Untether Talks written by Kevin @FlightsimGeek
Hello, fellow BlackBerry enthusiasts. My name is Kevin and you can find me on twitter @FlightsimGeek. @rezn and I have been BBM buddies for a while, and he was gracious enough to allow me to have the space to tell you about the exciting event that I was able to attend on June 26 and 27.
Untether Talks (#Utalks) was a symposium held in Toronto by the fine folks at Untether.tv . This inaugural event brought together many experts in mobile development and design, to give their valued opinions and insights to primarily mobile developers.
The venue was The Glenn Gould Studio, which is a theatre inside the CBC headquarters in downtown Toronto. The theatre was an intimate setting, which enabled the audience to feel comfortable, and helped to encourage questions. The format of the conference had the speakers give their presentations, and a question and answer period after each.
The first presenter was Amber MacArthur [known best as Amber Mac], who is a social media and marketing expert, present in television and newspapers in Canada and the US. She was relating the ABC’s of social media, which are to be Authentic, Brave and Consistent. The one example that stuck with me was a story that I heard about couple of years ago. Dave Carroll was a guy who took his guitar on a United Airlines flight and saw the baggage handlers treating it like a softball, which led to this: United Breaks Guitars. Social media is a relatively new concept, so I was shocked to hear that the cumulative effect that Dave Carroll’s little video had was a loss of $10 million dollars for United. Yep, you read that right. Word of mouth used to be the way information was passed on. Now, with Twitter, and Facebook, the social media implications of experiences with brands and service are very real.
The second speaker was Damien Patton, the CEO of Banjo. His curriculum vitae was fascinating in and of itself. A Desert Storm veteran, a CSI technician, and the former chief mechanic of NASCAR? No boring conversations there. His ideas were that locations have to make an emotional connection with a user through social media to make a lasting impression with the end user. An example that he used was, aptly enough, the Indianapolis 500. There is a lasting feeling, or sense that has to be tapped into in order for someone to want to return. One point that he was stressing quite emphatically, is that privacy is not dead. It is a subjective thing for each person, and companies will have to make their interactions with users simple and easily understandable, or else they will be turned off and lose them.
Asif R. Khan was the next to take to the stage. The founder of the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA), this dynamic speaker extolled the virtues of applications and things being location-based, and most importantly context-relevant. Most people are familiar with Foursquare. Do you really just want to be the “Mayor” of the Subway that’s on your street? Soon, coupons and specific deals became available to those who “checked in”. The example he gave was an incredible way of leveraging locations, habits, and purchasing power to benefit companies. One company saw that there was a correlation between the music that someone would listen to, and the clothes that you wear. We all have stereotypes about “grunge”, “preppy”, “urban” and other labels that we use to describe clothes and music. This company put tags on the accompanying clothes that had a free download to the genre of music that it was paired to. A pair of Nikes, would have a Hip Hop track. This track would also be playing in the dressing room of the store as the customer would try on the article of clothing. If the consumer bought the item, there would be things like an additional discount on the entire album. This resulted a 700% increase in traffic to their store. Very powerful indeed.
Mr. Kelly MacDonald is an IT professional at Deloitte. His presentation dealt with the interactions of mobile data between machines, or machine to machine traffic, which would account for roughly 4% of all of the data throughput in the mobile space. These underlying communications buttress our current mobile devices. With fingerprint scanners, remote cameras and temperature sensors becoming a greater part of our personal lives through our mobile devices, their interdependence is not something that can be discounted.
Kevin Foreman is a VP of Mobile Applications at INRIX, a traffic and information services company. His idea is that data and information should not only be relevant according to location, but also according to direction and traffic in real time. I don’t care if there are 5 gas stations within 3 miles of me, Google. Which ones are currently in front of me, given the direction that I’m driving in? It doesn’t matter if there are 3 Starbucks in this airport, the ones that are important to me are the ones that I can get to, given that I’m behind the customs lounge. A subtle, but very salient point.
