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Published: 12 Dec 2017

Plant Life Balance: AR Gardening App

Plant Life Balance

Australian non-profit Horticulture Innovation Australia has created an app called Plant Life Balance to encourage more people to surround themselves with plants and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Released in October 2017, the app lets users check their home's current "plant life balance" rating based on the number and size of their plants, and helps them find out how healthy their space makes them. It then suggests different plants that would suit the space and, using augmented reality (AR), lets people see what they would look like in their home.

The app also offers seven professionally styled "living looks" that fit different tastes and needs. For example, Sharehouse Heroes is designed for those who live with housemates and need low-maintenance plants. Users can virtually try the different plants in their homes, receive analysis on their benefits and add the ones they like to a shopping list to take to their local nursery.

The company worked with scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne and found that a single plant can improve indoor air quality by 25%, as it removes airborne toxins. They also found that plants increase mental wellbeing by improving mood and concentration.

In the past decade, internet searches for "best air purifier" and "air-quality index" rose by more than 750% (Nissan, 2016). People are increasingly surrounding themselves with plants to relax and escape tech overwhelm. For more on urban gardeners and the brands that respond to their needs, see Nature Embracers.

Published: 11 Dec 2017

Chinese Consumers in Flux

One-fifth of Chinese consumers are trading up to a more expensive brand

Chinese consumers' values and behaviours are changing due to greater disposable income. One-size-fits-all strategies no longer apply to this huge, diverse market, according to a November 2017 report from global management consultancy McKinsey.

  • High Consumer Confidence Levels: Because Chinese consumers are earning more, they're investing in more expensive, higher-quality items: one-fifth of respondents reported trading up to a more expensive brand. However, it's unclear whether consumer confidence levels will remain high as income growth has slowed, dropping from 10.1% in 2012 to 6.3% in 2016.
  • Rising Interest in Health and Fitness: With more money to spend, Chinese consumers are increasingly investing in health and fitness. Sixty-five per cent describe themselves as 'health-conscious', with this figure rising among city dwellers (see also Luxury in a Turbulent World).
  • The Post-90s Generation Are Not Millennials: Aged 17-27, this post-90s group differs from other generations – including post-80s millennials. They experienced more wealth and grew up at a time when China was more exposed to Western culture, and therefore cannot be grouped under the broader term "millennials". The post-90s generation will account for 20% of consumption growth in China between now and 2030, so brands should treat them as a completely different segment.
  • Brands' Origins Matter Less: Today's Chinese consumers are more interested in value for money than origins when it comes to the brands they choose. In 2017, Chinese brands accounted for 63% of the market in the personal digital devices category, while in other categories such as cosmetics and wine, foreign brands are preferred.

For more on the changing values of China's younger generations, see China's Youth: Challenger Consumers.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Baidu Launches AI Accessories for Chinese Home


China’s largest search engine Baidu has released its own voice-activated smart speaker – the first in an upcoming range of artificially intelligent (AI) home tech – called the Raven H. The device is better able to decipher and communicate in the region’s languages than its competitors.

A bright, multicoloured stack of square segments, the Raven H looks quite unlike other connected home products on offer, which are decidedly minimal in design.

The speaker will be welcomed by the Chinese market, which has not yet been firmly claimed by Western leaders in smart home tech such as Amazon and Google – partly due to Google services being restricted in the country. It also has access to Baidu’s extensive data bank of online resources to play music, report on the news and weather, and connect to local services – such as Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing

The Raven H marks Baidu’s entrance into AI home technology following its acquisition of Chinese appliance company Raven earlier this year. The device will be followed by the Raven R – a smart robot with six moveable joints to better express human-like emotion; and the Raven Q (still in development) – expected to be a home assistant robot with security-monitoring capabilities that responds to visuals and audio.

Read Internet of Home Comforts for more on tech integrating home environments to offer consumers unprecedented security and control. For more on emerging visual trends and digital enhancements in home entertainment technology, see CES 2017: Colour, Material & Finish.

