technology

HOW TO GET CHIPPED UP. A CRASH COURSE IN BIOHACKING.

It’s a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Soho. I am at a cafe, waiting to interview a guy called Lee Porte. We have never met before, but I immediately recognise him. Lee immediately strikes you as as the archetypical geek – long hair, big beard, Mr. Robot T-shirt, an extremely nice guy. He also has a RFID chip implanted in his hand. While this might sound scary and futuristic to some, it seems incredibly normal to him. And it’s the reason I wanted to meet him.

A few weeks prior to our meeting, I attended the FutureFoundation conference Trending 2017 and RFID implants were one of the ‘beyond human’ topics discussed. A short Twitter conversation later, and I got myself an interview with Lee.

Our conversation on that rainy Tuesday afternoon for me, demystified what you might call ‘biohacking’ – a movement that identifies with transhumanist and biopunk ideologies. Implanted RFID chips are not completely new, but the movement is still in its infancy. I wanted to share some of the insights with you, which Lee kindly agreed to. In case you ever wondered how and why to get ‘chipped up’, here’s a quick overview.

“I love playing with cutting edge technology and it doesn’t get more cutting edge than this.”

 

1) It’s simpler than you think

If you are thinking about getting a RFID chip implanted, companies like DangerousThings or Cyberise.me will provide you with the chip inside a sterilised syringe, ready for implanting.

While you could implant it yourself, it’s easier being done by a piercing studio, or as Lee points out, a friendly vet (it’s pretty much the same thing as getting your cat chipped). It takes about 30 seconds, neatly sitting in the flesh between your thumb and index finger. Apparently you don’t even feel it being in there. It certainly can’t be seen from the outside.

Armed with an XMP tag writer on your phone, you can then easily read and write on your chip via your phone’s NFC. For example, you can write your contact details on there, and use your RFID chip as a business card with your next handshake. While exchanging business cards sounds like an interesting use case, it doesn’t quite convince me yet to chip up my hand. Lee and I discuss if this niche movement might ever become mainstream.

2) You need a killer app

For Lee, working as a system admin at a big data company gives him unique access to certain systems that allow him to experiment with his RFID chip. He programmed it to use as a key to unlock the office doors, which according to him leads to some interesting reactions from visitors who see him magically open doors, Jedi-style.

Replacing door keys certainly is a very practical application. He is still trying to convince his other half to get a chip so that they can get rid of their standard door lock. Apparently she’s not that keen yet, which might be the case with the majority of people. But this may quickly change, the more applications could be written into your hand.

According to Lee, anything you can add a unique identifier against, you can use with your RFID chip. Technically your Oyster card could be replaced but it is down to TFL to give you access to it, which they currently don’t. If a major player like TFL came on board, Lee reckons this could really kick off. Who wouldn’t want an Oyster card they can’t lose?

Contactless payment is another obvious one and technically there’s no reason why you couldn’t link your credit card to your RFID-chipped-hand, allowing you to pay your restaurant bill at your next dinner. While this might freak out your date and waiters alike, we shouldn’t forget that paying with your mobile phone seemed far off a few years ago as well. Technological change and socially accepted behaviour go hand in hand, so to say.

I am getting really intrigued now. This suddenly sounds like a much more viable option. A simple procedure, and you get keys, a credit card and your Oyster card that you can’t lose any more. A killer app for the forgetful.

3) It’s not just about utility

While I am a very practical person, for some people, utility might not be the main draw. Like tattoos and piercings, body modification is becoming more acceptable and for some people this is purely about aesthetic reasons.  

‘Firefly tattoos’ are little implants that contain Tritium, a radioactive gas that glows. Again, you can get this stuff via Cyberise.me. It has no functional value, but it is “really quite cool”, as Lee points out. He is considering using them as glowing eyes, as part of a larger tattoo design.

Apparently some people just like the idea of implanting magnets under their skin as well. I can see the appeal of playing Magneto for a day, but any more than this and it might become quite frustrating every time you empty your dishwasher.

