Consumers are embracing tech-fueled innovations that protect and serve.


Recent tech-powered innovations have brought all kinds of benefits to South & Central American consumers.

In the last few months alone we’ve spotted Chilean food startup The Not Company harness artificial intelligence to create meat-free products. We’ve seen Brazilian furniture retailer Tok&Stok install smart pins in store, allowing shoppers to instantly add products to their Pinterest boards. And Uber began accepting Bitcoin payments in Argentina!


But none of that matters if you're unsafe!

Environmentally friendly dairy substitutes, interactive retail experiences and cashless taxi payments are great. But if people feel unsafe in their day-to-day lives, then little else matters. And in the end, great innovation is all about serving the basic needs and wants of consumers.

Safety is a CORE human need.

And brands that minimize danger will always be treasured.

Based on murder rates, nine of the ten most dangerous cities in the world are in South & Central America (WorldAtlas, June 2016). While the extent of street crime varies greatly from country to country and neighborhood to neighborhood, that’s a sobering fact.

What role can technology play in all this? We all know that the smartphone has revolutionized many aspects of daily life across the continent, particularly for affluent Latin Americans. The mobile superpowers of immediacy, transparency and 24/7 access to the global brain are hard to beat.

But the smartphone has failed to fully deliver its owner from a range of dangers. Now, primed to expect life-changing digital solutions, the citizens of South & Central America are looking to brands and businesses to step forward with tech-fueled innovations that keep them safe and secure.

PROTECTIVE TECH | Consumers in South & Central America are turning to digital services – online platforms, networks, apps and connected devices – to help them avoid, react to or report danger and minimize personal risk.

Why are Latin Americans hungry for PROTECTIVE TECH?

There are four key drivers:

  1. INSTITUTIONAL FAILURES: the failures of national governments, police forces and other local institutions are pushing people to look to brands and innovators for answers to safety challenges.
  2. HIGH CRIME RATES: in part a result of the above driver, but also due to squeezed economic growth, unstable employment, and insurmountable differences in opportunity for the wealthiest and the poorest inhabitants of major cities.
  3. TECH CAN BE TRUSTED: technology is (usually) free from human error or all-too-human corruption. What’s more, many consumers have more faith in the motives of tech startup founders than they do in their own governments and police.
  4. CONNECTED COMMUNITIES: there has been a monumental awaking of shared social awareness among Latin America’s citizens. The mass protests in the streets are linked – in spirit and practice – to vocal, supportive and reliable online communities.

As institutional shortcomings and high crime rates bump up against growing faith in the problem-solving power of technology, citizens across the continent are crying out for PROTECTIVE TECH.


A note on our special kind of optimism:

Readers who saw our June 2016 Trend Briefing on CRISIS SOLUTIONS might be concerned that, by focusing on danger again, TrendWatching is fostering a fear-driven view of South & Central America. In fact, the opposite is true! Seeing brands, governments and entrepreneurs make people’s safety and wellbeing their innovation priority is fantastic. And we LOVE highlighting the opportunity for you to do the same :)


See how the following innovations are tackling vehicular theft, violent crime against women, child disappearance and MORE!



On-demand bodyguards available in Colombia

Eslik, an on-demand security platform and app, launched in Colombia in December 2015. Described as an ‘Uber for safety’, the service allows users to rapidly book one or more qualified bodyguards to accompany them when withdrawing cash, traveling late at night or in any other situations in which security protection is needed. Eslik was initially available in Bogotá, with plans to expand within Colombia and potentially into the US. Prices start at COP 80,000 (USD 26) per hour.


Dronix-Drone Solutions & LoJack

Drones used in the hunt for stolen vehicles

In April 2016, Mexico-based Dronix-Drone Solutions announced a partnership with US-based auto theft firm, LoJack, that will see drones used in the search for stolen vehicles. If a car that is protected by LoJack is stolen, radio signals will be sent from the car to camera-equipped Dronix drones. The drones will then be able to locate the car and send photographs to local authorities. As of Q3 2016, the project was being piloted across Mexico.

“Basic foundations of our society are challenged when about 50% of women, in 15 countries across our region, say they have been victims of at least one sexual assault.”

Michelle Bachelet, January 2016


App maps violence against women and alerts nearby users

In June 2016, Microsoft Brazil and the nonprofit Eldorado Institute launched Assédio Zero (‘Harassment Zero’), a crowdsourced app that records and maps acts of violence against women. The platform is used anonymously by victims who pinpoint the location and note the type of abuse encountered. Then a marker detailing the event is generated for others to see. Data is stored securely via Microsoft’s cloud software and real-time warnings are sent to users advising of nearby attacks.


Tu Ruta Escolar

School buses tracked in real-time for parents

Tu Ruta Escolar is a mobile app providing parents in Colombia with real-time information on their children’s school bus routes. Buses are tracked and monitored in real-time via GPS, and live-streaming feeds are available for parents to monitor their children’s exact location. The implementation of the system varies based upon the number of students on each bus with prices ranging from COP 3,000 (USD 1.50) to COP 8,000 (USD 2.75) per student per month. In May 2016, Tu Ruta Escolar announced plans to expand into additional counties in South America.



