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Published: 20 Jul 2018

Consent Wearable Targets Assault in US Colleges


There is an epidemic of alcohol-driven sexual assault in American college campuses. New wearable blood-alcohol monitor Buzz helps college students stay safe while having fun, by digitising consent and alerting the wearer's chosen contacts when assistance is needed.

Created by US design firm New Deal Design and OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Lang, the Buzz wristband analyses the wearer's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) through their skin and records it on an accompanying app.

Wearers build a community of friends on their app, creating a ready-made support group in case of over-intoxication. The wristband physically alerts the wearer to elevated levels of intoxication via vibrations and flashing lights. Additionally, it sends notifications to the wearer's friends through the app, alerting them if there is a risk to their friend's physical wellbeing.

Buzz wearers can link their device to a date's while on a night out by bumping them together. From that point, both their BAC levels and locations will be monitored, and they can control the pace of interaction through messages sent via the device. For example, a triple tap on the band sends a "good vibes" message, while a tap and hold sends a "back off, we're moving too fast" notification.

Planned for release in 2019, the band will be free with a $1/month app subscription fee.

Buzz taps into a user's biology to provide a personal service to the wearer – an evolution of the consent-tech apps and digital contracts discussed in our Female Sexuality in Focus report. Considering some consent-tech applications have been criticised for victim blaming, the safety device's emphasis on the health and wellbeing aspect of wearers is a smart strategy.

Consumers are increasingly investing in personal safety devices, especially given the growing conversation around the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. For more on this area of growing opportunity, see Safeguarding Security and CES 2018: Female Safety Devices.

Published: 11 Jul 2018

40-Plus Sisterhoods: Women Remaking Midlife

More than 80% of American women over 40 feel younger, sexier or cooler than they'd expected to

A wave of supportive heroine hubs is emerging as Gen X and boomer women reinvent middle age with a positive, open and youthful spirit. More than 80% of American women aged over 40 feel younger, sexier or cooler than they'd expected to (Fancy, 2018). Brands need to catch up to this new reality.

Craving Community & Counsel

We've been talking about the rise of heroine hubs – supportive women-only platforms – for a while (see Power Girls). Now, middle-aged women are filling a void and creating platforms focused on this stage in life.

  • Support Crews: Started as a private Facebook group in 2015, New Yorker Nina Lorez Collins' What Would Virginia Woolf Do? is a "sisterhood of literary minded feminists over 40 who offer each other support, resources, inspiration and humour". Thanks to the recently published companion book, the group tripled in size this year to become a 20,000-plus-strong, highly engaged global cohort. Regional subgroups support local connections.
    Launched this year, CoveyClub is an online/offline lifestyle forum with an upbeat tone. The group is for "women who feel... they are living the best years of their lives" and has an emphasis on career support and midlife reinvention. Founder Lesley Jane Seymour, long-time editor of now-defunct US women's magazine More, is seeking brand partnerships. Paying members gain access to CoveyClub's private Facebook page and discounts on recommended products.
    In the Groove, a lifestyle-focused online venture for "age-defying women", is in the works from Susan Feldman – co-founder of US e-commerce brand One Kings Lane.
  • Menopause Spotlight: A new openness around the menopause, especially in the UK, is fuelling new supportive forums. Meg Mathews, a former face of Britpop, launched MegsMenopause in 2017 to break stigmas and empower women with more information. Its Instagram account has accumulated more than 14,000 followers, and the forum held its first conference in London last month. Meanwhile, Scottish non-profit Menopause Café promotes real-life conversation and community. Since it launched in June 2017, 38 café events have attracted about 500 attendees.
Nina Lorez Collins
What Would Virginia Woolf Do?
Susan Feldman
Covey Club

Smarter Media & Marketing

While boomer women (aged 54 to 72) are 'reinventing life past 50' (J. Walter Thompson, 2018), only occasionally do brands reflect this new reality.

  • Brands Lagging: More than three-quarters of American females say brands play a negative role in perceptions of women over the age of 40 – and 80% say they underestimate their intelligence (Fancy, 2018). Brands need to be more inclusive, stop assuming older women want to be 25 again, and recognise their growing diversity in terms of career status and family (no kids, young kids or an empty nest).
  • How to Get it Right: A savvy take on middle age comes from Chico's, the American apparel chain targeting boomer women. Launched in February, its How Bold Are You? campaign promotes a pivot to more youthful styles and takes a new feisty tone for the brand. A commercial embodies this through music (Bold, by Californian group The Highfields) and on-screen copy such as: 'When they tell me to lower my hemline, I tell them where to go. I'm not growing older. I'm growing bolder.'
    Biannual fashion magazine Renaissance exclusively features models over 40 in unretouched images. The mission is to 'celebrate the revival of midlife' and 'show the beauty of age'. The London agency behind it, Renaissance Creative, aims to help brands engage more meaningfully with 40-plus women. See also Vogue Italia Champions Women Over 60.

