Five Tech Trends Impacting Business Innovation in 2012

Highlights From Our 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Trend Guide

Judging several categories of the CES Innovation Awards over the last three years has revealed five patterns we, at UPSTREAM, believe will impact the business of innovation for marketers, researchers and technologists in the near term:

Five Tech Trends Impacting Business Innovation in 2012 1. QUANTIFIED SELF & M-HEALTH
Personal biometrics and digital enabled behavior analysis will increasingly let consumers discreetly track and manage their lives more effectively.

Financial professions, digital marketers and healthcare enterprises may have been the first to actively track and analyze behavioral-lifestyle data. However, as self tracking digital products, augmented apparel and online data tools enable advanced user analytics for individuals, personal metrics will become the next big thing.

Novel apps and devices will increasingly let consumers discreetly manage their health more productively. Self analysis tools have just begun to trickle into the market with technology like Fitbit and JawboneUP. Research company Technavio predicts that the global mobile health applications market will reach USD 4.1 billion by 2014, up from USD 1.7 billion in 2010.

You’ll see solutions for diagnosing, monitoring and treating a variety of illnesses – from obesity to asthma, from poor vision or hearing to high blood pressure. Seemingly disparate data points, work activity, commute, financial and calendar data will be compared to health behaviors to achieve new understanding of ones self. This data tracking will create new benefits for the individual. It will also intensify the data concerns and scrutiny if online and cloud services that support the system of personal data storage.

Need further proof? Apple’s App Store currently offers 9,000 mobile health apps (1,500 cardio apps, 1,300 diet apps, 1,000 stress and relaxation apps, and 650 women’s health apps). By mid-2012, this number is expected reach 13,000 (Source: MobiHealthNews, September 2011).

Collecting, sharing, tracking and optimization of oneself is a major trend for 2012. Look for this trend to extend into other sectors throughout the year.


Withings’ Blood Pressure Monitor plugs into an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and takes the user’s blood pressure. Data can be sent directly to a doctor or published (confidentially) on the Web. Also look for their Wi-Fi enabled scales which can measure both weight and fat mass and upload the data to a web portal.

October 2011 saw US automotive company, Ford, demonstrate three apps offering in-car health monitoring. The sample apps use Ford’s SYNC Applink software to enable drivers to access certain mobile health apps while driving to keep track of chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hay fever.

AT&T announced in October that it will begin selling clothes embedded with health monitors, able to track the wearer’s vital signs (including heart rate and body temperature) and upload them to a dedicated website. According to AT&T, apart from its sports based applications, these biomonitoring clothes line will also be uniquely beneficial for a range of uses including fire fighters, policemen and even military personnel. Above all, the health tracking clothes are expected to greatly entice the interest of the senior citizens, where in they will have the freedom of wearing health monitors in a more fashionable way.

The B1 Basis Band is a watch-like wellness aid includes optical blood flow and galvanic skin sensors to track your pulse rate, calorie burnrate and sleep patterns.

Released in November 2011, Jawbone’s Up is a wristband personal tracking device that tracks a user’s moving, eating and sleeping patterns. The device syncs with an iPhone app, and users can set the device to vibrate when they have been inactive for a period, compete against friends and even earn real life rewards for completing activity challenges.

Look for this trend to continue as startup, Misfit Wearables, recently acquired funding to launch a wearable product focused on helping control a chronic condition by the end of 2012. Investors include John Sculley, CEO of Apple.

New natural interfaces based on movement will allow more intuitive control of tech, increasing access to information and digital content.

Augmented reality may have become an attention getter in the marketing world in 2011, but new computer interfaces and augmented screens will reach a tipping point in 2012 as touchscreen and mobile sensing and accelerometer innovations go mainstream. New Natural User-Interfaces (NUI’s) allow more intuitive control of computer applications, manipulation of digital content and information. Bridged to local data and online content, these new interfaces use people’s movements and gestures to create a bridge between the real world and the digital world.