4) We are just getting started

Whether it is considered useful or beautiful, the biohacking movement is just getting started. Flexible NFC chips are tested in beta at the moment, giving you a much bigger antenna area which makes it easier to tag, but come also with a bigger operational procedure.

There are obviously other developments beyond RFID chips. Brain computer interfaces seem to be the ultimate goal, getting closer to the Matrix. In the meantime, companies like Grindhouse Wetware, an open source biotechnology startup company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are leading the charge. ‘As a dedicated team working towards a common goal – augmenting humanity using safe, affordable, open source technology’ they believe “that with imagination and drive, any of us can feel and touch EMF fields, explore its contours, sense the temperature of objects across a room, navigate a room using a sonar sense, or even connect the body to the Internet – right now. It is that dream above all that drives us to create.”

One of their projects is Circadia, an implantable device that can read biomechanical data and transmit via bluetooth. It can also display messages, warnings, or texts from your Android phone via LEDs through your skin.

This all still seems like sci-fi to me but the conversation with Lee has grounded my view of this futuristic movement in practical reality. And while I can see scenarios of brands experimenting in this space, it might be a bit too early to include any of this stuff into your Marketing plan just yet. Lee suggested biohacked brand ambassadors at events. Sounds like an interesting idea, but as I am not yet convinced to chip up myself, I might not recommend that in my next client meeting.

As I quickly head back through the rain, fiddling with my key card to get back into the office, I wish I could open that door with a quick hand gesture.

 

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Author: Achim Schauerte, Strategy Director BBH London

 

 

BBH goes Back to the Future

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October 21, 2015 is the date of BBH’s digital expo, SXW1 (yes, a terrible pun-slash-homage to SXSW, based on our postcode in London) and this year we’re going Back to the Future. Some of us are old enough to be obsessive fan girls and fan boys of the film and the date on the clock in Doc Brown’s DeLorean at the very end of the film was, well, just too good to resist.

So on Wednesday, this agency is going to be festooned with Back to the Future memorabilia, listening to a killer soundtrack courtesy of BBH’s own Black Sheep Music and most of us dressed up as the cast from the ’50s, ’80s or Robert Zemeckis’ vision of 2015. Across his trilogy, Zemeckis helpfully dropped into just about every century, so we have options.

As much as it’s fun to park a begged/borrowed/stolen DeLorean outside our doors and dress up, this also happens to be the third, annual instalment of our digital expo. SXW1 is designed to be a day when we down tools as a company and just learn through doing; immersing ourselves until we bleed in the cutting edge of technology and interactive creativity, together. Three years ago this felt like a bit of a risk (“um, you want to close the company for a whole day?”), now it feels normal and necessary.

Under the leadership of our newly minted CXO, Adam Powers, this year the theme is largely – and naturally enough – about looking to all our futures. The future of photography (drones), the future of online advertising (the ad-blocking debate) to the future of TV. We will then close the day with a look at the future of religion, with the amazing Louisa Heinrich talking about faith in Elon Musk replacing faith in the Almighty.

In previous years, our stage has been graced by the likes of Michael Acton Smith from Mind Candy and Ian Livingston, the Gamers’ Godfather. We’ve had Vine & YouTube workshops, Game of Thrones Oculus Rift courtesy of Framestore and pre-release gaming consoles. We’ve drawn gratefully on our many partners and friends – Google, Twitter, Vice, Buzzfeed and many more – to provide sessions that are hands on and get-stuck-in beyond the keynote speeches.

Most years there have been surprises. I imagine this year it will be no different. And if you fancy coming back to the future with us, we have a couple of tickets we’d like to give away. Just ping @bbhlondon or @bbhlabs on Twitter, or leave your name in the comments below.

For now, we leave the last words to Marty McFly: Time circuits on… Flux Capacitor… fluxing… Engine running… All right!

See you on the other side.

