Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist and Keynote Speaker
Thomas Frey is a futurist and keynote speaker who presents his ideas about the future to companies, government officials and others around the globe seeking guidance and insight in a rapidly changing world.
Before launching the DaVinci Institute in 1997, Frey was an IBM engineer and designer who received more than 270 awards in his 15 years with the company – the most of any other IBM engineer.
He’s the author of the book “Communicating with the Future” and writes a weekly “Future Trend Report” newsletter and a weekly column for FuturistSpeaker.com.
Q: How did you become a futurist, and what does that mean to you?
A: I’ve always had a mind that was time shifted towards the future. So as an example, when you get up in the morning and are thinking about going to work, I was always thinking about how people would be going to go to work 10 years from now. When you decide what clothes you’re going to wear, I was thinking about what people were going to wear 10 years from now.
Being a futurist is far less about making predictions and far more about expanding our thinking about what the future holds.
Q: Why did you establish the DaVinci Institute and what are its primary goals?
A: The Institute is referred to as a futurist think tank, but I usually think of it in terms of a laboratory for the future human experience.
We currently have a number of interesting projects going on that we believe will dramatically change the world. I’ve written about several of these on FuturistSpeaker.com.
Q: Who do you most often speak to, and which economic sectors are most interested in your message?
A: I do a lot of work with libraries and colleges because they’re all going through significant transitions.
That said, I work with a wide range of Fortune 500 companies, associations, government agencies, non-profits, and other eclectic groups. My smallest audience has been 8 people and my largest 2,500.
Every year I speak in to audiences totaling between 20,000-30,000 people in 6-8 different countries.
Besides the future of libraries and education, topics include the future of agriculture, healthcare, transportation, emerging technologies, and the city of the future. I’ve also worked with several banks and financial institutions on the future of their industries.
Q: How does a futurist keep up with the increasingly rapid pace of change in technology and innovation?
A: I use a number of “anticipatory thinking protocols” to stay ahead of the curve, and I read news feeds constantly. I look at cycles, trends, build scenarios, and play around with tools like backcasting and my own communicating with the future techniques.
Q: You just attended the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas. What was the most exciting one or two things you saw there and how will they change our lives?
A: The “Internet of Things” was alive and well at CES with more and more devices connected to the Internet. Cisco’s projection is that by 2020 over 50 billion devices will connect to the web.
As an example, smart home technologies had a far greater presence. A local company, MobiPlug (http://www.mobiplug.co/) is tackling this space by creating a uniform platform for a wide array of products like Nest (smart thermostats), Hue (smart bulbs), Wemo (motion detector) from Belkin, as well as Android-powered refrigerators and Arduino curtains.
So look for tons more activity in this space over the coming years as homeowners add this type of intelligence to their lifestyle.
Kickstarter is playing a huge role today in the startup arena and CES has become a favorite showcase for companies that have done well.
I really like the Puzzlebox Orbit, which launched on Kickstarter last November, but made their official debut at CES. They have a brain-controlled spherical helicopter toy that people can drive with their mind.
I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but the electric weight-sensing ZBoard skateboard with a 5-mile range turned a lot of heads at CES.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Power Practical out of Salt Lake City (www.thepowerpot.com).
Thermoelectric experts David Toledo and Paul Slusser invented the PowerPot, a personal power generator. The PowerPot uses the heat of boiling water to generate electricity and deliver it via a USB cable to a waiting cell phone or battery.
They used Kickstarter for initial funding in April 2012, and it led to 850 preorders, amounting to $126,000. The product sells today for $149 on the company’s website.