GPS-tracked smart suitcase relaunched with additional features

After successfully crowdfunding the first version of its multi-purpose GPS-linked suitcase in Q2 2014, Argentina-based Bluesmart released an updated model available for pre-order from May 2016. The SIM card-connected suitcase’s location can be tracked in real time via GPS. It features a Bluetooth-enabled system that locks the bag when it is removed from the owner’s proximity.


Guardían Telefónico & No Más Extorsiones

App warns consumers of phone numbers linked to fraud and scams

Colombia-based Guardían Telefónico is an app alerting consumers to phone numbers that have been linked to extortion scams. It was created after research revealed that fraud over the phone – specifically calls made from prisons intimidating citizens – is increasing in Colombia. Launched in June 2016, the free app warns users immediately if a number calling them has been reported and flagged in the company’s database as malicious. Numbers are reported as suspicious within the app and added to the database to warn other consumers.

No Más Extorsiones, a similar service available in Mexico, was celebrated in March 2016 for helping citizens avoid 119,000 extortions in its first year of release.


Sekron Digital

Silent notification alerts authorities to in-progress robberies

May 2016 saw Brazil-based Sekron Digital launch Emergency Pin: a bank installation and dedicated mobile app designed to aid victims of kidnapping and robbery and report crimes to authorities as they happen. The ATM plug-in is linked to a bank’s security system that switches on if a consumer enters a pre-designated emergency pin. Only a portion of the individual’s account balance is displayed, in hope that the kidnappers will release them while the bank’s security system takes pictures of the assailants and sends the images to local police. A dedicated app then tracks the victim’s location should the kidnapping continue.



On-demand car service provides a fleet of armored vehicles

Beta-launched in Brazil in June 2016, Bluclub is an Uber-style on demand car service where all vehicles are armored for added passenger protection. The startup employs drivers who have taken courses in defensive driving and customers pay for packages of rides in advance, starting at 18km for BRL 90 (USD 27). Consumers can apply for access via the website, with São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro as the launch cities.



SOS app simaltaneously alerts personal contacts and authorities of danger

February 2016 saw Chile-based SOSAFE expanded its services in the Coquimbo region. The app allows users to select a list of ten personal acquaintances to serve as emergency contacts. When the user presses the SOS button within the app, an alert is sent to their contact list and local authorities. The alert details the type of emergency and the location of the user.


O Estado de S. Paulo

Newspaper’s campaign warns consumers about misogynistic music

In May 2016, Brazilian daily newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo launched Songs of Violence: an initiative designed to identify and warn consumers about music that promotes violence against women. Using Shazam, offensive lyrics are identified and people are then warned of the graphic content. A recording of women who have suffered abuse similar to that mentioned in the song is then played before users can listen to the song. O Estado de S. Paulo reported that only 6% of users proceeded to download the music. Users who choose not to downloaded music were directed to a website where they could donate to an NGO instead.


New trends don't emerge out of the blue – it's all about evolution.


Spotting trends? It all starts with innovations...

The not-so-secret secret to spotting trends (including this one!) Stop watching customers, and start watching the innovations – products, services, campaigns – flooding into the market now. Draw lines between similar innovations, and interrogate them for the new customer expectations they're helping to create. It's a process we – and out tw:in network of thousands of spotters – are addicted to ;) There's much more on our end-to-end methodology in our book, Trend-Driven Innovation. So how do we process thousands of innovations we spot? It helps to have a Framework...


The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism.

We map all the expectation-changing innovations we spot against our Trend Framework: the 16 mega-trends – that is, the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena – that taken together form our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading. All of the 100+ trends we track fall under these 16 mega-trends.

Having a robust and comprehensive Trend Framework allows us to assess the implications of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations we receive from TW:IN (TrendWatching’s global network of spotters) every day. 

And when a cluster of innovations doesn’t fit neatly under one or more of our trends, that’s when we know we’re on the verge of identifying something NEW!

That’s how we spot all our trends: including PROTECTIVE TECH.


This trend will keep evolving...

PROTECTIVE TECH is really a new direction of travel under the mega-trends that we call UBITECH and BETTER BUSINESS.

UBITECH is the mega-trend via which we track the onward march of technology into every aspect of our lives and our environments. And BETTER BUSINESS is the mega-trend via which we track the epic quest for a more sustainable, ethical, purposeful consumerism.

Tracking this trend in the context of our Trend Framework means crucial added insight on where it came from and, crucially, where it’s heading next.

You can get a glimpse of here. Clients of our Premium Service have full access.



What can YOU do to help?

What PROTECTIVE TECH solution could you create?

You've seen examples of technology harnessed to make South & Central Americans feel safer. There are three common features of the above examples. They are often community-powered, location sensitive, and use the smartphone as the defensive weapon of choice. Perhaps you can harness those three features, or your brainstorming might devise a totally unique solution. Either way, the opportunity to use new tech to protect and serve consumers is there for YOU!


Want to take it to the next level?

At our upcoming 2016 Trend Events in Singapore, Sydney, Chicago, London and Amsterdam you'll hear about THE trends that will shape consumerism in 2017 and beyond. And hear from innovators in the field already putting those trends into action!


New expectations can come from anywhere!

Today, customer expectations cross geographical borders faster than ever. So why not broaden your (G)LOCAL trend sources and subscribe to our free Global, Asia and Africa Trend Briefings?



Gather your team and start brainstorming on how YOU can start solving real problems. Our free CONSUMER TREND CANVAS ideation tool is a great place to start!