Traditionally, the need for predicting the future has been associated with sophisticated business operations. In the travel and hospitality industries, especially, we’ve come to rely heavily on forecasting to price products, maximize hotel revenue, and optimize the yield of every airplane that takes off and lands. Now, however, the ability to make smart guesses about the future is beginning to be extended to every day, personal decision making.
Several factors are playing a role in making accurate, actionable predictions about our own lives. The most obvious one is our willingness to have a variety of information about ourselves collected and available for reference at all times. This has happened through both social media — where we explicitly share our likes and dislikes, making them available for predictive analytics – as well as retailing (both online and offline) where our past browsing and purchasing behaviors have proven to be a reliable predictor of future purchases.
Over the years, for example, Amazon Marketplace’s personalized recommendations are one of the primary means by which Amazon continues to grow its sellers’ businesses. Tens of millions of highly accurate recommendations per day for over 2 million sellers equals huge success. In the world of air travel, recent acquisitions are being used by the most popular search engines to provide forward-looking insight and advice to buyers of airline tickets.
A new kind of predictive intelligence, though, is starting to improve individual lives in very personal ways. They include increasingly sophisticated music recommendations like those provided by Grokr Labs’ Fantastic. They focus on areas as specific as calendars for intelligently planning your day in advance (Tempo). Others assist with understanding and planning in advance multiple aspects of everyday life by providing weather, traffic, and well… you name it (Osito and donna).
Most of these solutions emerging now, designed to predicting how our days are going to go, are in their early stages. Many of their features are experimental, at best, but continuing to advance in accuracy as they evolve and have more and more content on which to base their advice to us. They are all ultimately focused, however, on something really valuable – handling as many simple tasks on our behalf as possible, freeing up our time and our minds to focus on the more important, complex tasks ahead.
A few solutions in this category have already come and gone. Some will prove themselves to be invaluable, though, to the point that we’re likely to look back and — just as we’ve begun to do with smartphones and other technologies — wonder how ever lived without them.