Top 10 Tech Trends for 2013 from Le Web Paris

Le Web 2012 Paris

I had the privilege of attending this year’s Le Web conference in Paris (4th – 6th Dec), where over 3,000 of the world’s foremost tech entrepreneurs, leaders and commentators shared their latest developments and thoughts, as well as the odd glass of wine or two, on all things internet, tech and geek. Here’s my list of the top 10 macro trends that I took away:

1.   ‘The Internet of Things’ (/”Things for the Internet” – Henri Seydoux, Parrot)
This was the official theme of the event so in many respects it goes without saying. Brian Solis coined it as the ‘Human API’ and it’s clear that there’s a lot of focus on how human sensors – either attached or remote – are being used to monitor, record and activate programmes and devices designed to enhance the human being and experience. The darling of the show seemed to be FitBit, yet there was a plethora of new IoT devices presented. The unification of hardware and applications in this area is critical, and the tech community is gearing itself for a renewed focus on the former.

2.   ‘B2BofC’
Consumer applications actively moving into and targeting the business space were evident. For starters Phil Libin, CEO and Founder of Evernote, announced the launch of Evernote Business; but it was clear from the likes of Brad Garlinghouse of YouSendIt and Aditya Agarwal of Dropbox, that increasingly their focus is on the business user. Enterprise specifically is where it’s at, especially for the investment community – 8 out of the top 10 performing IPOs in the US at present are catering for the Enterprise audience.

3.   ‘Industrial Internet’
Developer and investor focus is similarly shifting towards ‘Industrial Internet’ applications which look to enhance resource efficiency, improve processes and aid procurement through the combination of hardware, software, analytics and the human interface. This takes ‘The Internet of Things’ into the business and commercial space to disrupt whole industries and sectors.

4.   ‘Mobile First’
Mobile, mobile, mobile. Nothing new here – although she wasn’t present, there’s hardly a sentence uttered from Marissa Meyer’s mouth at the moment without the word ‘mobile’ in it. Facebook’s Director of Product Management, Peter Deng, also made it clear that the behemoth of all things social has a ‘mobile first’ policy to development. Mobile is the future…still!

5.   Usable BIG Data
OK, so Big Data is the ‘trend du jour’, yet it was noticeable how frequently it came up throughout the presentations and discussions. The need was recognised for better systems and solutions to generate meaningful and, critically, actionable insights from this ‘tsunami’ of data, and then for businesses to utilise these to enhance the end consumers’ experience. Easy to say, but few…if any…have really cracked it thus far.

6.   ‘From Pages to People’
Historically the Internet has developed around pages; from the early methods of indexing and navigating via Directories, through the advent of Search, and even into the Web 2.0 era with the curation and publication of personalised content. It is now shifting to being centered around people, with a new wave of companies and developers mapping behavioural and social data to their businesses and applications, leading to all new personal ‘experiences’ as they know more about their customers than ever before.

7.   SaaS Disrupting Industries
Cloud in general was seen as a business enabler, especially in the contexts of both The Internet of Things and Big Data-driven solutions; yet a specific aspect highlighted was in how Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) can disrupt entire sectors and industries. Cloud has precipitated a tectonic shift in computing which has subsequently brought about game-changing developments in markets including music and publishing from a consumer perspective, and IT and accounting for the business. But this is just the beginning with areas such as healthcare, education and retail facing major disruption as the growth and utility of Cloud and SaaS accelerates.

8. International Growth 
The good news for an event held in Paris was the notable number of US-centred players who are proactively looking to expand into global markets. Given the slow-down of growth experienced by many in the US domestic market, and the close proximity markets of  Canada and the UK, major players see future gains being in mainland Europe and the emerging economies. Central to this is designing and developing localised customer experiences (language, billing, UI, etc.) and building in-market infrastructures (teams, offices).

9. Social Media – Back To The Future
The second Plenary track running at Le Web Paris was titled ‘The Social Business’ and focussed on the latest developments and thinking, as well as insights and case studies, from the leading proponents of social business and marketing. Despite this forward-looking agenda, there was a key theme of back-to-basics running across the discussions, with participants espousing the values of transparency and authenticity, whilst focussing on content creation and curation. Content remains king, with Intel’s Ekaterina Walter directing businesses to develop “snackable, visual and highly interesting content…that resonates and breaks through the noise.” Back-to-basics also entails a re-definition of listening and measurement in the social space, tying into Big Data and how future social analytics must lead to meaningful action, engagement and experiences for the consumer. ‘Social’ as a discipline is increasingly becoming integrated with the wider organisation, as social media is married with traditional to amplify the overall message of the business.

10. Social Responsibility: “Who Cares Wins”
“Who Cares Wins” is the name of a book by Havas Global CEO David Jones, sub-titled “Why Good Business is Better Business”. There was an embracing of social causes across the event, with the presentation on the Charity: Water endeavour by Founder and CEO Scott Harrison raising people’s consciousness and, to many, representing the most captivating and thought-provoking session of the three days (apparently he took over 400 business cards back to New York). In his book Jones outlines his view that social media is forcing businesses and brands to be more socially aware and accountable; those who behave in a socially responsible manner will be rewarded, whilst those who don’t are rejected. Social media and social responsibility are now intrinsically linked; the latter can no longer be considered a cost of doing business, but a necessity.

Image:  @francois for LeWeb12 Conference, Paris

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