In forums such as What Would Virginia Woolf Do? and MegsMenopause, the tone is optimistic and positive, but frank about the challenges unique to this life stage. Women are seeking the same from brands: vibrant, multidimensional portrayals and a meaningful grasp of their difficulties, along with new solutions.

For more strategies to help achieve this, see Mature Beauty: Entering a New Age, The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update: Diversity Rules and A Fashion A'woke'ning.

Also, look out for upcoming reports The Middle-Aged Gap (publishing July 12) and Gen X: Beauty's Untapped Demographic (publishing July 16) for further insights on attracting this cohort.

In the US, 80% of 40-plus women say brands underestimate their intelligence
Renaissance Magazine
Renaissance Magazine
Published: 10 Jul 2018

E-Skin Brings Sense of Touch to Prosthetic Hands

'Phantom limb' – the perception of still having a missing body part – is a sensory illusion experienced by many amputees. But engineers at the John Hopkins University in the US have created an electronic skin that will soon make this illusion a reality by giving prosthetics the sense of touch.

As explained in the June 2018 research article, the 'e-dermis' is an electronic skin made of fabric and rubber that's layered on top of a prosthetic limb – such as the fingertips of a prosthetic hand. It electrically stimulates the arm's nerves to recreate the sense of touch on the person's fingertips.

The method used is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or Tens, and is non-invasive – but still feels like a real skin. "After many years I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again," said the team's anonymous principal tester.

E-dermis is not yet sensitive to temperature – but it can detect shapes and perceive pain when it touches something sharp. This is particularly useful for alerting wearers to potential damage, particularly to lower-limb prosthetics. With up to 40,000 amputations performed annually in the US, the innovative e-skin could dramatically improve amputees' quality of life (NCBI, 2018).

Accessibility tech that enhances the lives of people with disabilities is a key area of opportunity, as outlined in CES 2018: Personal Electronics and 10 Tech Trends to Watch in 2018. For more on the technologies that empower people with disabilities, see Design for Disability: Transformative Tech.

Published: 29 Jun 2018

Financial Empowerment for Unprepared Retirees

By 2050, the global population of people aged over 60 is expected to reach 2.1 billion

People across the world are not prepared for retirement and financially unequipped for the future. Brands should step in to provide digital services offering reassurance and support.

An ageing population and shift in responsibility to individuals saving for themselves is putting people under financial strain in their later years, according to Scottish investment company Aegon's Retirement Readiness Survey. Stylus highlights the survey's findings:

  • Growing Older: By 2050, the global population of people aged over 60 is expected to reach 2.1 billion, more than 10 times the size it was in 1950. While tech and medicine developments have increased life expectancy by 27%, this is placing a huge financial strain on social security.
  • Burden Shift: Governments and employers used to prepare people for retirement, but now the onus is shifting to individuals. Globally, government benefits have reduced by 38% and only 43% of employers offer a retirement plan that includes an employer contribution.
  • Expectations Vs Reality: Workers worldwide predict they'll need 68% of their current income upon retirement, but only 25% expect to achieve this. One-third of workers have a back-up plan if they need to stop working earlier than anticipated, yet 39% of retirees retired sooner than expected due to ill health.

There's an opportunity here for financial brands to offer intuitive services that help people approaching retirement spend their money more effectively. A good example is US fintech start-up United Income's platform, which provides holistic financial planning and investment management, and creates personalised spending projections with tailored saving recommendations.

For further information on the companies empowering consumers to make better financial choices, see Fast-Forward Finance.

Published: 25 Jun 2018

Next-Gen Giving: App Streamlines Social Good

More than 550,000 people in the US are homeless

Electronic transactions are quick and efficient, but a cashless society isn't beneficial for everyone – especially the homeless, who rely on spare change for survival. US start-up Samaritan is tackling this issue by helping next-gen activists support their neighbours in need.

It distributes Bluetooth-powered beacons to homeless individuals and notifies people via an accompanying app whenever they're near a beacon holder. Passers-by can read the person's story and the financial goal they're trying to reach to escape life on the streets – and offer them money with a simple mobile transaction.

These donations can be redeemed at partnering stores for food, transport and essential items including soap and toilet paper, but not for alcohol or tobacco. This helps increase giving, as many people are reluctant to donate for fear of funding addictions.

