Back To The Future: The Art Of Predicting Tech Trends

Business Trends

We’ve only just ventured into 2015, but this year already has a place in tech history thanks to the classic Back to the Future movie franchise. Any 80s movie fan will know that part II of the blockbuster trilogy saw ‘Doc’ Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) time travel 30 years in to the future from 1985 – to a world of flying cars, hover boards and auto-lace shoes.

So when the clocks struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, we were transported to the reality of 2015. Does this mean we’ve started the year with a strange feeling we’ve been here before?

Probably not, and I very much doubt your everyday family hatchback will be taking to the skies at any time soon. But the film provides a neat illustration of the challenges of predicting the future – something that is essential for those who work in the tech industry and need to keep ahead of the game to meet new demands of businesses and consumers.

Future Gazing

Never mind 2015, what does 2040 have in store for us? That was the task set to futurologist Michell Zappa when we commissioned him to envisage what the world of work would look like in the future. His findings were inspiring and slightly frightening in equal measure. While it’s unlikely that offices as we know them will disappear totally in our lifetimes, a typical working day is set to undergo an irreversible transformation.

According to Zappa’s vision, it would start with a less harassed journey to work in a personal rapid transit (PRT) vehicle – which senses your identity using near-field communication and anticipates your destination. When you arrive at the ‘office’, the elevator walls display personalised content at an angle that only you can read.

Your workspace itself features a holographic screen that’s surrounded with a bubble of sound, so you no longer have to wear headphones. Emails are a thing of the past too, but your personalised dashboard brings all the systems you need together and guides you through your tasks.

Virtual collaboration is taken to a new level, with a telepresence robot to represent you in the office while you work from home, and projected avatars that attend meetings for you. Be careful not to get too stressed though, as employers could well have technology to track personal information, including cortisol levels.

It’s a thought-provoking proposition and it will be intriguing to see how much comes to reality and when.

The Reality Of 2015

Coming back to the present day, although we’re still not quite there in terms of flying cars, we’ve actually surpassed much of Back to the Future’s fictional technology. It’s fair to say that my 80s self would find many of today’s gadgets totally mind-blowing – and they certainly knock the stuffing from some of those clunky props.

I’ve no doubt the evolution of technology will continue to enthral us and those of us still working 25 years from now will be able to enjoy an exciting new generation of intelligent technology. The big unknown though, is just which ideas will take off and which – like the props in the film – will ultimately end up gathering dust.

Antony Peart - BIE low res

Antony Peart is European Marketing and Communications Manager for Brother International Europe and has worked in the technology sector for over a decade. He is an award-winning marketing professional and industry commentator. Heading-up European marketing communications for global tech brand Brother, Antony has led high-profile advertising campaigns across the continent. He is keenly aware of the tech needs of ambitious small businesses, with SMEs and home workers often at the centre of Brother’s product design. The workspace of the future research report was commissioned as part of Brother's Print 3.0 marketing campaign for the Business Inkjet range.