Charging Stations for the Homeless

Why charging stations for the homeless?

image: Derek Mindler (flickr)

image: Derek Mindler (flickr)

“62 percent of homeless youth own a cell phone. 51 percent use cell phones stay connected to friends from home and 41 percent connect to their parents, and 36 percent use the phone to call current or potential employers,” according to a study published in the Journal of Urban Health.

Without a physical mailing address, a mobile phone becomes the sole means of connection to the outside world. The homeless use mobile phones to get updates about shelters, meals, and jobs.

A mobile phone enables communication and even commerce. But minutes and data are expensive, and without a permanent address, a simple task like charging becomes difficult.

“And connections enabled by mobile devices can give disenfranchised populations a sense of community while they work to rebuild. A cell phone offers a cheap way to communicate, and even a very basic Internet access can connect them to a wealth of information and resources. On a larger scale, a mobile device is a tether between a homeless person and the larger fabric of society, keeping them from falling into the pale and completely in the margins,” writes Margaret Rock, managing editor of 2machines.

Providing a solution to mobile charging for the homeless may not seem like a direct path to profits, but companies might want to consider how such a solution could positively impact their bottom lines by selling the solution in developing countries where consumers face similar challenges.

Are Robots Better Drivers than Humans? Yes.

Robots and humans approach driving somewhat differently.

The Turn Signal

This blinking indicator helps humans notify other human drivers about their intention to change lanes. Of course, its also an indicator that someone will be pulling in front which requires speeding up to prevent said passing. The obvious answer to this problem for many humans is to not use a turn signal at all.

A robot would approach this slightly differently. It knows when all the vehicles on the road work together they’ll get where they’re going more efficiently. A robot would give advanced notice to all the cars on the road when it intends to change lanes so others would give it space to make merging easy.

Rubber Necking

Everybody knows that an accident is essentially free entertainment. The worse it is, the higher the entertainment value. Naturally, humans will slow down as much as possible when approaching an accident so they can get the best view of the accident free entertainment as possible, and perhaps the best quality picture that they can immediately share with their friends on social media. #trafficaccident

A robot sees no value in slowing down for an accident unless it will prevent other accidents. Passengers in self-driving cars will have to make do with a quick glance. Then again, passengers in self-driving cars may be too immersed in something else to even notice.

Texting While Driving

Humans can’t communicate telepathically… yet. So until brain-computer interfaces are fully developed, its critical to respond immediately to any and all texts, even while operating heavy machinery. Humans are terrible at multi-tasking, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to read and type on our tiny devices while driving 75 mph.

Robots on the other hand, are excellent multi-taskers and can communicate wirelessly with other robots. They could read the news, communicate their location, and make dinner reservations all at the same time without it impacting their driving ability.

Driving Under the Influence

More than 10,000 people each year in the United States die in vehicle accidents that involved an alcohol impaired driver. Interestingly, a recent study out of Temple University suggests that a strong Uber presence in cities may cut DUI fatalities. They posit that when the price of taking an uber home is cheap enough, people are less likely to drive themselves. Humans, it seems, are willing to risk their lives and the lives of others to save a few bucks. Actually, that sounds about right.

While robots don’t drink, they could be driven under the influence of a hacker and thrown into a tailspin, wreaking havoc on a major highway, potentially killing thousands of people in a giant fiery crash. That’s actually quite scary, and the reason Mark R. Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said “We must reassure vehicle owners that their data is secure, that their vehicle is secure, and that we are looking out for threats from hackers, thieves, and anyone else who might seek to tamper with safety-critical technology.” Hacking is probably the biggest technological impediment to self-driving cars. And until they become hack-proof, humans will continue to take the drivers seat and do all the crazy stuff humans do while driving.


Would You Consider Sex with a Robot to Be Adultery?

ex machinaMy wife and I recently watched Ex Machina, a film about a seductive female robot with artificial intelligence. After the movie I asked playfully, “would it be cheating to have a sex with a robot like that?”

Her answer was a resounding yes. In her opinion, that machine was designed to act and look authentically like a real person, so having sex with a robot that has the capacity to have a romantic and intimate relationship would cross the line into adultery.

