What to Expect in the World of Education Technology at BETT 2016

Education Market Analysis and Commentary




The Futuresource #EdTech team is all set to charge the halls of this year's #BETT2016 in London's Excel. The team always revels in the chance to emerge themselves in cutting edge innovation and experiment with the latest gadgets, products, platforms and content that is being propelled into the #EdTech space. In anticipation of this imminent exploration and celebration of all things #EdTech, Futuresource Consulting would like to share its thoughts on some of the pioneering technologies that are expected to be in the limelight this year.

Virtual Reality (VR) together with experiential learning will certainly make it on the agenda this year. The more visual formats create an alternative to teaching complex subjects via the traditional lecture approaches. VR has the backing of some of the world's largest and most prominent companies like Google, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC and the Facebook backed Oculus. These companies are continuing to invest in the ecosystems to help pave the way to success. 'Google Expeditions' is one such program that is being rolled out globally and offers an affordable VR experience. Google provides the virtual field trip kit, consisting of a Google Cardboard or Mattel View Master that turns the smartphone into a VR headset, a tablet is then used by the teacher to guide the tour. The content consists of virtual worlds some of which include an experiential tour of the Natural History Museum, the Palace of Versailles or the surface of Mars.

Robotics adds additional weight to the theme of experiential and interactive learning. Coding is now mandatory from the age of six in the UK. Robotic toys such as the Nao robot are being show-cased at BETT and are capable of playing a special part in special needs programs acting as intelligent companions. Smart toys have really made the grade for the classroom.

Users apply simple block based programming principles to engage students in simple coding games, making toys dance or work their way out of simple mazes. The pre programmable robot Sphere already works well in the K-12 environment with the latest SPRK 2.0 works can be operated from the iPad. SK Telecom is another developer that has created the smartphone powered robot Albert, for a #EdTech project for Sercomtel, a Brazilian 'Telco'. This product is supported by the Smart Robot Coding School; such training portals and communities will drive awareness, usability and creativity in the educational robot category.

Augmented Reality (AR) is certainly a complementary technology to VR and robotics, which continues to build on the potential experiential and interactive theme. We have already seen an explosion of both free and paid for AR Apps inspiring interactive learning in curriculum and non-curriculum subjects, from the inner workings of Frank Whittle's jet engine, the human anatomy, geometry and A-Z flash cards.

3D Printers are starting to make a real impact in the educational environment, this links in with basic geometric learning principles and also engineering and design based environments. As barriers to entry are starting to drop, printers are becoming more affordable. Knowledge share and pioneering communities are developing ecosystems that support the advancement of this sector. An example of this would be Thingiversity, set up by Makerbot 3D Printing. The digital platform provides tools, 3D files and knowledge share forums to promote exponential innovation and accelerated learner skill sets.

Educational Operating and Management Systems are a major consideration in the #EdTech decision making process as they provide the operational backbone for many institutions. Microsoft is debuting the Microsoft partner village this year. Thirteen strategic partners are running daily educational seminars highlighting how the technology, services and collaborative know-how can deliver tailored cloud based network solutions, using a range of Operating Systems. This addresses the ongoing challenge of legacy technology switch over challenges, yet at the same time users often complain that the windows ecosystem is too complicated. From a competitive point of view the Google management system is seen as much more user friendly. Google OS has gained 51% of the K-12 market in the USA (Qtr 3 shipments), but much lower penetration in European markets (see FS infographic). New computing device offerings are expected from both camps, with solutions targeting entry level markets expected to be an area of key focus.

The Interactive Displays market has been transitioning towards flat panel solutions from projection based solutions recently. BETT will no doubt see increasing ranges of interactive flat panel solutions from suppliers, but it will be interesting to see if any projector vendors will be launching solid state solutions targeting at mainstream classrooms. Solid state projectors have proven difficult to produce at price points suited for mainstream classroom adoption, leading to increasing demand for flat panel solutions due to their long product life.

There will certainly be some nice surprises in store this week at BETT 2016. Futuresource Consulting will look forward to sharing our full BETT 2016 show report next week.

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Notes
Futuresource Consulting is a specialist research and knowledge-based consulting company, providing organisations with insight into consumer electronics, digital imaging, entertainment media, broadcast, storage media, education technology and IT. With a heritage stretching back to the 1980s, the company delivers in-depth analysis and forecasts on a global scale, advising on strategic positioning, market trends, competitive forces and technological developments. www.futuresource-consulting.com

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Nicola Finn

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