Your next big thing: What the fortune tellers say

Written by Kim Shiffman

Richard Worzel

Canadian futurist, best-selling author
Keynote speaker and consultant

“Major opportunities will come where the major forces driving change — such as technology, demographics, geopolitics, globalization and health care — overlap or cross over. For example, think about demographics and the aging population. Everything from travel to vacation homes represents opportunity, but these are also pretty obvious opportunities. But consider how technology can affect people who are aging. Are there new ways that people can be re-enabled through technology?

“One example would be eyeglasses with a built-in camera that captures the image of someone’s face and then, using biometrics, tries to identify who the person is — so it will whisper in your ear who you’re looking at, helping those whose memory is getting spotty. That’s an opportunity based on two things coming together.

“Or consider globalization. Combined with the aging population, you could start looking at things like medical tourism. If you need a hip replacement, for instance, it can take eight months here in Canada or it can cost $50,000 in the U.S. But if you were to go to a reputable place in India, it might be $15,000 and you wouldn’t have to wait more than the couple of weeks that it takes to set it up.”

Michael Rogers

Futurist-in-residence at New York Times Co.
Writer of MSNBC’s “Practical Futurist” column

“In the IT sector, the biggest shift we’ll see over the next couple of years is rapidly increasing use of mobile devices. A lot of them will have GPS built in, so any type of location-based business should be thinking about how it can reach customers. Suddenly, we’ll be able to have an interactive relationship with customers and know where they are. So, we’ll see more and more €˜location aware’ services.

“Another trend: in North America we’ll see millions more licensed drivers just in the next seven to eight years. So, we’ll need solutions that get around the problems of urban crowding, such as more types of telecommunications services, more services that can be done remotely.

“Here’s a trend that’s obvious, but can’t be overemphasized: opportunities to sell green solutions will change when we have a carbon tax — and it’s only a matter of time before there are enough environmental indicators that we’ll accept one. Then we’ll see real incentives for consumers to choose green solutions. One place we haven’t seen a good intersection is the Home Depot do-it-yourself model with green solutions. Currently, contractors come in to help you determine, say, where energy leaks are in your home. I can see a space for DIY green.”

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