“Does it matter that it’s not actually a human?” Her answer was no, it wouldn’t matter. It’s just taking the place of another woman. While this is a theoretical question right now, I suspect more people will be asking these questions as we get closer to a future where humanoids are not just movie magic. If a humanoid possesses the type of emotional intelligence displayed in Ex Machina, it might be difficult for humans not see them as fellow humans.

toshiba robotAdvances in material sciences and robotics are already allowing companies like Japan’s Toshiba Corp. to create humanoids (pictured left) that look and move like real people. This robot was on display at a department store in Tokyo and actually fooled some customers into thinking it was just a regular person.

After Ex Machina was released, the founder of a sex doll company, Matt McMullen, announced he would be developing AI to add an emotional and intellectual dimension to the dolls. He even promoted the idea that a virtual reality headset like Oculus Rift could be used to add to the experience.

One possibility is that we’ll see a robotic sex industry take shape similar to the one we see in Steven Spielberg’s futuristic film, AI, starring Jude Law as a robot gigolo. If something like that occurs, which societies will embrace it? Which will attach a cultural and social stigma? And will couples need to discuss such a thing before getting married?

What do you think?


What’s Driving Athletic Wear Sales?

image: Billie Ward (flickr)The athletic wear as regular wear trend has been going for a while. And when AdAge reported that Backpack Sales Rise as Professionals Ditch Briefcases it indicated to me that the “trend” was picking up steam among more than just hardcore fitness buffs.

There are several drivers that provide support to the idea that what we’re seeing is not just a fashion fad, but a longer term shift in consumer demand for apparel that is comfortable and sporty:

  • Healthy Living: For some, sports and fitness are not just daily activities, but a lifestyle. And as consumers are increasingly making plans on the fly, adjusting schedules on a moment’s notice, and deciding where to go, what to eat, and what to do based on real-time input from their friends, family, and coworkers, that means needing clothes and accessories for both “sweating and socializing.”
  • Popularity of Wearables: Many consumers who use wearables for tracking their activity are likely to be candidates for gear that helps them stay active throughout the day. If your goal is 10,000 steps a day, you might be in the market for comfortable shoes.
  • Growth in cities: As cities grow, traffic increases and driving becomes more onerous. Many residents bike and walk to work (and use public transportation) as a means of avoiding driving. This also means more people wanting comfortable clothes to wear on the way to work and clothes they don’t need to change out of once they get there.
  • Time Constraints: We’re constantly pulled in different directions and there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Consumers want gear that adapts to various parts of our lives –  stay in same basic outfit at work, to run errands, to work out, to go out for a drink, etc.
  • Casual Office Spaces: As the nature of work changes to more distributed and virtual tasks, the nature of the traditional office has also changed. The rise in coworking spaces, open layouts, startups, and more virtual work all contribute to a more casual office space which in turn makes it perfectly acceptable to wear sneakers, leggings, and other athletic gear at work.
  • Millennials: The newest generation of workers are the least likely to believe office wear has to be traditional and are more likely to adopt the casual attire of athletic wear. They’re also used to blurring everything, from mixing work time and personal time (such as answering work emails at home) to blending different food cultures, so it would be natural to try to blend casual and dressy.
  • Badges of identity: According to Kevin Osborn at Future in Focus, “People may be using athletic wear (as they use smartphones and certain brands) as a badge of identity, to signal to others who they are (I’m young, I’m fit, I care about my health) and what matters to them.”  It helps that athletic gear is more fitting and makes people look thinner.

All of these drivers influence a broad group of consumers and increase demand for athletic gear and associated products.

Agree or Disagree? Tell us why!



Indian American Demography, Values, and Attitudes 

Indian Americans

image: Danny Howard (flickr)

One of the fastest-growing ethnic minorities in the US in recent decades has also been one of the most successful: Indian Americans. Now more than 3 million strong, Indian Americans are the third largest cohort of Asian Americans in the US.(1)

With the vast majority of Indian Americans born outside of the US, the Indian-American population is still made up primarily of immigrants-and most of these immigrated within the last 25 years. Unlike many immigrant groups, who tend to settle in enclaves on either the East or West coast, however, Indian-Americans are dispersed throughout the country.