Progressive consumer electronics companies have realized the importance of making the products around us simpler to use, rather than blindly adding more features because they can. This trend is enhanced by the increased capabilities of natural interfaces to combine all theses new environmental elements of gesture, movements, location, voice-command, biometric response and soon, our moods and our thoughts.

In 2012 will see Near Field Communication (NFC mobile-wireless data transfer capability) becoming more prevalent in mobile products and will drive an exponential growth in mobile (hence personal) interactions. Early examples of NFC enabled gesture interactions will be mobile payment and information sharing through natural gestures (like the Bump contact sharing app).

This all leads to a new form of interaction that’s more intuitive, natural and easy for consumers to adopt. It changes the game of marketing content creation, customer interaction and creates opportunities for information providers and product technologists to ultimately make digital more “human”.

Join the global innovation community


Easily maintain your desired comfort level in your home with this learning thermostat from NEST LABS that remembers your temperature adjustments and programs itself to build a personalized schedule based on your preferences. Its passive interface also knows when you are not home (via proximity sensors) and is intelligent enough to make the appropriate adjustments. Additional information is provided while it is being adjusted by their owners so as to give them real-time feedback about the energy usage implications of their selection and provides suggestions on how to save energy.

SoftKinetic develops gesture recognition hardware and software for interaction with digital entertainment, gaming, interactive digital signage, advergaming and physical therapy.

Their software can recognize various scenic elements, track user’s body; and adapt digital content to the user’s movements, and vice versa.

The next-generation of Microsoft’s Kinect is said to be so accurate it can read lips, voice pitch and facial characteristics (and complex finger movements and gestures) to determine what mood the player is in.

The Kinect platform has the potential to create new paradigms in the way that we interact with computers and communicate. Expect the Kinetic sensor technology to be incorporated into displays, TVs, ultrabooks and mobile phones as it becomes miniaturized.

It’s likely to be available in 2013, but look for an announcement at CES.

ExoDesk, a collaboration between ViewSonic and ExoPC, is a desk with an embedded computer and unique user-interface. It reads input from 10 fingers and hand gestures to make moving tools, virtual keypads, objects and images around the desktop easy and intuitive.

Over the next year, look for more gesture recognition and natural user-interface innovations migrate over from the gaming world to be used in the interaction with TVs and computers (such as the next-generation Microsoft Kinect).

Mobile “geoawareness” technology, will create dramatic paradigm shifts to how we shop, socialize and how we are marketed to.

SoLoMo = SOCIAL, LOCAL, MOBILE. Fuelled by multiple “geo-awareness” technology components, location-based marketing will create new types of value exchanges between marketers and consumers. Behavioral data tracking will evolve to real time value creation between marketers, content creators, consumers and social networks. Marketers will be challenged to explore new types of social-interpersonal currency for consumers to feel more connected and valued “in-the-moment” as they go about their daily lives.

The advantages from the consumer’s perspective are that ubiquitous mobile access allows you to be connected at any location whilst connected to your entire social network and their opinions, advice and buying power. Brands will need to find value intersections, based on immediate needs and emotional opportunities as they get further squeezed out as message and information provider.

In 2012 expect products and services to make it more effortless (through the processing of passive-data) to contribute to anything – from connecting likeminded strangers for recommendations, pinpointing roads in need of repairs to finding signs of extraterrestrial life.

Consumers can and will increasingly broadcast data about where and what they are doing (if they consent to do so) to create new social opportunities to connect with their friends, valued products and people with shared interests.

Tech devices create continuous data-exhaust of daily life that provide marketers rich data to mine for insight. 2012 will be the beginning of a long journey of navigating real time, local connectivity and understanding big data.


Euclid is analogous to Google Analytics for the physical world.  The Euclid sensor anonymously detects smart phones as they move around the area of your store, both inside and out, so data is collected without visitors having to “opt-in” – so their privacy is kept intact.

Euclid provides store owners with visitor-based analytics – such as how many people walked by, how many walked through the door, how many were new vs existing customers and how long did they stay.

