Recommendations—for products, content and experiences—have been getting more and more finely tuned as brands get access to new data streams and learn how to use data more predictively. The latest futuristic idea in predictive technology: speakers that play what they think the listener wants to hear at a given time.

Cone, introduced earlier this year, “learns what, when, and how you like to listen to music. Turn it on and it automatically plays what you’ll love.” The first product from the startup Aether, the stylish Wi-Fi-connected speaker plays music from the streaming service Rdio and from the user’s Apple devices. Pressing a button on Cone lets you verbally request a track or artist, but the idea is that it requires little user intervention, even self-adjusting volume based on learned preferences. “This is the direction our always-on technology is heading: It’s about learning habits as much as predicting taste,” observes a Wall Street Journal reviewer—while also noting that this debut version still has a lot of kinks.

Prizm, which is wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign this week, is a similar product from a French company, but it works with multiple music services. The speaker can also adapt based on who is in the room (as long as people have the companion app on their phones), finding music that it predicts everyone will like if several people are present. And Amazon’s new Echo device is a self-learning digital assistant in the form of a speaker for the home that can play music or take instruction from the user (e.g., add items to a to-do list).

 

Data Point 11.24.14

As we said in our 10 Mobile Trends for 2014 and Beyond report, mobile is increasingly the first screen or, more aptly, the prime screen, since the idea of ranking screens will become obsolete as we move into an era of ubiquitous screens (phone, tablet, PC, TV, smart watch, etc.). Now digital analytics firm Flurry reports that Americans are spending more time each day with mobile screens than TV screens: an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes on mobile (an increase of 9.3 percent over the past nine months) versus 2 hours and 48 minutes daily, per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Observes Flurry chief executive says Simon Khalaf: “It is a tall order to believe that the smart device (and app) industry, which didn’t exist six and half years ago, can take out an industry entrenched in every American household since the middle of the last century. But it has happened.” Content will morph to accommodate this audience shift and to better fit the mobile platform and mobile consumer. Ads will follow, but solving the small screen is the next big challenge for marketers.

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Bloomberg takes a look at several studies examining Gen Z’s relationship with technology.

-Time nominates the 25 best inventions of 2014.

-With a crop of flagships opening in fashion capitals, the FT examines the role brick-and-mortar shops play in the digital age.

-McKinsey considers the future of global payments, The Economist chronicles rapid growth in mobile peer-to-peer payments, and Bloomberg Businessweek explores the rise of Venmo and the decline of cash. And Forrester forecasts a mobile payments boom in the U.S., via The New York Times.

-The FT examines the future of the car, including a look at the rapid expansion of car-sharing, augmented-reality windscreens and the privacy concerns raised by connected cars.

-Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report forecasts that more than 90 percent of people over age 6 will have a mobile phone by 2020, via The Next Web.

-Thanks to cheap phones and mobile broadband, almost half the world’s population will have regular web access by 2018, according to eMarketer.

-The Wall Street Journal takes a look at how marketers are applying Big Data to television to better target viewers.

-Flurry finds that Americans now spend more time with the “second screen” (phones) than the first (television), via Businessweek.

-The Wall Street Journal contends that app usage is killing the web; Quartz disagrees and argues that the definition of what the web is has changed.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: The future of cars, money and sex” »

Volumental

Made-to-measure apparel for the masses is becoming available thanks to 3D scanners, which can create digital 3D models of people or objects by capturing their exact size and shape. Finland-based Left Shoe Company—which has a flagship in L.A. and currently a pop-up in New York—and American brand Alton Lane use in-store 3D scanning for high-end men’s shoes and clothing, respectively. But while Fast Company recently referred to 3D scanning as the “future of bespoke design,” it’s becoming more than a high-tech version of custom tailoring, opening up precise body and sole customization to more consumers.

Focused on shoes, Swedish startup Volumental relies on Intel’s upcoming RealSense 3D Camera, which enables 3D scanning from mobile devices. The company’s founder tells Venturebeat they aim to make “tailored products the norm rather than a luxury,” selling the system to shoe manufacturers. Three Over Seven, based in New Zealand, is planning to use 3D foot scans for customization of its running shoes, which are made from wool, using a mobile app for sizing. They’re hoping to offer custom shoes made within 24 hours at a digital shoe factory in London, reports Gizmag.

As technology advances and prices drop, McKinsey notes, 3D scanning could eventually move into the home, “giving consumers the ability to scan themselves, upload the 3-D model, and start ordering clothing ‘tailor-made’ just for them.”

