Category Archives: Internet of Things

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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3 Steps to adopting AI

I’ve being asked for my view on AI a lot this year, more so than last. It would appear the industry has caught up with the ‘hype’ being a reality.

I’m not getting the slightly twitchy ’Is it going to steal my job?’ anymore though, now the questions are; Is this something I need to be bothered about?, Can I afford it?, Where do I start?

All good questions. If you’re a brand or business looking to get ahead, simply keep up, or maybe even catch up, you can’t afford not to be thinking about this and getting a beta into place. If you don’t your competition will, and then you will be sat watching them eat your share of market or voice, or both. Either way, I can’t imagine that’s something you’re keen to see happen.

Roughly a third of the brands I work across either have a version of an AI (artificial Intelligence) ready IA (Intelligent Assistant) or have jumped straight into an AI trial or beta. Every single one of them has seen positive results. Every single one of them is now developing a roadmap with us to put in place milestones to be better, faster and more informed on a real time basis.

The shape of these solutions vary from bettering service response levels to informing fashion design and everything in-between. But the steps to get there are the same, and here they are;

Work out what the problem is you want to solve

Ok, obvious right? But actually I highlight this because I recommend you don’t ‘do a chatbot’ because your competitor did.

Is there a challenge that advertising or marketing isn’t fixing for you right now? Do you have a human centered design idea that you can’t quite get to grips with? Do you have micro communities you don’t understand or can’t reach in meaningful ways?

All of these are problems AI can help you with, quickly and effectively. So consider where you might want to turbo charge a solution and put a brief together around that.  Be clear about your brief as well, if you’re vague about what you want to achieve it’s tricky to train an AI to think comprehensively, it in turn will be vague.

Review and understand ALL of your relevant data

AI is only ever as good as the data you feed it; the more data you have, the more connections can be compiled and the faster it will evaluate and learn. It’s not magic, it’s algorithm on speed. 

Define the goals you want to achieve in order to reach the objective in your brief, or work with an AI data partner to do this (most good agencies should have someone who can help you get started and then find the right partner for you, the answer isn’t always ‘Watson’ btw). You will likely have a mass of data you understand and a bank of data you’ve never really thought about, once you have it all in one place you need to work out where the gaps are and fill them in.

This up front bit seems tedious, that’s because it is. But don’t cut corners as you’ll only pay for it further down the line. The better the data set, the more robust your AI solution will be and the quicker you will see results.

Choose your AI partner

What you want your AI to do will depend on what supplier or partner you choose. There are many solutions already available at both scale up and enterprise level to choose from. They offer everything from; language skills, analytics, tech stacks that speed up services, listening, finding ‘moments of serendipity’ through to predictive analytics and forecasting.

A read of IBM Watson and AWS are good places to start if you want to dig more into what’s on offer, but also check out the likes of DigitalGenius and DeepMind for something smaller or a bit more creative.

Of course you may be looking to create something truly bespoke in which case you may have to hire a bunch of experts to create your algorithm from scratch, or seek a start up willing to work with you and co-create. There are an abundance of really cool start ups just about to break on to the scene so this is a truly valid and cost effective approach, don’t rule it out.

That’s it. From here, you should be in safe hands. You know what you want, you have the data in play to get it and a partner who knows what to do with the data to get what you want.

My parting piece of advice is to remember that AI / ML (Machine Learning) are solutions that learn and develop, think of it as a child going from kindergarten to PHD level but in weeks rather than years. There may be a few mistakes along the way but be patient and think big, because with direction and correction the results are nothing short of impressive.

And it’s not just customer service stuff either…

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Marchesa and Watson’s cognitive dress – read more here

P.S. Here’s a mini wiki;

IA; Generally speaking an Intelligent Assistant is a pre-structured agent used to deliver automated responses but does not include self correction or ‘learning’, therefore is not always classed as AI. It’s often the step before AI and used to validate the quality of data. That said some do include NLP (Natural Language Processing) and are connected to the IoT (Internet of Things) so the line is often blurred.

NLP; Natural language Processing is a computer science that uses AI and handles human speech between computers and humans.

AI; Artificial Intelligence is an intelligent or cognitive behavior exhibited by machines, sometimes also referred to as problem solving or learning.

ML; Machine Learning is a sub-field of AI that includes programming computers to deepen the learning process.

P.P.S. If you find AI interesting generally you might want to check out my other blog, co-written with @kayperbeats – it’s a bit more off the wall but it’s insightful none-the-less.

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the blending edge

It’s the second week of a new year and I’m halfway through writing three future retail strategies.

Though blurred lines won’t be a new premise for most of you who follow this blog, I thought a handy snapshot of where you can expect them to become increasingly blurred across the year might prove useful as it’s the recurring theme I’m hearing myself explain on a daily basis.

So here are my top blurred lines to expect for 2017;

The line between clicks and bricks

For anyone leading the way when it comes to the conversation between shopping online verses in-store, this will have been on your radar for several years by now, but thanks to Amazon bringing checkout free shopping to bricks and mortar in Seattle, this year comes with a whole new sense of anticipation and threat. Admittedly whilst limited at the moment, given the force behind the world’s 7th biggest brand it won’t be long before they’re popping up all over the globe. The internet will continue to spill out of our mobiles and laptops and into the objects around us, the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived.

