author archive

Cooperative Consumption is one of the macro trends covered in our new report 10 Years of 10 Trends, which revisits some of the most significant cultural shifts we’ve explored over the last decade. At the center of that trend is the sharing economy, a topic we discussed with Neal Gorenflo of Shareable, an online hub […]

Behavior modification is the promise behind wearables like Fitbit and Internet of Things-powered devices like smart toothbrushes. Now, we’re seeing a crop of products in this category that get assertive in the bid to push users toward self-improvement. “Coercive tech” takes the role of drill sergeant in getting people to change behaviors. Notes Fortune, “The […]

The sharing economy is getting a serious upgrade. By and large, luxury rentals have served as a way for the less affluent to access posh products—Rent the Runway, for instance, provides short-term access to designer dresses. Now more companies are testing the market’s ceiling with leasing options targeted to big spenders. The startup Eleven James […]

Luxury brands typically live on fashion’s cutting edge, but many have remained determinedly retro when it comes to e-commerce. Prada, Chanel, Dior and LMVH’s Celine are just a few of the high-fashion names that still mostly eschew online retail, as Businessweek recently reported, believing that the in-store, tactile experience is integral to their brands. That […]

Medical tech for older consumers is getting much smarter. Two hearing-aid manufacturers, Starkey and GN ReSound, have created devices that link with iPhones, turning hearing aids into de facto Bluetooth headsets on which users can also take calls and listen to music. ReSound is marketing the LiNX as “the world’s smartest hearing aid.” For instance, […]

While researching Telepathic Technology, one of our 10 Trends for 2014, we spoke with Ariel Garten, founder and CEO of InteraXon, which creates brain wave-controlled products and applications. The Toronto company’s first showcase product is the upcoming Muse, a stylish “brain-sensing headband” designed to help users learn to better focus and relax their minds. An […]

In the decade since Tan Le founded Emotiv Lifesciences, the company has become one of the leading players in the emerging market of low-cost electroencephalography (EEG) devices. One of these, the EPOC, is the brain wave-reading headset of choice for various developers of brain-controlled computer games and other applications. Emotiv recently raised $1.6 million on […]

Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer has been scoring headlines this past week for its branded iPhone alarm app that emits the scent of sizzling bacon, thanks to a plug-in device that delivers the scent. (To receive the gizmo, bacon fans must enter to become one of 4,700 Official Bacon Beta Testers.) The humorous concept is a […]

Michael Fertik was a pioneer in helping people control their personal information in the digital universe. Reputation.com, which he launched in 2006, promises to provide individuals and businesses with “the tools to monitor, manage, and secure your information on the Internet.” In exploring issues around data collection and privacy for our 10 Trends for 2014 […]

The World Economic Forum, a nonprofit best known for its annual gathering of global business and political elites at Davos, has made data privacy a key focus in recent years. We talked to Bill Hoffman, who spearheads their cross-industry initiative on personal data, while researching The End of Anonymity, one of our 10 Trends for […]


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Things to Watch

  • Rivals joining forces
    January 26, 2015 | 7:19 pm

    Volkswagen_5 2000px-BMW.svg

    Not long ago, a collaboration between two rival companies would have been seen as a counterintuitive and perhaps desperate measure. In 2015, however, BMW’s partnership with Volkswagen on fast-charging electric vehicle stations makes the automakers look self-confident, open and serious about sustainability and the common good.  Continue reading “Rivals joining forces” »

  • Virgin Hotels
    January 21, 2015 | 1:42 pm

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    Taking a cue from private clubs like Soho House—which now has outposts from Berlin to Chicago and Toronto—and cool hotel hangouts like the Ace, the first hotel under Virgin’s affordable-meets-aspirational banner houses a Commons Club. Offering “exclusivity for all,” the Commons hosts a “roundtable of ideas and indulgence” at a nightly social hour and includes a restaurant, bar and study area. Virgin marketing also taps into easyHotel lingo with the promise of no surprise fees and free wi-fi.

    Continue reading “Virgin Hotels” »

  • Google’s Ara phone
    January 16, 2015 | 11:51 am


    A new video from Google shows the latest prototype of its modular phone, which will launch this year in Puerto Rico. Project Ara emphasizes personalization—“What if you could make thoughtful choices about exactly what your phone does, and use it as a creative canvas to tell your own story?”—but the sustainability implications are also important.

    Continue reading “Google’s Ara phone” »

  • Nike taps into urban exploring
    January 5, 2015 | 1:13 pm

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    The city is the new terrain for Nike’s rebranded all-conditions gear, now named NikeLab ACG. Taking a cue from the urban exploration trend (“urbex”)—which involves venturing into unseen and generally off-limits structures and documenting the adventure—Nike says that “For today’s athletes, the city is the ultimate landscape,” complete with “modern obstacles” and many microclimates. Images show an intrepid explorer on a rooftop amid skyscrapers. The urban environment is now as challenging, intriguing and adventurous as the natural landscape.

