I interviewed companies from a variety of verticals – travel, retail, energy, clothing, financial services – and spoke to thought leaders in innovation theory to help I&O leaders solve a series of problems: How can we innovate using customer-facing interaction technologies such as mobile devices, robotics, digital signage, and virtual reality (VR)? How can we establish a device innovation lab (DIL) to help technology and business leaders at our company develop technology-infused, customer-obsessed strategies? And what are the success factors for DILs – from mission statement to staffing to key performance indicators?
In the context of my report, a device innovation lab is an a in-house space for designing, experimenting, piloting, and deploying device-based innovation projects. Done right, a DIL can differentiate your business's digital business efforts in impressive ways. Take, for example, Lowes' robotic retail associate, OSHBot.
AR and VR technologies aren't new. Virtual reality first experienced a boom of interest in the early 1990s, spurred by the 1991 book Virtual Reality by Howard Rheingold. In 1995, Angelina Jolie starred in the movie Hackers, which introduced mass audiences to head-mounted VR display technology. But the early promise of the technology fell apart due to underperforming graphics, attention-jarring lag times, outlandish hardware requirements, and the lack of an application ecosystem. No VR market emerged (outside of niche categories like military usage) until Facebook acquired the Kickstarter startup Oculus for $2 billion in March, 2014.
You've probably heard about the Quantified Self (QS), a movement that aims to capture, analyze, and act upon data from the human body in the interest of better health, fitter athletes, and sharper minds. Today, QS is giving way to QW -- Quantified Workforce. A variety of technologies -- devices, software, services -- can quantify the health, fitness, mental acuity, timeliness, and collaboration of workers. Many of these services are ready for prime time, but present some challenges in implementing. These challenges aren't primarily technological; they're related to privacy, workers' rights, and human resources policies. Done right, though, quantifying the workforce can drive both top- and bottom- line growth in your company's business.
I've analyzed this trend in a new report, Smart Body, Smarter Workforce. Here are just a couple of examples of how quantifying the workforce can drive better business outcomes:
Lower the company's insurance rates. In January, 2014, Forrester predicted that insurance companies would offer lower rates to individuals who donned wearables -- and we are now seeing that response. In April, 2015, John Hancock announced an opportunity for buyers of its term and life insurance policies to earn up to 15% discount on their insurance rates by wearing a Fitbit, sharing the data with the company, and meeting certain activity levels.
Apple will sell more than ten million Apple Watches and dominate the smartwatch category in 2015. Despite the hype, this will only represent 1% of the 2 billion smartphones’ installed base. Should B2C marketers even care? Yes, because the Apple Watch is a good way to learn how to deliver extremely contextual experiences to a niche of early adopters and influencers. Because Apple Watch will boost sales for the entire wearable market, it is also a good opportunity to anticipate and innovate on connected objects.
However, smartwatches are a double-edged sword for marketers. On one hand, they offer unique opportunities to develop brand proximity and hyper-contextualized alerts for consumers in their micromoments. On the other hand, they risk damaging the brand by oversaturating customers with irrelevant messages and raising privacy concerns.
Most branded apps I had the opportunity to test did not deliver value. I even ended up deleting some iPhone apps that did not offer relevant messages. I think marketers should not even consider Apple Watch if they haven’t implemented a mobile messaging and push notification strategy. To differentiate among other apps, you must mature your push notification approach to deliver truly personalized experiences in the context of your overall customer relationship management.
For marketers having a more advanced mobile strategy, now is a good time to start working with app developers or their agencies to plan for native Apple Watch Apps by taking advantage of all the sensors on the device, and to build their own “complications”, mashups of data that would be pertinent for a given user at a given time.
Trust is the most critical component to develop and maintain a healthy brand. Customers are more likely to trust experts, friends and relatives than marketing campaigns. That’s why it matters to deliver the experience you promise and to build a trusted community around your brand.
As marketers will need to use more personal data to power mobile and contextual experiences, we expect consumer distrust for brands to increase
No matter how quickly wearables and connected objects emerge in the next 10 years, mobility has already introduced a paradigm shift: the ability to collect and use data about individuals in the physical world. Mobility will change the nature of the data marketers can use and act upon. Data collected via mobile will be much more sensitive, more personal and more contextual. Via sensors on wearables or smartphones, marketers will access data on our bodies and our whereabouts in real-time. This represents a huge opportunity for marketers to power better marketing across all channels not just mobile. Mobile and connected objects will not only change the nature of the data marketers can access, it will also bring privacy concerns to the physical space and it risks breaking anonymization.
