If not, it’s likely she will by the end of 2017.  To a man we are increasingly preoccupied with how technology can facilitate and impact our wellbeing. It’s not news that tech has the potential to change, impede or improve our behaviours and attitudes towards how we eat, drink, sleep, exercise and look after our own mental health.

Indeed, the DI team are no different.  We apply a variety of traditional and cutting edge research techniques to decode and understand current and future consumer behaviours amidst a seemingly relentless tsunami of new tech innovation.

So we are kick starting the year with a blog that researches the current key tech themes on social media in order to understand which are likely to be actively impacting our lives most in 12 month’s time.


Key Tech Talking Points

2 themes absolutely dominate online conversations relating to new and emerging tech: the Internet of Things (IoT) and Virtual Reality (VR) encapsulating AI (Artificial Intelligence).  A quick data-pull spanning Oct – Dec 2016 shows over 1500 and 1700 mentions respectively by individuals in the UK.


‘The internet of things’ refers to digital devices which collect and share data with each other on a digital network. Pretty much anything that has an internet connection can be considered an IoT device.


VR and IoT – Where are they now?

Both established early footholds in the areas of health, healthcare and wellbeing and are in the process of crossing over from business to consumer and patient applications and will experience continued growth, marketisation and commoditisation in 2017.

Interestingly, from a health perspective, IoT has found common application through physical health solutions whereas VR is tending to lend itself more to the development of mental health solutions.  More on this in a moment.

In terms of market cycle, Fundamentally IoT is (as expected) at a far more mature phase of accessibility and productisation than VR.  IoT was able to quickly establish itself via consumer wearables but will, in 2017, experience development via the ongoing development of large scale infrastructural projects and enterprise solutions.

On the other hand, VR is entering the commoditisation phase, emerging from the shadows of early adoption in the gaming sector and B2B applications.  And while headsets-in-the-home will be available to all they will be less easily accessible than early IoT products were.  Our key prediction here is that primary consumption and experience of VR in the near future – for some – will be via key destinations with specific purposes such as Gyms, Hospitals and Treatment Facilities.


IoT Now: Wearables and personal tracking

For IoT daily user integration is well on its way for the fitness buff. Discussion around wearables and personal tracking presented as one of the highest volume topic threads from our data search.

Within the technology adoption lifecycle model, wearables have reached ‘early majority’ stage. It is now easy, and commonplace for citizens to track a number of different health and fitness related measures and compare them over a period of time.

DI’s behavioural desk research discovered that devices perform three core roles in the lives of the user: to motivate, to trigger action and to share information.  Coupling this with the finding that open sharing via social and digital networks is driving individual competitive fitness and individual health regimes, personal tracking and the assertion that seeking external affirmation can become addictive it is fair to assume that IoT enabled wearables will continue to be a definitive feature of our lives in the coming years.


IoT of the Future: Patient Empowerment

Beyond physical performance tracking, wearables of the future will impact us via the medical care sector. Prescriptive Analytics will assist this move and predictive tech innovation will allow medical professionals to gather remote patient data on factors such as recovery progress. One key area focuses on the technical evolution of Patient Empowerment via the roll-out of professionally endorsed medical-apps and wearable trackers, allowing for remote monitoring by medical professionals.

As humans, self-diagnosis via unofficial sources such as Google is already negatively disrupting the way we react and interact with official medical care services and sources. In some cases this has led to increased anxiety towards minor health issues. Conversely, studies also show that participation in online forums and discussion support groups can have a profound effect on the participants’ feelings of ‘being empowered’.

Major insurance companies are already rolling out tracking to mitigate the risk of underwriting certain types of higher risk or high value policies. The key concern here is finding the balance, personal medical tracking should never fully replace official medical care, but for identifying problems and assessing day to day recovery, IoT will likely become the norm for health tracking.


VR: A future Mental-Health Care Revolution

Virtual reality beyond video games has found wide use in mental health and psychological research. This is due to the system lending itself well to providing a user with an immersive experience which moves presence to a virtual controllable environment.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) synthesised with VR produces a powerful treatment for phobias and anxieties amongst those averse to talking therapies.  By directly experiencing triggers relating to a fear, Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) is transforming the treatment of thousands of patients in the States. VR is also actively benefiting those with PTSD and other anxiety disorders because, by its nature, the therapy requires the patient to experience aversive content in a safe environment where medical professionals are able to responsively control the content a patient experiences according the degree of their condition.

VR: Motivating the Uptake of Physical Excercise

If the idea of slogging it out on a long line of running or rowing machines fills you with anxiety or simply puts you off taking up a regular exercise routine then VR may be the motivational mechanic you need.  VR will provide an alternative and immersive fitness experience – such as Icaros pictured here.  Imagine a swim without getting wet.  Experience flying and work out your muscles.  VR requires the user to become more active in virtual worlds and therefore lends itself very well to Physical Interaction Systems by providing both stimulation and motivation that is framed in immersive escapism.

VR requires a continued focus product development and has long suffered from the need for a vast software base to justify the hardware price point to users. As such it currently exists as a device mainly used by the early adopters, the wider audience has mostly seen VR as an interesting future tech and not as a consumer product. In the next 12 to 24 months we expect to see an increase in the use as a solid software base grows, this will likely be through medical facilities as solid research provides medical practitioners with a viable solution to improving mental health treatment.

So, for 2017 we predict that most of us will have our first VR experience and will be actively comparing our wearable analytics with our parents and even grandparents.  We certainly live in exciting times.

The research conducted for this content was powered by our clever pals at Brandwatch

Thank you for reading.

© Disruptive Insight 2015.