Published: 5 Dec 2017

Mitipi: Virtual Roommate Prevents Crime


Zurich-based start-up Mitipi has created a smart device that prevents burglaries by simulating human presence in your home, even when you are away.

The device uses acoustics to give the impression that a place is never empty. It can copy everyday noises such as phone calls, barking dogs, conversations, showers and cooking sounds.

Mitipi features a lamp that projects moving shadows onto walls to further imitate human presence. It can also control light fixtures, turning them on and off to mirror the way people move through their homes.

Users can remotely control the device through an accompanying app. Although still a prototype, the device will go into production in 2018.

Burglaries are still a big issue: more than 400,000 burglaries took place in the UK in the past year (Office of National Statistics, 2017). However, consumers expect smart home technology to change that, with 73% of millennial women in the US seeing these smart devices as a way to protect their homes (TecHome Builder, 2016).

For more on smart home technology and the devices that cater to our everyday needs, see the Internet of Home Comforts.

Published: 4 Dec 2017

Singapore to Use Self-Driving Buses by 2022

Singapore's self-drivng buses

Singapore is set to introduce driverless buses to three neighbourhoods by 2022. The autonomous vehicles (AVs) will provide first- and last-mile connections for commuters who live in these neighbourhoods.

The Singaporean government has already implemented policies to promote public transport, which has resulted in less traffic congestion compared to other cities in the region. It recently announced that from 2018, no more new cars will be added to its roads, extending this ban to buses by 2021. This explains why the country is striving to become a leader in driverless technologies, with at least 10 companies testing AV technology in Singapore.

Transport minister Khaw Boon Wan expects that the driverless buses "will greatly enhance the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport system, particularly for the elderly and the less mobile". He also announced that piloting AVs in these three areas would provide insights into how to plan for their future safe mass deployment, since "the biggest challenge for AVs is not the development of the technology, but how we can safely incorporate it into our living environment".

AVs are expected to be part of our everyday life in the future: by 2030, 15% of all new vehicles sold will be fully autonomous (McKinsey, 2016). For more on the latest innovations in transport, see CES 2017: Automotive and Radical Transport.

Published: 30 Nov 2017

Smartphone Deletes Content After 24 Hours

Swiss manufacturer Zenum Technologies has created Breve, a mobile phone that erases its content within 24 hours to help online communications become more ephemeral.

The phone was created in response to increasing anxiety around the permanence of information shared on the internet. Reframing mobile content as fleeting and temporary enables users to be more impulsive in what and how they communicate online, and to embrace content that is imperfect and candid.

Users can choose whether images, messages or call histories self-destruct, and can customise the number of seconds, minutes or hours (within a 24-hour period) that they wish their content to exist. The user can be ‘full ephemeral’ – opting for all content to be deleted, or ‘half ephemeral’ – allowing some to remain, including contacts, agendas, alarms and maps. Breve can also access their social media accounts and is able to automatically delete images or posts shared online.

Further, the user is able to configure their Breve mobile device to create multiple ‘personas’, with different settings saved according to the user’s specific schedule and geographic location.

Breve is also aimed at commercial clients. Zenum Technologies suggests that by embracing ephemerality, brands can create a sense of exclusivity and timeliness – such as by sharing temporary coupons or discounts that inspire a feverish call to action among consumers.

Read Mindful Automation and Digital Disruption: Wired Live 2017 for more on brands using digital innovation to respond to shifting social and experiential landscapes. For more on integrated technologies that increase user focus and encourage wellbeing, see Circuit.

Published: 29 Nov 2017

The Assemblage: Mindful Co-Working Space

The Assemblage

The Assemblage is a New York-based community that combines co-working spaces and short-term residential living with the idea of interconnectedness and collective consciousness.

