The shape of things to come
10:00 PM | May 17 2019

The Shape of Things to Come

A trend-analysis agency helps us gaze into a crystal ball to find out what's going to be shaping how we drive, shop and live over the next few years.

When people talk about trends, they’re not just referring to the tightness of your trousers or the length of your fringe. Trend analysis – or trendspotting – has over the last few decades become very important for companies who want to predict and cater for the behaviour of their customers.

And trendspotting is more of a science than an art. It takes a lot of research, analysis, collaboration and hard work by teams of people who look at everything that’s happening right now and, from that, somehow decipher the trends that are going to emerge tomorrow.

I Roll sat down with Kathryn Bishop, deputy foresight editor at London-based global trend analysis agency The Future Laboratory, to look at the big trends that are set to emerge, and ask about how buying, using and interacting with our stuff will change over the next few years.


The word “subscription” is starting to mean something quite different from what it did only a few years ago: it’s gone from being a magazine landing on your doormat every month, to a simple, effective way to access a whole load of useful or life-improving products, information or media.

“Subscription is going to change,” says Kathryn. “It’s not just going to be your weekly dose of something you get in the post.”

She says subscription services may have started out quite small with things like music, books, coffee and so on, but they’re expanding in scope and ambition.

Kathryn thinks that one of the next big areas for subscription is clothing.

“A company called For Days is working with the philosophy that they want you to ‘wear recklessly, refresh responsibly’. You pay for a subscription to between one and 10 T-shirts that you essentially rent,” she says.

“Rather than going out and buying new clothes, you get good-quality organic shirts delivered to you, and then, when you’re fed up of them, you send them back so that they can be cleaned, reconditioned and re-used. The company wants to develop this model to reduce waste, provide people with high-quality clothing, and show that fashion can be accessed in different ways.”

“You kind of feel as if you're doing some good, because they’ll remodel everything you send back and upcycle it, ready to be sold on again or used charitably – you’re recycling it in a responsible way.”


The global wellness market is now worth trillions of dollars and, over the past couple of years, it’s changed the way the word wellness itself is used on a day-to-day basis. Instead of just meaning physical fitness, it now also refers to the other things that make us feel good, such as our psychological health and ability to relax.

And it’s an area of our lives where subscriptions are going to play a big part, where wellness is going to be heavily influenced by a marriage of extreme personalisation and technology.

“A company called BodyO is creating health analysis pods which will do a full assessment of your health status – hydration, respiration, blood pressure, everything – and offer help and advice,” says Kathryn.

“These are being trialled now but could be put in shopping malls, supermarkets, the kinds of places that we’re frequenting day to day, because we don’t have time to go to the doctors. They’re giving you peace of mind, they’re saving time, and they’re giving you advice that you can fast-track when you make your next appointment.

“Then there's Mirror – an on-demand, live stream workout screen that looks like a beautiful mirror that you have in your home and is perfect for people who struggle to find the time to get to the gym.

“It doubles as a two-way screen, so you can flick it from mirror mode into workout mode and log in to live-stream classes with a personal trainer: they can see you, and you can see them.”

Volvo plug in charge


Connectivity also drives a lot of the trends we’ll see emerging over the next few years. In the automotive industry, connectivity is something we almost take for granted. How your car speaks to your phone (and vice versa) is soon going to be duplicated in how cars share information with each other, as well as safety, navigation and control systems. But what’s really interesting is how we humans will access these systems.

“We’re already seeing these headsets that stretch down to rest on our chins and effectively read our thoughts,” Kathryn says. “A company called AlterEgo has developed one of these that relies on subvocalisation – the signals that your brain sends to your mouth, when you’re thinking words. You don’t actually say them, but the headset can pick up the tiny, imperceptible movements your mouth makes when this happens and turn them into commands.”

This means you’ll be able to think something, and the headset will translate it into a command. So, if you’re driving your car, and realise that you’d like to listen to some music, or book a doctor’s appointment, or turn on the heating at home, you won’t even need to bark an order – you’ll just think about it.

With the right applications, the possibilities for this kind of technology are immense – it could send workplace creativity through the roof, and in an environment like driving that needs to be as free from distraction as possible, it could make life a lot easier.


How we drive is going to change a lot over the next few years, and one of the biggest changes will be in how our cars are powered. Electric engines are already making their way onto the market and they look set to become the new “normal".

Volvo Cars is leading the way, having announced all new Volvos released from 2019 onwards will feature some form of electrification.

But what are the knock-on effects going to be? How will we charge our vehicles? How is this going to affect our routines? And what will happen to our petrol stations?

“Reebok is working with the architect firm Gensler to transform old petrol stations into spaces that they’re calling Get Pumped,” says Kathryn. “As petrol stations become redundant with the rise of electric vehicles, petrol stations are being transformed into these places where you can recharge your car and, while you're waiting, do a little workout. You’ll also be able to visit them to eat healthy food, take yoga classes, and so on – turning them into little community zones.

“Charging is looking as if it’s going to be tied to leisure activities – convenience stores, catch up with someone, do some work, drive up to a restaurant and eat, go bowling, watch a film in a drive-in cinema.

“[It’s about] enjoying the connected city and the space around you as much as possible.”

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