 

Official Partner of the Future

Author: Richard Atkins, Production Director BBH London

Last Monday I went to IFA – the  Consumer electronics show in Berlin (a bit like CES in America)

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Here are my top 5 things.
1. I went to my first World Premiere
It was for a Washing Machine. It didn’t have a red carpet.
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Sony’s version of the VR headset, due early next year. It was great to play on a really interactive game where you weren’t just an observer, but your real-world movement had in-game responses such as ducking out of the way of incoming projectiles or attacking characters yourself.
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3. The future of the office is ‘no desk phones’.
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We visited Wooga, a freemium mobile game company who’s got a number of large successes under their belt – such as Diamond Dash and Jelly Splash. The offices were calm, serene and when someone in our group’s mobile went off it felt like a real intrusion to their space. If they need to make calls or need an even quieter space, then they can go to one of a number of small booths.
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4. Admitting and celebrating projects that don’t always go to full production
Wooga have a ‘Hit Filter’ showing how project cancellation is the norm and how rare it is for a game to make it through to actual publication.
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Their ‘Wall of Fame’ celebrates all jobs created over the past 5 years, not just the ones that have gone live!
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5. Shops will soon calculate the best layouts of shops by wirelessly tagging customer journeys
Mi-Nodes is a new start up which can detect a user’s wifi ping (when your phone searches for a wifi source). Even if the user doesn’t connect to a wifi source, the company can use the data to understand where users go in a store, and what the onward (internal) journey is and in turn how best to lay the store out. So if a customer only ever goes into the immediate ‘shop window’ area to look at some high tech gadgets, but rarely moves further in, the shop might want to move things around so that premium items are further back in the store, forcing the user to pass other items which they might want to upsell in the path of the user’s journey through the store.
This, along with existing techniques such as using cameras gives a great amount of accuracy in order to plan store layouts.
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*Richard went to Berlin as a guest of JCDecaux who own a large portion of the Digital and Non-Digital outdoor sites that we put our ads on.

Back to the Future 2015

In the January edition of Marketing Magazine BBH London Managing Director and Labs Co-Founder Mel Exon highlighted ten tech trends that marketers could be usefully thinking about for 2015. The original article appeared here on 07.01.15.

2015 teen dress, according to Back to the Future 2.

2015 teen dress, according to Back to the Future 2.

Another year, another slew of new technology jargon undoubtedly on its way to a tablet near you. With that in mind, here’s a handy set of ten technological themes for 2015 that may prove useful to marketers this year. Some may just emerge into our consciousness, others become noteworthy, whilst others start to take root in the mainstream.

1. Virtual Reality gets real

”This technology has peeled back a layer to reveal another universe” ~ Lawnmower Man (1992). There is currently no technology that has more potential to break new ground in creativity and communication than VR. In 2015, Oculus Rift, the company that has made most strides in this space, is due to launch a consumer product. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a ride.

2. ‘Handmade’ digital design

We’ve been mechanising things for so long, it’s probably high time we humanised things instead for a while. Look out for what Babak Parviz (the inventor of Google Glass, now at Amazon), is calling ‘handmade’ digital design, aided and abetted by the ongoing blur between off- and online worlds.

3. Mobile marketing steps up a gear

So we all know display ads are worse than inadequate and branded apps aren’t the solution to every mobile marketing task. Last year we talked about how Facebook’s re-tooled Atlas was set to make marketing across devices and to ‘real’ people work much more effectively, this year we’ll see that become a reality.

4. The mobile web gets a shot in the arm

Also helping us on our way: revealed at their Chrome Developer Summit in December, Google are making significant investments in improving the performance of mobile web apps, effectively taking steps to bring mobile web functionality up to par with that of native Android apps. Big news.

5. The rise, fall and rise again of wearables

With the Apple Watch fully on the market, promising to put to bed the issues associated with the category (concerns around privacy, sustainable use cases and how stylish they really are), wearables have a chance to move from a sideshow to the mainstream.

6. 3D Printing finds its purpose (for now)

‘3D printing’ has always sounded so goddamn good. But until we can print genuinely usable, mixed material products more cost effectively than we can buy via a regular (mass production or artisan) supplier, we will have to live with the fact 3D printing is still for the few.

7. Networking The Internet of Things

So far the ‘Internet of things’ has been limited to products – the likes of Nest, Hive, August (the smart lock) – that operate as standalone systems. The truly connected home will only happen when different products can connect with one another. We’re starting to see it happen – for example Nest Protect (fire and CO2 alarm) can trigger a flashing red light alarm on Lifx, the connected lighting system.