Together with my colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo, co-author of the report, we digged into our Technographics data to better understand consumers’ perceptions on mobile privacy. We also conducted many interviews to discuss with marketers, vendors, and regulators how they approach mobile data and privacy. Here below are a couple of facts we learnt:
I remember the first time I attended 3GSM in Cannes: It was primarily a B2B telecoms trade show and centered on DVB-H, WiMAX, and other technology-centric acronyms. Fast-forward 11 years, and Mobile World Congress (MWC) will be the center of the business world for a couple of days (March 2 to 5). Some things don’t change: We will continue to hear too much about technology. Simply ignore the hype, especially around 5G; it will have no impact at all on your marketing strategy for the next five years!
However, the list of keynote speakers is a good indication of what MWC has become: a priority event for leaders willing to transform their businesses. The CEOs of Facebook, Renault-Nissan, SAP, MasterCard, and BBVA will be speaking, and more than 4,500 CEOs will be among the 85,000 attendees (only 25% of which are from operators). It is fascinating to see how mobile has changed the world in the past 10 years — not just in the way that we live and communicate but also in terms of disrupting every business. I strongly believe that mobile will have a bigger impact than the PC or Web revolutions. Why?
First, mobile is the fastest and most ubiquitous technology ever to spread globally. People in Asia and Africa are skipping the PC Internet and going direct to mobile phones; they’re the ultimate convergent device and often the only way to reach people in rural areas. As Andreessen Horowitz's Benedict Evans put it, mobile is “eating the world”. It has already cannibalized several markets, such as cameras, video recorders, and GPS, and is now disrupting entire industries, changing the game for payments, health, and education, especially in emerging countries. Second, mobile is the bridge to the physical world. It is not just another “subdigital” channel. This alone has a huge impact on business models. Last, mobile is a catalyst for business transformation.
When I started in the tech industry in the late 80’s, I used to think that we lived in dog years: The pace in “high-tech” (a term that sounds so quaint now, doesn’t it?) was that we packed seven years’ worth of work, development, business, play, pressure—you name it—into a single year.
Fast forward to today, and the pace of digital change—and pressure—has accelerated to pack even more change into smaller units of time. Technologies like QR codes, Near Field Communications (NFC), photo-image capture, and now voice control are maturing. What was a mobile novelty two years ago now feels dated.
And consider that we are addicted to mobile. As consumers, we have enthusiastically embraced mobile devices, thanks to a regular stream of flashy new interfaces and capabilities. For many people, a mobile device is the last thing they touch before going to sleep and the first thing they grab for when they wake up. The behavioral changes that these feature-dense devices have encouraged is transforming how customers engage with their insurance companies and with the extended insurance ecosystem—all while pressuring digital insurance and business technology teams, processes, and budgets. Consider just two of the impacts that the ubiquity and proximity of mobile devices has resulted in:
It’s not often that a new product release has the potential to reshape the way people work and play. The PC, the browser, the smartphone – all of these products fell into that category.
Microsoft’s new HoloLens has the potential to do the same. (Check out some photos from Gizmodo here -- they don't live up to the actual experience even a little bit -- and this video, which doesn't do it justice, either).
Yes, that’s a big claim. But I’m here to challenge your thinking with this assertion: Over the next few years, HoloLens will set the bar for a new type of computing experience that suffuses our jobs, our shopping experiences, our methods for learning, and how we experience media, among other life vectors. And other vendors will have to respond to this innovation in holographic, mixed reality computing.
The CES Tech West Expo has a number of specific areas of coverage including fitness and health, wearables, connected home, family safety, and some young innovative companies located in the startup area of the section. I spent a few hours interviewing and discussing the Internet of Things (IoT) with as many vendors as I could find. I had many good laughs and shed a few tears during the process. To describe the process, the general communication would go something like this:
Me: "Can you point me at the most technical person you have at your booth? I'd like to talk about how you secure your devices and the sensitive / personal data that it accesses and collects."
Smartest tech person at the booth: "Oh! We are secure; we [insert security-specific line here]."
Me: "Never mind . . ." (dejected look on my face).
This weekend, I’ll be heading off to Las Vegas for the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Infrastructure & Operations leaders should – and do – keep tabs on the news coming out of CES. In this era of consumerization, bring-your-own (BYO) technology, and Shadow IT, CES announcements affect the I&O role more than ever before. I have three tips for how to think about CES 2015:
Look at consumer technologies through a workforce lens. So many smart, connected products quickly migrate to the workforce. Sometimes these technologies enter via BYO and segue into company-owned, as tablets have done over the past few years. In other cases, vendors that target consumers immediately see the value their products can bring to workforce scenarios. For example, I recently spoke with Jonathan Palley, CEO of Spire, a wearable device that tracks not just activity but also state of mind (tension versus calm, focus versus distraction, and related states). While the product was launched to the consumer market just about a week ago, Jonathan made clear that “workforce is a huge part of our strategy as well.” Imagine helping workers remain in a more productive, less stressed state of mind via wearables.