Its first location opened in New York's NoMad neighbourhood this month. The 47,000 sq ft building comprises 12 floors for co-working and features meditation rooms equipped with artificial intelligence, which guides members through daily mantras.

The venue also offers holistic services such as Ayurvedic community lunches and mindfulness programmes. Two more spaces are set to open on Park Avenue and in the Financial District. The Assemblage also plans to open branches in cities around the world. Membership starts at $200 per month for evening-only access and costs up to $6,500 for a private office.

Chief executive Rodrigo Niño defines The Assemblage's audience as the people who are at "the intersection of technology, consciousness and capital". He founded The Assemblage to offer "a place of convergence for those who feel we could be defined not only by the known, but by the unknown".

The Assemblage's main goal is to align positive social change. Its principles are to help others as a form of self-interest, to make a commitment to personal transformation, and to do good.

As outlined in The Purpose Collective, people are searching for meaning in their workplace more than ever before. For more on how the way we work is evolving, see our latest Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 27 Nov 2017

Skan: Cancer-Detecting Scanner


Engineering students from Ontario's McMaster University in Canada have developed a low-cost, non-invasive handheld device for diagnosing melanoma.

Called Skan, the scanner simplifies the early-detection process by using temperature sensors to identify cancerous cells, which are warmer than normal cells. These thermistors monitor the heat emission of cells in real time to create a heat map showing which ones recover quicker from thermal shock – indicating the presence of melanoma.

The creators won the International James Dyson Award in November 2017, receiving $40,000 for their invention. "By using widely available and inexpensive components, the Skan allows for melanoma skin-cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many," judge James Dyson told The Guardian. "It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world. This is why I have selected it as this year's international winner."

The students intend to use the prize money to develop the tool further and gain regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Once this has been achieved, it could lead to its adoption by medical practices worldwide.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, with more than 3.3 million people treated each year in the US (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2017). If detected early, the disease is easily curable.

For more on the innovative healthcare products equipping consumers with at-home tools for diagnosis and care, see CES 2017: DIY Doctor and Wellbeing Warriors.

Published: 21 Nov 2017

WeGrow: WeWork’s Plans to Disrupt Education


Global co-working company WeWork has announced plans to open a private elementary school called WeGrow in its New York headquarters in September 2018.

Focusing on educating children about entrepreneurship, the school will embrace hands-on teaching for practical experience. For example, kids will spend a day each week on a farm to learn how to grow vegetables, and will then have to come up with a plan for selling them.

"In my book, there's no reason why children in elementary schools can't be launching their own businesses," co-founder Rebekah Neuman told Bloomberg. "Kids should develop their passions and act on them early, instead of waiting to be 'disruptive' later in life."

The curriculum is still in development and will incorporate mindfulness, meditation and farm-to-table cooking. Technology will be important too, but won't replace interactions with teachers.

The school plans to leverage the expertise of professionals in the WeWork network, employing them as mentors to cultivate children's passions. It will also serve the community by accommodating kids in the same premises during the working day.

Another key selling point is that when parents travel, their kids can join them and tap into the WeGrow schooling network once it's established worldwide. The move into education marks further expansion of the WeWork empire, with WeGrow joining the company's housing venture WeLive and gym/spa concept Rise by We.

For more on the disruptive educational models preparing young people for the changing demands of the future workplace, see Career Pioneers.

Published: 20 Nov 2017

US Mums Want Advertisers to Keep It Real

Some 59% of US mums prefer ads showing stories about real families

US mums want advertisers to portray the unglamorous side of motherhood along with the beautiful moments, according to a November 2017 report from global market research company Mintel. 