8. Proximity marketing moves even closer

As iBeacons get installed in retail outlets, bars and entertainment venues up and down the country we can expect to see proximity marketing grow from being an experiment at conferences to a bona fide marketing behaviour.

9. Social feedback loops spin ever faster

More connected devices and sensors available 24/7 will demand faster adaptation and shorter lead times to provide users with data-driven, hourly relevant activity. Global marketing organisations finally make the most of resource in different time zones: the brand that never sleeps.

10. Micro-targeting at scale

Once the preserve of US political parties attempting to tailor unique messages to sub groups of voters, brands like Coke (with ‘America The Beautiful’) and Budweiser are using Facebook to reach a series of smaller audiences with different angles on the same idea. In the process building to scale.

Code and Creativity

This post is an adapted and extended version of one of our monthly tech columns written for Marketing Magazine. The original article appeared in Marketing on July 28th, 2014.

Illustration for Griffin Farley’s Beautiful Minds, by Kate Moross, Breed.

Recently I’ve been perplexed why a debate still rages in the marketing ether around whether code can truly be creative, so I’m going to try to put a simple point of view down here and see how it goes.

Clue: if you’re already convinced the answer is yes, you can stop reading now.

One of the reasons I work in a creative agency is our shared ambition to, well, create. That word is loaded with meaning: to give birth to, to produce, to make, to originate something new. How that gets done inevitably changes over time, as tools and methods rise and fall. But mankind has been drawing pictures, writing and making music for millennia, and, it’s fair to say, we’ve got pretty damn good at doing all of the above. What’s more, art, copy and audio are so highly valued we don’t question them: all are taught in schools, with music, art and books sold in galleries, shops and gigs the world over.

In purely creative terms, of course code is in its infancy by comparison. And with the notable exception of gaming, what we’ve been able to create for mass consumption with code has lent itself first to utility: for example, allowing us to invent new forms of message transmission, news sharing sites and, indeed, provided us with new ways to distribute all that delightful art, copy and sound.

Yet I’m certain that the best new expressions of creativity are born of art, copy, sound and code, together.

Why? Because at the root of all creativity is a burning desire to create something original, to offer something better than the thing that came before. With code added to the creative canvas, we can achieve this in ways we have never experienced before. In other words, the opportunities to be original and different have exploded, whether you’re in film, fashion or fmcg.

So you may be reading this and thinking, ‘ah yes, more opportunities for originality, sure, but will it be any good?’. Can code move people to feel something, to make them laugh or cry, or suddenly to see a situation differently? Or is code still just about new ways to distribute the photography, writing, music and film we know and love?

I was a member of the Cannes Lions Cyber jury this summer where, sure enough, some of the best work showed a strong grasp of how to use digital to drive performance (where the definition of performance goes beyond ‘effectiveness’ to the pro-active planning, deployment and optimisation of brand activity – all enabled by technology).

By way of illustration, Volvo Trucks’ “Live Test Series” understood that YouTube’s algorithm rewards ‘total watched time with a channel’ and this helped the brand build a relationship with its audience over time. ‘Epic Split’ was a phenomenal piece of film content, but it was also the sixth in a series. Millions had watched other live tests and clicked to watch more, creating a virtuous circle where the brand earned the right to show up in more related videos. As Matt Locke puts it so succinctly some years ago now: “design for circulation, not distribution”.

However, the very best interactive work won this year because of something else in addition to well-drilled performance.

The likes of 24hoursofhappy.com for Pharrell, ‘Sound of Honda/Ayrton Senna 1989’ ‘Scarecrow’ for Chipotle and BBH New York’s own ‘Greatness’ for Playstation are simply great ideas, crafted with immaculate and loving care. Other examples include the creation of a credible, artificial child (‘Sweetie’) by Terre des Hommes Netherlands as part of its campaign to track down webcam paedophiles, and ‘Killing Kennedy’ for The National Geographic Channel which interweaves the stories of both Kennedy and his killer as one seamless and immersive online piece.

