'Technology should behave differently depending on the context': Telefonica Research on the importance of focus, relevance and serving human needs.

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As part of our efforts to celebrate the global trend community, we interview people who are ahead of the game when it comes to certain trends, or those who work with trends on a day-to-day basis. 

Here, in our Featured Innovators series, we caught up with Nuria Oliver and Martin Pielot, two of the driving forces behind Telefonica Research's Boredom App project - a report that showed researchers are able to detect whether a smartphone user is bored or not from their activity on the device.

The innovation featured in our 5 Trends for 2016 Global Trend Briefing as part of our CONTEXTUAL OMNIPRESENCE trend - detailing how consumers will embrace smart brands that use new channels and nuanced contexts to be there as and when they’re needed.

 Martin Pielot & Nuria Oliver, Telefonica Research

Where do you usually spot trends?

NURIA: As researchers and scientists, we are constantly thinking about future opportunities for technology to have positive impact in our lives. We are very knowledgeable about the state-of-the-art through our participation (and organization in some cases) in international conferences on relevant topics. We spend time reading both scientific articles in computer science related topics, trends reports and articles from specialized magazines such as MIT Technology Review or WIRED. We live in a tremendously exciting time where technology already plays and will continue to play a critical role in our lives.

Key technologies that I believe will have (or are already having) great impact? Virtual/augmented reality, omnipresent artificial intelligence, implantable chips, brain-computer interfaces, self-driving cars, cheap space exploration, digital currency and CRISPR for gene editing.

MARTIN: I would not consider myself as a trend-spotting expert. In general, I believe that all trends are fundamentally based on solving human needs. Thus, I always try to pursue two different paths: understanding human needs on the one hand, and staying on top of the latest technological advances on the other hand. Then, it’s up to a serendipitous moment in which those two magically connect.

Academic conferences are great venues to stay up to what the brightest researchers around the globe are thinking about with respect to both: human needs & pain points regarding current technology, as well as the latest technological advances.

Telefonica's Boredom app

Have you got any tips when it comes to spotting trends?

M: I think it’s important to focus. It can be very distracting to stay on top of all kinds of trends, and distraction may prevent meaningful action. In the end, trends only matter if you can act and deliver upon them, and this requires focus.

You’re featured in our briefing covering CONTEXTUAL OMNIPRESENCE. Why do you feel that this shift is occurring (and that professionals should have it on their radar) today?

N: In terms of contextual omnipresence, the ubiquity of increasingly powerful mobile devices and the internet of things are enabling having access to rich contextual information about people. In order to develop technology that would be meaningful to people and would improve our quality of life, it is of paramount importance to access, analyze and understand the context that we are in.

Technology should behave differently depending on the context.

Which organization do you most admire when it comes to innovation?

N: I like Tesla and SpaceX because of how brave they are in their far-fetching vision. I used to like Apple when Steve Jobs was there. In general I like companies that are brave to push the boundaries of the state-of-the-art, with a clear purpose to have positive impact in the world and that embrace innovation and diversity.

What was your favorite recent innovation and why?

N: With respect to cool innovations, I am very concerned about the environment and sustainable development. I recently read about a biodegradable plastic bottle made with algae which I found to be a great idea. 

Our free Trend Briefings are published monthly, featuring the latest innovation opportunities and most exciting new trends set to shape the next 12 months (and beyond!). To get them sent straight to your inbox as they are released, you can subscribe here

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