Innovation To Reality Recap

Leo Clifford of the Telco Global Forum wrote a recap of my recent Innovation To Reality talk here it is reposted below.

Empower. Exponential. Enhanced. These are the three words that Tom Edwards of Blackfin360 – a data-driven digitally centric marketing technology executive and professional futurist speaker – uses to describe the evolution of experience as the innovation scene evolves. He calls it ‘innovation to reality.’ Tom recently spoke at the Telco Global Forum event. In his talk, he mentions them as elements that can help drive business and digital transformation.

“Empower is all about consumer behavior influencing technology. Exponential is all about the role that intelligence systems are going to play. And Enhance is all about simulation. These are the foundational elements to align consumer behavior and emerging technology and its impact on business and digital transformation.”

– Tom Edwards

Understanding consumer behavior and how that impacts experiences

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For Tom, it starts with understanding consumer behavior and how it affects technology. He estimates that 40 percent of the consumer market consists of Generation Z – the demographic of people born between the years 1996 and 2010. “They are the first mobile-first generation. They learn to swipe before they learn to speak. Businesses must understand that affinity and behavior and how it affects technology.” He says.

Today, we are heading to an age of emerging technologies that these consumers will interface with daily, and it is vital to understand how to connect with them at these various points. One popular emerging technology is the voice assistant technology installed on phones.

Alexa, Google, etc. are the first stage of autonomy in intelligent systems. From the research Tom has done across generations, one particular thing is consistent about why people will adopt intelligence systems into their everyday lives. “That is ease and convenience,” he says. These systems serve as delegates onto which people can delegate simple tasks. So they serve as a bridge between consumers and businesses such that ultimately, the mobile device will no longer be the primary means of interacting with technology. Therefore, organizations need to examine these systems and figure out how to communicate and have conversational experiences with them. 

Tom expects that an increase of these proxy-like systems will “require understanding how to provoke emotions from systems” as it is quite different from humans because we will be moving from a human consumer-centric way of marketing to one that is system-based.

How to prepare and what to expect 

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Businesses have data assets they possess and manage internally. The first step is understanding these assets. However, that is not enough. According to Tom, “90% of the information around consumers is unstructured”. They are found on the open web and in conversations online. Artificial intelligence can play a role in expediting the understanding of what is happening. Lastly, businesses want to understand intent signals. These are indicators that identify users who are actively reaching their line of products, and it is tied to search history. Ultimately, businesses want to make sure that they structure data in such a way that they are consequential across not only traditional search but voice ecosystems and spatial computing. All of these things are interconnected. Therefore, it is vital to have a thorough understanding of what information is available, what is usable, and why. 

The role data and intelligent systems will play in the near future

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In the voice assistance technology sector, Google wants to make the assistant in such a way that tasks are set up as real-life scenes, thus turning the whole delegation activity into a seamless experience for the user. An example of this is Google Duplex – a new technology woven into the Google Assistant – that reserved an appointment and rented a car! Tom postulates that with systems like these evolving, what we will begin to see is a virtual assistant acting as preference centers.

With the ever-present connectivity that the emergence of 5G networks will provide, edge computing – i.e., location of information processing where people produce or consume that information – in the form of building smart cities that can process data locally and instantaneously will become a reality. While the focus has been on the disruption happening in various industries as a result of these different technologies, it will move to the convergence of these intelligent systems, which will be powered by artificial intelligence that is fuelled by data. That data is what is going to enhance the experiences as they evolve. Training the machine learning models that drive these technologies will involve tons of data so that they can further improve user experiences. 

Prepare to make the shift from mobile devices

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Eventually, it is not going to be enough to create experiences for traditional desktop and mobile in digital marketing. Voice, vision, and touch are the new modalities that will drive the future of experience, and these are what businesses will need to pay attention to succeed. 

In light of these new modalities that are poised to drive the future of experience and digital marketing in businesses, how do you adopt these emerging technologies in your organization? “I follow a 70 to 20 to 10 kind of approach,” Tom advises. Seventy percent of your investment should be on tried and tested technologies that are going to stimulate business and digital transformation, 20 percent for technologies that are novel but you can prove some type of return based on the core objective you are trying to apply and 10 percent or less for technologies you are making educated guesses. 

“It is incredibly important to have a three-year road map,” he adds. In addition to the traditional four Ps – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion – of marketing strategy, he includes four additional Ps, namely, Plan, Predictive, Proxy, and Pervasive. Plan refers to your data strategy. Predictive involves knowing that data is going to drive a lot of predictive decision making that will get to a point where it can predict human behavior and subsequently lead to the third P, Proxy. Proxy involves understanding that virtual assistants will become proxies or deputies, communicating, and interacting with each other on our behalf, scheduling, and handling tasks. Lastly, Pervasive, you want to understand that you are designing experiences — pervasive experiences — namely touch, vision, and voice that will go beyond traditional desktop and mobile.

In summary, it is about doing what is working today. Next, examine the future experiences that are going to influence behavior and drive business and digital transformation that this article has discussed. Look out for use cases in other industries that you can apply to your business based on your objective and experiment. Finally, review what the 90 percent of your investment has accomplished, what is ultimately coming, and make educated bets on other technologies you want to explore.

