By Dean Whittaker

We all feel the surge of change taking place around us. Change leaves many of us frightened and confused while others of us learn, grow, and seize the opportunities that it brings. As I reflect on the past 30 years of business since founding Whittaker Associates, I am astounded by the changes that have taken place and even more amazed at the opportunities that lay ahead. Below are the changes and trends I see as I look toward the New Year.


Perhaps the biggest driver of change is technology. For me, the change has come in the form of learning new computer languages this past year that focus on data analytics, giving my company better capabilities to see patterns within data with which to predict corporate behavior. With new tools and better data our accuracy improves and the value we can provide our clients increases.

Data Centers – the fastest growing sector of new investment

As decision-making becomes more data-driven, the role of the data center is changing from a warehouse of information to a mission critical part of the business enterprise. At the Midwest Economic Development Conference this month, I heard a site location consultant describe the shift retailers are experiencing from a single channel of distribution to multiple channels. What this means for us is that we may start our shopping experience online and finish it at the local store or by-pass the local store all together.

The Internet of Things

For a short time, I had a home thermostat that I could control over the internet from my iPhone. I thought it was the coolest thing. But then I realized that the data from my device was being collected and sold by Google who had purchased the company that made the Nest Thermostat. This device connected wirelessly to my home network and reported not only my energy usage but also the time of day we were home, and the built in motion detector monitored our movements in the house. I have since re-installed my “dumb” thermostat much to my spouse’s delight.

Cloud-Based Mobile Computing

As I look to replacing my smart phone again, I wonder why am I doing this? It is a perfectly good iPhone 4S, but yet I feel compelled by some unseen force to continue to chase the illusion of something better, faster, and able to do more things. Like many of you, I am feeling the technological fatigue of too much change over too short a period of time.

What will compel me to “upgrade” is the ability to integrate my devices. I can start work on my laptop, continue on my iPad, and finish the work on my iPhone. This is why mobile computing is the fastest growing segment of the computer industry.

Climate Change

As I hold my breath anticipating another possible severe winter like last year, the specter of extreme weather tells me something has changed. Partially, as a result, I chose to trade in my beloved 4-Runner for a Prius. My weekly gasoline purchase went from $26 to $6, even accounting for lower gasoline prices.

Preparing our cities and homes for extreme weather conditions is the opportunity. When I asked a local clothing store employee what the most asked for item was, she said the warmest possible coat (I do live in Michigan after all).

Variable Hotel Room Rates – shifting occupancy risk to the hotel guest

While staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago this month I encountered a new phenomenon – the variable hotel room rate. I was surprised to see that my room rate had changed from the $161 plus 18% tax for my first night’s lodging to $179 plus 18% tax for the second night. When I inquired at the front desk upon check out, I was told that I was staying on a “variable hotel rate.” I learned that my hotel room rate would change day-to-day based up the occupancy of the hotel and those of surrounding hotels. I also learned that there was a $350 early checkout penalty should I choose to seek shelter elsewhere.

So what is the opportunity in this unfortunate “amenity?” How about an iPhone App that monitors room rates and predicts where the lowest cost lodging will be during your stay? Anyone up for crowd funding a new iPhone App?

What opportunities do you see?

So, as we move into 2015, what opportunities do you see? How can you seize them and grow, learn, and adapt to the changes taking place around us?