SxSWi, in Hindsight

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Over the five days of the Interactive Festival at SxSW, we had the opportunity to see, hear, and experience a huge volume of information about upcoming trends, products, and methodologies in the digital space. Now that the dust (and our bellies) have settled, and we’ve had a chance to distill the heat from the hype, here are some of the pervasive trends in technology we saw for the next year or so…

Hardware is the new software.
From Google Glasses, to FitBit, to affordable 3D printers, and out to wearable and even ingestible technology, the future seems to be all about finding new ways to collect, consume and distribute data. Your computer is about to become a dinosaur.

Software is eating itself.
There was a noticeable dearth of actual new ideas in software, with the loudest attendees trying to sell mashup concepts with pitches like “it’s Twitter mixed with FourSquare, but more social” or “Just like Dropbox, but better.” Certainly there’s room for improvement is some areas, but does the market really need another social network (even if it has videos)?

Technology needs to calm down.
Entire phone networks in Austin, and certainly the conference WiFi itself, collapsed under the load of 30,000 geek simultaneously trying to check schedules, email home, post to thousands of blogs and feeds, and update their social profiles. We saw a distinct subtext of “how much is too much?” and “have we let technology take over our lives?” From Google to small innovation shops, there’s trend to making information less visible, until it is needed, and making it instantly accessible on any device when that time arises. Pervasive but not invasive.

Mobile first, right now.
While we wait for the glasses and other “invisible” viewing devices to hit the masses, there’s a “right now” need to improve our delivery of information on mobile devices. With the proportion of traffic from phones and tablets jumping 10% every year, responsive information supply is no longer optional – writers, designers and coders all need to adjust their approach and processes. Agencies need to learn how to sell this approach to their clients: It’s a logical expansion of the “graceful degradation” technique we use to ensure search engines see page content semantically, but it’s better… start with a layer of pure information, and gradually enhance its appearance for each more capable viewing device.

Feel free to check out our contribution to the blog overload, here.

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