While still a relatively small contingent, accounting for just about 1% of the US population, Indian Americans have quickly become disproportionately influential in such fields as digital technology, science, engineering, medicine, and academia. Better educated and better off financially than any other immigrant group, Indian Americans have become the richest and most successful ethnic cohort in the US.

Indra Nooyi

image: JeffBedford (Flickr)

Taking Charge

By 2014, nine Fortune 500 companies had Indian American CEOs.(2) Prominent Indian American business leaders include Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo (pictured right); Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Ajay Banga, head of MasterCard; Ravichandra Saligram, CEO of OfficeMax; and Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe Systems.

Well Off

Because such a high percentage of Indian Americans work in high paying professions, they have the highest income among all immigrant and ethnic groups in the US–and a higher income than most Americans. In 2010, the median annual personal earnings of full-time Indian-American workers was $65,000, compared to $40,000 among all US full-time workers. At a household level, Indian-Americans had a median annual household income of $88,000 in 2010–33% higher than that of all Asian Americans and 77% higher than the median income of US households as a whole ($49,800).(3)

Life in America

The vast majority of Indian Americans have come to the US just within the last generation in order to find better opportunities. Most have in fact found a better life in the US, and are satisfied overall with their lives and their new home.

A 2012 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that more than seven of 10 Indian-American immigrants came to the US seeking greater opportunities–reasons cited by just under half of Asian Americans overall. Specifically, Indian Americans cited the following reasons for their migration:

  • Educational opportunity: 37%, compared to 28% of all Asian Americans
  • Economic opportunity: 34%, nearly twice the share of all Asian Americans (21%)
  • Family reasons, including family reunification: 18%, a far smaller share than all Asian Americans (31%)
  • Escape persecution: 2%, far fewer than the Asian-American average of 9%
  • Some other reason: 9%
New generation

image: Alan C. (Flickr)

Family Comes First

Family is of supreme importance to most Indian Americans. Nearly four of five (78%), for example, say that being a good parent is one of the most important things in their lives. That’s a significantly higher share than among either Asian Americans (67%) or the overall US population (50%). And 64%-nearly twice the overall US rate of 34% (and also more than the 54% of all Asian Americans)–say that having a successful marriage is very important.


1 “Indian-Americans Form 3rd Largest Asian Population in US,” India Times, April 24, 2014,

2 Palash Ghosh, “The Rise of Indian-Americans in US Business,” International Business Times, March 10, 2014,

3 “The Rise of Asian Americans,” Pew Research Center, April 4, 2013,

Future in Focus recently published two reports devoted to the influential, prosperous, and rapidly growing Indian American population, exploring the demographics of this community in the US, as well as examining Indian American opinions on the US, on family and work life, on their relationships with other groups, and on politics. For more information on these reports, email us.

Ride that Wave of Disruption!

Fred Moore

Imagine a surfer atop his board, rising above the wave. He is being propelled forward by powerful forces. However, he doesn’t resist or fight back against the wave. He knows that’s impossible. Instead, he embraces the wave to maintain control of his board and uses the force of the wave to move himself in a particular direction.

Leaders often find themselves unwillingly pushed by strong forces around them – from changing workforce demographics to shifting consumer behaviors to disruptive technologies – but great leaders don’t fight the disruption, they embrace it.

Great leaders, like great surfers, know how to harness powerful waves and pivot in the direction that they want and need to go. Great leaders can spot the waves of disruption coming, and ride them to success… or bail out before they hit.

How can one learn to see and ride these waves? By applying foresight to everyday challenges.

  • Explore the Future – The pace of change today is relentless, which is why leaders need the ability to track, identify, and understand the changing social, business, and technological landscape. Scanning for trends is the first step in the process. And it’s critical to understand not just what is happening, but also why they are happening, looking at the underlying drivers such as shifts in consumer values and attitudes.
  • Map the Future – When meteorologists project the path of a hurricane, they don’t draw a straight line, they draw a funnel to show where the storm could go. Likewise, it’s impossible to predict the future, but we can map potential futures. The value of mapping the future is to see what’s possible, and plausible, and to spot emerging challenges and opportunities.
  • Create the Future – With a roadmap in hand, it’s now possible to decide which future is preferable, and what course of action to take that will get us there.

