Inventing Into the Future - Creating Inventions by Projecting Current Trends
By Steve Sponseller
Are you a creative thinker? Try using your creative abilities to study current trends and project those trends into the future. Future trends are great "seeds" for identifying potentially valuable inventions.
You can develop valuable inventions by looking at current trends and projecting those trends into the future. Specifically, current trends are studied to predict where the trends will go in the future. When projecting a trend into the future, consider all forces that might influence the trend - economic influences, changes in technology, changes in business methods (businesses expanding or moving their activities onto the Internet), and so forth. How will those forces combine with one another to affect current trends?
As you project current trends into the future, consider the impact of the trend changes on current products and services. This is a great opportunity to use your brainstorming, mind mapping, and masterminding techniques to predict where a trend is headed in the future. When looking at future trends, consider:
- What products or services are eliminated by the future trend?
- Does the future trend create new categories of products or services?
- Do the trend changes enhance or modify existing products or services?
- What new problems are created by the future trend?
Develop new inventions by solving problems created by the future trend or by creating new products or services to support the future trend. What new products or services will become commercially feasible as a result of this future trend? Can you identify solutions to the inefficiencies and other issues that arise from the future trend? All of these solutions are potential inventions that may have significant commercial value. Use your forward-looking abilities today to create these inventions.
To illustrate an example of projecting current trends, we will turn back time and put ourselves in the late 1980s. At that time, two popular consumer devices were:
- Personal Computers - Although not nearly as powerful as today, many people were using personal computers in the late 1980s. Personal computers contain storage devices, such as hard disk drives, that store various types of data used by the computer.
- Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs) were popular consumer devices for recording television programs and for playing prerecorded content, such as movies. VCRs use magnetic tapes to store video data.
Picture yourself as an inventor in the late 1980s and you start thinking about future trends. You predict that personal computers will continue to increase in computing power, storage capacity, etc. This is reasonable based on the computer advancements seen in previous years. You also take a broad view of a VCR as a "video storage device". When you realize that the hard disk drives in personal computers can store any type of data (text data, audio data, video data, and more), you think about the possibility of storing video data (television broadcasts) on a hard disk drive. Thus, the hard disk drive becomes a replacement for the tape in a VCR.
In the late 1980s, the cost of a hard disk drive that could store several hours of video data would likely be far too expensive for a consumer device. However, if you saw the trend that computing power and storage capacity would increase quickly while the price of the computing systems decreased, a future opportunity was possible. Combining this trend with the development of new video compression algorithms that reduced the size of video data to be stored, an entire new product category was created - Digital Video Recorders (DVRs).
A recent report indicates that Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) are now used in 22% of U.S. households - you may have one yourself. What trends can you study today that may produce popular products or services in the future?
Take a look at current products and services, as well as current trends, and try inventing some future products and services. Although it may take a few years for the technology to evolve in a manner that makes the invention commercially feasible, those inventions may have significant future value.
Steve Sponseller is a Patent Attorney with over 15 years of experience working with inventors - both individual inventors and teams of inventors in large corporations.