Two weeks from today, I’ll be on a plane heading for SXSW Interactive, the world’s biggest technology conference to focuses specifically on great use of digital in all its guises.

On Tuesday of this week, the conference organisers released their ‘top trends’ to watch over the week, pooled from over 800 sessions.

They highlight the growth of the startup economy (with double the amount of space dedicated to startup–related content alone this year), international input (specifically from Europe), changing ‘delivery’ services like consumer drones in Airware, subscription e-commerce from Cratejoy and grocery delivery in Instacart – and my personal favourite, ROBOTS. I will most definitely be spotted at the Robot Petting Zoo at some point or other. I hope it looks like design company Minimaforms’ beautiful installation of touch-sensitive ‘tubes’ in the Barbican below.


Anyway, the bottom line is that SXSW is a beast; there’s an overwhelming amount of events to attend and information being hurled at you from all angles. So, continuing to use Tyler Brule’s ‘brands must learn to edit’ quote as my mantra for pretty much everything at the moment, I’ve looked at SXSW’s recommendations & points of view from across the industry, and handpicked the five things I think will have most impact

1. Connected cars come of age

Following on from the significant showing of ‘connected cars’ at CES (and in fact, a trend that started back in 2010 when Ford announced it was to launch an app store at SXSW), SXSW 2015 will feature self-driving cars, alternatively-fuelled vehicles, revolutionary ride-sharing programmes – and even ones that can FLY (or ‘achieve flight’ at least).


2. The dark side of social comes to light

As the organisers admit, social media has always been a big part of SXSW Interactive. In 2015, the schedule shows more of a focus on the dark side of this medium (ranging from the menace of cyber-bullying to the social media skills of ISIS & other terrorist organisations). While the social media crowd has for years been excited by the potential of social media as a marketing tool – and rightly so - we’ve seen the space mature enough to a point that we can look at the pros and cons in a more reasoned, balanced fashion. Last year’s SXSW gave a nod to this, with Tim Berners-Lee, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden encouraging attendees to recognise the role they played in the internet’s affect on society – and taking responsibility for this appropriately. 

3. Brands with purpose

We’ve seen the growth in popularity of ‘brands with purpose’ for the past few years, and with Millenials controlling significant budgets (they’re predicted to spend $62bn on media alone in the US & Canda) but wanting meaning in their lives, a sense of ‘social good’ is a hot topic. The rebranded SXgood umbrella of programming is a place where tech entrepreneurs, content creators and non-profits can come together to focus on this, and there are many, many sessions dedicated to this area.


4. Digital health

Connected to, but not reliant on the previous trend, as there’s more of a focus on support, care and help, tech disruption is ever-more targeting the health & medical industry. Building on the success of last year’s keynote speech from Anne Wocicki of 23andme, 2015 sees the launch of the inaugural SX Health and MedTech Expo – which will cover everything from health tracking, to communities & connectivity, right through to showcasing new products designed specifically to make people’s lives easier.

image via uMotif)

5) What the hell is ‘content’ anyway?

Content and distribution is (obviously) close to my heart, but with over 500 sessions containing the word ‘content’ alone, it’s one of the buzzwords on everyone’s lips. I’m particularly interested in the interplay between social and paid agencies here, and how the blurring of lines between disciplines is producing amazing interactive experiences, that often have a strong link to purchase within.

Vikki Chowney

Vikki Chowney is director of content and publishing strategies at H+K Strategies UK.