Archive for the ‘technology’ Category
27th July 14
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.
9th April 14
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.
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.
17th February 14
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.
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.
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!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.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/
That’s all folks! See you next month!Carol
13th January 14
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.
Again, nothing unexpected there.
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.
26th September 13
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.
7th June 13
Author: Nick Fell, Strategy Director
Last week we launched the Storytime Hangout app for Google+. Built in collaboration with Penguin, it allows families to share the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff over a hangout, whether they’re at home or away from one and other. Not only that but everyone participating can become characters in the story with masks overlayed onto their faces.
It’s early days but the app seems to have caught people’s imaginations and we’re excited about the potential to adapt further stories to be read in this way.
The project was driven forward with unwavering determination by a team of people at BBH and Penguin. We’ve also had great support from the team at Google.
We wanted to share with you our experiences of developing the app and highlight three things we’ve learned along the way.
1. Proactive projects require a laser-focus
We developed Storytime Hangout without an official brief. A small group of us at BBH had been discussing the massive potential of Google+ Hangouts to bring people closer together in some new and interesting ways. We were all passionate enough about the opportunity to spend some of our own time exploring ideas that would augment the experience of a Hangout even further. Storytime Hangout was the best idea of a long list. Proactively developing, building and launching an app in the spare moments in our days has been even more challenging than we expected. We’ve learned the hard way that to succeed means getting behind one idea early and be ruthless with the feature set.
2. Insight before tech
With such a wealth of technology at one’s disposal, it’s never been easier to create and launch an idea. The trap is to build something just because you can. What makes one experience more successful than another still comes down to an understanding of people; their hopes, dreams and behaviour. In our own experiences and in talking to other parents, it was clear that story time was one of the most enjoyable and important moments a parent can share with their children. The problem was that distance and other distractions often got in the way. It’s early days, but we’re hoping that a focus on problem-solving and not tech experimentation alone will encourage people to keep coming back to the app on Google+.
3. Stick by your principles
Technology is transforming publishing. Books are being bought and read in new ways and publishers have to adapt to how they market and distribute their intellectual property. Children’s literature is a particularly dynamic industry. Parents now have access to a wealth of content, apps and games to keep the kids entertained, much of which is freely available on the web. In adapting a children’s story for consumption online we wanted to ensure that we promoted the magic of storytelling. This informed our entire approach to developing the app. Words are central to the experience and we have tried to use technology in a way that augments, not distracts from, the reading of the book.
26th March 13
Author: Alex Matthews, Head of Creative Technology, BBH London
As a tech boy I am always less interested in marketing per se than I am in marketing through services – solving problems and creating something useful – and this is what I was hoping to find on my first visit to SXSW. Initially though I found myself in a Comedy in Technology talk where the little fella above did five minutes of standup – he’s been created as part of the drive to make robots more human, using comedy as a barometer for their humanness – pretty impressive, but still some work to do.
The Beyond Mobile talk was a great example of what I hope is a trend towards a “less is more” mentality, suggesting we need to stop making everything ‘smart’ and instead have one or two smart devices and create many interfaces into them. Also suggesting that devices need to get ‘dumber’ is right up my street. The best solutions are not always the ones that add a million buttons and an Android OS to your microwave – instead just make your microwave remember the time after a power outage (after all, for 99% of the time we only use out microwaves as a clock).
In the same vein was a talk by Golden Krishna (who recently joined Samsung) about his premise that The best interface is no interface. In his paper he discusses the 13 steps that are demanded by car-door unlocking apps now coming to market. Is this really a more efficient system than a key? Or a better system than the non-app solution developed by Mercedes ten years ago?
The Robot in your pocket: AI powered applications talk from Gravity‘s Amit Kapur and Xobni‘s Jeff Bonforte also ran on a similar theme (and is well worth listening to here). Phones have 14 sensors typically – all of this data is available to us and to developers and yet we are still not using it to its full potential. For example, asking Siri to “call Chris” pulls up a list of the Chris’s in your address book. With your behavioural data at its disposal, surely Apple should know that most evenings at 6pm the Chris I call is Chris Smith as I try and organise a quick beer after work?
Although there were quite a few relatively pointless apps on the trade stands I must big up one app that I found – Speakerfy – it allows you to simultaneously and synchronously play a song from your phone or laptop to multiple devices that also have the app. Basically, it creates a multi-speaker system on your and your friend’s phones. It’s going to make bus journeys with school kids even more noisy I’m sure.