Currently in beta mode in Seattle, Samaritan plans to expand to other US cities and has already had 7,000 downloads, raising about $2,500 per month.

More than 550,000 people in the US are homeless (Hud Exchange, 2017) – with the Seattle area spending more than $1bn a year in response to the crisis (Puget Sound Business Journal, 2018). Tech companies like Samaritan could help address such social issues by engaging proactive and energetic next-gen activists, who are eager for new ways to streamline change.

It's becoming increasingly important for brands to cultivate and inspire empathy. For the latest ideas inspiring action for good, take a look at Compassion Culture: Embracing Empathy.

Published: 18 Jun 2018

Tiny Off-Grid Holiday Homes Tap Micro-Living Trend

The A45 micro-cabin by Bjarke Ingels Group

A rising number of consumers are banding together in essentialist communities, with the shared desire for a more intentional, minimalist way of living. New York start-up Klein is set to appeal to these consumers with its affordable, self-powered micro-cabins that can be erected in remote locations within weeks.

The company lets people go online to choose and customise sustainable houses designed by architects from around the world. Within six months of ordering, their micro-cabin will be installed in any location in two weeks. Currently available for pre-order, its first prototype is the A45 – a 13-foot-long wood and glass cabin designed by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group.

Rising real-estate prices and construction costs make it increasingly difficult to own a holiday home. Klein hopes to change this, with planned prices for the houses ranging from $50,000 to $300,000.

The smart idea chimes with the Swedish ethos of lagom – meaning "not too much, not too little", which is inspiring people around the world to enjoy the bare necessities.

"We're seeing more people opting for the tiny life, eschewing larger, family-sized homes for the simplicity of smaller houses," says Kate Johnson, senior editor of Consumer Lifestyle at Stylus. "These so-called 'tiny housers' choose to downsize due to environmental and financial concerns, as well as the desire for more time and freedom."

Such micro dwellings also allow users to reconnect with the natural world – a key consumer desire we explored in Nature Embracers and further unpacked in our A/W 19/20 Design Directions Essence report.

Published: 12 Jun 2018

Microsoft HoloLens Guides Blind People

HoloLens may soon act as a virtual guide for blind people

Microsoft's HoloLens – a headset containing a holographic computer – will soon be able to guide blind people through buildings, thanks to its ability to map spaces in real time and offer audio guidance via speakers.

The mixed-reality headset allows users to see, hear and interact with 3D holograms that are "pinned" in their field of vision. Unlike other augmented glasses, HoloLens holograms interact with the world while the user is moving, as multiple sensors can map the user's surrounding space in detail.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology have designed an application that allows the HoloLens's features to act as a virtual guide, helping blind individuals navigate complex buildings by restoring vision at a cognitive level. The wearable computer captures images of the surrounding environment, and conveys this information via auditory augmented reality. Its speakers can make sound appear as if it's coming from different points within the space – enabling users to find their way just by following the voice, without the need for any physical aids.

"The combination of unprecedented computing power in wearable devices with augmented reality technology promises a new era of non-invasive prostheses", reads the abstract of the research. Considering that 253 million people in the world are blind or visually impaired (WHO, 2017), this technology could be life-changing for many in the future.

For more on the advances in accessibility tech, see 10 Trends to Watch in 2018, Design for Disability: Transformative Tech and our Diversity Outlook Innovation Platform.

Published: 5 Jun 2018

Business Pessimists: Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018

Millennials’ positive perceptions of business have reached their lowest level in four years

The confidence of millennials (aged 24 to 37) in business has plummeted, which has made them less loyal as employees, according to the 2018 global Deloitte Millennial Survey.

  • Distrust in Business: Millennials' positive perceptions of business have reached their lowest level in four years. Less than half (48%) believe businesses behave ethically, while only 47% think business leaders are committed to helping improve society. There's a mismatch between what millennials believe businesses should do and what they see happening: they see organisations prioritising profit over making a positive impact in society.
  • Low Loyalty: Among the millennials surveyed, only 28% would like to stay at their company beyond five years. Some 43% intend to leave their employer within the next two years, with 62% citing the gig economy as a viable alternative to full-time employment. If companies want to earn the trust and loyalty of young workers, they need to focus on diversity, inclusion and flexibility, and find ways to help the communities they work in. See also Career Pioneers and SXSW 2018: Speaking Gen Z's Language.
  • Unprepared for Industry 4.0: Although we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – only 36% of millennials and 29% of Gen Z (aged nine to 23) believe they have the tools necessary to succeed in this industry – that is, the industry defined by tech innovations such as robotics and artificial intelligence. These cohorts are seeking help from business – not to develop technical skills, but soft skills, such as creativity and confidence.

