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The latest gadgets can show marketers how best to navigate data privacy and location-targeting, says WPP agency Kinetic’s Anna Griggs.

GeoMinds: Last Words On CES 2015: WOW, IoT, WHA?

| 11:01 am
Kinetic's Anna Griggs

Kinetic’s Anna Griggs

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s largest annual showcase for innovative technologies. The last several CES events have seen a number of major breakthroughs — for the first time, innovations like drones and 3D printers are available to ordinary consumers, while falling costs for sensors and new communications protocols like Bluetooth Low Energy have made it possible for everything from wristwatches to tea kettles to be smart and connected.

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show was less about firsts, and more about experimenting with form factors and use cases for these breakthroughs. Technologists are no longer asking questions like “How do you make a computing device people can wear?” but instead “How do you make a wearable computing device people actually WANT to wear? What does it look like? What does it do?” The conversation around these devices is shifting from “Can we?” to “Should we?” The refinement and popularization of these innovations is opening up a whole new horizon of opportunities for location-based marketing.

Accelerating Innovation

Walking around the show floor at CES and talking to exhibitors, it was surprising to hear just how many of them had received their initial funding through a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo (which even had its own booth). These sites have made entrepreneurship more accessible, allowing bright minds without the ear of angel investors or venture capital firms to secure early funding to build and market their products. By dramatically shortening and simplifying the path from idea to marketplace, crowdfunding sites are rapidly accelerating the pace of innovation.

CES was full of examples of how innovation is now occurring faster than our society can regulate it or adjust to it. For example, this year it seemed like nearly every major auto manufacturer was at CES showing off completely or partially autonomous vehicles. The technology to enable cars to drive themselves is already ready to roll out on the road, but lack of consumer comfort with the concept, and the need for new insurance regulations and laws to govern the use of such vehicles, means that fully autonomous vehicles aren’t yet available to buy.

What will be available to consumers this year, though, are an array of vehicles with increasingly sophisticated connectivity options that pave the way for even smarter, more autonomous cars in the future. At CES, General Motors jumped in to announce they would be pioneering geomarketing for such vehicles, with the introduction of AtYourService, a commerce and engagement offering for recommendations and coupons based on location and destination.

Wearable technology you might actually want to wear

Wearable computing devices were everywhere at CES. While the first generation of smart watches and activity trackers looked like bulky mini-computers strapped onto the wrist, the new wearables are experimenting with a variety of forms and styles as designers investigate how to make wearable technology consumers actually want to wear.

Stand-outs at CES included Withings Activite Pop, an activity tracker that looks like an elegant wristwatch, and Misfit’s collaboration with Swarovski, which includes solar-charging wearables that look like glamorous jewelry.

There’s also Bellabeat’s Leaf, an activity tracker that draws inspiration from nature rather than science fiction. Shaped like, yes, a leaf, the wood and metal device can be worn as a pendant, bracelet, or anklet—evidence that manufacturers in this space are waking up to consumers’ desire to customize how they wear their wearables, and to the fact that women could be an important market for these devices. As wearables broaden in their appeal, and become devices their users want to wear all the time, rather than just when they’re working out, the data they generate will only become richer and more valuable.

How best to leverage the value of that data remains an open question for both marketers and users. One wearable manufacturer, Fitbug, had an answer for consumers at CES with their new product Kiqplan. Kiqplan offers app coaching packages focused on specific goals, like having a healthy and active pregnancy, and pulls in data from wearable devices to create personalized recommendations on exercise and diet, as well as providing motivational notifications. With Kiqplan, Fitbug shows they know that collecting data is easy now, and that it’s making real use of it that’s the challenge. We see the same problem in marketing—there’s more data available than ever before, but data alone doesn’t make an impact.

Feeling Insecure

This year marked the first CES in which there were so many products with a focus on privacy and security that a special section of the show floor had to be dedicated to them. In the wake of the Sony hack, the iCloud breach, and numerous instances of data theft from retailers and banks, data security has gone from being the concern of the James Bonds of the world to something everyday consumers think about too.

One new product designed with these concerns in mind is Lima, a device that connects to your home hard drive and gives you encrypted access to your data from all your devices, without ever uploading anything to the cloud. At the CES Unveiled press preview event, Lima was cleverly promoting their product to journalists with tote bags bearing the Lima logo and the slogan “I don’t put my sex tapes on the cloud.”

Meanwhile, Silent Pocket was exhibiting mobile device sleeves that block out GPS, mobile, wi-fi, and Bluetooth signals for when their user wants to be undetectable, and VYSK was showing off mobile phone case and app packages that can encrypt voice, text, and image data.

Products like Lima, Silent Pocket, and VYSK are a bellwether for marketers indicating that they need to be more transparent about how they are applying data-derived insights for purposes like location-based ad targeting. Audiences are increasingly aware of the vulnerability that comes with sharing their data freely, challenging marketers to come up with more enticing value to offer in exchange.

Get Smart

The dominant theme at CES this year can be summed up in just three letters: IoT (Internet of Things). There were smart lightbulbs, bathroom scales, mirrors, dishwashers, baby bottles… even plant pots. While a lightbulb that you can dim or brighten from your phone is neat, what’s cooler is the ecosystem evolving where these products all interact with one another. While many early IoT products each came with their own app, no one wants 50 apps for each item in her connected home.

At CES this year we saw new products like Wigwag Relay, a hardware device and app duo which act as a central, open-source control panel enabling interactions between all your smart devices like automatically turning down your thermostat, turning off your lights, and turning on your security camera when your smart lock identifies you’ve left home.

Other products, like’s Mother, are designed to bring dumb objects to life. Mother is a hub connecting small sensors called “cookies”, which can monitor environmental conditions like movement and temperature. Mother’s cookies can be attached and re-attached to everything from a toothbrush to a backpack, enabling users to customize their own experience and choose whether they want to, say, be notified by text message when their child comes home, or track who in the family brushes their teeth the longest.

As the cost of sensors like those used by Mother continue to fall, it becomes possible to envision a world in which every object is smart and connected. This will have major implications for how people consume media and perceive marketing campaigns. Interactivity and content personalization based on audience composition, environmental conditions, and location may someday move from being a surprise to being something audiences expect, based on their experiences with their own connected homes and devices. Location-based marketing may have to get a whole lot smarter in response.

*Anna Griggs is Social Media Manager at Kinetic, a WPP agency specializing in audience-led, data-driven out of home media planning.  Anna previously studied sociocultural anthropology at Columbia University, from which she graduated summa cum laude.  She lives in Manhattan.

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