94% of the customers are more likely to be loyal to transparent brands.

But it isn’t just about more transparency. In order to nourish our environment, we have to move away from a linear method of designing and understanding the product. According to the linear method, after a period of use, the product ends up as just another worthless object in a landfill. Instead, we should aim to adopt circular design, which bends the product’s lifeline, allowing for processing (reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling), and thus re-use in the future. It means devoting more attention to the materials used in the initial phase of production, which enables us to extend the life of the object.

Corporate giants like Nike have adopted the idea of circular design by “selecting low impact materials that use pre- & post-consumer recycled feedstock,” designing products with recycling in mind (“thinking through how a product will be recycled at end of use”) and “minimizing or eliminating waste in the product creation process.”  South Korean startup Ecube Labs has also adopted the same mentality with their data driven smart waste management solutions, which “help cities and waste collection industry to reduce operational costs by up to 80%.” We can see it in the car industry, where possessing your own car is no longer seen as a necessity and where consumers are increasingly drawn to using a car-sharing service for a day or a few hours. 

The next step in progress is to optimize the consumption, storage, and distribution of resources. The Internet of Things poses a solution to this issue. IoT devices already help to reduce water and electricity consumption. Will we see the development of technological and legal solutions that will allow the free exchange of surplus energy produced by individual users in the coming years? Watch this space.

The collective behind this research is composed of Daniel Jarmuła, Katarzyna Wilk, Katarzyna Wala, Sonia Maciukiewicz and Marcin Maciejewski.

At hubraum, we study trends, technology and early signs of change to identify the forces which will impact on future users. In our research, we don’t focus on the surface but go beyond phenomena like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things or 5G. By properly interpreting trends, we derive a deeper understanding of the context surrounding business decisions and innovation. This article is just the first part of a two part series which Marcin has penned about the collective’s findings on driving forces in tech. To check out the second essay, click here.