Are Beacons going to be big? And will people actually start to wear smart watches? As part of our Expert Outlook 2015 series we speak to C.K Sample, Mark Sorrell and Taylor Davidson about the future of smartphones, gaming and in-store tech.
C.K Sample is the Executive Vice President of Technology at Chaotic Moon - a forward thinking agency focused on creative technology, innovation and mobile app design/development.
We’re still waiting for several of the ‘top technologies’ of 2014 to come fully into play. Wearable computing, for example, hasn’t taken off properly, with things like Google Glass and Android watches falling short of a ‘magical wearable future’. But with Apple's first ever wearable, the Apple Watch, coming in 2015, there’s a chance that it can do what the iPod did for MP3 players and what the iPhone did for mobile phones: legitimize the space as a ‘hot new thing’.
Digital payments will continue to grow in 2015. Apple Pay and other NFC-based payment contenders may well lead to a real decline in the use of credit cards, in the same way we saw a decline in cheques once ATMs became widely available.
We are still waiting for several of the ‘top technologies’ of 2014 to come fully into play. Wearable computing for example still hasn’t fully taken off, with things like Google Glass and Android watches falling short of a ‘magical wearable future'
2015 could also be the year that wearables and Beacon technology combine. There’s so much trackable metadata that can be used to fine-tune retail experiences, but we need mobile or wearable technology that smartly utilises the precise location data offered by iBeacons. Successful retailers will be those that further streamline retail experiences, enabling customers to flow freely within retail space - whether that’s using beacon technology to tell customers where products are, or employing sophisticated NFC payment schemes to make checking out as easy as possible.
In 2015, people will become even more dependent on their smart phones and technology, as long as that technology continues to eliminate problems for them. The ease of on-demand technologies will be the expected norm. Imagine a smart shopping experience that would automatically scan items as you place them into your basket, then tallying them up using an app on your phone, and paying via Apple Pay before walking out the shop. It’s this type of experiential shift that’ll change people’s behaviour towards technology.
We’re still waiting for the ‘top technologies’ of 2014 to come fully into play.
Lubomir Panak, Creative commons (2013) ©
With regards to what’s exciting me for 2015, Apple has been reigning supreme for a while now, but recently, Microsoft is doing a lot of things right. I’m bullish about these changes. The Surface Pro 3 appears to be a full-blown computer built into a form factor that gives both the MacBook Air and the iPad a run for their money. It’s a differentiated device that offers most of the features of the MacBook Air and iPad, but in one package, and at a lower cost. Combine that with Microsoft Office 360 now available for $9.99 a month and you’ve got a compelling argument for using Microsoft and veering away from Google and Apple.
Facebook's acquisition of Oculus Rift also peaks my interest. It’s clear from Zuckerberg’s recent remarks that he believes there’s an untapped virtual reality space that’ll be the next evolution of Facebook. If this type of technology can go mainstream, you’ll have a lot of people hooked as it’s such a visceral and immersive experience.
Mark Sorrell is a consultant and advisor on game design, behavioural change, value perception and strategy. He has over a decade of experience in making games do new things, in new places, for new audiences.
I expect that 2015 will be a year of consolidation rather than revolution. The mobile industry is reaching an early state of balance, with techniques starting to be understood enough and becoming reliable enough that commercial outcomes for larger companies will be relatively safe.
Technology wise, there might well be very little of substance to talk about. Tablets and mobile are in maturity and changes are shrinking year-on-year. And in terms of gaming, 2015 is the year ‘next-gen’ becomes ‘current-gen’ in people’s mind. Expectations are so high in this industry that people will settle for nothing but the very best.
Much like 2014, in the console area at least, I suspect it will be around social elements and elements of representation. There will be a wider acceptance (or rejection) of feminist viewpoints, considerations of race and so on
Much like 2014, in the console area at least, I suspect changes will be around social issues and elements of representation. There will be a wider acceptance (or rejection) of feminist viewpoints, considerations of race and so on. As gaming moves out of the dark corners of society and takes its place firmly in the mainstream, the industry will have to show that it understands it’s not just white, young men playing their games anymore.
Developers will become more thoughtful in their portrayal of race/gender/sexuality, even if for some that will mean doubling down on traditional models, rather than broadening the appeal of their games. For example, it’s interesting to see the current move to ban GTAV by Australian retailers in late 2014, specifically for issues of violence against women. While the move is really entrenched in old ideas that games are for kids, the justification is now one of sexism rather than moral decay, which is an interesting shift in tone.
