What is the Next Big Thing?

I attended the TAG Social Business panel talk last night. My friend Daddy-o was on it. It’s been awhile since I have seen Daddy-o and I was reminded of how smart and entertaining he is.

There were some great insights shared about the current state of social media and entertainment. However when the question was asked, “What is the Next Big Thing?” I was not really satisfied with the answers I heard. So  I am going to try to take a stab at answering that question myself?

First, let me respond to some of the answers I heard.

Convergence of Social Media Platforms

That has been happening for a long time and will continue to shake up the social world, but I would not consider it a “next big thing.”

More advertising on social platforms. 

Yes, that is a thing and will increasingly be a thing, but it is not the next big thing. Besides that, advertising is not innovative or revolutionary. If anything it is a slip backward to a comfort zone of how to make money with media.

More Private Social Network Platforms for Discreet Interaction

First of all, isn’t that what email is supposed to provide? Second is email really private? No, not really. We all should know by now not to post anything anywhere online that you do not want to go public because it can go public. These platforms are not really solving any real problems and if anything may cause more problems. So, no, not the next big thing.

Record Label in a Box

Daddy-o had the most intriguing answer explaining how the only thing in the music industry that has been digitized is retail. He has been working with a partner on an idea of a Record Label in a box. Unfortunately, he did not go into a lot of detail, so I am going to assume there is some marketing automation happening here and something that shakes up the production of music. Without details it is hard to tell  – but I think he may be on to something here related to what the next big thing to shake up the music industry will be.

What I think the next big thing is – Digitizing Our Physical Environment

First, we had machines that allowed us to connect with each other from vast distances. Then we had social technologies that not only allowed connections but social discovery; the ability to find and connect with like minds around the world while sitting at home on our computer. Then we had mobile and location-based technologies which placed the worldwide web in our pocket and enabled social discovery around our neighborhood. The next big thing is going to allow social discovery even closer to us, within the environment that we are currently interacting with.

So we have all know about Google Glasses which allows us to capture the environment in front of us or access information we need in real time, but it is only half of the equation. The other half is being able to contribute data to our environment and share it with others who will interact with that same environment in the future.

For example, The Bluetooth Ring:

By recognizing finger gestures, Ring allows the wearer to write text messages by simply drawing in the air. The same dynamic allows the wearer to access apps by drawing designated shapes in the air. For example, drawing a music note could access your music player, while drawing an envelope shape would allow you to access your email.

This ring is only a small step to where we are heading.

My friend and one-time co-worker Tim Moenk shared his vision of this future with me waaaay back in 2007.

The most important aspect of Augmentation is really about understanding context. Our environments are full of information, but most of this information isn’t digital yet. As we increasingly use smart devices that connect to the web and introduce sensors such as RFID and teens with camera phones into our environments, there will be much more information for us to work with and contextualize. As the web becomes something that is all around us rather then something just inside the computer screen, the goal behind Augmented Reality is to make it easy to understand and visualize all this information at the appropriate times.

One of the most powerful examples of Augmentation that is often overlooked, is the friends list on social networking sites. This form of Augmentation makes it easy for us to see not only our relationships, but the relationships between other people in the network. As members of our network interact with each other, we can then visually gauge the quality of those relationships as well. By having all this data out there in a way that we can understand, we’re also beginning to interact with each other in new ways. In much the same way, as our environments become even more connected to the web and our mobile devices more capable, we will begin to interact with our environments in new and more intelligent ways.

Today we are seeing hardware evolve beyond the smartphones to smart jewelry and smart clothing, and eventually smart building materials.

And that is the next big thing.