Internet of Things

smart-pill-technology-marketThe Consumer Electronics Show this month has led to lots of press on the internet of things, where every gadget and device is connected to the internet, and sending and receiving data.

Samsung’s Chief Executive pledged that every single piece of Samsung hardware will be connected to the internet within five years, including TVs and domestic appliances. This is very much science fact, not science fiction, and while many will yell is there no privacy left in this world, I would like to suggest my top 3, the first of which I presented for the first time back in 2008:

1. The kitchen – imagine if you are on a controlled diet and you decide to break the rules and cook a ready-meal in the microwave followed by sticky-toffee pudding. Your fridge sensors notice what has been removed from the freezer compartment and the microwave tells your fridge you are about to cook that high-fat, sugar-and-salt meal. The microwave declines your request. You are the system administrator of your kitchen, so you override the microwave and instruct it to cook the food. Your microwave obeys, but it then notifies the fridge, which as the central processing unit of the kitchen sends a note to your doctor and your insurance company, and now you are no longer insured.

2. Fruit & Vegetables – coming from a background of food, I always wondered why my father had to keep a box of fruit that was always bruised or damaged to one side. With RFID chips on the cartons plus tighter planning with transportation schedules, more fruit makes it to its destination intact and bad apples cannot influence the rest of the crate.

3. The health pill – my favourite of the three, which is a tiny pill that you take weekly that monitors your wellbeing and sends a weekly status check to your doctor over wifi via a traffic light system. If it displays green you continue as normal; amber and you are sent a text message asking you to make an appointment; if the doctor receives a red signal, you are called within the hour. Preventative action can save the health services millions and technology must be used to help facilitate change.

I am all for the internet of things because the possibilities are endless, I just think they could have found a more interesting name for it.

These kids operate differently! How many times have we heard that?

We know that mobiles and smart devices are transforming how we shop and communicate today, and how we will learn in the future. Generation Y has mastered the art of mobility and will not want to be tied to one office, nor one company, as they seek varied and interesting employment in future.

What remains is that our role as educators is to transform these learners to earners – to give them the skills to embark on career pathways to suit their needs, to give them a platform to upskill or change direction as they see fit – but importantly to furnish them with the skills for the world of work.

It is important we understand how they operate, for they are both our workforce and our customer of tomorrow. How do we offer this to them? How do we engage them to shape how learning meets their needs in future? With things evolving faster than ever before, how can we stop for long enough to make impact?

Every keystroke tells a tale

crunch2

I found the best definition of Big Data and I think it is worth sharing. It stated that big data is simply about joining the dots of all your data sources.

Amazon is a master of data – it believes it can send us our next purchase before we decide what it is, via what it is calling anticipatory shipping, based on a user’s shopping habits, age, income, even how long the cursor hovers over an item. I guess this is no different to thermostats from Nest Labs that learn from their owner’s behaviour over time.

This is my favourite tale because only data could have revealed the opportunity. Walmart, owner of ASDA in the UK, realised that prior to hurricane warnings, sales of torches increased, but so did sales of Pop-Tarts, the breakfast snack.

So as storms approached, as well as putting torches at the front of the stores, the managers also put boxes of Pop-Tarts at the entrances, and sales rocketed. No store manager would have ever worked that out unless they looked at the data and correlations of events and products. It is not what comes from individual data points that is critical here, but what they reveal in the aggregate.

Zynga, who own FarmVille and other social games, describe themselves as “an analytics company masquerading as a gaming company – everything is run by the numbers.”

I believe that big data could well be the next corporate asset and it is quite possible that it will be recorded on balance sheets in future. We shall see.

Pictures and Words

fresh guacamole

A picture speaks a thousand words. Today, people multitask and run 5 windows on their machines and tablets concurrently and we have even less time to grab their attention with our message.

I think text is yesterday’s business and to engage we need pictures and headlines. If I created slides that were made up only of bullet points, what would the audience think? Would anybody concentrate for longer than a minute or two, before switching to reading messages on their phones, surf the web or look at what was happening on social platforms and completely ignore my presentation, no matter how compelling?

People respond to images, they like short videos and their brains are like filters. They block out the majority of information, so why do we send our customers and prospects long emails, pages of text and documents, and expect them to respond?

Take note how the market for short films is booming. At this year’s Oscars, “Fresh Guacamole”, at 1-minute-41-seconds, was the shortest movie ever to receive a nomination. It has no real characters, no dialogue, no traditional storyline, but got 8 million viewers on YouTube. There is a message in there for all of us.

Is Marketing dead or different?

Social media has seriously impacted traditional marketing, but is marketing dead, as claims Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and one of the smartest thinkers around? He said recently:

“The role of marketing has changed. There is nothing new anymore. If marketers are just hearing about something going on then it is already old in today’s world. Speed and velocity is everything today. Marketing’s job is to create movement and inspire people to join you. Everyone wants a conversation. They want inspiration. Inspire people with your website. Don’t just interrupt, but interact. Asking about Return on Investment is the wrong question today. You should be asking about Return on Involvement.”

Thought-provoking indeed. Globally recognised universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are putting entire courses online for free. Why? Because you can’t earn a degree on YouTube, and if that’s where today’s students are hanging out, it becomes free marketing. The best students have a choice where they study and platforms like YouTube are how to reach them.

Amy Cosper, Editor of the excellent US-based magazine Entrepreneur, talks about customers as active participants in companies, brands and collaboration.

