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Tech of Tomorrow

(April 2017) posted on Mon Apr 03, 2017

Merging markets will shape demand for future signage


By Robin Donovan

“HAVE you been to the Consumer Electronics Show?” I settled back in my chair and frowned at the question. It was the second sunny day in Florida – a pleasant place on most spring days – and a welcome setting for Canon’s recent press event, Canon One. Along with unveiling the intriguing Océ Colorado 1640 (see pg. 84 for more), Joe Adachi, chairman and CEO, Canon Americas Group, asked the question above. He pointed to the intersection of various technologies as a driver in the graphics market.

I checked out the CES website and saw Adachi’s point. I also noted that many sectors served by sign companies are likely to be heavily impacted by integrative technologies. Think self-driving cars in the automotive industry; devices to detect and monitor illness in its earliest stages in the healthcare industry; and augmented reality devices that will make smartphone GPS apps look as primitive as paper maps.

These changes raise questions about the role of signs in the future. Will self-driving cars require speed limit signs, or something new entirely? If healthcare can be aided by wearable monitors that track chronic conditions, how will that change the design and wayfinding needs of tomorrow’s healthcare providers? How might an augmented-reality GPS change how we use signage to locate businesses?

I liken the adjustment we might make to these new technologies to the trials of modern day air travel. We know we’re lucky to jet from place to place in mere hours, yet air travel can still be frustrating.

(Comedian Louis C.K. once teased air travelers frustrated by spotty in-flight Wi-Fi in a standup routine: “Dude, how does the world owe you something you didn’t even know existed 30 seconds ago?”)

Still, there is a communal, boiling sense of “Get me out of here!” that seems to surface 30 seconds before we deplane. You know, right around the time that the person three rows back elbows his way past.

Frustrated or not, we unquestioningly return to book flights for the next tradeshow, the next business trip, the next holiday. That’s how we’ll look at tech in the future, too. The features we can’t yet dream of today will become the frustrations of tomorrow.

So, as I heard all that Adachi and his colleagues had to say, that one concept stuck with me: Technology will converge to create products that meet unstated and yet-to-be-discovered demands. I hope we’ll meet some more tangible goals along the way, too, like, say, flights with fresh air, spacious seating and, yes, reliable Wi-Fi.


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