There's no shortage of predictions regarding  where technology is headed in this bright and shiny New Year. Not all fortune tellers have the same perspective, however. Take the design and  innovation consultancy Fjord (part of Accenture Interactive), for example. It tapped more than 750 of its experts in 19 studios around the world to amass its  annual trends compilation. Here's what it says you'll see more of in 2016.

1. Wearables and nearables will push the boundaries of artificial intelligence.

Consumers are increasingly surrounding themselves with devices with the potential to provide a wealth of data to the companies capable of harvesting it. Smart companies will figure out a way to use this gold mine of information to instantly predict what a user wants and offer it based upon snippets of input.

2. Organizations will reverse-engineer consumer distrust.

The tracking of people's behaviors makes the collection of personal data possible like never before. However, sage companies understand the importance of protecting customer data. Consumers will increasingly weigh the value of sharing their personal data in order to receive discounts, content, added convenience, or personalized service. Companies unwilling to implement strong privacy programs to earn digital trust will lose business.

3. There will be a stronger emphasis on employee experience.

If you think finding good talent is hard now, just wait and see what it will be like in a decade. In fact, Fjord predicts that by 2025, the developed world will face a skilled labor shortage of 56 million people. In the meantime, Gen-Xers and Boomers who subscribe to more traditional forms of career progression will continue to differ from Millennials and Gen-Z, who tend to be more transient and want to do work that matters. This year you'll start to see more of an uptick in empowerment, a peer experience that is social and slick workplace tools that feel like consumer-facing software.

4. More apps will become atomized.

In other words, they'll be distributed across various platforms and third-party services while retaining their brand identity. For example, Visa is researching a commerce-connected car that pays for groceries, takeaways, and fuel. And according to Fjord, the next wave of platforms may not even require human interaction to activate.

5. Regular people will have increased access to luxury services.

With personal chauffeur apps such as Uber and Lyft came the mindset that  people should be able to beckon whatever they need--whether it's a car, hair stylist, massage, or dog-walker--instantly with the tap of an app. This trend will continue across industries including banking, health care, education, and shopping. For example, peer-to-peer lending will increasingly help people often rejected by typical banks.

6. Tech will better enable civic action.

All sorts of social action apps have already sprung up, including Berlin-based "Refugees Welcome," which has helped dozens of German citizens invite refugees into their homes, as well as "Mobile Justice," an app related to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and giving users the ability to zap video footage from a phone directly to the American Civil Liberties Union. According to Fjord, on the flip side the trend also will affect government entities. For example, both the U.S.'s and U.K.'s digital government departments have concocted digital design guidelines that rival--and even surpass--those of many commercial organizations.

7. Even more people will invest in health-tracking devices.

Why not? Many of them are now priced under $100 and offer a wealth of useful self-monitoring features beyond mere step counting. In fact, according to Fjord, by 2019 this market is expected to grow 600 percent.

8. Virtual reality will go mainstream.

This year, the first consumer versions of Sony, Oculus, and Samsung VR products are expected to launch. It won't just be for gaming, either. VR will be designed into scientific studies, virtual tourism, and immersive learning.

9. Consumers will increasingly adopt services that simplify decision making.

With endless options and choices hurled into people's minds every day, there's simply too much noise. Services such as Google Now will prosper by anticipating people's needs and offering them exactly what they need, when they need it.

10. More corporations will bring design thinking in-house.

Responding to strong pressure to innovate, companies have increasingly invested in incubators and innovation labs, bringing design thinking and problem solving in-house. "Arguably it's harder than ever to gain sustainable differentiation from technology and business-focused innovation alone," Fjord's report reads. "Culture--as experienced through design-led innovation--may be the best way to claim sustainable territory, because it is so much harder to copy."

Published on: Jan 4, 2016