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Gray is the New Green

Forget about the environment — it’s old people who will be driving the market for new technologies.

 During his IFA keynote, Philips CEO Rudy Provost made this striking statement:

Healthcare is a key growth area in the global economy: Within the next three years, healthcare expenditure will account for approximately 10 percent of global GDP. Within 50 years, there will be 2 billion people in the world aged 60 and over — a tripling of the figure today. 

I have only a passing familiarity with demographic trends, but everything I’ve read seems to confirm the fact that the population in almost every major industrial economy is declining and aging. This will have profound ramifications for consumer markets. As Provost said: 

Today they may be buying the latest flat TV, but at a future life stage they may be looking for a home appliance that measures their blood pressure, their blood glucose, or helps to manage any one of a number of medical conditions which, today, require in-hospital supervision, butthanks to innovationcould be treated at home. 

In Japan there’s already a market for robots to serve as companions – and resident nurses – for the elderly.

It’s funny if you think about it. Older people, Grandma especially, tend to be props in the consumer electronics universe. They’re either the people who don’t understand technology — “now, Grandma is not going to use this but your kid is going to love it” — or they’re the standard by which ease-of-use is measured — “it’s easy enough that even Grandma will get it.” Soon, though, they’re going to be in the driver’s seat (no doubt going 30 mph down the highway, eyes barely visible above the steering wheel with their left blinker on).

 Provost also touched on another hot topic — the environment. Specifically, he noted that the company was continually pushing to reduce the standby power of its devices, as well curtail the impact of its packaging materials.

 Indeed, the environmental message was picked up by several exhibitors at IFA. Yet Reuters interviews two people and concludes “public indifferent” to the environmental pitch.

 Now, I’m also skeptical that the green pitch will carry a lot of weight, but since when are two people “the public?” If that’s the standard, expect my next feature to read: Public Thinks Greg Scoblete Deserves 100 Percent Raise.