The last speaker for the first day was Doug Stephens, the Retail Prophet. He has a website by that very name. You’d think that there would be a bit of hubris in being called a prophet, for there are false ones (!), but I can see why he has this title. This engaging speaker took the audience on a journey on how retailers used to market to consumers, and how they will need to in the future. In the 70′s, TV was king. A commercial only needed 3 prime time spots to make an impression on the consumer. Today, to make that same impression? 117. That is a staggering figure. He brought the concept of the “third shelf” to the audience. The first shelf is the one in your house. The second? The one in the store. It used to be simple for retailers. Get a good location for your store with easy access and you’d make money. What about now, though? With Google and Amazon, and all of these online retailers, why should a consumer come to your store? One example given was Best Buy becoming the “Amazon showroom”. Customers see the products that they want to buy and buy them online at a lower price, wasting floor space and money. The focus was again, on the location and the experience to the customer. A store like Apple concentrates on the user experience, showing how an Apple product would benefit them. With interactive TV (EBayTV), and even with the recently announced Google Glass project, retailers have to show how a product would matter to a customer at the moment when it is important to them (the “third shelf”). This would also relate to the emotional connection that Damien Patton mentioned before. Stephens said that TV, radio, internet and social media are not separate entities to be considered independent of each other, but different layers that can be used to market a product. Interesting stuff.
This was an incredible experience for me, one that I had to share. The organizers Rob Woodbridge and Douglas Soltys did an outstanding job, coordinating, organizing and planning this event. It made me feel as though I was “peeking behind a curtain”. Sadly, I was unable to attend the second day, due to a prior commitment. Please feel free to check out Untethertalks.com and Untether.tv for more information.
How did I get to attend #Utalks? I’m not a marketer, or a mobile developer. I won a contest on Twitter from BlackBerryCool.com [@BlackBerryCool]! Fitting, isn’t it. I actually became a BlackBerry fan when I won my BB from my provider. Later on, thanks to Kisai Labs (the developer behind @Blaq) and @jcarty, I won a PlayBook. I also won an Otterbox case for my BB through RIM and #JanuBerry. Finally, I won the Convertible Case and Charging Stand for my PlayBook from @BlackBerryDev through a PB OS 2.0 promotion. How could I not be a BlackBerry fan after all of that? I can attest to the power of social media and mobile.
How does all of this information about mobile relate to our friends at Research In Motion? Two other ideas were put forth by the panel as a whole. These were not innovations that are hard to envision; They were things that have already happened or can happen in the near future. The other point that stuck with me is that platforms can and will always change. The when and the how of how the content is delivered to the consumer is where opportunity exists.
RIM is at a critical juncture at this stage of the game. Their competition has outflanked them, by predicting and satisfying customer needs. There is a saying which goes along the lines of, “Don’t give the customer what they want; You show them what they want.” All hope is not lost. BlackBerry was the first to roll out NFC with their latest phone line. The QNX software underpinnings of BB10 already exist in the automotive industry and in many other industries with which the average consumer interacts with daily. The renewed focus on developers with HTML5 and the WebWorks toolkit drives application development from the ground up, attempting to turn a perceived weakness into a strength. With both QNX and NFC, as well as LTE radios in their BB10 specifications set, all of the tools are there for BlackBerry to once again become a leader in the mobile market in North America, as well as other parts of the world. Their media presence and social messaging must become more focused and consistent, to champion the strengths of the brand, while also acknowledging the challenges they now face in the current landscape. RIM will need to key in on a core quality, or feeling in order for customers to make that emotional connection, like Apple has, to gain new customers, and not be satisfied with their current growth levels. BlackBerry made its name by being a superior messaging platform. Now it has an opportunity to become a superior context-sensitive user-specific content platform as well. RIM cannot just be reactive, it can’t just be the name of the company alone; they have to be innovative and really change the mobile experience in order to survive, let alone thrive. That is the nature of the industry. I’m pulling for them.
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For more on UNTETHER.talks check their site here: untethertalks.com