As people settle into the first workweek of the new year, one helpful thing to do is to identify the most important mega-trends that will continue to evolve during 2011.The goal isn't to pick out promising, but localized, services-3D television to cable operators, for instance-but high level categories that will spawn a multitude of niche opportunities.
Three trends that are prudent to watch-two of which already have made news this year-are: telehealth, smart grid and telecom expense management.
Telehealth, which has been written about a few times during the past couple of months, is enormous. It runs the gamut from providing folks in rural or underserved areas with diagnoses and even checkups, to enabling elderly folks to be more fully monitored and, therefore, able to stay out of hospitals or nursing homes longer than in the past.
That latest example is the driver of Intel-GE Care Innovations, which eWeek reports officially launched on Monday. The story does a good job of describing what the new organization will do. It's all good, and hopefully will succeed in the marketplace. What's important in the context of this post is the tremendous size of the two companies involved. AT&T, another big company, is also expanding its health care activities.
The bottom line is that health care is a huge growth area and, despite the attention being paid to it by the media, is only at the starting line. This is how Jim Champy, who, along with Dell Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harry Greenspun, wrote "Reengineering Health Care: A Manifesto for Radically Rethinking Health Care Delivery," put it to me in an executive briefing interview at the end of December:
We are early in the implementation of electronic health care records-very early.
If there is an area with more potential to more types of companies than health care, it's smart grid. Besides the actual areas of overlap-there are many-the two areas share an exceedingly large number of ways that vendors and service providers can participate.
If it is true that a sector can be judged by the company it keeps, smart grid is in just as enviable a position as telehealth. LG, for instance, is using CES to introduce a line of smart home appliances. Besides bearing the name of a large and influential company, an announcement focusing on how smart grid can aid in food management shows how many nooks and crannies of functionality will be available.
The third area worthy of immediate attention is telecom expense management. TEM, as it is familiarly known, is more distantly related to the other two areas than those two are related to each other. But TEM is similar to the others in the broad capabilities it has to serve end users and to support a vibrant vendor and service provider community.
The mobile and wireless world has always been a profusion of rate plans, equipment charges and miscellaneous expenses. The explosion of smartphones and tablets has multiplied the costs-and the confusion-exponentially. TEM will grow as mobility grows and, of course, it shows no sign of slowing. Making sense of this portable "Tower of Babel" is a challenging endeavor that, like telehealth and smart grid, will reward many vendors and service providers.