  • Tears become… streams become…
    December 17, 2014 | 1:50 pm

    Artists and performers are increasingly creating multisensory pieces that immerse and envelope audiences, who in turn are embracing these one-of-a-kind experiences. In New York, the latest example is the performance and installation tears become… streams become…, a “field of water that harnesses light, reflection, music and sound” by Scottish artist Douglas Gordon and French pianist Hélène Grimaud.

    Continue reading “Tears become… streams become…” »

  • The Glade Boutique
    December 11, 2014 | 5:16 pm

    More marketers across the spectrum are creating novel pop-ups and activities that add dimension to the brand and satisfy consumer interest in experiences. These experiences are also increasingly interactive, immersive and multisensory, as our past trend reports have discussed. In line with these trends, a Glade Boutique holiday pop-up in New York City’s Meatpacking district, created with fashion designer Pamela Dennis and interior designer Stephanie Goto, features five rooms themed around “scent-inspired feelings,” like relaxation and “energized” (complete with an Oculus Rift virtual thrill ride).

    The pop-up is a departure for the mass-market candle brand: It has no outside signage, just a keyhole with a neon sign asking, “What will you feel?” Inside, with white walls and polished concrete floors, there’s all the cues of a groovy concept store. Visitors walk past a terrarium to the “Feelings Lounge”—sofas arranged around an objet-bedecked coffee table—then find the new collection of candles covered in bell jars for sampling the scents, akin to the merchandising format of ultra-luxe candle brand Cire Trudon. There’s also a backlit installation made up of hundreds of Glade candles.

  • Cheap-phone wars
    December 3, 2014 | 11:54 am

    Obi Mobiles

    Mobile brands are creating cheaper, stripped-down smartphones for emerging markets, competing with domestic brands producing their own low-cost phones. The field is getting more competitive with Obi Mobiles from former Apple CEO John Sculley, which targets young, image-conscious consumers. Obi launched recently in India, the Middle East and Singapore, and plans for further expansion in 2015.

    Obi will be taking on Chinese up-and-comer Xiaomi, which is entering five new markets this year. Meanwhile, Google launched the Android One OS in India last month in tandem with several domestic brands, which are pricing the phones at around $100. Prices will get lower still, at least for the most basic smartphones: Mozilla has announced plans to sell phones that use its Firefox OS in India and Africa for just $25. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Obi Mobiles

  • Snapcash
    November 19, 2014 | 4:54 pm


    Disruption in the payments sphere is opening the way for social media brands to act as intermediaries between consumers and their money, as we note in our report on payments and currency. Facebook is said to be planning a P2P payments feature for Messenger, South Korea’s KakaoTalk announced a PayPal-like service in September, and Line is creating a mobile service that will let users make on- and offline purchases. Now, Snapchat is partnering with Square to enable payments between users, as explained in this video’s energetic retro musical number.

    After users (U.S. only and 18-plus only) enter debit card info, they simply send a cash amount within a text. While Snapchat’s recent data breaches may give some users pause, the P2P payments space is a smart place to be as young consumers get accustomed to services like Venmo that make it easy and even fun to pay friends. —Marian Berelowitz

  • Payment in a heartbeat
    November 11, 2014 | 5:26 pm

    Nymi-paywith

    Our recent report on the future of payments and currency spotlights the rise of biometric payments—using a unique physical characteristic to authenticate transactions—which promise to greatly improve security and help remove friction. So far we’ve seen systems that rely on fingerprints (e.g., Apple Pay) and the palm’s unique vein payment (see Quixter). Now, the startup Bionym is exploring ways to harness its Nymi wristband, which uses the wearer’s unique cardiac rhythm as authentication, for payments.

    Bionym is linking with MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Canada for a test in which an NFC chip in the wristband enables contactless payments. The company, which is looking to license its technology into other wearables, recently raised $14 million in a Series A funding round and has racked up 10,000 preorders for the Nymi. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nymi

  • Vegetable co-stars
    November 4, 2014 | 6:31 pm

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    “Vegetable co-stars” is one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2014—the idea that veggies are gaining a higher profile on restaurant menus—and more star chefs are indeed embracing this trend. José Andrés and his ThinkFood restaurant group plan to open Beefsteak (as in tomatoes), a vegetable-focused fast casual eatery in Washington, D.C., next year. The Washington Post also points to chef Roy Choi’s new greenhouse-like Commissary in L.A., which says it serves “good food and drink based around plants as the foundation.”

    “Chefs around the country, and the globe, are pushing meat from the center of the plate—and sometimes off it altogether,” notes The Wall Street Journal, citing examples like Alain Ducasse revamping his menu at the posh Plaza Athénée in Paris. Catering to a growing group of diners looking to eat less meat, vegetable-heavy dishes also offer new opportunities for creativity. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Plaza Athénée

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