All break new ground in technological terms, all are ideas where code plays an essential part. But, above all, they evoke a powerful emotional reaction which creates a relationship with the brand. That, I would wager, is the very definition of creativity.

Three more examples of this in action if you’re looking for inspiration:

1. Digital Revolution exhibition @ Barbican in London, 3 July – 14 September 2o14

Includes astonishing displays like Umbrellium’s interactive 3D laser light field, ‘The Treachery of Sanctity’ by Chris Milk, as well as DevArt which incorporates four brand new installations commissioned by Google and Barbican to explore creative uses of code. If you’re in London, go see it before it closes in September.

2. Art, Copy, Code

Closer to home and mentioned before on this blog, Google’s ‘series of experiments to reimagine advertising’ including Burberry Kisses and most recently Nike Phenomenal Shot. The initiative’s inspiration comes from the creative revolution of the 1960s when art directors and copy writers were paired up together, having previously sat on separate floors of the print agencies where they worked. As they put it: “Today, we’re in the midst of a second creative revolution, driven by technology. Code is being added to the core creative process.”

3. New Revolutionaries (Decoded & BBH London event)

In late June this year we co-hosted with the good folks at Decoded an evening event at BBH London that we hope to repeat in future. It was designed to bring together and celebrate the polymaths and collaborators who are transforming their industries through creative uses of technology and vice versa; featuring installations and talks from the likes of Brooke Roberts, Yuri Suzuki, Framestore, Onedotzero and more.

Jeremy Langmead (newly appointed Chief Content Officer at Christie’s, ex-Mr Porter) opened the evening in conversation with Wired UK Publisher, Rupert Turnbull. Jeremy spoke openly about category naivety allowing you to break new ground, noting that any new leader has to be able to invite people with radically different skillsets into a room and to have the flair to multiply technical and creative skills together.

Framestore’s Mike McGee then told the backstories to their work on Gravity and Audrey Hepburn for Galaxy chocolate (the fact actors can now be essentially re-created led him to muse how it may become the norm in future to ‘licence’ their image for films created long after they’re dead…), as well as their astonishing ‘Ascend the Wall‘ work for Oculus Rift for Game of Thrones.

Above all, both speakers were interesting and interested. Whether you’re a creative-tech polymath or a collaborator capable of pulling different skills together, in many ways, it struck me, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.

Jeremy Langmead (Christie’s) & Rupert Turnbull (Wired UK) in conversation at New Revolutionaries

Mike McGee talking through the creative technology involved in creating ‘Gravity’

 

 

Wearables And the Peak of Inflated Expectations

Another in our occasional repostings of our monthly tech column written for Marketing Magazine. This one on wearables and why Nike’s decision to ditch development of Fuelband is a course correction, not a category bail-out. The original article appeared here on 02.06.14.

The news in April that Nike may be discontinuing their wearable personal fitness tracker Nike+ Fuelband was met with a mixed wave of reaction spanning shock to schadenfreude. As more and more marketers consider offering utility and added-value services it seems worth giving a few minutes’ consideration here to its rise and purported fall.

Launched at South By South West in 2012 amongst much neon-lit fanfare, Fuelband felt like an inexorable, natural next step for Nike+. The nerdish joy of being an early adopter made the fact mine needed replacing three times in the subsequent year easier to bear.

Taking a step back for a moment, I’m reminded of a phrase that comfortingly comes up occasionally when you’re a new parent: ‘everything is just a phase…this too shall pass’. Indeed, take a look at Gartner’s 2013 edition of their Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies and, sure enough, wearable user interfaces are placed at that most infamous of positions, the Peak Of Inflated Expectations. This is where cracks start to appear before a technology descends into the Trough of Disillusionment.

So is this just a stage? Or a sign of something else? Certainly in Fuelband’s case, its competitor Fitbit simply has had more traction and success, capturing 67% of the market in 2013, though not without a recent furore over a product recall.

The specific issues with wearables currently seem to centre around maintaining user engagement. To illustrate this, research by Endeavour Partners found that one third of American consumers who owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months.