In the technology sector, retailers will continue to be effectively marginalised by the move to mobile and digital distribution. Mobile is already retail free and it’s now possible to have a console that uses digital distribution only (indeed this is precisely what I am doing with my PS4. I own no discs and aside from the machine, have no relationship with retail). It’s a slow but inevitable process. As bandwidths increase, and streaming becomes the norm perhaps the physical ownership of games, movies and music will do nothing but continue to decline in 2015.
Developers will become more thoughtful in their portrayal of race/gender/sexuality
Johan Larsson, Creative Commons (2010) ©
As for brands, games are a tricky place to be at the moment, if they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. I predict a few will be pilloried for bad decisions, a far smaller few will get it just right. Opportunities are there - they always are when tensions are high. The middle ground in the games industry will be affected in 2015. The indie explosion is also interesting - as the industry moves forward, the middle gets cut away, leaving the huge and the tiny with little in between.
It’s the companies with the great games that excite me, for example, Blizzard and Bungie, Valve and Nintendo, and Supercell. But what games have I loved this year? Threes, Desert Golfing, Depression Quest and Papers Please. And I’m sure there will be more unexpected, pure, personal and artistic visions like these in 2015.
Taylor Davidson is a consultant and technology expert. He helps entrepreneurs in digital media, mobile, data and communications build innovative ideas into remarkable companies. He has invested and advised a number of early-stage startups throughout his career as a venture capitalist, consultant, advisor, and mentor
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a huge shift towards companies collecting and selling data based on the premise that it can be used to understand people and their behaviour. But in 2015, big data is going to lose out to small data. It’s been difficult for companies to realise outsized, differentiated returns based on insights derived from big data. Yes, companies have made significant money because of data insights; but the value doesn’t come from having a lot of data, the value comes from it being directly observed, understood, and leveraged. More focused and personalised data obtained from opt-in monitoring will change the tech landscape in 2015.
Wearables and proximity location technologies (namely iBeacon), both of which are primed for massive growth in 2015, will facilitate small data strategies. Companies have traditionally used location-based technologies as ways to track people, to help create bigger stores of data and to help create better inferences. But we’re beginning to see the potential of using location technologies to provide more functionality and better services. Rather than using big data to collect consumer insights, perhaps beacon technology will allow for more individualistic insights on a one-to-one level.
Companies have traditionally used location-based technologies as ways to track people to help create better inferences, but we’re beginning to see the potential of using location technologies to provide more for customers in terms of experience
In terms of security technology, passwords are getting a massive overhaul. People are realizing that passwords are theatrical rather than real security measures. Plus password proliferation will have a real breaking point in the future. The result of this will be mass-market implementations of two-step, two-factor, biometrics (Touch ID, for example), and alternative forms of identity authentication.
Each successive breach of someone’s personal and financial information increases one’s anxiety, alongside a loss of time and energy trying to protect private information. People will make choices based on data security, choosing services that not only have greater security histories, but have less data to lose to start with. It isn’t just the convenience of paying with your phone, but the underlying security that makes this attractive - Touch ID helps make authentication an easy, seamless and secure process for offline and mobile.
These shifts in technology will have implications for brick and mortar stores. Many retailers are seeing the opportunity to recast the physical store as a showroom and a delivery hub. Just as retailers created partnerships with FedEx, UPS, DHL and others to augment their delivery options, we’ll see more partnerships with companies like Uber, Postmates, Instacart, and a range of other on-demand service companies that’ll deliver goods faster and serve customers better. The opportunities for smart retailers in dense urban areas to take advantage of consumer demand for immediate fulfilment have never been better.
Perhaps beacon technology will allow for more individualistic insights on a one-to-one level?
Jonathan Nalder, Creative commons (2014) ©
Furthermore, the opportunity for retailers to think about digital and mobile shopping experiences has never been better. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are all deploying or testing ways for people to make purchases in as frictionless way as possible. Soon, retailers might be able to close the loop from programmatically-optimized and bought advertising spend based on personal and social data all the way through to purchases on mobile and desktop.
And this applies to brands, too. New brands have the opportunity to disrupt traditional CPG brands through vertical integration, owning their stores, distribution and by having direct contact with a customer – something that many traditional CPG brands have been hesitant to pursue. Warby Parker is an oft-cited example of a digital brand that re-imagined the in-store customer experience and created a differentiated retail strategy.
We’ll see a lot more digital brands open up physical presences; and I emphasize ‘presences’ instead of ‘stores’ - we’ll see them leverage and integrate mobile and physical in a ways that other retailers failed to do with the web and physical.