Hello again! It’s been almost a month since my last publication and since then I attended the second of four different conferences throughout this academic year. In my last blog, I spoke about Get Social (our first conference) and what a hugely successful and interesting event it had been. We heard from various different speakers from different firms around the world (although primarily from Ireland!) and how these firms were now revolutionising the way companies work and interact with their consumers through the use of social media. This time around however, we heard from six different speakers who all discussed and displayed the growth and size of technology in the world we live in today. It was truly fascinating.
We were once again introduced and welcomed to the event by Dr. Theo Lynn. His speech consisted of an overview of the conference as well as a brief talk that he gave himself. In hindsight, Dr. Theo’s speech gave us a taste as to what lay ahead for the following four hours. He spoke about technology in modern society and, in particular, mobile phones. He discussed the 4C’s of mobile, i.e. Cash, Credentials, Communication and Content. He also mentioned that 96% of 18-35 year olds own a smartphone and that 60% of those are iPhones. This shows that mobile ownership is becoming younger and younger every year and that some day we may see 5 year olds running around with iPhones in their hands! This reminded me of a video I once saw of a year two year old child using an iPad just as well as someone who was 20 years older than them! Food for thought!
Our first official speaker was Mark Hughes, the CEO of a company called Digifeye. The idea behind this company intrigued me. There are 3 trillion images on the Internet and Digifeye enables you to take any of these images with clothing in it and put that image into the Digifeye server. It will then show you where you can purchase that product and for how much. Also, for the more expensive pieces of clothing that one might see a celebrity wearing, Digifeye will display similar products at a more affordable price. It does this through the development of a technology that enables computers to recognise pieces of clothing when it sees an image. I found the idea of this company fascinating and decided to look into it more. It turns out that Digifeye works with 3200 brands, 900 retailers, covering over 3 million products in 5 countries worldwide! The whole idea of training computers to be more like humans also comes into play in one of Mark’s spin-off companies, Style-Eyes. This company allows people to use an existing picture that they have or take a new picture of a piece of clothing and find that product or products similar to it online.
The next speaker was simply fascinating. Another domestic speaker, Dr. Cathal Gurrin is a lecturer here in DCU in the School of Computing and he spoke to us about the topic of ’10 Years of Pervasive Computing.’ This speech in particular opened my eyes to how vast and advanced the world of technology really is in today’s society. For example, did you know that the iPhone 5 is 60,000 times as powerful as the computer that guided Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon? Dr. Gurrin discussed how pervasive technology has become and how we now always have technology on our person at all times. He claimed that this decade was the decade for the growth in ‘Wearable Devices’ like the Google Glass and Google Watch. He even had a Google Glass with him! This brought him to the discussion of a concept called lifelogging. Lifelogging enables the concept of a surrogate memory and lifeloggers are those people who wear small camera devices to document every second of their life. These commercial devices take 1000’s of photos, hours of audio, sensor readings and create a visual memory of 100’s of terabytes of data essentially documenting your life. Personally, I find the whole idea of lifelogging exceptionally invasive but also compellingly fascinating. The idea that you can document every single aspect of a person’s life and create a visual memory out of it with such ease is mind-blowing! Don’t you think?
Eoin Cruise, the Market Lead for Microsoft Mobile Devices in Ireland came onto the stage next to talk to us about Microsoft. Eoin is also a former worker in Nokia. The fact that Nokia went from being one of the biggest mobile brands in the 90’s and early Noughties to one of the most unpopular mobile brands in a matter of years did not go unnoticed by the general public and Eoin discussed this with us at length. It was very interesting to hear what Nokia themselves thought of their situation and how they planned to get around it. He told us that Nokia had a sort of ‘four year plan’ to revive their brand: 2011 – Renewal, 2012 – Revitalise, 2013 – Momentum, 2014 – Consolidate. These steps involved the introduction of Nokia’s own smartphone, Lumia. As popularity began to grow, Nokia decided to focus on being the supplier of the ‘affordable smartphone’. Concentrating on this market allowed Nokia to grow much more than they had ever hoped. However, I could not help but think throughout his presentation that it was more a sales pitch for the new combination of Microsoft and Nokia rather than a talk based solely on the idea of ‘Get Social’.
Our next speaker was of quite a high status. Paul Davey is the Mobile Leader in IBM. His speech was quite unique as he spoke about all the essential work that IBM do that – as he said himself – goes more or less unnoticed in today’s world. According to him IBM does all the behind-the-scenes work that nobody sees. To prove the unknown nature of IBM he asked everyone what the acronym IBM actually stands for. Nobody knew! It stands for International Business Machines and they make everything from ATM machines to microprocessor chips! Paul talked about how they are now cooperating with other multinational companies such as Apple and Twitter. They are currently using Twitter’s social data to further develop Watson. Watson is a cognitive technology that “acts as a natural extension to what humans can do at their best.” Paul showed us a video of Watson in use and it was impressive to say the least. The video showed the effort to make Watson capable of dealing with and treating cancer patients and showed one case where, in 17 seconds, Watson read 3500 texts and 400,000 other pieces of data and then provided the doctors with three potential methods of treating this particular patient! In 17 seconds!
Our final speaker was Alex Meisl, head of Wiforia and Sponge. Alex’s speech was a far more general talk but also execeptionally interesting at the same time. At first he spoke about the general growth in technology with particular reference to online shopping and business apps. According to research, 4 out of 10 shops will close in the next 5 years due to online shopping and this isdown to a simple lack of retailers understandingthe change in consumers’ behaviour in today’s society. He discussed the need for modern retailers to be able to adapt to the business world today. John Lewis, for example, has increased their IT spend by 600% in the last 5 years. As a result, their sales have doubled in the last 10 years to £16 billion! Take a look at this advertisement recently released by John Lewis for the Christmas season which has generated huge publicity for the company. John Lewis also performed a similar stunt last year and as a result have generated massive sales.
Alex told us that 80% of apps published in the App Store get under 1,000 downloads. This implies that there is a huge amount of money in various companies being wasted on R&D and IT due to a lack of effective use. What I found very interesting was that Alex also referred to the purchasing funnel of consumers – much like Alan Coleman did in his speech about Wolfgang in our last conference. This tells me that concepts such as the purchasing funnel are fundamentally, very important ideas for a successful firm. More examples of firms not being effective in their adaptation to technology is that, one third of Google’s top 100 clients do not have mobile-optimized sites. This is quite a large figure considering the fact that most people do the majority of their research on their mobiles nowadays.
Alex Meisl concluded his speech by showing us a couple of effective uses of apps that businesses have developed. My favourite was by a company called Meat Pack in Guatemala. The ad speaks for itself but to put it simply; Meat Pack’s app would vibrate when you entered a competitors shop and a discount timer would stop and the discounted reduced by a percent every second until you reached the closest Meat Pack shop. Genius marketing!
Before finally finishing Alex gave us 6 top tips to be used by businesses to ensure they stay up to date with consumers needs:
- Don’t forget about standard business principles.
- MCommerce is more important than MShopping.
- Get all customers to achieve self-identity.
- Mobile makes anything a digital gateway.
- Context – especially location – is key.
- Don’t forget about ‘old tech’ such as SMS.
To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed Get Mobile. I think that this conference was more engaging and compelling than our previous conference. It was incredible to learn about the different types of technology that are out there today, technology that I had never even heard of before! It was truly fascinating.