For more on millennials' attitudes, see Turbo-Charged Consumers: Millennial 20/20 Summit 2018.

Published: 4 Jun 2018

Urban, Suburban & Rural Americans

In rural areas in the US, 54% of adults identify with or lean towards the Republican party

The US is changing dramatically as its population ages and becomes more diverse. However, these changes are being felt in different ways across the country's urban, suburban and rural communities, according to a report released last month by US-based Pew Research Center. Key findings include:

  • Growing Suburbs: More than 11 million urban and rural residents have migrated to the suburbs, including five million international immigrants. This has resulted in a 16% increase in the suburban population since 2000. This population has grown in age, too: in the suburbs, the 65-plus population has expanded by 39% over the past two decades.
  • Difference in Values: Some 58% of Americans who live in rural areas say that urban dwellers have different values from theirs. However, this difference varies when partisanship is taken into account. Democrats living in suburban and rural areas are far more likely than Republicans to say that urban residents share their values.
  • Politics Divide: Urban and rural Americans have different political views, with 62% of urban adults being or leaning towards being Democrats, while 54% in rural areas identify with or lean towards the Republican party. Differences across community types remain even after taking party identification into account. For example, Republicans who live in rural areas are more likely than Republicans in urban areas to express positive views of US President Donald Trump.
  • Feeling Misunderstood: In both rural and urban areas, around two-thirds of residents believe that those who don't live in similar communities don't understand the problems they face.

For more on the widening divide between urban, suburban and rural consumers, see New Metropolitans.

Published: 30 May 2018

Virgin Fitness Class Features CPR Training

Virgin Active has launched a new fitness class for its gym members in Thailand called CPRobic, which combines cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training with an intensive workout.

CPRobic teaches participants hands-only CPR movements that could prove life-saving in an emergency, while helping them exercise. Just 15 minutes of CPRobic can burn up to 165 calories and when combined with a Bosu fitness training ball, participants can burn up to 400 calories in 45 minutes. The class was added in March 2018 and is taught by CPR-certified trainers.

Virgin created the class after discovering only 6% of patients who require on-the-spot CPR in Thailand receive it before being taken to hospital, as most people have never had CPR training. Less than 1% of the population has a gym membership (IHRSA, 2017), while in countries like the UK, this rate is as high as 15% (LeisureDB, 2017). In order to attract customers, gyms in the region need to market innovative, multipurpose classes to entice more people to try them.

For more on the latest innovations in the fitness and active landscape, see our Active Lives Macro Trend and coverage of Elevate 2018.

Published: 29 May 2018

Wristband Tracks Body Composition

Aura Band

US start-up Aura Devices has designed the Aura Band – a next-gen fitness tracker that can track users' body composition, as well as their activity and heart rate.

The Aura Band uses bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), a method of estimating body composition – such as fat, muscle percentage and bone volume, as well as hydration levels. To activate the BIA, users create a loop with their arms by holding the band. The band then passes a low-voltage electric current through the user's body, which allows it to calculate the percentage of water and fat, based on the resistance to the flow of electricity.

Aura Devices claims that tracking body composition is a more reliable way to measure our bodies than using traditional scales, which typically track weight only. This method also enables the device to give the user personalised tips, such as increasing their water intake.

The company plans to reward active users with virtual coins called Aura Coins, which could be used to buy real-life products and services from Aura Devices' partners – such as insurance companies, suggests co-founder Stas Gorbunov. This could spark innovation in terms of health plans, with customers paying insurance fees according to their physical activity levels.

The start-up is currently raising money on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, with the device priced at $109 and expected to ship in August 2018.

For more ways to incentivise consumers to exercise, see Fuelling Fast-Paced Lifestyles.

Published: 22 May 2018

INBair O2: Brain-Boosting Air Purifier

INBair O2

British air purification tech company Radic8 has designed a portable oxygen purifier, called INBair O2. The device could help office workers reduce feelings of drowsiness in the middle of the day and boost their productivity just by inhaling oxygen.

The book-sized device processes air, purifies it and then delivers it through an inhaler that resembles a headset. It's designed to be an easy-to-use, inconspicuous product for people who would like to use it in their workplace.

Radic8 claims that the percentage of oxygen in offices drops from 21% to 17% as the day passes and more carbon dioxide is produced, which explains why people feel sleepy in the middle of the day. Instead of drinking coffee or eating something sweet, using INBair O2 for 30 minutes is meant to give users a brain boost that will increase their productivity and make them feel brighter.