  • Tell It Like It Is: US mothers appreciate brands that reveal the reality of motherhood. Six in 10 (59%) US mums prefer advertisements showing stories about real families and just under half (46%) like ads to depict the less glamorous side of motherhood. "Brands interested in portraying an unvarnished 'real' take on motherhood should consider how their efforts can balance the challenges with the pride and joy that mums experience raising their families," said Dana Macke, Mintel's senior lifestyles and leisure analyst. 
  • Make It Funny: Brands need to have a sense of humour to appeal to US mums. The most popular advertisements among this cohort portray humorous parenting moments, and 60% picked these as their favourite. Only 10% said they enjoy adverts featuring celebrity mums.
  • Power Up: Empowering themes also fare well with this audience. Two in five (41%) prefer ads showing mums balancing their responsibilities successfully. Adverts spotlighting working mums also resonate, particularly with single mothers – 54% said they like these best.
  • Embracing Digital: Mums view technology as more helpful than harmful when it comes to achieving their parenting goals. A third (33%) use social media to find tips from other mums and a quarter (26%) agree that apps keep them organised.

For more on the attitudes and values that unite modern mothers, see High-Speed Families: New Dynamics.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Digital Soul Seekers: Spiritual & Moderate Youth

Three-quarters of US pivotals agree that it’s cool to be sober

Digital soul seekers are a group within US pivotals (aged 13 to 34) who are pursuing deeper consciousness via cosmic connectedness, personal healing and radical self-care – according to November 2017 research from US online content company Beautycon Media.

Other highlights from the study of 1,000 participants include:

  • Moderate & Mindful: Many pivotals today are choosing to live more consciously. One-third (31%) have made a self-improving lifestyle change within the last six months, while three-quarters (76%) of this moderation-seeking subset agree that for young people today, it's cool to be sober. For more on their increasingly conservative habits, see Moderate Millennials: Generation Staid
  • Embracing Mysticism: Over two-thirds (69%) of pivotals believe in the non-physical realm. This group refuses to follow a prescribed path when it comes to spirituality, preferring to carve out their own spiritual niche to make sense of the out-of-control world they inhabit. See Modern Mysticism for more on how young people are navigating today's turbulent times with magic.
  • Positive & Open-Minded: Pivotals selected 'truth-seeking' and 'positive' as the words that most accurately represent them, from more than 15 options. Two-thirds (66%) said they want to learn about ancient beauty and health practices from other countries. Our Positive Realists report offers more on how good intentions and conscious actions are set to create a new-world reality.

The youngest generations are revealing themselves to be tough customers. To understand how to reach them, see Gen Z: Smart Kids Take Control and Youth in Flux: Millennial 20/20 Summit.

Published: 13 Nov 2017

JWT’s The New Adulthood: Understanding Xennials

New Adults only see themselves represented in ads less than half of the time

An in-between generation of consumers called New Adults – or Xennials – are growing up, settling down, and subverting the status quo, according to an October 2017 report presented by global advertising agency JWT.

The New Adulthood report explores the motivations and values of this tribe of consumers, who straddle the millennial and Gen X generations and are between 30 and 45 years old. The research includes analysis of views from a survey of 1,755 consumers in the US and 1,768 in the UK. Key highlights include:

  • Feeling Misunderstood: Xennials don't identify with traits associated with either Gen Xers or millennials. In fact, three-quarters of New Adults think that the stereotypes attributed to their generation don't reflect them. Some 72% of these consumers in the UK agree that there isn't a name that reflects their generation adequately. 
  • Working for Themselves: This cohort is keen to earn a living on their own terms, with 59% of New Adults in the US and 40% in the UK aspiring to be entrepreneurs. The rise of tech that allows for self-employment is helping them with this desire and 64% in the US consider themselves to be digital natives. 
  • Advertising Fail: New Adults don't recognise themselves among people most often featured in brand campaigns. They only identify with similar characters or see themselves represented in ads less than half of the time.

For more on these savvy, sceptical and self-reliant consumers, as well as strategies focusing on how best to tap into this influential group, see Gen X: Midults Move Up.

Published: 7 Nov 2017

New-Era Weed Publications


Two new publications point to cannabis' evolving role as the cornerstone of a stylish, female-focused lifestyle that has little in common with its enduring 'stoner' identity (see also Women Embrace Weed).

