Consumer trends change quickly, but what's happening in the world today can provide signals for what's to come down the line. A report from U.K. nonprofit Forum for the Future imagines the kinds of consumer products we may be craving in 2030, based on today's global events.
In order to come up with its imaginary products, the Forum teamed up with consumer insight firm to examine what's changing in the world that could trigger new consumer trends. There are few surprises: slow economic growth, collaborative consumption, 3-D printing, the rising cost of consumer goods and agricultural commodities, resource scarcity, aging population, and powerful emerging economies will all contribute to what we will want to buy in 2030.
Some of these trends—specifically, financial pressures and an aging population—are somewhat U.K. specific. But in general, they will affect all developed world economies.
Here are the five products that Forum for the Future thinks we might be using 16 years down the line.
This isn't one specific product, but a bundle of them that check you for illness in the bathroom, measuring everything from kidney function to glucose levels during a routine trip. There's Dr. Loo and Dr. Sink, which screen for illnesses by sending data to a microchip (embedded inside you or on a wristband), analyzing it, and comparing it to your DNA patterns and medical records. The chip also measures vital signs. Dr Mirror displays all the results.
This type of technology isn't that far-fetched—as Forum points out, prototype versions of the Dr. Loo exist, but are far from being consumer ready (in fact, a different iteration of this idea was suggested at a UC San Francisco health care conference I attended in 2013). And so far, most people haven't had their DNA sequenced.
Who needs batteries when kids can power their own games? Forum imagines Super Genius Trainers—sneakers that harvest energy—will be worn by kids, uploading data on speed and steps taken into virtual games. Energy harvesting technology exists, but is still in the very early stages. It's certainly not yet ready to be integrated into a shoe.
People already crowdfund all sorts of endeavors. Crowd House Mortgages are just a more extreme version of today's crowdfunding environment, so that a group of people (a "home-buying team") can support each other in making mortgage payments.
From the report:
Through its novel ‘allotment scheme’ Crowd Houses buys parcels of public land on behalf of buying teams. These allotments act as collateral to enable teams to raise a loan from hundreds of small investors. They improve the team’s credit rating because they must pool their resources to buy an allotment, which vouches for their ability to work as a unit and their trust in one another. They are also insurance for investors as they can easily be sold to another buying team to plug any shortfall in repayments.
There is no technology preventing this from happening today. It's just a matter of setting up the system—and convincing participants that they can trust one another enough to make it work.
This molecule scanner scans objects around your house, tells you what materials they're made from, and whether they can be re-created with a 3-D printer. Forum imagines that a quarterly subscription would allow customers to order a certain number of 3-D "prints" from fabrication lab.
3-D printing exists, but household molecule scanners are still far down the line. It is maybe just as likely, in the long run, that people will just have personal 3-D printers instead of molecule scanners.
As droughts become more common and water use regulations tighten, companies will increasingly seek out ways to cut down on water consumption. The "100% clean, 1% water tariff" program is an exchange with water utilities: Customers sign up and get their inefficient appliance replaced with an ultra-water efficient washing machine. They are credited the value of the old appliance upon exchanging. But they don't own the new washing machine: they lease it, paying a fee that covers the machine, maintenance, and repairs. If a newer or better washing machine comes along, they can simply trade it in.
This is obviously feasible on a technical level. But no water utility will want to take such a dramatic step until water shortages get completely out of control.
Check out Forum for the Future's full report here.