Strong technologies with decent long term prospects habitually haul themselves out of the trough and go on to be successful. It strikes me for wearables to resolve the engagement issue and do the same in the months and years to come, two things need to happen:

1. Device consolidation

Fuelband’s minimal data collection and feedback loop already seems quaint. Nor does any smartwatch on the market offer a fully integrated solution. Instead we should expect a single, beautifully designed wearable device, capable of doing everything a smartphone already does and more – including capturing and reporting full body data – without draining battery life or weighing a ton. An Apple-led eco-system inevitably gets cited as the answer here, which does seem most likely when you add up the stories of a sophisticated Healthbook app and an iWatch on the near horizon, together with patents granted for earbud and/or headphone sensors. Nike pulling back from a hardware battle it can’t win makes more sense when a partner like Apple looks set to move centre stage.

2. Currency systems like NikeFuel need to have real world relevance and meaning.

Most likely to be brought about by stronger connections to product, tangible goals and other services. Certainly in Nike’s case their commitment looks to be to the software, not the hardware, with the launch of Fuel Labs in San Francisco, which will, they claim, “continue to leverage partnerships to expand our ecosystem of digital products and services, using NikeFuel as the universal currency for measuring, motivating and improving.” Make no mistake, for Nike, stepping back from Fuelband represents a course correction, not a category bale-out.

And the tech and activity industries as a whole will continue to run with wearables regardless. Witness the fact Facebook are buying things again, with their purchase of the activity app, Moves. The app doesn’t require another external device to work: it runs in the background, sensing motion and making assumptions on your activity and calories burned. And Google is working on wearables too, with the announcement of Android Wear, an OS for wearable tech.

Fuelband and its detractors, we may come to realise, represent just the baby steps down a long road for wearables.

 

On Beacons and proximity

Another in our intermittent repostings of our monthly tech column written for Marketing Magazine. This one on why Beacons, specifically Apple’s iBeacon, might make all that proximity marketing jargon simple and actually usable. The original article appeared here on 31.03.14.

Signal beacon at Corton Hill, Somerset, UK.

Signal beacon at Corton Hill, Somerset, UK.

Talk of frictionless mobile payments and proximity-based targeting has felt a little like waiting for jetpacks. We’ve all seen the diagrams of the device in our pocket sensing information from the environment around us with magical accuracy and we know it’s technically possible, but there’s been little sign of it actually happening in our daily lives.

 The phrase ‘proximity based targeting’ may not make your pulse race. But forget for a moment the clunkiness of a QR code or the basic act of swiping a card over a sensor using NFC technology (NFC tends to be capable of simple transactions only) or location-based services like checking in on Foursquare (GPS-enabled, so not fantastically accurate, particularly indoors).

Instead, say hello to iBeacon. Unveiled by Apple last year as part of its iOS 7 launch, iBeacon is described as “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” And use that physical proximity to pass data. In Apple’s case the ‘phone (from iPhone 4 onwards) is also a beacon in its own right, capable of transmitting information not just receiving. Google is also coming up fast with beacon technology, baking it into Android 4.3.

Two things make this particularly interesting for marketers:

First, the fact that the beacons use Bluetooth LE (low energy), so succeed in delivering greater accuracy than GPS, whilst also draining less precious battery power. Suddenly we have the data transfer capabilities of Bluetooth, accurately pin-pointed to your exact location, now possible for a viable period.

Second, the data transfer is passive and immediate: it seems we’re finally at a point when devices can talk to one another without us needing to do the work.

Two commercial applications (and watchouts) to think about:

1. Enhanced experiences

For gigs, art galleries, stadiums and parks, strategically placed beacons allow users to pick up information about the history of a location or the background to a painting in a gallery, say, just by having their phone to hand. The exhibition owner in turn picks up useful information about where there are hot spots, blockages or dead zones. At SXSW in Texas this year, for example, the conference’s official mobile iOS app used iBeacon to send users information about the individual sessions they were in. Obviously the trick here as app developers is to judge the messaging content and velocity very carefully, ie do not spam people.