Last word to Kevin Roberts: “The big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas. Creative leaders should go for getting lots and lots of small ideas out there. Stop beating yourself up searching for the one big idea. Get lots of ideas out there and then let the people you interact with feed those ideas and they will make it big.”

The social tools and technologies allow us to have a conversation with customers old and new, invite opinions and evolve our business. That is how marketing has changed.

Computers are disappearing

We read stories of collaboration, social learning and communications evolving but how about the products that we use to facilitate these activities? They are fading into the background and before long, I can see (or not, as the case may be) a time when the device becomes invisible.

We saw the introduction of the infrared keyboard a year or so ago and I read forward-looking articles where the tables we dine in at restaurants will be embedded with the technology that allows you to order our bill, pay by credit card, send a take-away sample food box to a friend, all on the same interactive surface.

What else? I see phones disappearing into our clothing, communication devices that are integrated into the fabric of our coats and jackets, information beamed into our glasses and contact lenses, screens laid into walls and wallpaper which only come to the fore when they are needed.

The key is mobility, and reducing the weight of our bags and satchels as we race across our cities to the next meeting. Why carry laptop computers when we can access pop-up screens in cafes, beam the keyboard onto the coffee table and a holographic screen in front of us.

Before long, we will be online using the interior of our car windscreens (only when the engine is switched off) or via shopping mall display points, where combined with near-field communications (NFC) we will have the ability to search for a specific item of clothing, book a restaurant for lunch, a taxi to get home after a movie, and much more. The technology will be embedded into our every day existence, and there will be no need for separate devices.

The real beauty for me is how this facilitates learning – where we don’t have to go off for days at a time to understand an entire subject area if we only truly need a short 20-minute piece to help us with the task at hand. The technology will help up digest smaller, bite-sized chunks of learning, specific to a role or customer requirement – one tiny piece at a time, wherever we happen to be.

Collaborative Consumption

I have mentioned some of these sites before, such as NeighborGoods, ShareSomeSugar and Swap, in previous posts, but this is a trend that must be taken seriously. Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers have shared an extremely insightful view of how we are moving towards a world of sharing and renting, as opposed to owning (‘What’s Mine is Yours’ – well worth reading). It is changing a mind-set started in the 1950s of hyper-consumerism, where all our ills were swept under the carpet with just another purchase. So the old community activities and sharing were quietly eased out of the picture as we focused on number one (me, me, me). Technology is facilitating change and allowing cool sites such as ZipCar, Freecycle, thredUP, Ecomodo, Landshare and CouchSurfing to bring together people with a specific need (ie. somewhere to stay during a trip overseas) with those that have something to share (ie. a spare couch for travellers). What is most pleasing is that hard working people who gave up their leisure time and hobbies so that they could afford bigger houses and cars are now utilising the benefits of technology to claw back some of that valuable time. Back in the depression of the 1930s, President Roosevelt in the US shut down the country’s banks for a week, and many stores and practitioners were paid not in cash, but in home-grown groceries, batteries, oil and tobacco. Whilst we may not be heading back to the 30s, technology is helping to drive new thinking, where we don’t need to own a physical CD to listen to music, don’t want the DVD but want the movie; in other words, we want not the physical goods but the experience. Here is another, very relevant, quote from Bill McKibben, from his book Deep Economy: “For most of human history, the two birds ‘More’ and ‘Better’ roosted on the same branch. You could toss one stone and hope to hit them both. Now you’ve got the stone of your own life, or your own society, gripped in your hand, you have to choose between. It’s More or Better.” I like that.

The Intelligence of Things

The annual gadget extravaganza is under way in Las Vegas and thousands are there to digest the announcements. I read, and like, the term “intelligence of things” from the event, and manufacturers are upgrading their products with technologies such as GPS, internet and bluetooth to inject connectivity and new life into them.  “Everything connected” appears to be the trend and connectivity will spread beyond computer-related devices to everyday products such as meat thermometers and toasters. Hardware will be worthless without the app.

2010 closing thoughts

Here are my three closing thoughts for 2010:

1. As we transition to the cloud, I am seeing an increase in the US of sites that cater to borrowing, such as NeighborGoods, ShareSomeSugar and SnapGoods. Will we move away from ownership and borrow everything? Quite possibly – and if we no longer collect books, music and movies, it will also free up shelf space too.

2. Social media was headline news all year. Will this evolve into Social TV, with billions of TVs connected to the internet and allow you to run live commentaries with your acquaintances? Will we ever be left alone again? We need to get used to a life where others are looking in.

3. Finally, and most importantly, research at Princeton University discovered that £47,000 is the level of income beyond which there is no improvement in emotional well-being. How interesting. Could this figure be the perfect balance between challenge, satisfaction and a stress-free day?

Whatever does or doesn’t materialise, we must get accustomed to change. It is taking place whether we like it or not. Personally, I enjoy it.

Email and the family fabric

I am sitting in my office at home beavering away, and my wife is downstairs emailing me. Is the art of conversation disappearing? Dining room furniture sales are on the decline and technology has been blamed from some quarters, because we no longer eat together as families – everyone hunched over their laptops or mobile devices. Still, I can’t live without it, and I was amazed to see the first ever Apple fetch £130,000 at auction. I do love everything about Apple, plus bedtime reading has for now been replaced by good progess on Angry Birds! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11825954