Another South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive has come and gone and with it, a new set of trends. No we did not find the next Twitter. What we did find was unique fast companies that know the meaning behind innovation. Knowing what to think about one of the largest interactive events in the world is hard enough when you attend, let alone when you’re trying to figure it out in the Twitterverse. After sifting through the thousands upon thousands of tweets, event recaps, sessions and slides here are 9 of the most important trends we think you should know about, in no specific order:

  1. Vehicle technology. We are no longer at the intersection of tech and auto, we are much further down the road, as seen at CES, NAIAS and now SXSW. Automakers and tech firms alike were out in full force discussing and dissecting the future of auto. Whether it’s driverless, flying, connected or robotic, the future of automotive tech coming out of SXSW is trending in a big way.
  2. Connected home. The Connected Home #DevelopersGarage brought together companies across the connected home space to discuss how they are changing the way people engage with their homes. From lighting to smart locking, monitoring to voice activation, everything about your home is about to be connected.
  3. Payment technology. The way you pay for things is in a technological revolution right now. With the likes of PayPal and Bitcoin leading the way, wallets may become a thing of the past for future generations. During one panel discussion Jered Cohen, director of Google Ideas, discussed that electronic payments are “inevitable,” but also noted that “there’s a danger in having it not be regulated in some form.”
  4. Wearable tech. Wearable tech is really gaining steam with start-up tech firms. Featured at SXSW was a wristband known as Nymi that uses your specific cardiac rhythm as a password to unlock your computer and other devices. Another, Skully Helmets, creator of a motorcycle helmet that has a camera to give bikers a 180 degree rear view, won this year’s SXSW Accelerator Award in the Wearable Technology category.  
  5. Big Data’s role in social change. In one session, when asked what the next big innovation might be, Gary Vaynerchuk responded by telling the audience to look for the inefficiencies. With the age we live in, if something is not working right, there is most likely data out there to support a change. We are in an age where we’ve created more data in the last few years than in the entire rest of humanity. The challenge is to now harness this data and use it to make an impact.  
  6. 3D printing. Hungry? How about 3D printing an Oreo? That is exactly what SXSW attendees were doing in droves at the Trending and Vending Machine this year. The realm of possibilities for 3D printing are far reaching. Who knows what you’ll be able to 3D print next!
  7. Drones. We’ve seen drones on Jimmy Fallon (client: Parrot) and in the future of Amazon delivery but have you seen one that can shock someone with 80,000 volts? Making its debut at this year’s SXSW was the Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone (CUPID) drone.
  8. Privacy. Privacy was such an important topic at SXSW this year that the whole world was buzzing as Edward Snowden of WikiLeaks fame was a virtual guest speaker. When asked why he wanted to speak to a tech audience he was quoted saying “…they’re the folks who really fix things and who can enforce our rights through technological standards.” Snowden is, without a shadow of a doubt, right. Tech people are the ones who understand the true meaning of privacy in the connected world we live in.
  9. Reaching Millennials. Engaging the Millennial generation has never been a bigger topic than it is now, especially at SXSW. Even actress and activist Rosario Dawson engaged in a session on ways to connect to Millennials. Millennials, unlike any other generation, have grown up in a time where things are constantly changing, upgrading and innovating. They are excited about new technology and work very different than past generations. Businesses are starting to recognize that Millennials will one day very soon be the majority of the workforce. The time is not now to start engaging them, it was yesterday. 

Everything is connected. While some think the once independent music festival has jumped the shark, tech people know that it is certainly not the case. Naming nine tech trends from CES was the hard part, what do you think is the tenth?




Don McLean is a Senior Account Executive for Airfoil, an integrated marketing communications firm, with offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, London and Hong Kong.  Follow Don on Twitter: @McLean_Don