Mixed future aging and business innovation

Communications and Convenience Giant (Nasdaq: RIMM) RIM, the maker of the ubiquitous blackberry, sees a number of definite trends ahead. They reflect the themes of my own research and are the foundation of the MIT AgeLab

A January 26 Motley Fool article by Dan Dzombak, “4 Key Trends in RIM’s Futuristic Predictions,” reports on a speech given by RIM’s Futurist Innovation and Technology Manager, Dr. Joseph Dvorak. Dr. Dvorak identifies four trends that affect the future of the smartphone:

(1) The world of aging: the average age on the planet in 2000 was 26, by the middle of the century it will be 36 years old, and the number of people over the age of 60 will triple to almost two billion people;

(2) Connectivity: smartphones, other devices, and wireless vendors will blur activities, accommodate, and encourage trends we already see in social networks and interaction;

(3) Empowered consumers: Consumers will continue to adopt tools to help them monitor and manage their relationship with companies, e.g. Social networks that advise on everything from restaurant choices, through financial services to “hey, where’s my package?”

(4) Purchase of “value” (eg green consumers). Buying value is not just for kids. Where there is an increase in the number of ‘causes of color’ (my phrase) – buying green, supporting pink and helping redness older baby boomers are increasingly interested in their social impact and heritage. That is, ‘what do I contribute and what will I leave behind?’

Insight and innovation

These trends themselves are interesting and business-like, and the government must be aware of their possible impact on the future. However, the future of aging and innovation is a combination of these trends, not an extension of any.

What happens when older consumers are ubiquitously connected, empowered and make purchasing decisions beyond cost and quality? For example, what might health or care services with a wireless network in the pocket of an old boomer look like? Will ubiquitous computing power, social media, and value buying create virtual collaborative service providers for sandwich boomers today and for fragile boomers tomorrow? Can you imagine the emergence of a 24/7 on-demand service, always “visible” on your smartphone, green, transportation services for the “friends” social network?

The business opportunity is not only to be aware of these trends, but to combine them, imagine a competitive reality and see this alternative future as drivers of product and service innovation.