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

Passion Drives Performance Keynote

Wow! It felt good to be back on stage with a socially distant audience. Yes, I wore a mask on stage per the organizer’s policy, but it was great to be in person! This was a bespoke talk designed to motivate future business & technology, men & women.

The talk covered how a passion for gaming, marketing, and technology, has shaped my career journey. This discussion was more personal and reflective than futurist, but I wanted to provide insights into how various passions have shaped my perspective and translated to driving business performance.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 via Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, and Twitter

Business Access Podcast Episode 15

I recently had the opportunity to join Thiago Desouza on his Business Access Podcast. We had an incredibly in-depth conversation across a variety of topics. From passions that have driven my career, technology, and marketing impact post-pandemic, gaming, GenZ, generational gaps, and the future of consumer experience. Timestamps and topics below.

Episode 15 of Business Access

1:25 – Tom Edwards Career Overview 

  • Smooth Fusion (Microsoft)
  • Telligent (Electronic Arts)
  • INgage Networks (Chief Marketing Officer) 
  • Omnicom (Strategy Leader – Red Urban, The Marketing Arm)
  • Epsilon (Chief Digital & Innovation Officer) 
  • Tripleclix (Chief Marketing Officer)

2:50 – Discussing Core Passions

  • Star Wars & the droids and how the technology-enabled the adventures
  • Gaming in the 1980s 
  • 90’s Computer Hardware 
  • Marketing, Technology, Gaming are core passions

4:10 – Where are we today technology wise compared to Star Wars? 

  • No longer disruption as a new normal
  • All about convergence, AI, predictive decisioning, virtual assistant proxies, simulation at scale

6:15 – How does it feel when you create a pathway to success for a client? 

  • Love to align technology + consumer experience hits a cultural inflection point
  • EA Skate example. The first instance of in-game content posted to the web in the mid-2000s
  • Discuss Data & AI work while at Epsilon
  • Goes well beyond a transaction, it’s about creating value as a partner

8:30 – Discuss Professional Speaking & Innovation to Reality

  • How technology will evolve and how we will move from the mobile device to our environment adapting to us through the lens of pop-culture
  • Empower – technology that enables consumers
  • Exponential – intelligent systems
  • Enhance – proxies to full simulation 
  • Discuss GenZ, gaming, expectations of technology and how experiences are evolving

11:00 – How do you feel technology is going to advance post COVID pandemic? 

  • Less about a single use case and application, and more about how technology enables work that isn’t in a physical location
  • New consumer decision journey… Disruption, Acceptance, What’s next
  • Acceleration of work from anywhere, have worked remotely for over 5 years
  • Sparks of inspiration occur at different times of the day. 

14:33 – What can businesses do and where should they focus post pandemic? 

  • Focus on core consumer needs 
  • Reflect & reset corporate strategy, especially digitally
  • The role that data plays
  • Developing new capabilities 
  • Forecast demand by geography & audience segments 
  • Discuss the cycle of demand 
  • What’s next… How does physical retail compete with online? 

18:00 – Communication, Communication, Communication is vital… 

  • Maintaining communication and connection is key
  • 71% of consumers stated if brands put profit over people they would lose faith in the brand forever 
  • It’s important to communicate, but also how are you easing disruption
  • Content strategy, building it around how creating value, balance selling vs. supporting 
  • Reacting vs. strategically planning

21:30 – How have international businesses been responding? 

  • US quantity based
  • Bolivia case study/hand sanitizer example

23:00 – Across industries, what techniques and methods work well broadly? 

  • Mapped career against the rising flow of technology & culture 
    • Mid 2000’s social computing
    • Then consumer social strategy
    • Data & AI 
    • Next is gaming…

26:15 – Generational Gap & Gaming

29:00 – Experiences like Pokémon Go prep future adoption

  • Training a generation 
  • GenZ expectations of technology & behaviors such as mixing reality is becoming second nature 

30:30 – What happened to Google Glass? What’s next? 

  • Was an early adopter
  • When it initially launched we weren’t in the midst of a creator society
  • It was also about form factor… looking at patents and future tech, look and feel will be extensions of style
  • Apple, Samsung, and others will move us towards a smart contact
  • Ubiquitous tech + constant connectivity via 5G will drive adoption of new form factors 

33:30 – If a client/business asks how can I make it happen? 

  • Not enough time spent on the behavioral side
  • Single persona vs. affinity iterations & personality types 
  • How does that come together and finding the right levers to connect with individuals in a meaningful way
  • Easier to look at it from a media perspective vs. using AI as a driver to truly differentiate the experience via structured & unstructured data
  • Esports sponsorship… “Marketing with to games is fine, but connecting authentically is a different approach” – Chris Erb. 

36:55 – The role of personal branding 

  • The accelerator of success was my blog… 500 posts later, how you think, what you have done, and having a content repository is key 

Follow Tom via YouTube, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, and Twitch.

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

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube & connect via Linkedin.

Dallas Business Journal Tech Titan Interview

I was recently interviewed by the Dallas Business Journal for the upcoming 2019 Tech Titans awards show. I am a finalist in the technology advocate category and looking forward to the event! Here is a link to the full interview.

Here is a repost of the full article

Tom Edwards of BlackFin360 is a finalist in the Technology Advocate Award category for the 2019 Tech Titan Awards. Category winners will be announced at an awards event on Friday, Aug. 23. For more information about the awards event, click here.

As founder of BlackFin360, which covers marketing and emerging tech trends, Tom Edwards has been recognized as a marketing technology trailblazer as well as a leading futurist and speaker.

“I focus on helping organizations understand how consumer behavior is shaping emerging technology and vice versa as technology is culture and culture is technology,” Edwards said.

