Online education is going to blow up.
"Education is at a major crossroads in terms of the exorbitant cost and the lack of direct correlation to improved life outcomes," says Amish Jani of FirstMark Capital in New York City. In other words, expect to see lots of innovation in this space. Andy Hines, a futurist who teaches at the University of Houston, sees opportunities in online programs for professional certifications and in "catch up" degree programs for people who started college but didn't graduate. "The percentage of people who graduate has been flat for a long time," Hines says. "If we could reach that huge body of people in limboland, we could see a nice boost."
Americans are desperate for a good night's sleep.
In an otherwise lethargic economy, mattress makers Mattress Firm and Select Comfort grew 39% and 25%, respectively, last year, according to the publication Furniture/Today. And demand for products and services that promise more and better zzz's shows no signs of abating—including "performance" bedding, sleep-focused retailers, and high-end sleep-consultant services. "The trend aligns perfectly with a basic law of economics—supply and demand," says New York City brand strategist John Parham. "There's very little sleep these days, and therefore it's in huge demand."
24/7 personal health tracking will go mainstream.
In 2013, consumers will increasingly turn to digital tools to monitor and improve their health through exercise, sleep, and diet. Sales of wearable fitness-tracking devices like Fitbit are forecast to hit 90 million units in 2017, and the market for sports and fitness apps will exceed $400 million in 2016, according to ABI Research. And increasingly flexible and sophisticated sensors—embedded in clothing or shoes or attached to the skin like bandages—will help speed adoption and enable always-on monitoring. "This will explode in 2013," predicts Unity Stoakes, co-founder of StartUp Health.
Disruptive design will win.
Products such as the Nest thermostat and the Plumen CFL light bulb are just two recent examples of a trend we can expect to see a lot more of in 2013: start-ups shaking up stale product categories through the power of design. "Disruptive products are king, and innovative designs will challenge the status quo in ways that previously wouldn't have been possible," says Scot Herbst, of Herbst Produkt, an award-winning product-design firm. "Being small and nimble and new can free a creative mission from all of the antiquated standards that established players suffer from."
(Some) manufacturing is coming back to the U.S.
The rising cost of manufacturing abroad and new technologies like 3-D printing are combining to spark a resurgence of small manufacturing in America. Not only are consumers hungry for the unique and customized, but physical-product start-ups can also now work anywhere—see Seven Cycles, which produces high-end bicycles in Watertown, Massachusetts; Artifact Bag Company, whose leather and canvas goods are handmade in Omaha; and Shapeways, a 3-D printing "factory" in New York City.
Blue is going to be big.
Twice a year, the Pantone Color Institute forecasts the colors that will dominate fashion collections—and inevitably influence other industries as well. The top spring color in 2012, Tangerine Tango, is so... um, 2012. The pick for spring 2013: Monaco Blue. "It has stability and depth," says Leatrice Eiseman, the institute's executive director. "People are being more thoughtful; they're looking for dependable classics." Don't expect to see big-ticket items in bold colors, Eiseman says, until the economy really picks up steam again.
Robots are the new zombies.
Finally, something really scary. Vampires will suck your blood, and zombies will eat your brains. But robots? They want your job. In the months ahead, robots will be everywhere. They will continue to fight our wars, make our stuff, and grow ever closer to driving our cars. And they will be swarming the multiplex, starting with Steven Spielberg's Robopocalypse, the director's first foray into science fiction since 2002's Minority Report