Women's magazine Broccoli, from a former creative director of hipster-chic magazine Kinfolk, will explore cannabis "through an art, culture and fashion lens". The first issue, shipping in late November 2017 and available in Rachel Comey stores, includes a feature on the Japanese art of Ikebana (flower arrangement) alongside a weed-centric creation by high-profile floral designer Amy Merrick. It also contains an essay on weed's evolution from a "creative adventure into a capitalist transaction". The magazine will publish three times a year.

The founders of Gossamer, which went live with initial email newsletters last week, are planning to debut the biannual print edition in 2018, as well as live events and (as yet unspecified) physical products. The goal is to attract brand sponsors by building a highly engaged community. Gossamer's aesthetic is also upscale, youthful and contemporary – Business of Fashion notes it "should resonate with millennials who are fans of brands like Outdoor Voices and Glossier". While not a female-specific brand, Gossamer sponsored a panel on women in the cannabis industry at New York-based women's co-working space The Wing.

The founders of both publications point to a previously under-the-radar tribe for whom cannabis is one of several key commonalities. "No one was speaking to this massive group of women who are creative, driven, intelligent and have a lot of interests outside of weed," says Broccoli's Anja Charbonneau.

Published: 6 Nov 2017

Moody: Tracking Menstruation & Mood

Moody helps women track their hormones and offers advice for better wellbeing

New UK-based digital ecosystem Moody helps women track their mood for their full menstrual cycle, care for their mental health, and maximise monthly productivity.

Launched in October 2017, the online platform offers information on hormonal shifts experienced during the different phases of the cycle, advice on vitamins and inspiring interviews with female celebrities. It allocates subscribers to a 'hormone tribe' (a community of likeminded women) for support, and provides access to live chats with professional endocrinologists and nutritionists.

To establish which of the five tribes they fit into, users fill in a questionnaire covering topics such as sleep patterns, mood swings and food intolerances. For example, the Charm tribe are hit most often by fatigue and energy loss, while the Pride tribe often have an overworked liver and may suffer from premenstrual syndrome as a result. Tribes then receive bespoke content and vitamin suggestions to help them with their hormonal issues.

The platform will extend the service in September 2018 to include an accompanying Moody-U app, giving women an even more personalised way to understand their cycle and associated moods.

Products that challenge lingering taboos regarding mental health and periods are set to succeed, given that around one in every 20 British women have premenstrual symptoms that are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives (NHS, 2017).

For more on the services helping us tune into and manage our natural rhythms, see Rhythm of Life: Brands in Tempo. To read about the tech treatments empowering people with mental health issues, see Nurturing Mental Health.

Published: 31 Oct 2017

Waggit: Wearable for Dog Wellness


San Francisco-based start-up Waggit has created a smart collar that monitors dogs' health and helps owners care for their pets by giving them early indicators of potential health issues.

Waggit establishes the dog's personal baseline, and alerts its owner whenever its behaviour deviates. The collar tracks aspects of the dog's health, such as resting vitals, activity, temperature and sleep – including its favourite sleep position, as changes to this could indicate pain and health problems.

The smart collar comes with an app that allows owners to set individual activity and nutrition goals, as well as following other dogs and comparing their dog's activity on the leaderboards. As well as enabling app users to proactively care for their pet's health, the collar's built-in GPS gives them peace of mind as it allows them to check if their pet is safe at home or find it easily if missing.

There are a number of collar monitors on the market for tracking pets' exercise and sleep habits. However, with Waggit's alerts, dog owners are informed of potential health problems early, which means they have a better chance of fixing these problems before they become serious. The $249 collar is expected to launch in March 2018.

The global pet wearable market is expected to reach $2.36bn by 2022 (Grand View Research, 2016). For more on how to engage with today's pet owners, see Pet Parents: Premium Pet Care and Engaging Global Pet Owners.