Wearables are the Next Big Brand Challenge.

The average person on the street may not realise it, but everything they do is now being analysed, not just your online behaviour. The Dublin Web Summit is in full swing, and something that keeps cropping up is the growth of data directly taken from wearables and the consumer products we use, without a second thought – even your smartphone.

It’s no great surprise to anyone, that our activity is being analysed, your average person online is used to this from their web browsing. Google search ads, retargeting and Facebook ads are all now expected to be contextual to your online activity. You want to book a holiday, so after you’ve done a little research, you check out your Facebook feed to see an ad that has been generated by a price comparison site, or an airline, etc. This is something we now expect, even if we don’t always think about it.

The big change is that now, more than ever we are handing over data that goes beyond our search history. Many people now wear fitness trackers, often get to their ten thousand steps a day, people who don’t wear one will sometimes have an app that counts their steps anyway and log their activity. This information can, and will eventually be used by brands to create more specific and more targeted content with real relevance to the consumer.

To take the example of the fitness trackers, which are hugely popular. This could be a person who regularly reaches their step goal, or perhaps sleeps really poorly each night. It’s not too hard to imagine a brand-oriented platform which can take this data being generated and allow brands to promote on this. For the person who reaches their step count, it could be a healthy snack deal at a local supermarket, or for the insomniac, a local bed shop or blind fitters which could help them sleep a little more soundly.

This might seem a little Orwellian, but it’s not too far off where we are at the moment. Masses of anonymous consumer are supplied each day to brands looking to advertise. Currently, these are restricted to your search or browsing habits. While they are already very contextual, they don’t really understand you as a person, their data is limited to what you’ve chosen to share (which for most people, is quite a bit).

To put it in context, there are currently 17 billion connected devices in the world, and this is set to grow, massively with 52 billion by 2020, largely this growth will be driven by wearables as they become more mainstream. That’s a huge amount of information being pulled together.  Peggy Johnson, of Microsoft, speaking at the Web Summit said that as a company, they now view the person as the hub, with devices such as Band being built around that.

It might seem cynical at first, but to use wearables to help promote content, in a more context driven way would be more beneficial to everyone. Consumers would no longer get annoying ads which don’t really have any major benefit to their lives, and brands would no longer be able to deliver information much more effectively. The resulting content is much more bespoke and makes advertising do what it’s supposed to do; deliver insight to the consumer and to the brand.

However, with so many different kinds of contact points with a consumer, a brand should always remember that, it is at its heart a more intimate communication. Beyond a TV advert, or a Sponsored social post, adverts generated by wearables will be specific to someone’s actions and their lives, it needs a much more intimate approach than before.

This is where the challenge lies as new technologies reach the mainstream, combined with a growing expectation from people that the content they consume will grow to match it.

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The iPad is here!!! Now what’s it all about?

Here at last! Steve Jobs finally announced the new iPad (iSlate turns out to be just fan speculation) to a crowd of gathered journalists. Now that we’ve all gotten our jaws off the floor at what a gorgeous and sleek device the iPad truly is – let’s see what’s under the hood.

IPad seen here with dock and keyboad... isn't it lovely?

Only half an inch thick and weighing .9kg you won’t even feel the pad in your bag. These measurements were generally to be expected given Apple’s love of the slim and the need for portability which would outdo its rivals. The battery will last you about ten hours, which is a lot longer then most laptops and netbooks available on the market today.

The screen is somewhat smaller than most were expecting at only 9.7”, this however is still perfect for magazines, books, movies, music, writing and pretty much anything else you can think of! It uses LED display with IPS meaning that from whichever angle you see it at you get no fading and still get a good strong image.

The first of the TWO models, which has WiFi only is shipping in March, with the follow up second model will have both WiFi and 3G and will be shipping in America, anyway, in April.  The basic version will be just $499 which is about €350 and well below what anyone had previously expected. Rumours are rising about who on this side of the pond will be getting the 3G rights, AT&T, traditional American carrier of the iPhone is said to already have secured its deal, so if history is to be repeated then it looks like O2 might have it in the bag. The 3G version will probably be more expensive, but even then will still be affordable and give e-readers and other tablets, slates or pads a run for their money.

Speaking of e-readers, the iPad will come with a brand new native app; iBook. This app will, essentially be an e-reader  and bookshop all in one, and allow you to download books straight to the device without ever leaving iBook and read them on the large, crisp display. Exactly how this reading experience will compare to e-ink, which is designed  to mimic paper is hard to tell. Apple are probably aiming more for the magazine and newspaper market, and trying to pick up ebooks while they go.

iBook store will give Amazon a good fight, but will it win over book fans? Hard to tell, doesn't bowl me over too much...

Apple are also reporting that the full 140,000 of their apps, currently available in their app store will be ready to go for the iPad for when it comes out in the shops, by which time there will be a whole mountain of apps ready for the platform as developers speed up creating new apps specifically tailored for the larger screen and faster processor. This also goes a long way to securing and keeping Apple’s 99.4% market share of all applications, leaving Nokia and Google in the shade with little hope in the short term of gaining any major ground.

Also bundled In are all the apps we know and love from the iPhone, such as Contacts, Safari, Mail, Maps, etc.The layout of the interface is extremely similar to the iPhone/iPod screen, just with more space between apps also allowing for a background image, and allowing for the multiple home screens which you can swipe between for your various applications.

Some standard ideas still follow through from the iPhone with a multitouch screen, allowing for a more flowing navigation of your files and apps. The 30-pin connector located just under the standard ‘Home’ button are also some friendly and familiar faces, and fit in nice and seamlessly with the device and make it look more like an iPhone then just the screen of a MacBook taken off the keyboard.

Some new innovations come with the A4 chip which has been designed by the Apple team specifically for the iPad, which is supposed to make the device far more efficient than others.

The iPad also comes with a choice of storage sizes all flash based, 16, 32, and 64GB, which is similar to the iPhone storage and should be enough to hold anything you really want to carry around, given that the iPad isn’t really a netbook, but more than a phone the storage sizes aren’t hugely surprising.

Still no flash?

Some things missing, however are making small holes in the otherwise glowing facade of Apple’s latest product. Apple had an excuse for not having flash on the original iPhone, and maybe even on the 3G, but for the iPad? Certainly not – for such a media oriented device it is quite unusual for it not to carry support for one of the most used animation tools and what can often be the basics of many websites out there today. Many people expected support for the popular plug-in, and there is a minor sense of disappointment at it not being at the party. Two other things which were speculated were a webcam and USB port, although these were probably filed under the category of “they’d be handy” and mostly on a small number of fans wish lists, few really ever expected that either would make a real appearance.

Prices start low and go up depending on what you’re looking for, as you can see below;

16 GB  32 GB  64 GB

Wi-Fi                   $499   $599   $699

Wi-Fi + 3G           $629  $729   $829

Rumours have also been circulating over the magazines and newspapers which will be signing up for the new iPad. So far it has been suggested that the New York Times, Vogue and Wired are just some of the publications which are waiting to release their own apps or iPad formatted editions.

Over all it looks to be a brilliant device, and although there wasn’t a huge amount of surprises hidden away other then the name, the iPad has still managed to impress. Whether it will kill off the e-reader, it can’t be said until people actually begin reading on the iPad. It will also be interesting to see how Apple regulate their books.  Which we’ll also have to wait and see for, given the current debates on how ebook downloads should be regulated.

A desirable device, but the question at the end of the day is, do you really need one and if so, why would you need it?

But you WANT it!