Image credit: Volumental

Since we published our Transmedia Rising report two years ago, we’ve been watching the evolution of this and other creative storytelling concepts, along with the rise of immersive entertainment and myriad new ideas about what film and video can be. Chris Smith, who’s behind the future-filmmaking event EMERGE in the U.K., helped fill us in on the latest. Smith has worked across TV, digital advertising and film, focused on taking an innovative approach to storytelling. Two years ago he left the advertising industry to form a film and interactive production company, Modern. He’s currently producing the feature film Dog Boy and the multi-platform documentary New Town Utopia, and recently directed an animated documentary about Imogen Heap, Cumulus. Find him at citizensmith.net or twitter.com/cismith.

You’ve worked as a creative director at ad agencies—what is your focus now?

I’m working on a range of different projects at the moment, across moving image and interactive. Some are more straightforward film projects but always with a view to how I can use digital to either improve the way I’m making films or innovate in the way I reach an audience.

Tell me more about the EMERGE event.

The EMERGE at the Barbican in June was the third one and part of the East End Film Festival, and I’ll be doing it again at the Cork Film Festival in November. For me, it’s a really great opportunity to hear from people who are either filmmakers that are utilizing digital and social and emerging technologies in an innovative way, or digital people that are dipping their toe into things that link to moving image, such as interactive and cross-platform storytelling. Then there’s the audience side—looking at the film industry and how distribution is evolving, flipping on its head. EMERGE is my attempt to try and make sense of it all.

When it comes to interactive storytelling, what are you seeing now? Is it a lot of things involving mobile?

What I’m definitely seeing, not just in the brand space but in the independent space also, is that the platform is now less relevant. For a couple of years, mobile was the big thing, and then it was social. Now it seems that people are talking more in terms of storytelling and how an idea can be developed using whatever channels are relevant for its audience. That’s what’s interesting to me: when technology is necessary but secondary to story and emotional engagement —whether it’s Google Glass or whether it’s a mobile or whether it’s your desktop or not technology at all, like live performance or a print book. I like the fact that those lines are getting more blurred again.

Continue reading “Q&A, Chris Smith, digital creative and independent filmmaker” »

China e-commerce

Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that has driven the concept of Singles Day as an online shopping fest in China, recorded more than $9 billion in sales on Nov. 11. Shoppers at sites run by Alibaba spent almost three times as much as American online shoppers spent last year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, The New Yorker reports. This points to the staggering size of e-commerce in China, where Morgan Stanley estimates one in every five renminbi spent will go toward online purchases by 2018.

China surpassed the U.S. in e-commerce revenue last year. And as this chart from Ozy shows, Morgan Stanley forecasts that by 2018, China’s e-commerce sales will exceed total online sales in the rest of the world. Morgan Stanley expects e-commerce to account for 18 percent of China’s retail sales by 2018 and keep growing over the next decade, thanks in part to rising mobile penetration and improved infrastructure. Meanwhile, Alibaba is expanding to more markets, launching online shopping portal 11 Main in the U.S. in June (a mobile app debuted last week). Given its e-commerce might, watch for China to lead the way in retail innovation, from Alibaba to innovative brick-and-mortar retailers.

Image credit: Ozy

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-The FT takes a look at how brick-and-mortar retailers are innovating in the face of stiff competition from online competitors.

-Some multinational retailers are taking an online-only route when launching in China, reports Ad Age.

-With Alibaba’s online sales record for Singles Day in China, Bloomberg Businessweek looks at whether the holiday might gain traction in other markets, while Ad Age lists takeaways for brands.

-Bloomberg looks at how marketers are adapting to the growing demographic of single Americans.

-Style.com interviews Barneys CEO Mark Lee on the future of shopping, part 3 of a series with fashion insiders (parts one and two here).

-International fashion brands are still looking to Brazil, despite its shaky economy, via The Business of Fashion.

-“Is YouTube the new television?” asks the FT, exploring how the site is “rewriting the rules of broadcasting.”

-With Millennials eschewing TV sets, the group viewing experience is increasingly a solo one, as The New York Times reports.

-New research from the IAB finds a majority of mobile phone users in China stream entire TV shows to mobile devices, notes Adweek.

-A study by Moody’s finds that American Millennials are spending more than they’re saving and thus highly economically vulnerable, via The Wall Street Journal.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Singles Day bonanza, the future of Glass and bionic tech” »

The great and the good of tech and marketing gathered in Dublin last week for the Web Summit—read on for Part 2 of my roundup (and find Part 1 here).

Creating a company culture: Many of the tech CEOs who were interviewed talked about company culture and recruitment as both a major challenge and crucial to their companies’ future amid rapid growth—finding the right people and defining your culture are essential to being successful.

