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Digital Trends

Nest gets a wedgie Sometimes technology feels a bit like junior high school. If the popular kids of technology decide you’re uncool, they’ll make fun of anything you try. Apparently the popular kids got bored of mocking Twitter this week because they’ve moved on to Nest. Nest committed the unpardonable sin of missing earnings (like most technology companies) and losing some employees (like all technology companies.) So the announcement that Nest is going to open source OpenThread, their mesh network technology gets a snarky remark about the company being “a garbage fire.” (See article below.) Despite the disapproval of the cool kids, OpenThread is actually a pretty cool technology. In mesh networks every object on the network acts as a relay, instead of having every object dependent on a single wifi source. This makes mesh networks much more fault tolerant and reliable. This makes a hell of a lot of sense for a smart home or internet of things technology since all of these networked devices can reinforce the network connection rather than competing for it. But, yeah, Nest is a garbage fire. Right. Application to Marketing: There’s been talk about turning smartphones into a mesh network. But IoT technology is especially suited to mesh networks. This is certainly going to be the next big revolution in networking as users grow frustrated by the bottlenecks of wifi and devices proliferate. Marketers, who depend on the resiliency and reliability of a network, should be looking to OpenThread for devices, kiosks and IoT initiatives. Next Steps: I’ll be looking at OpenThread for a bunch of our current projects. Read More Style is an algorithm Picasso paints a woman, a bull and the bombing of the Spanish town Guernica by fascist forces. Each of these images is conceptually distinct, yet researchers at the University of Tubingen and a separate team at the University of Freiburg believe they have algorithmically reproduced Picasso’s style. The key to this breakthrough has been improvements in deep neural networks. These networks have improved image recognition (notoriously a thorny problem for computers) past human capability. Neural networks extract information from an image in layers. The first layers look at broad categories like color, but then pass on the leftover data to the next layer. As the image is processed through the layers, ever more detail is extracted and the leftover data is reduced. Curiously, the key to understanding and reproducing artistic style is not the content of the layers, but the correlations between the layers. Picasso’s image of a bull is processed by a neural network in almost exactly the same way as Picasso’s image of a woman. Once you understand these correlations between layers, you can separate style from subject and this is where things get interesting. Application to Marketing: Great forgers don’t repaint an existing painting. They create a new painting “in the style of” a Rembrandt or Picasso or Basquiat. Neural networks have proven themselves able to extract “style” and reproduce it for any image. So a children’s cartoon can be rendered in the style of Van Gogh. The implication for marketers is that they can apply artistic styles to animation, photography or video. Picasso can “paint” your Axe Body Spray ad from beyond the grave. Next Steps: Look at the video in the attached article and send it to your favorite creative person. I guarantee you they will find a use for this technology. Read More Professionalizing the Healthcare App For the last year, Apple has been releasing Software Development Kits (SDK’s) that make it easier to develop advanced functionality on iOS devices. Many of these kits have been focused on the healthcare market, clearly a priority for Apple in maintaining their premium pricing for iOS over Android devices. Regardless of Apple’s business reasons for releasing these kits, there’s no denying that they have been a boon to app developers. The latest release CareKit is no exception. Application to Marketing: Pharmaceutical and health insurance companies have looked to smartphone apps to provide better service and improve patient outcomes. CareKit offers much of the functionality that they’ve traditionally looked to offer, like symptom and measurement trackers, dashboards to track progress and information sharing with doctors and other healthcare professionals. While many health insurance providers and some pharmaceutical companies have already produced apps that substantially mimic these features, they should consider refactoring those existing apps to take advantage of CareKit. Pharmaceutical companies in particular should evaluate their customer service offerings in light of the political pressures being brought to bear on drug prices. While research and development, marketing and acquisitions used to be sufficient to maintain profits, political forces will gradually eat away at the underlying profitability of this industry. Providing technology tools to healthcare providers and consumers may be a way to maintain market position when and if DTC marketing and pricing gets squeezed. Next Steps: Reexamine your existing apps in light of CareKit. Read More Time Warner or Fios. Neither. Google hates inefficiency. After all, their core business depends on people using the internet for everything. More time online means more searches means more money in their pocket. Which brings us to Time Warner and Comcast and Verizon and AT&T. It may or may not shock you to learn that these companies are very inefficient deliverers of internet connection. Their services are, by and large, too slow and far too expensive. This disincentivizes internet use and, I believe, also offends Google’s sensibilities. It is generally accepted at this point that Google Fiber is a systematic effort by Google to destroy these old and inefficient monopolies and duopolies. In addition, Google’s experiments with wifi seem to be aimed at ridding the world of cable and wire connections. Application to Marketing: Why should marketers care where consumers get their internet access? Well, the advertising industry is barely holding on to a business model that is being washed away by digital. The last remaining lynchpin in that business model is the “Triple Play.” Consumers are currently being incentivized to sign up for traditional cable television in order to get the internet access they need. No Triple Play, no cable television, no television advertising. While it’s not quite that simple, the math is inexorable. Millennials prefer to consume their video via download. Professional sports are one of the only reasons to maintain cable access and even these leagues are recognizing the writing on the wall. If Google is successful in providing Fiber in a large media market like New York, the dominoes will start to fall. Seeing Time Warner take a much deserved hit might be personally satisfying. But what happens to an advertising industry that still retreats emotionally to television as the source of its pride and value? Next Steps: Forget the :30. Forget the :15. Forget the art card and the button. Forget craft services. Forget the 1980’s. Become the future now. Read More

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