2. Next Generation Retail

iBeacon can work in a number of ways to change and improve a retail environment (beyond simply welcoming or issuing a coupon on arrival), for starters:

– Act as an “indoor GPS” system helping someone find the product they’re looking for

– Map where the best deals are for them, based on their previous shopping habits or perhaps the time of day/week

– Develop location-specific offers, like Macy’s are doing in the USA in partnership with Shopkick, where offers are dynamically tailored to customers based on where they are in the store.

– Beacons also make mobile payments faster and easier. Paypal are bringing out their own beacon, allowing users to make hands-free payments. The issue to overcome in the early days will be behavioural: we humans are used to physically exchanging something for goods.

And then there are the implications for out of home advertising, on-premise, not to mention peer-to-peer and our future digital identities. As marketers this is a way to rethink how we design user interactions. Fundamentally, this technology has the potential to change how we interact with the world, not just how we shop, and it’s closer than we think.

 

 

Digital Digest, Asia Pacific – February edition

We’ve enjoyed our friend Carol Ong’s digital digest out of BBH China for a good while now and it feels long overdue to share it. She has kindly agreed to cross-publish a monthly round-up of the best digital and technology stories coming out of China and Asia Pacific that she gathers at her blog. More on some broader implications to follow next month. For now, the February edition.

Author: Carol Ong, Associate Creative Director, BBH China (@cbongga)

Hi everyone,

I started a Digital Digest email group last year to curate some cool stuff I find in the digital space, particularly in China and Asia. A personal project originally intended for colleagues and clients, it got good feedback, and when other people asked to be in the mailing list…. I decided to post the newer Digital Digest to a more public space, on my personal blog (warning, lots of baby pictures!).

Mel also asked me to do a “Best of Digital Digest” on a monthly basis for BBH Labs. So here it is for this month. Happy Chinese New Year!

Just tap this link to go directly to the Digital Digests.

A peek into what the Chinease technology industry is like

Last year, upcoming Chinese mobile XiaoMi made the global tech geeks sit up and notice when Android star Hugo Barra joined them. He made a presentation in Paris on the amazing potential of China. Such as: disposable income triples in the last 8 years. 122+ billionaires and lots of them in the their 40s and 50s. Ecommerce, mcommerce, mobile social media and China’s version of Pay Pal are much bigger and better than their US counterparts.

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Have you tried hailing cabs in China and none would stop even if they’re all empty? Taxi booking apps exploded in 2013. People started “bidding” for cabs, by guaranteeing tips. The biggest ones, Kuaide and Didi, are backed by Alibaba and Tencent respectively.  In 2014, you can now use WeChat to book, bid, and pay Didi!

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With the rise of mobile came the rise of GIFs. But it’s so hard to search for the right GIFs, isn’t it? Not anymore. Enter frame Giphy (pronounced as Jiffy). It’s the search engine for GIFs. Try it, search “puppies”. You’re welcome.
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Very good tips for online films and TVCs.

Wechat evolves faster than a newborn baby! I believe this is the Chinese social platform with the most potential to become global (not Sina Weibo). Wechat’s reached 270million active users last November 2013, and 600 registered users. It’s the new marketing favorite and the uses seems endless. Here are some interesting ways brands used Wechat.

See all public Digital Digests:  http://trevorxfiles.com/category/digital-digest/

That’s all folks! See you next month!

Carol

CES 2014 Round Up: Sympathy for Sherlock

Author, Helen Lawrence, Social Engagement Director, BBH London

“Two high pressure jobs, probably the city. Foreman’s a medical secretary, trained abroad, judging by her shorthand. Seven are married and two are having an affair, with each other it would seem. Oh and they’ve just had tea and biscuits. Would you like to know who ate the wafer?”

Ah, Sherlock. Impossibly switched on and observant to the point of obsession, though ultimately a troubled man for it. These scenes of fast paced detectivery delight the audience, but leave Sherlock a frustrated man. Too much going on, not enough pace, no one is keeping up, he can’t switch off, nobody else can switch on, notice something, notice something, notice something…

The trends for CES were set in stone before the last crumb of mince pie was brushed off a knee – automotives, 3D printing, gaming, TVs, phones & tablets, wearables, smart homes. And of course, the nerd glue holding all those together – connected devices. I’m struggling to think of a single product shown at CES that didn’t connect to something else in some way. Razer, Garmin, Epson, Sony, LG and Spree all launched some form of self-tracking wearable at CES.

