I can't believe this is my first South by Southwest conference. How did this happen? It's a goldmine of ideas. Unlike the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every January, this Austin conference brings some creative thinkers together in one place for a week.
This is my fourth day here, but I have almost filled a notebook with ideas. Here are a few that could (and probably will) turn into an entire post in the near future.
1. 300,000 Uber drivers
During a panel with Malcolm Gladwell, venture capitalist Bill Gurley said Uber has one of the largest workforces of any tech company--their 300,000 drivers. That's a massive number, but it also means there are 300,000 people making a living off the service. The peer-to-peer model is working. It might even change how cities are built. He says apartment codes could change so that a parking lot is no longer required in certain areas.
2. Ambient software
During my long interview with Hans Neubert, the Chief Creative Officer at the famed creative agency Frog, we talked about ambient software. He said we already know all about the interface on a smartphone and the back-end servers that power the cloud, but there's an emerging concept of invisible software. In future cars, for example, ambient software might help train a new driver by making imperceptible adjustments to the car.
3. Work-Life integration, not balance
At another panel, BetterWorks head of products Ciara Peter mentioned the idea of how work-life balance is turning into work-life integration. It's a remarkable shift, she says, because it means companies will have to figure out how to make sure employees can work all day but without getting overwhelmed--that work is integrated into life and not just balanced. This can mean radical changes like not having vacation days at all (or maybe any traditional time off) and providing even more mobile tools.
4. Always explain the why
We've heard of this concept before, but Grovo co-founder Jeff Fernandez really hit home the point at his panel (which was on millennial workforces). His company offers micro-training software for large companies. He said millennials working in tech companies in particular need to know the reason behind things. There's a shift from the traditional model. At one time, you could just tell people what to do. Now, you always have to explain why. This is what creates a sense of trust; more importantly, it creates a personal motivator.
5. Gadgets will do much more than they do now
I spoke with Dell spokesperson Bryan Jones about how gadgets will become more powerful in the next few years. Today, our gadget are somewhat limited. We use a smartphone for calls and using business apps but we use a tablet for productivity work or watching movies on a plane. Over the next few years, due to advances in battery tech, operating systems, form factors, and screen sizes, one device will serve multiple purposes. It's an exciting shift because it could mean fewer gadgets to charge.
6. VR goes legit
There's a lingering question about whether virtual reality will really go mainstream, if people are that interested in immersive environments, and if the tech has any real utility for business. SxSW 2015 has helped answer that question. It's everywhere. Goggles for Samsung phones, the Oculus Rift headset, and many other options are popping up everywhere. Just this morning, I used one to control a panoramic camera called the Bubl while wearing a VR headset. I was able to look all around a street corner in Austin. If you are not preparing in some way for VR in 2015, make sure you do.