The Rise Of The Individual

The rising influence of individuals is transforming economies and societies. The demands of personalization and shifting corporate expectations have put exceptional pressure on companies to adapt, leaving many of them vulnerable to disruption by new technologies and business models. The increasing strength of individuals’ digital voices has empowered the masses to seek change and demand more from those who serve them, but these digital tools are double-edged, and society is currently confronting the damage being done in what many call the “war on truth.” 

How must we respond to thrive in this new environment?

The rise of the individual - FACTS
  • On the personalization side of health care, the cost of genome sequencing has come down from $10 million in 2007 to less than $1,000 in 2015.
  • According to the Gig Economy Index™, nearly 40% of U.S. workers now generate at least 40% of their income from the gig economy – a labor market consisting of short-term contracts, tasks and freelance work. 
  • Over 50% of respondents believe the looming threat of automation engenders distrust toward their employers.

Optimize me: The rise of personalized enhancements

  • 1965 GE develops first exoskeleton technology concept
  • 1968 Harvard invents first reality-augmenting device
  • 1983 Stereolithography manufacturing technique is invented
  • 1990 Phrase “augmented reality” is coined
  • 1990 Human Genome Project begins
  • 2003 Scientists sequence human genome
  • 2004 Surgeons implant first 3D-printed bladder
  • 2013 Google Glass launches
  • 2014 Facebook buys Oculus VR
  • 2015 Genome sequencing cost falls below $1,000
  • 2015 Apple Watch is introduced
  • 2018 Ford rolls out exoskeleton suits in factories
  • 2019 Elon Musk introduces Neuralink


Current events

Consumerization of health care and predictive treatment. In less than a decade, wearables that track personal metrics are now commonplace, and telemedicine is becoming more popular. Price transparency has become a major movement in the health care industry, creating the rise of “shopping” for medical services.176 On the personalization side of health care, the cost of genome sequencing has come down from $10 million in 2007 to less than $1,000 in 2015.177 Consumers now have the means to understand their disease risks and tailor a lifestyle based on their personal health goals. Additionally, big tech is consolidating and analyzing health information from numerous data streams, using artificial intelligence to create personalized treatment and disease prevention plans.178

Digital enablement. Digital and physical worlds are converging to create new experiences and capabilities. Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) technologies are growing in multi-industry applications, beyond gaming. Examples include workers at DHL warehouses using AR glasses179 to find the shortest path to accomplish tasks, and customers using AR in Harley-Davidson’s retail shops to enhance motorcycle shopping experiences. This convergence goes beyond purely digital applications. Human strength and intelligence are being enhanced. Advanced prosthetics are being designed and adopted for daily use by any worker. By introducing exoskeleton technology in its factories, Ford Motor Company has helped workers to lessen their fatigue and improve productivity.181 Start-ups, like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, are working to implant computer chips inside human brains to treat neurological disorders and ultimately augment human mental capacity.182

Mass personalization. The last decade has seen a steady rise in customizable consumer experiences and products. Digital personalization has taken off, enabling marketers to design unique experiences for consumers at various stages of the purchase process. Amazon, Netflix and Spotify personalization get the most accolades, but AI-powered companies like Hangrr183 (retail fashion) and Welcome184 (travel planning) are two lesser-known successful innovators. Digital assistants, like Alexa185 and Google Assistant186, are providing personalized insights and interactions at home and on-the-go. Last, with the use of additive manufacturing, mass personalization of analog products is becoming a reality.

Future expectations

Personalization will be a key differentiator of products and services over the next five years.117 The greater the impact of the product or service on a consumer’s life, the greater the demand for personalized solutions, including health, productivity and lifestyle optimization.118

Personal health will be one of the categories that consumers will care about the most.119 Over the next five years, focus will shift from reactive health care services to proactive preventive services. Easy access to medical records and advanced analytics will greatly reduce the uncertainties in prescribing treatments. Telemedicine is expected to become a primary means of contact with the health care system, and doctors and health coaches will grow to rely more heavily on personalized data and analytics-driven diet and exercise regimes. Powered by AI, medical history and genomics, personalized insights will be part of any routine doctor visit. The expectation is that diseases will be detected earlier, and mitigation steps will be implemented well before the onset of today’s diagnostic symptoms. This will reduce the burden on hospitals and clinics from avoidable emergency admissions.

Productivity will be another critical area for personalization, with augmentation of human capabilities advancing in numerous ways. In the next decade, augmented reality (AR) products will launch with the potential to become as ubiquitous as cell phones today120 and with significant impacts on how consumers will shop, work and interact with others. AR on factory floors will make workers more productive by providing information to each worker where and when they need it to optimize their workflow. The other side of augmentation of human capabilities is physical augmentation, with advanced exoskeletons’ increasing impact on factory floors and beyond, including improving sitting postures, helping in sports training and facilitating rehabilitation from injuries.121 Today, exoskeletons exist primarily for niche applications like knee support while skiing,122 but in the next decade society can expect new solutions to become widespread.123 AR science will make initial breakthroughs in brain-machine interfaces that will augment human mental capabilities. One of their first applications will be to research and treat various cognitive disorders that impact a person’s ability to fully function.

Personalization of virtually all products and services will eventually follow. While piecemeal digitization of physical spaces has been ongoing for years, in the next decade various value-chain players are expected to collaborate to create end-to-end experiences for consumers through robust joint ecosystems. Physical spaces, like homes, cars and retails shops, will utilize these ecosystems to hyper-personalize day-to-day activities.124 Boosted by advances in AI, companies will ubiquitously implement predictive analytics to understand what consumers want and to provide user-specific recommendations and complementary services, with expectations that recommendation quality will evolve to put pressure on all organizations to improve their customer engagement.