Imagine. Take all the buzz words you hear in the digital planet [social media, cloud, crowd sourcing, e-health, open data] and instead of claiming it is the future and cross-finger, you analyze the new usages and sociological impacts they trigger. This is what Netexplo team is running after, each year. How can that magic happen ? Netexplo is sponsored by (rich) members, and is funding a team which analyses, collects, segments each year 500 innovative digital projects. Worldwide. 100 projects are selected and 10 of them are pitched during the Netexplo Forum in front of hundreds of attendees. I was there last February and let me witness that attending Netexplo Forum was a real experience. Just like learning the best of digital in two days.
What made the digital world shaking in 2012 ? Julien Levy was the spokesman of Netexplo team this year and exposed the identified trends. Obviously the Netexplo Trends report 2013 can not be sum up in few lines, but some of the key concepts were shared during Julien talk . Cloud, appearance, digital immanence. Each of the concept was illustrated by projects developed by start up or research labs. Lets review the main concepts.
Cloud Care. Thanks to the network built by the connected people, machines and devices, some amazing services can be invented.
Taking care of objects. By deploying sensors and processors everywhere, it is possible to monitor a grid of water pumps, or balance the humidity of a natural eco-system.
Taking care of people. By connecting patients, robots, doctors, application can ease the patient journey. This may be particularly valid for the elders, who can be helped in their day to day life. Care Square was one of the projects awarded, which principle resided in a very simplified tablet, offering basic graphic user interface.
Taking care of opinion. By collecting opinion, comments, views, people can fine-tune their own opinion, choosing to endorse or not others advices.
Crowd cops. Taking care all together, replacing cops. By connecting the people and calling on their vigilance, material incidents can be declared in cities, or rescue team can be supported by bringing more local information, family and relatives can monitor each other, consumers can also report bad usages of companies or politics. This can be a way to introduce again solidarity among people. But the dark side of the crowd cop also exists. Employers tracking employees. Shops tracking customers. The right balance may be in the mutual agreement of monitoring and being monitored (but who knows what are the condition for a real free agreement).
Beyond the appearance. The main question for citizen and consumers facing the digital ocean is : Will web 2.0 marketing fool me ? How can I detect the truth behind the messages ? New expertise is required here and the collective experience collected thanks to the crowd may be a great tool to balance the super marketing machines.
Fact checking. By measuring the reality, thanks to sensors, the reality can be augmented, and become an augmented reality for everyone. Reality can be transmitted to disabled, to countermeasure their disability. Additional information about item, food, goods, books, can be found just by taking picture, recording sound, using laser. An interesting example is the China Survival Manual, an anonymous application, which alerts consumers to health risks. Another application which has been intensively adverted those days is the french ‘Citoyens Capteurs‘ (citizen as sensors), selected in the 100 projects, which allows each citizen to measure the air pollution and participate to scientific experiment. A last example awarded in the top 10 was Zéro-Gâchis, a application allowing supermarket to declare their items close to their sell-by date in nearby supermarkets. Less wastage, better consumption, more respect for the earth and production cycle.
Body Checking. The same applies to body. Blood pressure can be detected on faces, leading to potential interpretation of emotions. Parkinson can be diagnosed by voice analysis from 20 minutes of sample conversation (see Parkinson Voice Initiative project). health care can become in that case hell scary.
Reality and digital merging. Where the reality is helping you in your day to day life, with no effort from you. the connection, the context, the integration of the machines or devices are a support for the citizen. example with the Google glasses, but also the shoes guiding your way, lightened on the right when you should turn right. The best illustration for that amazing integration was Windows Of Opportunity WOO. WOO makes the windows of car a new area to play, to learn, to share. While driving in Paris, you may see the window of another car driving in Tokyo. You could also share music from other drivers stuck in the same traffic jam… WOO is a technology providing an interactive and contextual screen, in which you can imagine any funny or educative application. The winner of the Netexplo report was the Electronic Tatoos, a technology allowing to lay some electronic circuit on the skin, flexible and resistant enough to look like a tatoo. While not being already deployed, the technological challenge was amazing enough to make everyone dreaming or being frightened by the large scale of possible applications. Imagine, you wear data and emit messages, anytime…
Digital immanence. The digital and the real do not have borders, they are the world. More then having physical or technological fusion, you have a personal involvement in digital, that may affect your emotion, soul, mental illness. SPARX is a game to help depressive teenagers understanding their illness and highlight progresses. Teenagers do recover easily playing in a virtual society… you just need to design the appropriate situations and dialogs.
To sum-up. Trends covered the connected device, machine, people, brains. And Julien Levy ended with an embarrassing question – while we were all tweeting and surfing. What about usages in case our world would be disconnected. Panic ? Alternatives ? This may be a good topic for 2014 Netexplo Forum.
Which of the 2012 innovations will shape 2013 ? Probably none of them. Those innovations may definitely need to mature before they become actual democratic usages, so we should better wait for them in two or three years. Netexplo Forum offered a really good picture of where the digital world may go and it is up to each of us to think about the kind of word we want to shape for the future….
 Netexplo trends by Julien Levy http://www.netexplo.org/replays/2013/trend-report-2013