Decoding Next: Five trends you need to know - The Widening Digital Divide, Democratization of Beauty, 25 years of Photoshop, digital odour removing & Wearable Bananas

From wearable bananas to odor-removing devices, February proved to be another month of surprises at sparks & honey. We covered close to 750 stories in our briefings which were selected from a pool of over thousands of trending and/or fringe signals. In this column we select five trends from our briefings to be featured exclusively in The Drum every month.

Complexity permeates everything we do. And we love it

From how we connect the myriad of devices in our homes, to our need for the perfect coffee grind, we now relish how complex our lives have become. Don’t believe us? Adobe Photoshop recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and the evolution of this classic from an elite tool to an app for the masses speaks volume about our collective bias towards complexity.

Our relationship with complexity extends well beyond the tools we use in daily life. From music to TV programming, our world is radically more complex and nuanced that 25 years ago. Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good For You shows how culture is falling deeper and deeper in love with complexity. Simply compare any HBO show today with top shows in the 80s and 90s; the pace of plot lines, character development, number of characters, and almost any other aesthetic element boggles the mind. However, we as consumers expect these complex nuances because anything less feels trivial and boring.

The gap between the digitally-literate and the rest of the workforce is widening

Some estimates predict that over 45 per cent of jobs today are vulnerable to be rendered obsolete by advances in robotics and artificial technology. The logic is that these systems don’t have to be perfect to substitute humans, they just have to be slightly better. In some cases like driving, the bar is super low (unfortunately, we suck at driving).

In sharp contrast, those who can speak the language of machines can’t keep up with work. Take Silicon Valley’s latest venture NotLooking.io, which sits at the other end of the employment cultural tension and promises to keep recruiters at bay on behalf of talent.

The cultural tension between the unemployable and the super employable goes well beyond dedication and skills and is perhaps the defining, wicked scourge of our generation.

Pretty soon your deodorant will come with an app

Google’s latest patent puts the search giant squarely in the center of the package goods business. The patent describes an “odor removing device would have an activity sensor that can detect physical activity of its user and emits a fragrance to combat any offending odors.” When it comes to the internet of things we are learning to avoid taking any industry or body part for granted. There is no question that the integration of activity sensors, wearables, and social networks is just starting to show its potential to transform the world as we know it.

Wearable bananas and humanoid tomato-dispensing robots are here to change how we think about marketing

Could prototypes be the next hot content type? We think yes. Take a look at two of the inventions that debuted in the 2015 Tokyo Marathon. The Wearable Tomato Project by juice brand Kagome, gave the crowds a bizarre and manga-like prototype which might or might not spark ideas for companion robots and their role in sports. In other words, a prototype which was developed with the sole purpose of communications.

Wearable_Banana is another prototype unveiled in the Tokyo Marathon. Created by Dole, the device tracks the usual fitness metrics and displays them on a real banana. As you can expect, this is probably the first wearable you are supposed to eat after the workout. While the territory is hardly new, the convergence of the marker movement with accessible hardware technology and materials is creating a fertile space for things as media.

Reality and fashion means a redefining beauty trend far deeper than apparel - The democratization of beauty is afoot

Before we go to New York, Sport England’s campaign This Girl Can is a feat of marketing and feminine confidence. Motivating women of all sizes to exercise not for others, but for themselves, is one more signal we’re seeing about imperfection and beauty. Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful campaign during the Oscars tracked the negative sentiment of Tweets about beauty which plays into the trend of turning negative news into something good.

But perhaps the broadest evidence this celebration of imperfection comes from the runway itself. During NYFW, it seemed every model taboo was shattered with firsts, as the following people took the stage: actress Jamie Brewer (the first model with Down syndrome), Winnie Harlow for Desigual (Vitiligo, a skin pigmentation condition), Laverne Cox (actress and transgender advocate), Jack Eyers (a UK personal trainer was the first male amputee to walk). During LFW, Temperley London featured two pregnant models: Jacquetta Wheeler and Caroline Winberg. Just imagine what we’ll see for SS16.

Written & compiled by Alison Bracegirdle, Camilo La Cruz and Maxwell McBride Peterson.