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article Bouwman Van der Duin Technology forecasting and scenarios matter

article Bouwman Van der Duin Technology forecasting and scenarios matter

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Published by Thieme Hennis
Technological forecasting and scenarios matter
Research into the use of information and communication technology in the home environment in 2010.
Technological forecasting and scenarios matter
Research into the use of information and communication technology in the home environment in 2010.

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Published by: Thieme Hennis on Aug 04, 2008
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Technologicalforecastingand scenarios matter
Research into the use of information andcommunication technology in the homeenvironment in 2010
H. Bouwman and P. van der Duin
H. Bouwman (H.Bouwman@tbm.tudelft.nl) is Assistant Professor in the Information and Communication Technology Department and P. van der Duin (p.vanderduin@tbm.tudelft.nl) is a Research Fellow in the Technology, Strategy and Entrepreneurship Department, both at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.
Keywords 
Forecasting, Technology led strategy, Information,Communication, Development 
Abstract 
Information and communication technology (ICT) is increasingly being used in the home environment, making it a very important and interesting research topic for communication scientists. Future developments will influence the way and the extent to which ICT will be used in the home environment and therefore the way people look for information, communicate,make use of entertainment services and carry out transactions.However, it is still very difficult to make meaningful and accurate forecasts with regard to the possible future use and acceptancof ICT in people’s homes. Important reasons are, for example,that more and more market parties are involved in the development of innovative ICT products and services. This makes developments more complex and the outcomes more uncertain. Furthermore, consumers play an important role in the development of new ICT-based information, communication,transaction and entertainment services. Since a precise prediction of the possible use of ICT in domestic environments in 2010 is hard to make, other methods of futures research must be used. Combining technological forecasting with scenario thinking is such a research method, whereon, technological forecasting shows the major trends in the specific technology domain, while scenarios cover the possible future worlds. By giving end-users a central place in these scenarios, the diversity of the use and acceptance of innovative products and services is captured. Thus, the addition of scenarios to the technology trends gives insight into the possibilities (and impossibilities) of new ICT-technologies and the way they may be used in the home environment.
1. Introduction
I
nformation and communication technology (ICT) plays animportant role in our society. Technologies aredeveloping at a fast pace and will increasingly influenceour lives in the near future. No company, entrepreneur,media company, school or hospital can do withoutcomputers. These computers are more and more linked byprivate or public networks. In households in particular, ICT,such as new multimedia-enabled mobile phones, digitaltelevisions and PCs are being used with comparatively littleknowledge on the part of the scientific community as to howthey are being used, who has access to them and what theeffects and consequences are with regard to social andmedia behaviour. The PC and its portable variety the laptopcomputer occupy an important place in everyday life, notonly as far as the working environment is concerned, but alsowith regard to leisure, i.e. computer games, access toarchives of television programmes, downloading mp3 ± anddvd ± files. Viewers can use an intelligent box (the set-topbox) to access interactive digital information using theirtelevision sets. The telephone has evolved from a simpleapparatus in the hall into something that is apparently so
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foresight 5,4 2003, pp. 8-19,
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MCB UP Limited, 1463-6689, DOI 10.1108/14636680310494717
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precious to a great number of people that they cannotrelinquish it for even a second and it is used to transmit, forinstance, digital photos, ringtones and multimediamessages. ICTs are not only visibly present in our houses,more often than not they are invisible. Washing machines,ironing and sewing machines are becoming ever moreintelligent and dependent on their software. In the future,microwave ovens and refrigerators might have a display thatenables people to access relevant information from theInternet, for instance about traffic jams, before they leave thehouse.Research into these new technologies and the way theymight be accepted and used in the future is significant toindustry (telecom operators, service and both commercialcontent providers and providers of content as part of ane-commerce trajectory), for policy makers (both withingovernments and companies) and end-users, i.e. consumers.In order for the research to be actually used by these actors,an analysis of potential technological developments incombination with knowledge with regard to the possibleacceptance and usage is required. Communication scientists,more than product and business developers, can play animportant role because they are in a position to translatelessons regarding the use and adoption of media intoopportunities for new emerging technologies (Flichy, 1995).The objective of this paper is to illustrate how certainfutures research methods, in this case technologicalforecasting in combination with scenario analysis, can beused to develop insight into the acceptance and use of ICT inthe domestic environment in the year 2010.First, we will pay closer attention to the various methodsof futures research. Second, we will discuss two methods,technological forecasting and scenarios, in more detail, andshow how these two methods can be combined to makerelevant and significant claims. Third, we present the resultsof a technology-forecast analysis aimed at the adoption anduse of ICT in the home environment in the year 2010. We willpresent research conducted among experts which will serveas a validation of relevant trends. We will then describe fourpossible scenarios for the year 2010 and show in what waythe results of technological forecasting can be used inscenarios to provide insight into what the adoption and useof relevant technologies and services might be.