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Tom’s Innovation to Reality talk is available here at the Telco Global Forum.

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If you’d like to contact Tom Edwards directly you can find him Here at Blackfin360 or linkedin.com/in/tedwards

Tom Edwards Q&A with EDgage Magazine

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with EDgage Magazine to discuss emerging technology trends tied to the technology landscape today, how technology will evolve, the role of gaming and esports, tech impact on higher education, marketing and the future of technology, and 2020 trends.

This is a repost of the full interview.

Give us a snapshot of the technology landscape today (as it relates to marketing).

(Tom Edwards) We live in an amazing time. Technology is culture and culture is technology. So much of the focus the past few years has been about real-time, contextual and personalization at scale. Data’s role in driving decisioning, especially leveraging machine learning to derive themes, perceptions, and occasions, is revolutionizing how we derive affinity and intent signals from consumers. We can now return in time and process millions of conversations to understand unbiased consumer behavior and have the ability to align that with evolving consumer experiences.

Technology and experience will continue to evolve. Technology will expand the boundaries of higher education.

(TE) The other major shift is we are quickly moving from desktop and mobile-centric experiences toward multi-modal at scale. This includes voice, vision, and touch. The rise and adoption of virtual assistants, advancements in computer vision and democratization of augmented reality experiences, and the rise of gesture-based experiences make it a great time to be a consumer and marketer.

How will technology continue to impact the higher ed space?

(TE) Technology and experience will continue to evolve. I used to talk about how disruption was the new normal, and how a single technology could have a transformational impact. Now, it’s less about disruption and more about exponential acceleration through intelligent systems. Technology will expand the boundaries of higher education. With the rollout of 5G connectivity across campuses, we will see responsive and immersive augmented reality, high quality streaming for on-demand and live casting of classes, 5G-enabled edge computing/analytics to optimize the on-campus experience, and making IoT more accessible to close the gap between context and awareness.

What role will technologies like AI continue to have on today’s campuses and universities?

(TE) AI will have a significant impact moving forward—from organizational efficiency, enhancing student experiences and redefining coursework, to shift toward critical thinking in support of intelligence augmentation.

Universities can leverage AI to streamline the admissions process, quickly access the sentiment and areas of interest of their student and faculty population, use AI to drive fundraising and create personalized experiences for alumni.

AI will also enhance students’ capabilities to learn—from leveraging visual search and computer vision-enabled experiences to shifting coursework to focus more on critical and strategic thinking and using data and analytics to fuel experiences.

What are things higher ed marketers should think about when it comes to technology?

(TE) I’ve been involved with higher education at varying levels for the past 15 years. I have instructed thousands of students, and most recently lectured at SMU in Dallas. I am also a part of its Big Data advisory council.

For me, it is an evolution of the traditional 4P’s of marketing. Since the ’60s, it has been about product, price, place, and promotion. With the rise of intelligent systems, it is less about the traditional 4P’s and more about the new 4P’s: Plan, Predictive, Proxy and Pervasive.

Plan is having a plan for the use and data: how it is captured, structured, cleansed, analyzed and fed into intelligent systems, as data is oil for AI. Predictive is leveraging data and machine learning to drive predictive decisioning. Proxy is all about virtual assistants becoming personal proxies for individuals. The data plus predictive decisioning capability combined with virtual proxies will give rise to the proxy web where our virtual assistants represent our preferences and interface with other proxies. Finally, pervasive is about designing for multi-modal interfaces at a time when the mobile device will no longer be our primary device but our environment adapts to us.

What should every higher ed professional know about technology?

(TE) Understand that behaviors and expectations of students is evolving. Students are empowered to control experiences. Accessibility has led to ubiquity and Gen Z and Generation Alpha are quickly shifting traditional behaviors.

From expectations of on-demand content, gaming, and eSports to expectations tied to immersive and low-lag experiences. Universities have to evolve their infrastructure toward a 5G future and higher ed professionals will need to rethink curriculum toward data, analytics, and multi-modal experiences.

What kind of trends should they be looking at heading into 2020?

(TE) In 2020, we will continue to see virtual assistants shift toward the center of the operating system. With the rollout of 5G connectivity, we will see a path toward simulation through low latency augmented reality at scale.

We will continue to see the camera used as a bridge to intelligence through a combination of computer vision and virtual assistants and we will continue to see the rise of the proxy web where virtual assistants continue to evolve to the point where we are no longer marketing just to consumers, but also to algorithms and intelligent systems.

Finally, we will continue to see AI-enhanced digital avatars become more mainstream. First in the form of customer support and slowly expanding to more use cases by industry.

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DFWIMA Headliner Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to provide the opening keynote for the Dallas Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association discussing trends tied to evolving consumer experiences. This is the latest version of the InnovationToReality talk series covering all facets of consumer behavior and emerging technology.

It was a fun and highly interactive keynote session! We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies, & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology and consumer behavior will shift in the near future. We talked about how the 5 levels of autonomy and the new 4P’s will impact industry 4.0. Finally, the role and importance of 5G in the transition towards ubiquitous simulation.

Here is a link to the final presentation. Book Tom for your event today

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