However, riding the wave is easier said than done.

This is why we’ve created The Futures School, a unique, immersive and hands-on 3-day program that has taught leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs from 23 countries the tools needed to successfully EXPLORE, MAP, and CREATE the future.

Our spring cohort is forming now, and will convene May 5th-7th, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Visit our website to receive more information and register to be a part of this exciting and empowering event.

3 Emerging Technologies for 2015—& How to Profit from Them

Originally published at 1776 News

Many long-awaited technologies are set to finally arrive this year. They offer businesses and consumers a wide range of new opportunities for better health, happiness and wisdom in 2015.

Here are a few to watch:


2015 will be the year of personal health devices. The FitBit, Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up helped consumers track their physical activities, and now manufacturers will release a slew of new devices to help consumers track and monitor their health. These smartphone-enabled devices will measure vital signs, and even perform medical diagnostics from urine, blood and saliva samples.

Millennials likely will drive adoption of these devices as they seek to better quantify their own health and demand more control over their healthcare options. The Cue has been touted as a “lab-in-a-box” that can help users understand their bodies on a molecular level and provide recommendations to optimize health outcomes. The Scanadu Scout has been likened to the StarTrek Tricorder, as it promises to monitor several vital signs and even diagnose several health conditions.

Devices that empower consumers with real-time health monitoring can create a revolution in healthcare as consumers focus more attention on prevention and health maintenance. Devices to provide round-the-clock health monitoring of babies will also gain traction. Much of this monitoring will take place in the home and health monitoring devices will become part of the home’s new information infrastructure.

Business Opportunities:

  • Developing health apps that integrate and synthesize data from multiple devices
  • Introducing gamification concepts to health apps and creating a rewards ecosystem to encourage and promote healthy behaviors
  • Creating online communities for people to share and analyze their health data
  • Connecting patients at home seamlessly with a physician or nurse to interpret diagnostic results via telemedicine apps
  • Creating apps that help users monitor and cope with stress and anxiety
  • Developing systems to monitor the spread of diseases in real-time
  • Designing home and office storage units for medical health devices
  • Designing a health monitoring station specifically geared toward new parents


A number of virtual reality headsets will be released this year for consumer entertainment. The ones that have gained the most awareness are Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Sony’s Project Morpheus. VR headsets will offer consumers more interactive gaming experiences, as well as the opportunity to immerse themselves in other worlds from within the comfort of their homes.

There are also a wide range of applications for other spaces as well. Schools could use VR headsets to take students on virtual tours of museums or even witness a civil war battle like never before. A football coach could take his players back through a game to help them pinpoint an error—from the perspective of any player on the field. Real estate agents could give virtual property tours and a manufacturing company could do formal employee training in a virtual facility.

Augmented Reality devices, unlike their VR brethren, work by displaying information over a real world environment.  Google Glass captures the lion’s share of attention in this space, but many AR applications are using non-wearable devices to project graphics onto the natural world or use cameras on smartphones and tablets to display an augmented reality. Look for interactive displays at retailers to become more prevalent. An empty wall, floor or ceiling could be entirely reimagined.

Business Opportunities:

  • Filming scenes to create new VR environments (the equivalent of Google street view for VR)
  • Creating the 3-D cameras necessary to film these environments
  • Developing the app store for VR and AR applications
  • Offering the creation of VR environments as a service
  • Creating eye-tracking and eye-control systems that integrate with AR
  • Developing new gestural interfaces for users
  • Creating apps to integrate wearable data with the virtual world (e.g. games that know when you’re scared or a virtual yoga studio that knows when you’re calm)
  • Creating the next platform for DIY projects (e.g. step-by-step instructions on how to change a car battery, make beef stew or even build a cabinet)


The vast majority of the 10 to 15 billion objects connected to the Internet today are smartphones, tablets, PCs and industrial equipment. About 20 percent of the connected devices are the “things” we hear about that will make up the “Internet of Everything.” Over the next five years, that ratio will flip: The vast majority of connected devices will become everyday objects, from outlets to auto parts.