That’s interesting when you consider the talent war raging between these companies and the fact that many of these companies don’t know exactly what they are yet. What is Oculus Rift? Its potential, and the directions it could go, is endless. These are things founders have to define at the speed of light as their inventions, and their functionality, lead the way.

Google fleshes out “search”: Lorraine Twohill, Google’s marketing chief, discussed how she’s built the advertising around not only what Google does (search) but also what that means in human terms—using search to tell stories that resonate with people and interact with them. She’s focusing on highlighting the art, emotion, experience and creative potential of Google and digital platforms by working with artists, using Google’s mapping to create virtual reality games or tours around cities—stretching the creative boundaries to show how inspiring Google’s technology should be. Creating things audiences can participate in is key, Twohill said.

Dazed & Confused’s Jefferson Hack on new media models: Like Vice Media, Dazed & Confused has successfully reinvented itself from magazine into a multimedia channel, branded-content creator and consultancy group. Asked about competitor Vice Media, co-founder Jefferson Hack said Dazed has a bigger female and mainly European audience, and owns more of the cultural and fashion space. “We tell stories from the cutting edge of pop culture, we’re on the fringes,” he said. “We’re a cultural resistance movement.”

Hack also discussed the branded-content platform “Dazed White Label” and the process of creating content in collaboration with brands: “We have to tell them if things look bad. We can’t have ugly content on our platform or it erodes our brand. … That’s why we can’t have programmatic advertising. We can’t have just any advert appearing online.”

Continue reading “Part 2: Exploring what’s next in tech at Dublin’s Web Summit” »

 

Web-Summit 2

Now in its fourth year, the Web Summit in Dublin is being heralded as Europe’s answer to SXSW Interactive. A record 20,000 people attended the 2014 event last week (from 500 when it started), and the speaker lineup included everyone from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Nest founder Tony Fadell, former Apple CEO John Sculley and Google VP of engineering Anna Patterson to a smattering of celebrities (Bono, Eva Longoria, Lily Cole) for light relief.

So what happened when the great and the good of the tech world descended on Dublin? Despite Eva Longoria’s appearance, the event felt more tech- and tech-industry focused than SXSW, and was perhaps the lesser for it. SXSW has a more cerebral feel, with cross-disciplinary speakers from outside tech and an emphasis on big ideas. There was a polarization between the major names onstage and the exhibitors, which were mostly still in developing stages and seeking investment; more mid-level new companies could have rounded it out. And more women—it’s tricky with tech conferences, but this felt very male. I would also love to have seen more exploration around the convergence of transmedia, gaming, entertainment and tech, where so much interesting stuff is happening now. In terms of access to the superstars of Silicon Valley (and, rapidly, the world at large), however, the Web Summit was difficult to beat.

Big Data and privacy were naturally front and center, as well as the future of media, marketing and advertising in the digital age. Content—what makes good content, how to use good content, etc.—was a constant. Tech giants and multinational lifestyle brands touted their innovation programs (Unilever and Coca-Cola both held talks about theirs) and startup-support initiatives. Among the tech stars, there was a recurrent focus on company culture and the struggles they’ve had in identifying who they are, how to build a company DNA and attract the right people. Some of the highlights:

Stripe’s rapid ascent into the world of payments: When I mentioned Stripe to the head of innovation at a major payments company two years ago, it was dismissed as a blip. The company is now worth $1.75 billion. Stripe is quickly gaining ground on PayPal and others in the space, and is now managing Apple Pay. Stripe supports Alipay payments and is facilitating Twitter and Facebook payments. When asked how big his business could get, co-founder John Collison, 24, said, “It’s a question of how big online payments could get.” So, pretty big, if we’re going to be integrating mobile platforms into our taxi payments and store transactions.

Next, Collison said he wanted to help U.S. and international brands enter the Chinese market. Collison also talked about wanting to remove some friction in e-commerce and payments—a subject that comes up a lot in our recent report on payments and currency—by storing consumers’ financial IDs, as long as security is ensured. Find the talk here.

Continue reading “At Web Summit 2014, exploring what’s next in tech” »

Payments Figure 2A

As outlined in our recent trend report The Future of Payments & Currency, Millennials will push the transition to new methods of payments—they’re significantly more open to new transaction technologies and more apt to see the potential benefits. A July survey we conducted in the U.S. and U.K. found that among people who have not used a mobile wallet, 18- to 34-year-olds are the most enthusiastic when asked about potential benefits. These consumers are more interested than others in using a phone to pay if it makes transactions faster, makes splitting bills easier, can replace cash in low-denomination payments and helps keep track of purchases.

