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Smart Phone Bandit

Image by Ribbit Voice via Flickr

Okay after a a couple more days of thought, I have a few more random ideas to express. I think this blog may end up being a keynote if all goes well. I would love to get your ideas and feedback. So with that, her is part two of my thoughts and rants. :

Section 2:

With the growth of 4G networks, we’re going to see a lot more streaming video, including exponential increases in user-generated live video. That’s already happening.

But a little further down the road, I believe we will see two major breakthroughs reach the marketplace:

[Hold up a piece of paper.] Here’s a simple piece of paper. Nothing special. Except it does one really extraordinary thing. [Fold it in thirds, and put it in your inside breast pocket.]

So far, that’s the one thing we haven’t been able to do with our electronic devices. Either we’ve got a screen that’s small and really portable, or a screen that’s big and not so easily portable. Tablet computers are trying to split the difference, but you still can’t fold an iPad and put it in your pocket, and typing on one is no picnic, either.

I predict that within the next two years, maybe three, we will see some long-talked-about solutions for this problem come to market, and they will take three different forms. One is a foldable or scrollable screen that would come closer to replicating paper than anything we’ve had so far. Another is technology that would permit easy projection of the image from your mobile device onto any surface, and allow you to manipulate the projected image the way you currently manipulate the touch screen on a smart phone or tablet.

Yet a third approach will be wearable devices. Of course, that’s not entirely new – we’ve had wearable earpieces for some time. But these would be wearable – similar to eyeglasses but less intrusive– and would provide a large-format visual experience in a very compact and portable way.

Of course, there are drawbacks, not the least of which is that there are many circumstances where providing someone with a more immersive experience may not be the best idea. This sort of thing could make the problems of texting while driving seem tame by comparison. And you have to wonder whether we want people walking down the street or standing at the edge of subway platforms while they’re engrossed in the latest movie, a football game, or . . . well, I leave that to your imagination.

The other major technological development will be major advances in making telepresence mobile – I personally am very excited about this. Some of you may be familiar with HP’s “Halo” telepresence technology, which is currently used in fixed locations, primarily for videoconferencing. It’s a wonderful technology, but its usefulness is limited by its restriction to those fixed locations.

Now, imagine if that technology is freed from the conference room to travel with you. And you can talk to and “hang out” with your wife and kids, not just in a life-like video conference but in a far more realistic telepresence. You can watch them play soccer in that game you just could not make. You can go shopping with someone and help them pick out clothing. The possibilities for virtual companionship – and the opportunities those present for communicators – are nearly endless.

There will continue to be a profusion of apps for smart phones and other mobile devices, but when you really think about it, the app is more a device for entrepreneurs to monetize their inventions than an efficient way to provide computing capability. In the next 1000 days you can expect to see a shift away from the profusion of all these individual apps that clutter up your devices to more intelligent, adaptive applications that learn from their users and proactively meet your personal needs and solve your problems.

Obstacles remain. Some are financial – as with apps, products based on these new technologies eventually need to be monetized or they won’t remain in the marketplace. And we need to see more seamless interoperability of devices. It’s getting better, but our devices are still siloed. It’s cumbersome to get your laptop to talk to your phone, and it’s still nearly impossible to have them talk to your refrigerator or your car or the thermostat in your house. That will change, but perhaps more slowly than we would like, and the benefits of universal standards will need to be worth their cost.

Meanwhile, we can expect the mobile social media phenomenon to grow. And here I mean not only Facebook and Twitter, but the broad range of interactive communications that are tying people together, as Facebook attempts to become more of an email and IM platform. People will not only be sharing opinions, pictures, and experiences instantaneously, but we will see an increase in the automated sharing of information, such as the location-based alerts provided from Foursquare or alerts that convey health status or other information.

As these advances in technology make communications more mobile and more immersive, and as social media provide people with ever more opportunities and modes of interaction, how do we as marketers and communicators maintain control of our messages? How can we maintain control of our brands?

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Okay this is my first draft and a flow of thoughts about the changing face of public relations and our need to adapt with the times. I thought I would post a series of comments and thoughts over the next few weeks and see if I can get some feedback and ideas from the group.

So here goes: Rant 1

While I am trying to hold your attention, I will be competing with the buzzing and vibrating – and perhaps, for the mortified few of you, ringing – of your smart phones.

Until recently, I would have only had to hold your attention against emails from your colleagues and superiors, many of which you would have been only too happy to ignore…

Those days, however, are gone. Now, just in the course of the next 20 minutes or so, you may be informed, thanks to Foursquare, that your friend has just landed at JFK. Thanks to Twitter, he will lament his inability to find his bag. You may receive a text message, or perhaps a Tweet, informing you that your own flight home is being delayed and so on and so forth….

Thanks to Facebook, several hundred of your very closest friends will share their forecast for tonight’s basketball game, report their latest accomplishment from pilates class, pontificate on the state of the union, or publish a mildly compromising picture of you from last Saturday night’s festivities at the local pub.

And the rest of you will be playing Angry Birds.

In short, we are not only connected, we are immersed. And the immersiveness of communications, the intimacy of our relationships with the devices that make it possible – smart phones, tablets, and the like – have become irresistible.

The result? Our communications – inbound and outbound, personal and professional – are spinning out of control. And unless we can figure out how to regain at least a little of that control, our careers will spin out of control as well.

It’s not only a matter of clutter, or the competition for attention, though certainly that’s a big part of it. The confluence of social media and mobile technology has empowered everyone to be a mass communicator, to do it instantaneously, from any location, at any time, in a wide variety of media. Messages, including those about companies and products, can go “viral” overnight.

The impacts range from the trivial to the profound. Protests and revolutions in countries around the world, most recently in Tunisia, have in large part been fueled by this ability.

And that means our ability to deliver our messages to their intended recipients, clearly and uncorrupted by the intervention of third parties, has become nearly impossible.

But it also creates extraordinary opportunity to establish deeper and more intimate relationships with our customers than we’ve ever had before. Think about this – Nokia lives in the pockets of more than 1.2 billion people around the world. That is the perspective from which I speak today.

Whether we seize the opportunities for customer engagement, or continue to let the world spin out of our control, will determine the futures of our organizations and our own careers.

Inevitably, any discussion of this subject has to start with a consideration of where the technology is likely to take us. And we know from hard experience how treacherous those waters are:

[Consider projecting the following quotes on a screen]

• “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us,” a Western Union memo, circa 1878.

• “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan,” Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

• “We will never make a 32-bit operating system,” Bill Gates

We’ve predicted for the last twenty years that mobile would be a game-changer. But it took a long time to happen at scale. Smart phones – and as much as I hate to say it, especially the iPhone – changed everything. They were cool. They were intuitive. And the apps, the incredible variety of things you could do with the phone, completely changed people’s perception of what a mobile phone is for.

At the same time, social media, especially Facebook and Twitter but more recently things like Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based services, gave people an easy way to use these new devices that is personal, intimate, and in nearly constant use. They transformed each other and created what some people call the biggest change in the way we communicate with each other in at least 50 years, maybe in history.

Where is it headed?

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