Priced at $455, the product is available for pre-order from the company's Indiegogo page. It's expected to ship in July 2018.

As concerns over air pollution grow, the size of the residential air purifier market worldwide is expected to reach 21 million units by 2021 (Statista, 2018). INBair O2 is tapping into this trend, as well as the rising interest in maximising personal productivity, by claiming that "pure oxygen enters your bloodstream through your lungs and goes straight to the brain". See also Career Pioneers.

For more on the devices that are helping us to improve our physical and mental wellbeing, see Wearable Technology Show 2018 and Increased Wellbeing: Personal Air Purifiers.

Published: 14 May 2018

Sleep Tech Boosts Creativity

Dormio helps users augment their creativity while they sleep

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have invented a glove-like device called Dormio that helps users augment their creativity while they sleep.

Before falling asleep completely, humans go through an intermediate state between wakefulness and sleep called hypnagogia. While in this hypnagogic state, people lose the frontal function of their brains, which means they lose their sense of time and space and their thoughts become intuitive and hyper-associative. During this state, human creativity is unleashed, as it's not constrained by the logic and rules of waking life.

According to Dormio's website, artists and scientists such as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Salvador Dali have taken advantage of the creativity offered during hypnagogia by holding a steel ball that would fall when they fell asleep – waking them up and allowing them to write down the ideas generated during this semi-lucid state.

Dormio modernises this technique, but instead of waking up the user, it simply prevents them from falling asleep completely. Sensors in the glove-like device track the user's hypnagogic state by measuring heart rate and muscle tone. When Dormio senses the user is transitioning into the deeper stages of sleep, its accompanying app emits sounds via the user's smartphone. This way, it suspends the user in an extended hypnagogic state, allowing them to access their subconscious for longer.

The device's creators plan to upgrade the device so that it can influence the content of the user's dreams and extract information from them, potentially enabling people to interact with their subconscious. See also Shadow Selves: Tapping Consumers' Dark Sides.

Published: 10 May 2018

Pigzbe: Cryptocurrency Wallet for Kids


London-based start-up Pigzbe is launching an interactive digital 'piggy wallet', powered by its own family-friendly cryptocurrency, to help children aged six and over learn about money.

Pigzbe is a digital service that allows parents to transfer money to their children, as well as a physical device that acts as a cryptocurrency wallet and game controller. The blockchain-based device is powered by Wollo, Pigzbe's crypto token.

By using a crypto piggy bank, children not only learn about saving, exchanging and spending, but also about volatility, as Wollo's value is likely to fluctuate. Kids will also learn the foundations of modern money through an immersive game featured in the accompanying app. They can play it using their Pigzbe device, which will send them haptic and visual signals.

The service comes with a Wollo card, which kids and parents can use to spend their cryptocoins with selected retailers in the real world. Wollo coins will be available in June 2018. Pigzbe plans to deliver its product and platform in Q2 2019.

Financial illiteracy is a real problem in the US, with only 57% of adults in the country having an understanding of basic financial concepts (Global Financial Literacy Center, 2016).

In a cashless society, where money becomes a more abstract concept, products like Pigzbe could make it easier for families to talk about money – a habit that has been found to improve children's financial literacy (OECD, 2017).

For more on the behaviours of millennial parents (aged 24 to 37), see Gen Alpha: Raising the Superkids. For insight into the future applications of cryptocurrencies, see Blockchain Expo London 2018.

Published: 9 May 2018

AR Urban Exploration Race

District participants navigate checkpoints by following the race's app on their phone

Asian sports events consultancy Exceed and Australian experiential agency Lightweave have organised District – an urban exploration race that combines augmented reality (AR) and location-based technologies.

The District race has no set route or distance, but participants have only two hours to navigate through 80 checkpoints and challenges – this time spread around Hong Kong's eight districts. Each district will have challenges themed according to its unique character in order to help participants discover the city and learn about each area.

Runners have to use the accompanying app that will follow their location, guide them to checkpoints and reveal the challenges they need to complete, such as a quiz that tests players' knowledge of the neighbourhood, or running round the block in under a minute. Points are awarded whenever a racer reaches their destination and when they complete a challenge, and increase based on their distance from the race's starting point.

The app offers a gamified experience, as players can keep track of their ranking by checking the live leader board and become further motivated by competing against their friends. Those who complete the race receive an AR-enabled finisher medal.

The first District race took place in Singapore on March 3 and the Hong Kong race is scheduled for May 13, costing HK$450 ($57) to participate. The organisers expect to launch the race in the US, Australia and Europe later this year.

For more on consumers' desire for urban adventures and extreme experiences, see our Active Lives Macro Trend.