Finally, I have to mention the Google Glass presentation in which they live-demoed Glass and launched their Mirror API. The API seems quite open, simple and developer friendly using all the usual standard technologies, though they’re not sure yet how people are going to subscribe to apps for their Glass headset. Aside from the big question which is “will any normal person actually want to wear these?” and the fact that we’re all already entrenched in a behaviour pattern of checking updates on our phones, the demos they gave (New York Times, email, photo, sharing etc) were not all that amazing.
Personally, I think Google is in a limbo state with Glass at the moment – they’re getting people interested, providing APIs but there’s no way for the masses to try out Glass, which does leave that “will anyone really do this” question rather open. There’s a lot of talk and hype from futurology types about Glass, but I’m not convinced they’re going to change the world overnight – going back to my original points, you have to ask the question “what is the business or user problem that Glass is trying to solve?”.
16th January 13
This post was originally published as an article, ‘The Year Ahead For Technology‘, which appeared in Campaign magazine’s first edition of the year last week, 10.01.13.
We may have spent the past few years fretting and fetishising about the time we spend online vs offline, but here’s the good news: 2013 is going to be the year we relax a little. We’ll get over the novelty of social sharing online and just accept it, distracted instead by the utility and magic revealed when ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds start to merge. The physical world becomes properly programmable. The physical web comes into its own.
If there has been a meta creative goal of technology over the past decade or so, I’d wager it is to create online experiences that inch closer to feeling viscerally real; to strive for a ‘real world standard’, if you will. Cast your mind back to Second Life ten years ago, all the way through to the interactive 3D graphics made possible by Web GL today and the steady advances in virtual reality gaming, now being applied to healthcare. Within multiple industries fuelled by technology, there’s a fascination with mirror worlds and visceral experiences. And disappointment when they don’t quite measure up to the hype (goodbye then, Second Life).
But what if we flip things for a moment: think about putting the web into the physical world, rather than trying to mimic the physical world online?There are a collection of reasons why the physical web’s time has come. Forget QR codes. Witness the leap Augmented Reality made with the announcement of Google’s heads up glasses, which justifiably caused a stir in 2012. Then add the emergence of the Internet of Things and Quantified Self into mainstream tech culture, as two sides to the same digital coin:
1. Quantified Self looks at the physical web through a human lens.
An expression coined by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf five years ago, it’s about self-tracking your performance – often via wearable, digital tools that collect and report how well you’re doing – with applications for health & fitness, finance, productivity, education, mobility and more.
2. The Internet of Things looks at the physical web through the lens of objects.
Coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, it refers to connected sensors embedded in objects making them machine-readable and artificially intelligent – with giant consequences for everything from stock taking to security, architecture to art. A year ago Cisco calculated there were already more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on the planet.
And we’re seeing brands back up the promise of both, with self-tracking services like Fitbitand Nike’s Fuelband breaking into the mainstream, whilst IoT services are emerging, likeLockitron, which remotely locks or opens your front door (never worry about losing your keys again) and Growerbot, which uses sensors to monitor moisture, light and temperature in your garden and water when needed.
Solid broadband and smartphone penetration, super-fast mobile broadband, an expanding free WiFi network in the UK and the emergence of services like the ones above are together creating perfect conditions for the emergence of what might be called a ‘real world web’. Even Search is transforming, as Google puts it, to “things, not strings.” Their Knowledge Graph, introduced in May this year, aims “to understand real world entities and their relationships to one another” and already contains close to 600 million. “Search now understands that the Taj Mahal is a building, but also a music band, a casino and a bunch of restaurants.” Then there’s Apple’s Siri and now Google Now for Android; essentially predictive, personalised search on the move, although that barely does it justice.
The rise of the networked brand
What about brands in this context? All this powering up in technological terms and blurring between real & virtual worlds simply underlines why brands in any category need to grasp the value of operating in a network.
A few things worth considering now:
- If your physical product had a digital layer, what would it be?
- What physical, live or exclusive experience can you give to your network to share?
- Are you thinking about ‘views’ or subscribers? If you’re serious about content marketing to connected users, it’s the latter.
- As users flip between devices on the fly, they’ll expect a seamless experience: are you designing responsively?
What happens next?
Beyond this year, we will need common protocols enabled by an open web for this to work at scale. Businesses to watch in the meantime: Smartthings, Place Me (a “persistent ambient sensing” mobile app that collects all the sensory data imaginable) and Esri (formerly Geoloqi, a next gen location app). In short, our ‘phones will pick up so much real world, ambient data we won’t need to look further. To paraphrase Esri’s Amber Case: “Think what SMS did for telephones”…
Welcome to the Real World Web.