The introduction of these devices into our homes, offices, vehicles and even unexpected places will help us paint pictures of our lives in ways never seen before. These devices will leave data trails about everything from our consumption habits and health activities to work and leisure. Consumers will get a better sense of the way they use resources; they will have more control over their environments; and they will find new opportunities to improve their health, wealth and happiness.

Consumers will likely eschew privacy concerns for the convenience that many of the devices offer, but be prepared for a backlash if sensitive data leaks out.

Business Opportunities:

  • As more data is generated, helping consumers and businesses visualize data will be a growing opportunity
  • Developing new apps to integrate all types of devices into a unified platform
  • Transforming pure product plays to service businesses (e.g. from selling glucose monitor products to selling glucose monitoring as a service)
  • Selling conservation as a service. As businesses get more insight into their consumption, they are likely to pay a percentage of what they save to do so
  • Helping companies increase their product transparency through tracking from raw ingredients to final product (e.g. the origin of every ingredient in a snack bar to prove it contains no genetically modified organisms and perhaps beefing up certifications through data trails)
  • Finding niche areas that will need help analyzing copious amounts of data
  • Teaching and training workforces to sort and parse the reams of data being generated to find what is needed or usable

These are just a handful of the emerging opportunities we’re seeing. What do you think?

@MikeVidikan, Future in Focus

Microsoft Now Accepts Bitcoin

Gastev flickr

Today Microsoft officially joined the list of companies accepting Bitcoin payments.

According to BitPay chief commercial officer Sonny Singh,

“Microsoft has a long-term vision for bitcoin, BitPay and the blockchain. Starting with digital goods in the US is the logical first step, however, they want to expand to Europe and globally and add support for other products as part of that rollout.”

This could be a major event that pushes others to accept Bitcoin payments and propels the cryptocurrency toward mainstream acceptance. At the very least, in the immediate future, others may join suit just for the free press.

In lieu of these events, I bought $1000 worth of Bitcoin. I can’t recommend it as an investment, but I’m comfortable holding it for a while.

@MikeVidikan, Future in Focus

Save your Business by Destroying it

The military have long used “red teams” to test their battle strategies and defenses. Corporations have used this technique more recently to test IT infrastructure against cyber-attacks. But what if you created a team to figure out ways to put the entire company out of business? Would your leadership appreciate your ideas and move quickly to counter these potential threats, or would they toss the report, bury their heads, and maintain the status quo?

It’s quite clear that we’re in the midst of a global economic transformation. Real-time sharing of information is speeding up the pace of innovation across all industries. Hundreds of millions in developing countries are rising out of poverty to join the middle class faster than ever before. Scrappy startups are taking advantage of reduced barriers to entry offered by the Internet and mobile platforms to disrupt Fortune 500 businesses.

In order the survive and thrive, businesses need to understand where disruption is coming from and how to harness it. Figuring out what could kill your business might be the only real way to save it. Here are some steps to help.

First, identify emerging technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, UAVs, and other emerging platforms, and explore how they are changing the business landscape and changing consumer behaviors. Which technologies pose the biggest threat to your company and industry?

Second, identify trends and factors shaping consumer lifestyles such as the increase in responsible consumption, the sharing economy, and the rise of women in society. Which trends could threaten your growth opportunities?

Finally, merge the two to see how emerging technologies will play off consumer trends or how consumer values will impact the way technology is adopted to see what these changes could mean for society and for your business.

What you find might scare you and your executive leadership, but great challenges also present great opportunities.

@MikeVidikan, Future in Focus

The Video Cassette Label #TBT

cassette labelOn my night stand, there’s a stack of old sci-fi books I borrowed from a well-read friend. I had just opened Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (1980) by Frederik Pohl. Tucked in the pages was this makeshift bookmark. I turned to my wife excitedly and showed her my discovery.

We then took a trip down memory lane reminiscing about recording with VHS tapes, the limitations of recording for 2 hours, swapping out tapes to record longer movies (and inevitably losing an important scene), the tragedy of learning a program was taped over (and then needing to wait a year for the reruns), the joy of acquiring a second VHS recorder so you could now record 2 programs at once (winning!), and the now necessary task of throwing out our VHS tape collection (someday).

The video cassette label is a simple reminder of how much consumer lifestyles can be impacted by new technologies.


@MikeVidikan, Future in Focus