From November 3-5, 2015, Dublin played host to Web Summit, which has been dubbed by some as “the best technology conference on the planet”. The conference brings together agencies, start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and investors; with more than 22,000 attending from over 110 countries.
We look at the four takeaways from the Web Summit:
Virtual Reality: This year, virtual reality (VR) has surpassed the novelty of a headset in a controlled environment. Start-ups are already offering mobile ready VR formats to bring a more immersive experience to wherever the consumer may be. Specializing in VR content creation, Jaunt have partnered with Qantas Airlines to bring immersive virtual reality experiences to first class customers while they fly.
The technological capabilities of VR have expanded to create real life experiences that can be emotional and moving, and some are putting the new tech to philanthropic uses. Scott Harrison, of Charity:Water is in the midst of creating a VR experience of a week in the life of a young girl without clean water. The organization hopes the new tech will evoke an emotional reaction that triggers unprecedented action and donations.
New applications of data: Entrepreneurs, and the occasional corporation, are using data which is widely available to do remarkable things that have application across disciplines. Bell Labs has managed to determine which London walking routes are the most beautiful, or, in fact, smell the best. By mining Instagram and Twitter data for words related to pleasant smells, and plotting common locations, creating a “smell walk” is simply a matter of connecting the dots. The message of big data made a refreshing shift in discussion from personalized targeting to open information being used to improve quality of life at all levels.
As simply as they may have been presented, the applications of data cannot be managed by a casual interested party. The most compelling uses of big data were created using machine learning to do more than humans alone can manage. It was clear that if businesses mean to make a focused and profitable use of their data, data scientists with acute understandings of machine learning, present a new hire opportunity that companies cannot afford to miss out on.
Mobile and wearables: The panel of founders from Thalmic Labes, Glide, and Orion Labs dared to ask “Is the smartphone dead? While this may seem an absurd question when enterprise level companies are currently struggling to adapt content for the smartphone, start-ups have been pondering this idea for years. There was consensus that smartphone interactions are unnatural and rarely make up the moments that matter in life. The next evolution of mobile connectivity is an interface that coexists more intuitively within natural human communication.
The need for natural interaction with technology extended into current brand strategies for wearables. As companies have the ability to connect with consumers on a much more personal level, great care needs to be taken in each engagement. At his talk on Tuesday, Norm Johnston, Mindshare’s Chief Digital Officer, cautioned that wearable engagement needs to be an opt-in decision. Fortunately, Norm said, 60 per cent of people are willing to exchange their biometric data with companies in exchange for lower prices, so opportunities abound for brands.
Taking analog to digital: The final common theme throughout the Web Summit was the increasing digitalisation of traditionally analog environments. The Internet of Things is rapidly connecting the home, with companies such as Nest and Greenwave Systems allowing devices to speak to one another and be controlled from outside the home. TV is also benefiting from digital; on Day 3, Jamie West, Deputy MD of Sky Media, discussed how targeted ad tech is saving the TV ad market. Two years in and £100m invested, Sky Adsmart allows Sky to target ads to consumers based on data (proprietary & third party). So far they have seen a 68 per cent rise in new advertisers to Sky (many also new to TV advertising) by targeting with 532 attributes, leading to a more engaged audience.
Wearables and virtual reality really are the third wave of digital marketing, enabling brands to engage consumers with their content in new and innovative ways. These platforms need to be a part of content strategies now. However, the same principles that govern today apply: it must be valuable, not annoying noise; avoid jarring interruptions in the personal space; and set rules of engagement that still allow brand personality to shine through.
Data science and machine learning can drive exponential learnings for any business. To make the most of this area, however, a dedicated data scientists are required within the business.