Google Invests In the Internet of Things

nest-thermostatIn an ironic twist of fate, Google, and many other tech companies, are beginning to realize that they need things to capitalize on the enormous Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity.

We live in a smart, connected world. The number of things connected to the Internet now exceeds the total number of humans on the planet, and we’re accelerating to as many as 50 billion by the year 2020 according to Cisco. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report, Disruptive Technologies, finds that the IoT has the potential to create an economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.

The bad news for tech companies is that the majority of those 50 billion things are not going to be computers and phones. They are going to be homes, cars and bodies. Google may dominate in the traditional computing platforms, but this new smart, connected world is the wild, wild west.

The connected home. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of buzz around Google this week after it agreed to pay $3.2 billion in cash for Nest Labs, which makes a smart, connected thermostat and smoke detector. However, Google has been focused on establishing its platform in the home since 2011 when it announced the Android@Home framework for home automation. The vision is that all of our home appliances, gadgets and infrastructure will communicate with one another through a new computing platform. Owning that platform, like owning the OS on your computer is key, and Nest may be Google’s Trojan horse.

The connected car. At the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas the IoT was once again a central theme, and auto OEMs lead the charge. Audi and Chevrolet announced plans for embedding 4G LTE connectivity in their cars, and with connectivity comes new apps and services all requiring an OS. Apple had already announced iOS in-car capabilities with the release of iOS 7, and not to be outdone, Google announced the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) at CES. This global alliance of auto industry leaders including GM, Honda, and Audi, is committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014.

The connected body. As reported by Financial Review, Google was awarded nearly 2000 patents in the United States last year, almost double the number of all previous years combined. This highlights a race to stake out promising new technology markets, as fields such as wearable computing become the next frontiers for growth. Much of the wearable computing focus for Google has been associated with Project Glass, Google’s effort to develop augmented reality glasses. While Google offered Google Glass to a handful of developers and technology enthusiasts for $1,500 this year, there is buzz a public release is likely early next year.

“Google will help us fully realize our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone,” Nest CEO Tony Fadell wrote in a blog post. The world is changing faster than ever, and Google is betting on homes, cars and bodies to be the things that enable competitive advantage in a smart, connected world.

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The Drive to Mastery

I just finished reading a great book by Daniel Pink: Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The core, but likely oversimplification of his argument, is that business needs new motivational tools to foster the creativity, collaboration and innovation required in today’s service economy. The three keys to this new approach are:

1. Autonomy: to direct our own lives
2. Mastery: to continually get better at something that matters
3. Purpose: to do it for a larger cause

There are a lot of great concepts supported by extensive research and examples, but one idea really stood out to me. Mastery.

Daniel Pink argues that mastery is first a foremost a mindset. That is you need to believe your abilities are infinite and adaptable, but acknowledge that mastery like an asymptote is impossible to fully realize. Also, mastery is a pain. It requires effort, grit and deliberate practice over your lifetime. There is no easy button.

I think this concept of mastery is especially important for marketers today. Two reasons:

First, the skills, tools and mindset required to be a successful marketer today is very different from what it was five years ago and what it will be next year. Most recently, the proliferation of social and mobile technologies requires marketers be armed with new tools and a different mindset in order to just survive.

Second, as Thomas Friedman recently described: the world isn’t just flat, it’s hyperconnected. We are all competing with the global connected workforce and disruptive technologies. Creative design, application development, even your tweeting can be outsourced because there is someone else who can do it cheaper, faster and better.

My takeaway, it’s imperative to not only deliver distinct value but to continually pursue the Mastery of it.

Check out this great article from Fast Company describing how Generation Flux succeeds in this new world of chaos.

The year of the digital wallet

Image2011 was the year to talk about the digital wallet. A Google search for “digital wallet” will deliver about 250,000,000 results… just for the past year.

Although the conversation around the space is white hot, George Constanza’s wallet will continue to be valuable for years to come. 2012 will not be the year of the digital wallet, neither will 2013 or 2014 or even 2015.

First, the market is yet to be clearly defined. The “digital wallet” market includes solutions like: mobile payments using NFC technologies that allow consumers to wave-and-pay using their phone, barcode or QR code scanning for self checkout or price comparison, and coupons or loyalty rewards which are linked to your account or phone instead or a card or cutout.

Second, the there are a myriad of potential solutions coming from every direction including merchants (e.g. Starbucks), financial institutions (e.g. AmEx Serve) and tech companies (e.g. Google Wallet).

Unless you are a financial institution, mobile carrier, or technology company you are best to wait until the dust settles. Consumer adoption will be low and fragmented and the likelihood of guessing wrong and investing in the wrong space is high.