2. Methods of futures research
Futures research (e.g. scenario analysis, judgmentalforecasting, technological forecasting) can be defined as thecomplete range of methods that can be used to look at thefuture[1]. These methods can be categorized according totheir function (May, 1996), whether they are predictive,non-predictive or a combination of both (Fowles, 1978) orwhether they can be used for operational, tactical or strategicgoals (Van der Duin et al., 2001). Different methods areincreasingly being combined (Masini, 2002). Buildingscenarios usually starts with carrying out a technology, socialand economic trend analysis. Quantitative and judgmentalforecasting are often used to complement each other(Masini, 2002).Choosing the right method is very important for thepractical and future use of the results of these kinds of study(Galtung, 2003). Factors that might influence the choice of aspecific method are: the level of uncertainty, the time horizon,the type of variables under analysis (Van der Duin et al.,2001), participation, duration and costs (Miles et al., 2002),and phase of innovation (Twiss, 1992). There is a certainrelationship between these various factors. For instance, acertain correlation between the uncertainty with regard totechnological developments and the accuracy of resultsbased on the use of specific prediction methods can beobserved (Ascher, 1978) (see Figure 1).If technologies are merely discussed in scientific panels,R&D environment and initial stages of the innovationprocess, any prediction regarding their future adoption anduse is rather problematic. Once a product or service isintroduced on the market, it is easier to gain a better insightin its potential by analysing the results of market surveys.Quantitative, econometric predictions can be drafted on thebasis of data concerning the initial adoption and use. Theuncertainty, with regard to the product or service, is reducedconsiderably, but it is as yet unclear whether a product willbe warmly received by consumers and whether initialadoption trends among innovators will persist. The ``right’’prediction horizon varies depending on the industry underinvestigation (Van Doorn and Van Vught, 1978; Albright,2002). Media industry has a comparatively short predictionhorizon, while the oil industry uses a prediction horizonexceeding 20 years.
2.1 Technological forecasting
Technological forecasting is an exploration of developmentsin the technology domain in which the possible applicability
Figure 1 Ð Relationship between the level ofuncertainty regarding technologies and theaccuracy of predictions
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is assessed over a longer term (Coates et al., 2001). In otherwords, technological forecasting can be used at the initialstage of the innovation process, when decision makers andother people involved want to know what the importanttrends might be in the years to come. Technologicalforecasting is used in many cases, ranging from visiondevelopment on the future to investment decisions withregard to emerging technologies. Technological forecastingoffers a comprehensive view of the technologies alreadyavailable, of emerging technologies and of the way thesetechnologies influence or substitute each other (Porter et al.,1991). A disadvantage of technology explorations has to dowith the fact that they often use long-term time horizons,resulting in an increased level of uncertainty and acorresponding low level of accuracy when it comes to thepredictions being made. Scenarios are generally consideredgood alternatives to technological forecasting.