The line between humans and intelligent assistants

Not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is autonomous, Intelligent Assistants (IA) are on the rise at a rapid rate. An IA is pre-programmed with data and doesn’t learn autonomously, this means brands are feeling more comfortable with releasing them into their customer service offerings and consumers are more comfortable with interacting with them. The speedy response negates the desire to have an informal chat with a human over the phone and accuracy is vastly improving.

The line between one and many

One of the greatest strengths of the internet is it’s ability to merge consumers needs with others that identify with the same. This pier to pier collaboration is defining what habits emerge and what technology enables those habits.

The line between social power and brand success

Building on this last point, brands are built on what consumers say about you, and thanks to the power of social, what is said is heard far and wide in seconds. You only have to look at the likes of Uber and AirBnB, case studies that are thrown around to show the true power of businesses built on ratings and feedback, to see the reality is that what you say is barely relevant, the true power is with the consumer. Content was King across Web 1.0 and 2.0, Context across Web 2.0 and 3.0. Depending on how sophisticated your brand is, you’re likely somewhere between 3.0 and 4.0 so the consumer is very much your King today.

The line between listening and predicting

Nike built their brand on the philosophy ‘Know me to serve me’ and it sits at the heart of everything they do. Because technology means consumers can have whatever they want at the touch of a button successful brands have a limited window to ‘listen and respond’. The successful retailer will know what a consumer wants before they even know they want it.

It’s clear that the notion of a clear dividing line is drawing to a close.

amazon-go

image found on http://www.theguardian.com – thank you

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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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Is it a bird? erm nope.

The next era of connectivity is on the horizon, or rather more accurately hovering above it, as tech giants launch their test projects to provide internet coverage for the harder to reach parts of the world.

Google have test piloted Project Loon a few times since June 2013 near places such as New Zealand’s South Island and Sri Lanka, a series of high- altitude balloons equipped with LTE (more commonly known as 4G LTE) that rides the wind currents in the stratosphere.

Facebook have also developed a fleet of solar-powered drones called Aquila now ready to hover at altitudes of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. These can be steered and controlled more directly, constantly circling a two mile radius to stay aloft.

Both the balloons and the drones can be air born for around three months.

Combined with lower priced smartphones coming to market we are seeing the next evolution of connectivity looking set to be pretty rapid.

There’s still a way to go to stabilise the launch and flight of both, plus the clean up exercise once they come back down but the effort to connect the whole world with the internet is accelerating.

Next we’ll be in orbit, talking to the moon, connecting galaxies… well, maybe.

 

clangers

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The Future is White

Well for the Internet of Things anyway…

Ever since attending a talk hypothesising the use of white space a year or so ago, I’ve been wondering who was going to nail it first, now it seems that a collaboration between Ofcom, Microsoft, Google and BT may see a platform launched that will allow mobile phones and tablets to use the space between frequencies without interfering.

For those wondering, white space is the stuff leftover between broadcasting frequencies, they’re generally left open as buffering gaps between transmissions. The complication around using it to date has been that the frequencies vary by region, in size and exist at varying parts of the spectrum, meaning there is no one white space frequency that can be used around the country.

However, Ofcom have created a database that informs devices on the ground which segments of spectrum are available for use in which vicinity, at what point in time, therefore allowing interconnectivity without interfering with the transmission of digital TV.

If this collaboration works, the use of white space will provide another resource of bandwidth that doesn’t rely on mobile networks, providing the potential to connect both mobile and fixed devices to the internet where Wi-Fi cannot reach, bringing the world of iEverything one step closer together…

…creating little bubbles of iMe and iYou.

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The future belongs to connectivity

I spend a lot of my working life developing strategies for brands that need to move from broadcast, through audience engagement, to immersive connectivity, thinking three years into the future as a minimum, then I leave work and step into a broadcast heavy advertising bombardment and it saddens me.

That’s not to take anything away from the clever ads out there, but just imagine a future where advertising is intelligently informed, rewarding at just the right moment rather than randomly broadcast in a vain attempt to get your attention. 

Imagine that subtle product placement is integrated into how you live your life; your fridge is able to provide branded recipes based on it’s contents, your car can recommend a restaurant based on the time of day and your preferred driving routes, that restaurant then has your cocktail waiting on arrival with your preferred gin of choice.

It might sound mildly creepy to some but to me this everyday surprise and delight is an ease of living I am waiting to embrace.

I want brands to enable me to accomplish more, more seamlessly. We’re a few steps away from living in a truly connected world so every exchange between me and any brand should be streamlined at the very least. 

All we’re missing is the common language that connects all our smart devices but this will arrive soon and brands that adopt this thinking now, will be the ones that write the first chapter. 

Brands need to understand that they should be replacing my behaviours, not reinventing them; my ask is simple really, get to know me, then make my life better. 

gin cocktail

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