Still, around half of Millennials don’t yet express interesting in using mobile payments, regardless of the benefit. By addressing Millennial needs initially, brands can establish utility, trust and reliability with a generation that will eventually bring more reluctant consumers into the fold. Peer-to-peer payment app Venmo, for instance, is popular among Millennials in part because of its social element. The app is seeing rapid growth: In the third quarter, Venmo recorded a payment volume of $700 million, a jump of 50 percent from Q2, with parent company Braintree saying this makes it one of the most successful mobile payment apps in the world.

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Things to Watch

  • Snapcash
    November 19, 2014 | 4:54 pm


    Disruption in the payments sphere is opening the way for social media brands to act as intermediaries between consumers and their money, as we note in our report on payments and currency. Facebook is said to be planning a P2P payments feature for Messenger, South Korea’s KakaoTalk announced a PayPal-like service in September, and Line is creating a mobile service that will let users make on- and offline purchases. Now, Snapchat is partnering with Square to enable payments between users, as explained in this video’s energetic retro musical number.

    After users (U.S. only and 18-plus only) enter debit card info, they simply send a cash amount within a text. While Snapchat’s recent data breaches may give some users pause, the P2P payments space is a smart place to be as young consumers get accustomed to services like Venmo that make it easy and even fun to pay friends. —Marian Berelowitz

  • Payment in a heartbeat
    November 11, 2014 | 5:26 pm

    Nymi-paywith

    Our recent report on the future of payments and currency spotlights the rise of biometric payments—using a unique physical characteristic to authenticate transactions—which promise to greatly improve security and help remove friction. So far we’ve seen systems that rely on fingerprints (e.g., Apple Pay) and the palm’s unique vein payment (see Quixter). Now, the startup Bionym is exploring ways to harness its Nymi wristband, which uses the wearer’s unique cardiac rhythm as authentication, for payments.

    Bionym is linking with MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Canada for a test in which an NFC chip in the wristband enables contactless payments. The company, which is looking to license its technology into other wearables, recently raised $14 million in a Series A funding round and has racked up 10,000 preorders for the Nymi. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nymi

  • Vegetable co-stars
    November 4, 2014 | 6:31 pm

    veggies_4

    “Vegetable co-stars” is one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2014—the idea that veggies are gaining a higher profile on restaurant menus—and more star chefs are indeed embracing this trend. José Andrés and his ThinkFood restaurant group plan to open Beefsteak (as in tomatoes), a vegetable-focused fast casual eatery in Washington, D.C., next year. The Washington Post also points to chef Roy Choi’s new greenhouse-like Commissary in L.A., which says it serves “good food and drink based around plants as the foundation.”

    “Chefs around the country, and the globe, are pushing meat from the center of the plate—and sometimes off it altogether,” notes The Wall Street Journal, citing examples like Alain Ducasse revamping his menu at the posh Plaza Athénée in Paris. Catering to a growing group of diners looking to eat less meat, vegetable-heavy dishes also offer new opportunities for creativity. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Plaza Athénée

  • Xiaomi zooms ahead
    October 30, 2014 | 4:44 pm

    Xiaomi, which we included on our 100 Things to Watch in 2014 list, is now the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. The young company has seen triple-digit year-over-year growth in smartphone shipments, per IDC, surging ahead of both LG and Lenovo. Often described as the “Apple of China,” Xiaomi released its first phone just three years ago; its latest, Mi4, is an iPhone clone that runs on a modified version of Android.

    The company is expanding beyond China into India and Singapore, and planning to enter a slew of other growth markets, including Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. For more on whether Chinese brands can succeed on the world stage, see our report Remaking “Made in China.”Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Xiaomi

     

  • Money & messaging apps
    October 23, 2014 | 11:13 am

    LINE_icon02

    Given the primary function of mobile messaging apps and their technical capabilities, money transfer and payments are an alluring proposition, as outlined in our new report on payments and currency. Snapchat filed two trademarks in July that indicate a potential move into peer-to-peer payments. The recently announced Line Pay will let Line users make purchases through their Line accounts, send funds to each other, and split costs using a “Dutch Pay” feature. Line Pay will launch in Japan and, as Tech in Asia reports, serve as “an entrance to new industries” thanks to integration with the new Line Taxi service and Line Wow, for food delivery. In South Korea, KakaoTalk launched the PayPal-like Kakao Pay in September, and a remittance service, Bank Wallet Kakao, is in the works. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Line

  • The #TimsDark Experiment
    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

  • Bitcoin bank Circle
    October 7, 2014 | 4:40 pm

    Circle

    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: Circle

  • High-tech tasting
    October 2, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Nanosensor

    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aarhus Universitet

  • Marriage gets marginalized
    September 25, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: JD Hancock

     

  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm

    Breather

    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

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