2.2 Scenarios
People who use scenarios assume that it is impossible tomake straightforward predictions and that it is wise to picturevarious alternative futures. Scenarios are expectationsregarding possible futures that provide insight into the waythe future may develop based on clearly definedassumptions concerning the relationship between relevantdevelopments. Usually, these relevant developments arebased on input from other methods of futures research, suchas, for instance, trend analysis. Relevant trends serve as theprimary axes along which the alternative scenarios areconstructed. A well-carried-out scenario study addressescriteria such as plausibility (scenarios are not science fiction),consistency (prevent combining mutually incompatibletrends), completeness (scenarios are more than a variationon a single theme) and the validity of the underlyingassumptions (Van der Heijden, 1996). Scenario thinkingbroadens people’s horizon by showing them alternatives andallowing them to rehearse and learn from the future(Schwartz, 1991; Godet, 2000; Masini and Vasquez, 2000).Scenarios can best be used in situations with highuncertainty when managers or decision makers feel that theworld is changing but are not sure in which direction.Scenarios enhance their ability to anticipate possible futuredevelopments that might affect their business. Scenariosallow for multiple views regarding possible futuredevelopments (Godet, 2000; Wilson, 2000).The scenario method is regarded as an instrument thatcan assist decision makers very well in their decision-makingprocess. Famous is the example of oil company Shell whowere able to anticipate in the oil crisis of 1973 by alsoincluding in their set of scenarios the possibility of a shortageof the supply of oil because of political tensions in the MiddleEast and the subsequent rise of the oil prices (Schwartz,1991; Kleiner, 1996). Ringland (1998) also gives a list ofinternational companies who have benefited from usingscenarios in developing plans for the future. Although privatecompanies often address societal, cultural and politicalaspects of the future (and their impact on business) in theirscenarios governments and other non-profit organisationsare also active in developing scenarios for developing policy(see, for instance, Eames et al., 2000).
2.3 Combining the two methods
Technological forecasting provides valuable input forscenarios, as it is important to be aware of all the technicalpossibilities when constructing scenarios (Coates et al.,2001). The ``completeness’’ criterion has the advantage thaton the one hand scenarios present accurate pictures of thetechnical possibilities, while on the other hand making it clearwhy it is that certain technologies have a greater chance ofbecoming successful than others. By giving the humanfactor a prominent place in the scenarios, technology isgiven a ``face’’, which allows us to make it clear what serviceswill be used in the future. In our vision, technology is nothingmore than an ``enabler’’ and it is only when technologies fitthe needs and attitudes of consumers that they can beincorporated into a clear picture of the future.The choice in favour of a particular method to formulatepredictions regarding the adoption and use of ICT isdetermined by the development stage of a given technology.When looking at the year 2010, the only thing we can say forsure is that the products and services that will be used inhouseholds by that time are now either in their start-up phaseor even in the embryonic stage of their development.Between a technology, i.e. the ``bare’’ knowledge that it isavailable in a conceptual or experimental format inuniversities or R&D laboratories, and a service that a largenumber of people will utilize on a daily basis, is a world ofdifference and an ocean of time. Technology explorationsshow us how the technology as such is developing, but itoffers much less information regarding its possibleapplications. An example is UMTS, the third generation (3G)mobile communication. At the moment we can makereasonably accurate predictions as to in which period thismuch-discussed technology will become available. It is lessclear, however, what the explicit services are that will bemarketed on the basis of this technology (location-based ormultimedia services), let alone how consumers will respondto and adopt these services.To combine the two methods discussed above (at least)two conditions need to be fulfilled (Van der Duin et al., 2000):(1) Technological forecasting and scenarios must have the
same level of abstraction. When technological 
forecasting focuses on the adoption and use of personaldigital assistants (PDAs) it makes little sense to combineit with the trend of globalisation because the twophenomena have little in common. When we combinePDAs with the need of consumers to be able to accessinformation ``anywhere, anyplace’’ we can develop anidea as to how this trend might affect the use and shapeof PDAs.
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