The eBay Inspiration Shop is a selection of products curated by celebrities, editors & stylists shoppers can purchase instantly by scanning a QR code in a mobile application.

Digby Mobile Commerce from AT&T helps to lift sales by delivering a user friendly interface for consumers to search, browse and buy products on their mobile phones. It allows retailers to provide information, pictures of products, rich media and an enhanced shopping experience when potential customers scan barcodes. Retailers are provided with analytics about customer buying behaviors.

Amazon’s Flow app, enables consumers to research products in-store (through image recognition) and to purchase them.

Looxcie is the creator of the first mobile-connected, hands-free, wearable video cam that frees people to record and share on the go. Looxcie owners can record their lives and share clips instantly to their social network or record and stream live video.

In 2012, marketers will continue to explore ways to utilize mobile SoLoMo data but will need to create clear value for consumers and not overstep their privacy boundaries, acting more transparently.

Social Television4. SOCIAL TELEVISION
Integration of Social Media and The Cult of Influence into the TV experience will transform it from a media consumption device to a content curating experience.

In years past, CES has been a slightly ridiculous technology race to build the largest or thinnest TV with seemingly little thought to improving their usability. Many will persevere with that race, so expect the proliferation of the 4K resolution standard (4000 pixel columns), high-contrast OLED screens, 3D tech and ultra-thin bezels. However watch for innovations in this space that mark some progress of the shifting role of the TV in our lives and homes.

Television is already has a social aspect to it, whether it’s talking to the person next to you, texting, tweeting or calling friends about what you’re watching. But it’s about to become a much more social experience.

Expect the popularity of Social Media and The Cult of Influence to migrate the TV away from being a pure consumption medium/device to a creation device. The TV will enable us to become connected to others, curators of content right on our couches, and online participants, instead of TV watching zombies.

Expect that a gargantuan “Cloud Fight” for dominance of cloud computing between Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix and cable providers (such as AT&T and Time Warner) to extend into a fight for dominance in control of living room content and access to behavioral insight.

The blurry line separating TV and computer screens will go away as cloud computing allows content to be seamlessly moved between primary screens and second screens. Increasingly within our lives, display devices and projected imagery will become fixtures like picture frames, mirrors and faucets.

Personalized content, social multilayered entertainment will be cost of entry for the marketing-media-tech world as viewing technology becomes commodity.

Like Innovation Excellence on Facebook


IntoNow is a TV companion app recently bought by Yahoo. It makes engaging with your friends around your favorite television shows easy and fun.

The app picks up on audio cues made by whatever you’re watching on TV and then displays websites, game scores, even Twitter feeds of musicians and other famous types shown on the big(ger) screen. Just tap the green button when you’re watching, and IntoNow will identify the show, right down to the episode. Once identified, it’s easy to share the content with your friends on Twitter or Facebook.

Flingo is the embedded technology inside many internet-connected TVs that allows media partners like Fox, Showtime and Etsy and others to build apps that integrate both. It enables broadcasters and advertisers to build mobile and web applications that are aware of what television content you are watching.

Broadcasters can provide additional relevant content to on-air shows in those applications, increasing engagement with users on the second screen.

Disney Second Screen is an interactive onscreen film feature accessible via a computer or iPad app that provides additional content to you as you view a movie. The movie links with the viewer’s device through an audio cue, a manual sync, or with a visual sync indicator. As the film plays on your television, interactive elements such as trivia, photo galleries, and animated flipbooks appear on the iPad or computer screen.

Disney Second Screen is currently available to use on an iPad or computer with Flash.
Fanhattan is an entertainment service that lets you discover and watch TV and movies on your iOS device from many popular services including Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Vudu, and ABC.

The application allows you browse related content including recommendations from friends, reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, ratings, trailers, actor and crew bios, soundtracks, fan gear, and more.

In 2012, many expect Apple to make a TV based on the Siri voice-commands. They are expected to make a “media related” announcement in late January 2012. It could be that they make public new deals with cable operators and pay TV operators that extend their reach as a content provider.

