Innovation

Top 10 innovation trends to watch, according to Ford

On Wednesday, the American auto giant released its annual trend report, highlighting three past trends and seven to look for in 2017. Here's what you should know.

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Image: Ford


On Wednesday, Ford unveiled its annual trend report—a look at global "values, attitudes, and priorities." The auto giant calls this work a "blueprint for understanding how societal shifts are expected to influence brands and their customers." The report, which draws on research and input from top thought leaders, includes three previous trends that are still relevant today, as well as seven for 2017 and beyond.

TechRepublic spoke to Ford's in-house futurist, Sheryl Connelly, for an insider's look into what the trends mean. Here's what you need to know.

1. Trust is the New Black

At the top of Ford's list is a recycled principal from its very first trend book from 2013: "Trust Is the New Black." In 2016, Ford said this value holds truer than it did three years ago. According to Connelly, "mistrust of business, government or media has never been higher." As such, she said "consumers are really drawn to brands that can distinguish themselves as being a trusted brand." They also value transparency, and the ability to be an engaged corporate citizen, she said.

2. The Female Frontier

Back in 2014, Ford saw "The Female Frontier," as "an upsurge in recognition across women and men alike that rigid gender constructs hinder cultural, social and economic development," according to the trend report that year. Connelly told TechRepublic that Ford has "always recognized that women have grown in influence in both the marketplace and society at large." She added that "one of the more frequently cited statistics by marketers is this notion that women control 85% of all households' decision-making. When it comes to automobiles, [Ford] doesn't build a car that's different for men versus women."

3. Sustainability Blues

Sustainability remains an important trend for Ford in 2016. "From devastating floods, debilitating droughts, water contamination and disputes, concern for the world's most precious resource continues to grow, with consumers increasingly mindful of their water footprint," the 2016 trend report says. Ford's 2014 report notes that it was the "first automotive company to have a water strategy" and it is "proud to lead the industry with an 'A' rating from the CDP, the world's only global environmental disclosure agency."

SEE: Ford: Self-driving cars are five years away from changing the world (ZDNet)

4. The Good Life 2.0

The automaker acknowledges that "bigger isn't always better, and ownership does not equate with happiness." Its research shows that "consumers are finding joy in less, where 'good' encompasses not just possessions, but also experiences and values." One way Ford would like to tackle these issues is to continue to create more autonomy for consumers. Connelly noted that "160 million hours are lost each year to the daily commute or traffic jams." To address this, Ford began "piloting a program with San Francisco to try to understand bike rentals and shuttle services and mass transit and parking services, so that we can help that city figure out how to improve the quality of life for those people that are working in a densely populated area."

5. Time Well Spent

"In an on-demand world, punctuality is a dying art and procrastination can be a strength," Ford said in its press release. "And there are more and more ways to rationalize how we spend our time—rather than declaring it 'wasted.'" In response, the company launched its Ford Smart Mobility in January 2016, which will "use innovation to take it to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data."

6. Decider's Dilemma

With the internet, consumers face almost endless choices when it comes to transportation. The result, according to Ford, is there has been a shift in attitudes toward commitment. One response, according to the company, has been its FordPass app, which is "specifically designed to help each traveler plan his or her journey."

SEE: Why Ford is shifting its focus from cars to 'mobility' (TechRepublic)

7. Tech Spiral

"Is technology improving our way of life, or eroding it?" Ford's report asks. While tech has made certain aspects our lives easier, the company acknowledges that "consumers are beginning to grapple with its downside—from lower attention spans and retention capacities to allowing their gadgets to do their thinking for them." The company recognizes "that more isn't always better" and all the innovation it is pushing for should have a purpose.

8. Championing Change

According to Connelly, ever since Henry Ford was in charge of the company, it has followed the "notion that businesses exist exclusively for the purpose of making people's lives better." Following that ethos, Ford said in the report that this mission continues, and that it is "constantly mindful" of what's best for its customers, whether it be economically, socially or environmentally.

9. The Parent Trap

Parenting styles have proliferated—and as a result, parents are more open and forthcoming about their struggles, looking to their peers for empathy and advice. Ford measured how parents perceive the role of technology when it comes to their children. Nine countries were asked whether "the influence of technology on children's development is more positive than negative." Technology was viewed as most positive in China, with 81% of parents agreeing, and the least positive in the US, with 46% of parents agreeing.

10. Community Ties

Finally, Ford asserts that a community "takes on various forms, shapes and sizes—both on and offline." The auto company acknowledges that it not only works with customers, but also with communities. As a result, according to the report, the company has "teamed up with major global cities to help solve congestion issues and help people move more easily, today and in the future." For instance, it recently acquired Chariot, "a San Francisco-based crowd-sourced shuttle service that plans to grow Ford's dynamic shuttle services globally, providing affordable and convenient transportation to at least five additional markets."

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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