So, nothing unexpected there.

Belkin, Goji  and Sleep Number introduced tracking watches, mattresses, light bulbs and locks. Even a connected slow cooker.

Again, nothing unexpected there.

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Each product was, in itself, a good idea (curved TVs being somewhat of an exception), but look at it all collectively we’re in a bit of a nightmare. We’re back to Sherlock. Notice something, notice something, notice something… beep, beep, beep, beep.

None of it works together. A lack of interoperability across devices and platforms will suck our time, not give it back to us. Endless notifications leave us stuck in an inescapable chain of device control. The traffic is bad. Get the heating to come on later. Delay the slow cooker turning off. Record the show you’ll miss. Get the washing machine to come on later. Stop 3D printing the cake decorations.

Brilliant that we can control such things. Amazing. But we’re looking at maybe a dozen apps here, all independent and all probably built on the manufacturer’s own proprietary system. If nothing else, the dominance of ‘smart phone controlled devices’ at CES will inevitably mean we all run out of battery about five minutes after leaving the house. I’m serious about this one – Mophie are going to sell a whole load of extra battery packs if we’re all going to start controlling our slow cookers from a meeting room.

So, for 2014 and then ahead to CES 2015, I’m less interested in the devices themselves, but instead the platforms and systems that bring them together. Will we see an open platform and data standards for device control and tracking, allowing developers to add the cross device connectedness that the manufacturers can’t? Security is a big issue, of course, but until then expect 2014 to be the year your wrist doesn’t stop buzzing with notifications. Perhaps embrace it, buy a deerstalker hat and a great coat. Rival Sherlock with your real time knowledge of any situation. Notice everything. But don’t expect it to be a smooth ride, just yet.

Media Innovation: Lessons from the The Silk Road.

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One of the more innovative corners of the Web, is a dark and somewhat unscrupulous place. That does not mean that it cannot contain a wealth of innovative thinking, once you scratch the surface.

Since it’s launch in 2011, The SIlk Road has pushed the value of bitcoins (the digital currency underpinning its operation.) by over 200 fold, to today’s worth which is over $100 USD. Since the rise of the Internet, no other online marketplace can boast so high a demand, that it lifts a digital currency to become the world’s most valuable. Aside from its huge product demand, there are a number of innovations on The Silk Road that will likely be adopted by the rest of online retailers in the coming years.

US Senator Chuck Schumer summed up the site nicely as “the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen… by light-years.” He demanded that the website be shut down in 2011, but the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to find a way to do so.

To an outsider, how such a site still exists may not make sense: the buyer and seller are anonymous, they sell illegal drugs, and do so with an online currency. However, the mechanics to make this work so seamlessly are in fact, light years ahead of their time.

The transaction process on The Silk Road is one of the most innovative systems on the Internet today and the population’s trust in the economy allows for an extremely simple system.

Here is the user experience of a transaction:
A buyer decides to make a purchase, they notify the seller of the quantity and their bitcoins are transferred from their wallet to The Silk Road. Their bitcoins are then held with The Silk Road, which acts as an escrow agent for the transaction. The bitcoins are only released to the seller after the buyer has received the product and leaves a review on the seller’s page.

This very simple mechanic of mandating product reviews is an extremely smart step when dealing with a black market because the market becomes more intelligent with every single transaction. This mandate naturally lessens the risk of scammers and builds the trust in the market that it requires to operate. Quite simply, The sellers with the better products get the best reviews and buyers shop with more confidence.

Online retailers like Etsy, Airbnb and Craigslist could benefit from implementing The Silk Road’s review-dependent transaction system. A major barrier for small vendors is garnering enough trust, which usually takes years and several purchases to gain. Although notorious for it’s drug-trafficking, beneath the pavement of the Silk Road lie a number of amazing innovations. happening in this surreal environment that we can all learn from.