The “appification of everything”, open source tech and accessible manufacturing merge the tangible product and digital, online worlds.

Digital and interactive technologies have been bound in the past to browsers, websites and technology devices. Invention and manufacturing of physical product has been constrained by accessibility to closed and complex manufacturing chains. This is changing as open source hardware, software and manufacturing technologies mainstream, and what we deem “product” will change. And it will be more accessible to all.

3D printing, computer-controlled cutting and sintering; originally used for rapidproduct prototyping, have now evolved and proliferated to where they have spawned a whole new distributed manufacturing network. This new network of local, distributed manufacturers has enabled the mass-customization of electronic products, furniture, jewelry, and even aircraft engines.

Open-source electronic prototyping platforms (such as Arduino) have similarly allowed new freedoms in the creation of interactive electronic objects. 3D printers will, in the not too distant future new electronics will also be able to produce electronic circuitry and components. Apple iOS, Android and code libraries and new online creation software allow for virtually anyone to create social mobile and online applications more easily.

Pioneering companies such as Ponoko, Etsy and Shapeways have sprouted communities that allow creators to upload their designs, have them produced and provide a virtual market-place for them to promote and sell their products.

We’re watching this movement carefully – as all brands will have to react to this massive, future upheaval that could effect CPG, computer, gaming and retail worlds.


Ford and Bug Labs, will develop and distribute opensource developer tools to advance in-car connectivity innovation.

Ponoko is one of the first manufacturers to use distributed manufacturing and on-demand manufacturing. They make it possible for designers to meet customers, “where creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers and buyers meet to make (almost) anything.”

Their website can be used by customers as a virtual marketplace to promote and sell their digital designs and products.  It is a green idea- producing only when something is wanted, transporting ideas instead of physical objects.

Berg’s “Little Printer” was created in collaboration with Foursquare, The Guardian, Nike, ARUP, and Google.

It’s a tiny device that sits in your home, bringing you information from the web. You hook it up with a wireless connection, and then use your phone to configure what sources of content you like to receive — news, puzzles, messages from friends, weather updates or reminders.

The Little Printer (available in 2012) is the first in a family of products that will be known as Berg Cloud.

MakerBot Industries is a Brooklyn, New York-based company producing open source hardware, specifically 3D printers. MakerBot builds on the early progress of the RepRap Project with the goal of bringing desktop 3D printing into the home at an affordable price.

Makerbot are one of several sources of 3D printers and laser cutters designed around low-cost parts and freeware in the spirit of opensource. The source files needed to make these devices are freely available, allowing anyone to build their own from scratch.

The Disney Appmate toys have unique footprints that the iPad’s touch screen is able to recognize and read movement from. The app then tailors the game according to the toy’s character.

GreenGoose sensors are wireless stickers and stick on anything that moves – to automatically tell you what’s happening; a frisbee is caught, or the toilet seat goes down.

In 2012 look for more brands to experiment with physical product that has embedded technology to add real time, data driven, trandsmedia film, digital and consumer generated “story”.

Click here to download the complete 2012 CES Trend Guide

Build a common language of innovation on your team

Don’t miss a post (3,800+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!

UPSTREAM Group ShotJeff Mulhausen is a Design Strategist and Founding Partner of UPSTREAM. Also authors, Andy Hunter is a Brand Strategist, Jerry Courtney is a Media Technologist, and Paul Noble-Campbell is a Product Designer. UPSTREAM is a brand and innovation consultancy that empowers leaders to innovate more effectively, enabling businesses to reach new targets and achieve sustained growth.

Tim Sweeney




Four ways you can ensure employees take accountability for their work

By Hubert Day | April 5, 2023

One of the most important driving factors for any successful business is a high-performing team. Having people working for you…

Read More

What is digital upskilling and why is it important?

By Hubert Day | February 15, 2023

            Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash In a world of business that never stands…

Read More

No Comments

  1. Sprecheragentur on April 13, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Thanks, we will see what we will have now in 2013…Best Uwe

Leave a Comment