Friday, September 10, 2010

There’s a cloud on the horizon, and it has a silver lining

There’s a cloud on the horizon, and it has a silver lining

Written by John Sintras for

I was lucky enough to visit Microsoft HQ in Seattle last month, where I had the rare opportunity to look under the bonnet of this transformational organisation. To say I was impressed by what I saw would be an understatement. I’ve been to the future and back - and it is incredible and reassuringly human.

Most people don’t immediately think of Microsoft as a human-centric organisation, and yet all the technology and development I saw is being developed against a very real understanding of human needs. There is a focus on enhancing the way we live, with access to faster and cheaper devices that will enable a better lifestyle and more personalised essential information and entertainment. And there is an interconnectedness of data and devices that is both breathtakingly exciting and sinister in its Big Brother-like scope.

This all comes together in the Microsoft ‘Home of the Future’, built to demonstrate likely technological advances that will be available to the average person in developed economies over next five to 10 years.

Interestingly, it doesn’t look like a set from The Jetsons. It seems like any modern home at first glance, but it comes alive with simple interaction from the residents.

At the heart of all is cloud computing and services, which have been around for years, but are rarely talked about in marketing circles. Simply put cloud computing refers to the “services and applications hosted on and accessed through the internet. The cloud can connect people to the experiences they want, need and love – anytime, anywhere and on any device”. Some examples of current cloud services from Microsoft include Hotmail, Bing, and XBOX Live.

The cloud is the next big phase of digital transformation, and ultimately all platforms, data and applications can live there, serviced by giant global data centres that negate the need to store information and applications on hard drives and servers in the home and office. Behavior and preferences will also live in the cloud, assuming you access each application with a consistent user ID across all platforms and devices. So it will be able to constantly learn about you and offer up tailored content and experiences wherever you are.

Imagine the following possibilities;
- Access to any of your data and content on any device, anywhere, anytime
- Gesture and voice-based activation for everything
- Microchips in everything you purchase, scanned in real time so that your pantry or office can be replenished automatically and your preferences remembered
- Health data, collected by watches or worn devices, downloaded to your health profile in real time and virtually connected to your medical professional network – medications can then be ordered virtually based on your daily results
- Your environments and entertainment preferences automatically adjusted when you enter rooms and places
- Ongoing optimization of your preferences which can be accessed by authorised people, partners, suppliers, etc;
- Cheap digital screens and projectors everywhere, embedded in everyday items such as light bulbs and paper that can be projected onto any surface
- Virtual reality applications for everything from shopping to arm chair travel

It all sounds a bit incredible and you might think it’s unlikely to happen in your lifetime. But when you see it demonstrated in the Microsoft Home of the Future, it seems natural and inevitable. In fact much of the technology has already been invented. Gesture activation, for example, will start to become commonplace with the launch of XBox Connect in November, and we are already seeing virtual reality and 3D applications.

The implications for marketing and advertising are huge. It’s the ultimate in CRM and loyalty programs - optimization in real time based on your behavioural patterns and preferences. This will offer the opportunity to communicate to specific individuals in market for specific things in real time, anywhere they are, supported by digital tags on every purchase that can create an inventory of purchases in the home or office. Scary? Definitely. Exciting? Absolutely! It will create new markets and new winners and losers. And it will happen faster than you think.

If you think the pace of change is going to slow down, think again. Get ready to embrace the cloud services marketing opportunity, it will be the next massive digital transformation that will affect the way we way we live, communicate, market, distribute and advertise products and services.

1 comment:

James said...

Hi John,
Excellent article.

Very interesting and relevant to consumer, shopper and B2B markets.

Would be great to see the retail sector - retailers, & brands (suppliers) learn about and apply this - e.g. CRM, loyalty and marketing.

Would you and/or one of your team be prepared to do an article for Retail World?


James O'Sullivan
CEO Retail Media