At the end of 2012, Joshua Topolsky wrote an editorial for The Verge entitled “Reasons to be excited“. In the piece, Topolsky stated that while we’ve spent the past few years getting used to things like social networks, smartphones and tablets, 2013 will be the year where we will begin to understand the impact that these new technologies will have on our lives.
Make no mistake. If you are in digital, it is definitely the time to be excited. We’ve all heard the proverbial promises of what will be possible “one day”. Well “one day” is almost here and some of the things that you thought would only be possible in science fiction movies will be rolling out to consumers in the next three to five years. We are about to enter a smart new world.
Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are two men who are perfectly positioned to understand the importance of the shift currently taking place in the world of technology and business. The pair are currently writing a new book entitled The Age of Context which is set to be released later this year. The book, which recently received $100 000.00 in funding, will argue that we are moving from an age of conversation which has been characterised by the rise of social media to an age of context which will be shaped by five key trends:
- Smart sensors (your smartphone currently has around seven of these)
- Wearable devices (think Nike FuelBands and Google Glass)
- Big Data
- The exponential increase in the volume of social data
- The exponential increase in the volume of location data
The above five trends will lead to a proliferation of smart products and services that will be able to provide highly personalised experiences based on an individual’s data. This needs to happen because while the amount of information that we generate on a daily basis is growing exponentially, not all of it is useful to us.
Last year, IBM estimated that we create 2.5-quintillion (add seventeen zeros) new bytes of data each day. This includes all the tweets, status updates, blog posts, reviews, check-ins, photos and videos that are uploaded and shared on the internet each day. It should be noted that while the above stat might sound impressive, it’s also probably already outdated.
We have access to more data and more information than ever before. And while we’ve often been told that more data is always better, this is only true up to a point. The truth is, is that information is only valuable to us if it is relevant and relevancy is dependant on context. And no one knows this more than Google.
Google is probably the biggest company to embrace the concept of smart technology. On paper, Google knows more about you than any other company on the planet. But the only way it can create value for you (and advertisers) is to know who you are, who you know, where you are, what you’ve looked for in the past and what you are looking for now in order to provide you with information that is relevant. That’s why Google is currently working on a number of smart products including Google Now, Google Glass and a self-driving car.
Despite only running on 13% of Android devices, Google Now was named as Popular Science’s Invention of the Year for 2012. The product has been designed to predictively give you the right information at the right time and when it succeeds, it’s magical. The way it is able to do this is by making smart connections based on the information Google already knows about you.
For example, it can work out where you live based on where you wake up each morning. It can work out where you work based on where you commute to. And it will automatically recommend an alternative route to work by factoring in current traffic conditions from Google Maps. And according to an interview with CNN, Google CEO Larry Page envisions being able to even summon one of Google’s self-driving cars to come collect you when your phone notices that you are ready to leave work for the day.
In addition to this, Google is also working on Glass — a set of glasses with a heads up display that can connect to your smartphone that allows you to record video, take pictures, get directions, send messages, video chat, voice search and plenty more. Glass will probably be the first of a number of new devices that will create new opportunities where contextual information will be extremely valuable. Google is aiming to bring Glass to market in 2014 and have recently released a video where you can get a taste of how it will function in the real world.
But Google isn’t the only big company to embrace smart technology. The New York Times recently published an article about Disney introducing RFID bracelets as part of their MyMagic+ system to help build brand loyalty and increase sales at their theme parks.
Through these smart bracelets, Disney will be able to eliminate turnstiles from the entrances to Disney World and allow visitors to spend less time in lines for rides. Disney has also developed an app that can be used to load credit onto a particular smart bracelet which can then be used to pay for goods within the theme park. If you opt in, you can also share your personal information with Disney cast members who will be able to greet you by name or even wish you happy birthday.
With 30-million people visiting Disney World each year, the MyMagic+ system will help Disney build detailed profiles for each of their customers. Where did they enter the park? How far did they walk? Which rides did they ride? What did they buy? Which characters did they interact with? How often do they come back? What offer could get them to come back again? All of this data can be used to dramatically enhance their current CRM strategy.
This is just a taste of what’s to come. A decade ago, no one could have predicted the impact that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks would have on our daily lives. And looking ahead, there is no way we can predict the impact that smart technology will have on the next ten years. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have plenty of reasons to be excited.