5 Trends To Watch At Demo Fall 2013

What is the next big thing? Where will technology take us? I struggle with these questions as I travel the world in search of the next great products to launch at DEMO. One thing I’ve learned is that innovation is distributed. Not evenly, but there are pockets of it everywhere—in London, Moscow, Sao Paolo, New York City, and, of course, Silicon Valley, where we will bring all of this innovation together next week at DEMO Fall in Santa Clara, CA (register here). Silicon Valley’s most important export is its startup culture, which is taking hold everywhere.

Next week, 41 products will launch over two days at DEMO Fall (along with incredible Founder School speakers from Evernote, Waze, Yelp, Fitbit, AngelList ,and more). I’ve personally met and spent time with most of the founders behind these products as part of the selection and rehearsal process. They are all tackling real problems with clever technology and product design.

While their identities must remain secret until next week, they collectively point to the future where technology is taking us. Below are 5 trends you will see onstage at DEMO Fall across Mobile, Cloud, Health, Work, and Hardware/Wearables. (I also talk more about the upcoming event this video interview with Beet TV)

1. Mobile Is The Interface (To The Real World)

There are now more mobile smartphones and tablets than PCs, and tablet sales alone are expected to surpass PC sales this quarter. Touch computing, which seemed so novel just a few years ago, is now the norm. As we carry these computers in our pockets, we are of course always connected to the network. But the network is also always connected to us, and mobile apps are becoming the interface between the network and the real world. These apps are aware of where we are, who is around us, what is around us, and what services are available to help us live richer lives or work more productively. As the physical world becomes increasingly digitized and mapped out, we use our mobile devices to consume information about, and transact in, the real world as much as we use them to traverse the purely online world. It will soon become difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

2. Cloudware Is Getting Serious

The flip side of the mobile coin is the cloud. Mobile devices are the new endpoints of the Internet, but the heavy lifting still happens on the network. And the capabilities of computing on the cloud keeps growing. The difference between what you can do in a browser and what you can do on a dedicated PC is disappearing. Even the most compute-intensive client applications that require a lot of horsepower are finding full expression in the browser. For enterprises, cloud computing is leveling the playing field between large and small companies since everyone has access to the same sophisticated applications that require large-scale computing clusters. And the cloud is also opening up opportunities to transform common business functions and processes into cloud-based services. Entire corporate departments and backend services are now being replicated in software on the cloud.

3. Control Your Data, And You Can Control Your Health

If there is one new market where innovation is visibly popping, it is personal health. One of the upsides of carrying around powerful computers in our pockets everywhere we go is that we can use them to constantly track our physical activity and take control over our health data. They also can serve as the brains for what would otherwise be expensive medical or monitoring devices, which can collect data from our bodies more economically and on a more regular basis. If information is power, that is doubly true when it comes to our health. Yet most of us don’t have a good handle on our own health data. Mobile, coupled with smart analytics and personalized databases in the cloud, changes that equation.

4. These Aren’t Your Dad’s Productivity Apps

The confluence of mobile and cloud is also changing the nature of work. We are always connected to our colleagues and customers, always communicating and collaborating with them, whether it is during office hours, our commutes, or a quick brain burst on the weekend. Productivity apps are evolving to this new style of work, constantly keeping us alerted to the latest changes in the market and inside our businesses. Killer work apps are no longer standalone software on your desktop. The spreadsheet jockey is no longer a lone gunman. To remain a hero, he must now share his work in the cloud, and it can’t look ugly or confusing when looks at it on his mobile phone. Good design is forcing its way into the workplace through our pocket computers.

5. Hardware Is The New Software

Mobile phones and tablets are just the most visible manifestation of the shift in computing away from PCs. Wearable computing is just getting off the ground (we’ll have a panel on Wearables and will debut several Google Glass apps onstage). What happens when the computer is literally in front of your face the whole time or you wear it like a bracelet and it responds to your movements? You become the interface. But it is not just wearables. The resurgence in hardware products, especially smart consumer devices that can be crowdfunded, is creating a very tangible Internet of Things in our homes and offices. As I like to say, hardware is the new software:

In an era when anyone can be a maker, manufacturing is like server capacity—it is available to every entrepreneur on the planet. If you can imagine it, you can build it.

And that in its essence is what being a founder is all about: imagining a product and turning it into reality. Register for DEMO Fall to see what today’s founders are dreaming up next.