What started as a technology blog back in 2007 BlackFin360 now serves as a “a repository of emerging technology” thought leadership. As a keynote speaker and technology advocate, Edwards says he helps organizations understand the connection between consumer behavior and emerging technology — from the integration of artificial intelligence, spatial computing and the rise of multi-modal interfaces.

Edwards was also Chief Digital/Innovation Officer for Epsilon where he said he “became fully immersed in all facets of data, AI and technology integration.”

We asked Edwards additional questions about technology. The questions have been edited for length, grammar and clarity.

What is the biggest challenge facing your organization in 2019?

TOM – The biggest challenge is less about my organization and what I see across the Fortune 1000 organizations that I have the opportunity to speak to. There are three primary areas that I consistently see. They are: data puddles, ignoring AI, lack of innovation focus.

  • Data puddles refers to a comment I heard at one of the world’s largest consumer beverage companies. Most organizations strive for data lakes and data is key to unlocking personalization and connecting with consumers. The reality is most organizations don’t have a consolidated approach to leveraging various forms of data, be it consumer centric data of culture, data of identity and data of intent. Having a strategy for how to consolidate and action data vs. simply collecting is key.
  • The second challenge is the lack of preparation and consideration of the impact of artificial intelligence on the workplace. This goes beyond system integration, and has to do with impact on culture and how to build a culture around the idea of intelligence augmentation vs. disruption.
  • The third is a lack of aligning innovation initiatives with core goals of the organization. It’s incredibly important to not just focus on short term revenue, but also generating ideas and empowering the organization to bring innovative ideas forward. 

What is something people aren’t thinking about that will change technology in the next few years?

TOM – To me the biggest shift, especially for marketers is that we will be moving from consumer-centric marketing technology to system and algorithm-based solutions. We will see virtual assistants continue to move to the center of the operating system and we will see the rise of multi-modal computing at scale. This includes voice, vision and touch, where our environment adapts to us versus us adapting to it.

Can you recall the moment you decided what you wanted to do professionally?

TOM – My first memory is of the original Star Wars movie. All of my friends wanted to be Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. I liked those characters, but I was enamored with the droids R2-D2 and C3PO and how they and the rest of the sentient tech characters seemed to enable the main cast every step of the way. The technology seamlessly folded into their everyday journeys and that stuck with me all throughout childhood and into early adulthood. When the technology revolution hit with the rise of personal computers, mobile phones and software, I knew that is where I wanted to take my career. 

Who is your technology hero?

TOM – My technology hero is Hal Brierley. Hal is the CEO of the Brierley Group. He has served as President and CEO of Epsilon, was the founder of e-Rewards, Inc, and the Executive Chairman of Brierley & Partners and he currently serves on the board of an AI start-up (Oculus360) that has been an outstanding strategic partner. I admire that work and career of Hal, his impact to Dallas via job creation and his approach to business is something to be admired. 

What should we be teaching children about technology in school right now that we aren’t?

TOM – The future is going to be about augmented intelligence and preparing children, not just how to code, but also how to use various aspects of machine learning to solve problems. Instead of teaching simple math, it’s important to understand specific computing models and concepts for how systems learn. Now, these are reserved for Computer Science courses on the college level, but the sooner we can prepare children for the coming shift of intelligent systems the better.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 via YouTube, Twitter, Instagram

Print Innovation Exchange Headliner Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to headline the 2019 Print Innovation Exchange in Minneapolis, MN. It was a fun and highly interactive keynote session! We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology & and behavior will shift in the near future and how the 5 levels of autonomy and the new 4P’s will impact the print industry. 

The full Evolution of Experience Keynote is available below.

Thank you and please follow @BlackFin360 across social platforms for various updates and a little bit of fun.

Tom Edwards Evolution of Experience 2019

From Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies & The Matrix, Tom Edwards illustrates how pop-culture shows a path for how technology evolves through the filters of Empower, Exponential & Enhanced.

Empower (Timestamp – 5:05) is about the expectation of control and this journey explores Star Wars, Fortnite, Gen Z, the lens as life, how the future is private and the camera is a bridge to intelligence.

Exponential (Timestamp – 15:30) is about intelligent systems that deliver ease & convenience. This journey focuses on the Pixar theory, AI, virtual assistants, the 5 levels of autonomy and the proxy web.

Enhanced (Timestamp – 28:18) is about digital & physical reality and the path to simulation. Here we review all facets of perception, presence, computer vision, digital twins and ultimately synthetic reality while celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the Matrix.

All of this leads to a reimagining of the 4 P’s of product, price, place, promotion to the new 4P’s of Plan, Predictive, Proxy & Pervasive. Finally, we will discuss the actual date when we will see multi-modal interfaces at scale. Follow Tom @BlackFin360 on Twitter & Instagram and subscribe via YouTube.

Innova-con Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to deliver the opening keynote at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC during the Innova-con conference.

I provided a tour of tomorrow and highlighted the coming waves of technology based on consumer behavior. The talk discussed disruption and adaptation with concepts, implications, and success strategies based on my Innovation to Reality content series.

Book Tom for an event here.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Evanta CMO Summit Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Evanta CMO Summit in Dallas, Texas.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on the camera as a platform, artificial intelligence, multi-modal, the New 4 P’s of AI marketing and new themes introduced by the Apple WWDC 2018 that happened earlier in the day.

REX Executive Roundtables IHRSA Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote for the REX Executive Roundtable group at the San Diego Zoo. This was a lead-up event to recent IHRSA 2018 conference.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance to bring examples relevant for the evolution of experience in the fitness industry.

Here is the full 45-minute keynote.

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360