Two posts that describe the space well:

Forrester Research Blog “The Battle For the Digital Wallet”

http://blogs.forrester.com/benjamin_ensor/11-11-25-the_battle_for_the_digital_wallet

Fast Company Infographic “Mobile Melee”

http://infographics.fastcompany.com/magazine/161/smartphone-infographic.html

Fourzam (AKA IntoNow)

Shazam is an amazing music discovery engine. It allows you to identify, buy and share any song that is playing. Just hold your phone to the speaker and shazam!

Foursquare, Gowalla and a few others allow you to share your location with friends. The promise is that you can find friends nearby and explore new places.

Put these two concepts together and you get IntoNow. It allows you to connect with your friends around the TV you love. Just hold your phone up to the TV, IntoNow identifies the show or commercial, and shares this with your friends.

What I find interesting about this integration of tools and technologies. These mashups are not just for MIT grads with some startup cash, Marketers should take the time to understand what is possible with their own tools and technologies.

Here is an example of how marketers are using this: Tag a TV Ad, Get a Free Pepsi

1 Mobile App Trends You Can’t Ignore

A great post by Christina Warren titled 5 Mobile App Trends You Can’t Ignore provides some great ideas for marketers thinking about mobile.

My POV is that everyone should pay special attention to trend #2, Integration with Dropbox and Other Cloud Services. While this is a key feature for mobile users to free them from “smartphone jails” as Christina says, all marketers need to think about how APIs can connect their brands own insight, expertise, functionality, tools, etc. with all the social applications that exist today. Or even better, let developers figure it out for you.

Here are a couple of good resources to start with:

Linking the Real World to the Web: 3 Emerging Technologies Compared

The battle for the dominant digital to physical mobile technology begins:

Linking the Real World to the Web: 3 Emerging Technologies Compared.

Is Green Marketing still worth the risk?

A recent article by Sarah Mahoney (FTC Slaps Kmart With ‘Fake Green’) highlights how the FTC, in its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from the increasingly sneaky “greenwashing” terms used by marketers, has charged Kmart Corp. with making “false and unsubstantiated claims” that its private-label paper products are biodegradable.

This charge however is splitting hairs according to Liz Gorman, VP of corporate responsibility for Cone Inc. Although the products actually are biodegradable if disposed properly, it’s only because of the way most people dispose of paper plates that they’ll never have a chance to.

And if the FTC doesn’t get you, the enviro bloggers are also watching. The Greenwashing Index, promoted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, calls out offenders on greenwashingindex.com. And not to be outdone, Greenpeace’s StopGreenwash.org has been developed to confront deceptive greenwashing campaigns, engage companies in debate, and give activists and lawmakers the information and tools they need to confront corporate deception.

To make matters worse, according to the July 31, 2008 report “A CMO’s Guide To Corporate Social Responsibility” by Forrester Research, consumers are very skeptical of any claim. 77% of consumers agreed with the statement “Almost all companies are saying that they are environmentally friendly, and it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth” and 70% said: “I don’t always think companies are being genuine when they talk about how they help the environment and society.”

The takeaway is not that companies should stop trying to be environmentally conscious or pursuing “green” ventures (such as eStatements) that also make good business sense. If anything, the environmental push in the last decade has raised the minimum bar by which all companies must now operate.

The point is that marketers need to be very cautious about promoting their efforts, taking credit for its effects, or leveraging these activities to differentiate or market their brand. The “green marketing” first mover advantage is long gone and the risks now seem to outweigh the potential benefits.

Five Online Trends Marketers Should Focus On.

With almost half of 2009 and hopefully the worst of the economy behind us, its time to focus on the online trends that matter. Put your Facebook and Twitter strategy aside and focus on:

  • Interactivity: Organizations need to really internalize what it means to be interactive and leverage the specific strengths of interactive channels for all marketing programs and consumer touch points. Interactive marketers need to push best practices across the entire organization to ensure a positive experience for consumers changing behaviors and expectations.
  • Measurement: Consumers increasing cross-channel behavior will force marketers to improve their measurement capabilities. Consumers move across a variety of online and offline channels throughout their purchase process. In order to accurately determine the effectiveness of marketing spend, influence future investment or identify which programs to cut, measurement needs a cross-cannel upgrade.
  • Consolidation: With the proliferation of marketing channels, organizations have acquired a variety of separate vendor/agency relationships for their search, email, social and mobile marketing efforts. Marketers need to tear down the internal and external walls separating channels to reduce the number of profit centers and infighting, create a media neutral approach and improve cross-channel integration.
  • Governance: The talk in 2008 was that marketing’s needed to release control of their brands, that consumers now owned the brands and there was nothing you could do about it. It is exactly because of that shift in control that marketers need to better manage brand communications through the issuance of governance policies and procedures for employees and increased vigilance through brand monitoring tools and technologies.
  • Analytics: For years now marketers have been collecting data through CRM systems, web analytics platforms, experiential marketing campaigns, etc. Marketers now need to integrate disparate data sources from around the organization and enhance their analytical capabilities to help improve targeting, enhance consumer insights and promote a more comprehensive view of the customer.