Weekly Round-Up: January 17th

Observations January 21, 2014 6:24 pm

*Every Friday, I put together a round-up of newsworthy articles I’ve read over the past week over on R/GA FutureVision. Let me know if I’ve missed something, and happy reading!

Industry Updates

  • Google made headlines this week with the $3.2 billion dollar acquisition of Nest, the company behind the connected thermostat and smoke detector. The news followed with much speculation about why Google bought the company, with many pointing to the advantage that Google now has in the race to deliver a connected home. But a NY Times headline brings up the most interesting point:Google And Nest: Two Companies in the Business of Understanding You. Google already understands and personalizes our  online behavior, even predicting our needs with smart assistantNow. The acquisition of Nest may be Google’s ticket to understanding your offline behavior as well, and not just in the home. To quote Nest CEO Tony Fadell, Nest isn’t in the business of smart thermostats and smoke detectors, the company is in the business of ‘communications, algorithms, sensors and user experience.’

  • The Federal Appeals Court overturned net neutrality, which means corporations could now possibly charge businesses for faster internet speeds. Content providers like Netflix, which accounts for 32% of all peak Internet traffic in North America, could be forced to pay more to operators… or pass on a higher cost to consumers. Back in May of 2013, ESPN mulled subsidizing wireless data plans for its users… read the article for some great foreshadowing of this week’s news.

  • How disruptive is the sharing economy? In San Francisco, nearly 1/3 of all cab drivers have abandoned their registered cabs to work for a startup like Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar.

Social News

  • Nobody can blame Facebook for trying to remain relevant with users— with both teens and Barack Obama say that the social network ‘isn’t cool anymore,’ the social network made two major announcements this week in an effort to increase engagement with users, both centered around conversations. On Monday, Facebook announced the acquisition of Branch Media and on Thursday, the network introduced personalized trending topics. The acquisition of Branch focuses on connecting users around interests, and the personalized trending topics will show users (similar to Twitter) what’s popular at any given moment. Can the two changes get people talking again?

  • The Superbowl is only a few short weeks away, which means brands are finalizing their strategies to be this year’s ‘Oreo moment.’ Nearly a year after Oreo created a real-time marketing frenzy, many brands still haven’t figured out how to create both relevant and on-brand content. L’Oreal Paris, however, found a winning formula with their Golden Globes Beauty Lab.

  • What was the watershed moment for Twitter? According to Jack Dorsey, the Miracle on the Hudsontransformed the social network into a legitimate news source. We celebrated the 5th anniversary of the plane crash this week; it’s mind-boggling to reflect on how much Twitter has matured since that moment.

FutureVision Focus: Capturing the Buzz Around Beacons

In the modern world of mobile and retail design, knowing the exact location of a customer provides highly valuable and actionable information for a retailer. Smartphones can enable location-based targeting, but until recently location-based service offerings have been limited to a phone’s GPS signal, which could only approximate a consumer’s location in a store. Now, with improved technology, it’s a far more exciting time for location-based targeting. Consumers are becoming more aware of location-based services and experiences, with words like “geo fencing” and “contextually aware” creeping into their everyday vernacular. At the same time, improved technology known as beacons promise a much finer degree of precision in tracking a customer’s location. Beacon technology has the potential to revolutionize commerce as it offers the ability to bridge the gap between digital and physical experiences.

The word potential is important– the technology is still nascent, and while many brands have started to experiment with beacons, their full potential is yet to be realized. PayPal has rolled out a beacon-based payment solution, Major League Baseball stadiums are using beacons to enhance the in-stadium experience for fans, and grocery stores are embracing beacons to send location-based shopping list reminders.

To capture and catalog all of the thinking surrounding location-based services and hardware, Phil Robinson, Associate Creative Director, Mobile & Social Platforms, created the blog Contextually Aware. The blog will showcase his own work in the space- he is building his own beacon system with a Raspberry Pi- as well as serve as a central repository of information about the technology and its potential use cases for R/GA clients.

Visit Contextually Aware here.

Also, WTF Are In-Store Beacons?


  • Mobile app usage grows 115% in 2013, driven by messaging and social apps. For those on the mobile web, Google added a data compression feature to Chrome for mobile that reduces data usage by 50% couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • Mobile now accounts for 9% of Bank of America transactions, up from 7% in the previous quarter. As mobile transactions grow, security will become an increasing concern, one which Starbucks did nothing to dissipate this week.

  • With such huge mobile growth, you’d think no one puts down their smartphones anymore. But in reality, people are actually reading more printed books, perhaps in an effort to unplug (a major trend the FutureVision team noted last year).

Long Reads:

  • Alcohol, heroin, and… video games? Forbes mulls how virtual reality could be our next ‘hard drug.’

  • Judging by the phrases of the most successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns, backers are looking for positivity, confidence… and a little kick back.

  • Is technology making us smarter or stupider? If A Time Traveller Saw A Smartphone

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