Is wearable technology in stalemate?

A few weeks ago I was pleasantly invited to Weareable Tech in Turin, a small Expo on wearbale technology.  Since I had given a presentation at Glocal News in Varese the day before, I thought I’d kill two pigeons with one stone and make a detour to this beautiful North Italian city to see what’s going on in this realm.

As you can read in one of their blog posts, about 19 million wearable devices were sold worldwide in 2014. Over 600,000 in Italy alone. A number that will definitely grow according to the market survey conducted by IDC (International Data Corporation), which provided 112 million pieces purchased by 2018. The interest around this field has been strong for years: “What was still missing was a comprehensive project able to systematize the knowledge and numerous reports that reached us from the network and the users “ Explains Fabio Lalli and just to think and map the evolution of the world that he and Mirko Lalli, together with the team of IQUII, They founded in February 2014, the first Observatory Wearable Technologyin Italy.WearTech_Turin (2)

According to to the data of the Observatory, the predominant fields in Italy are the medical one, with 47% of Italian companies already involved in this business. In second place we have wellness and fitness (35%), followed by gaming, security and home automation, in which six percent of Italian companies decided to invest.

A market definitely in growth but, according to the Observatory, it has three major problems that prevent the real take-off: the price is still too high, usability and effective help that is given to users. “Becauseif at the level of the designthere was improvement and it is in fornt of everyone’s eyes, the problem of offering something concrete to a wider audience of people is still evident. The corners are well covered: think of sports, military and medical markets. But to have a mainstream effect we must extend functionality, trying those that have a high impact in the life of every day and that are easy to use.“

WearTech_Turin

Apart from all this promising data,  while entering the fair I had a feeling of…something being stuck in a rut. The location was quite dull, like it was all prepped up in the previous 30 minutes. This kind of techy conferences need to be visually flashy, appealing, eye-catching….well, it was everything but that. It felt like being in a giant card box. But apart from questioning the décor of the venue, let’s go through the content on display.

The first thing that hit me (I could not believe it), was guess what??? They were displaying Google Glass! Seriously??? Google Glass??? How long has it been that Google Glass is presented as the “next upcoming unmissable thing that’s gonna change our world”? 5-6 years? And still, sadly, it was the most requested device to try on…c’mon

I tried Google Glass over two years ago and at the time it was already obsolete, meaning that all famous communication experts worldwide had tried it. I don’t know what’s going on with Google marketing but the PR work behind this product has not been the best of their success. Anyway, after the Googleglass shock I moved on…

I moved to another company who were showing Google Cardboard a virtual reality platform  for use with a fold-out cardboard mount for a smartphone. It is intended as a low-cost system to encourage interest and development in VR and VR applications. Now, this is actually pretty cool and it costs about 20€ on Amazon. This is something that could work great and become viral, but not marketing efforts are behind it.

I started talking to the “Director,” whatever that meant, to the company displaying the product. Cutting to the chase, he acted like a little arrogant spoilt little boy who just stopped using his pacifier the day before, thinking he was Steve Jobs. These people are 90% the time the reason why potentially interesting start-ups don’t take off. Well done mate.

Google_cardboard_WearTechThe only product that really made an impression to me was Aria Insoles. Having had triple foot surgery and having been an an amateur athlete for most of my life, this product seemed to have hit the spot. Whether you’re an athlete exposed to excessive sweating or a diabetic particularly sensitive to the weather changes, maintaining a costant foot temperature can play against you. Continue reading “Is wearable technology in stalemate?”

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The European Commission’s online communication today and tomorrow

I was happy to participate to “Web, Mobile, Social – The Commission’s online communication today and tomorrow” at the Committee of the Regions

listening to Robert Andrecs, Head of Unit “EUROPA Site”, European Commission, DG Communication and Dana Manescu, Head of the Social Media Sector, European Commission, DG Communication.

The European Commission’s online communication has become a significant component of EU political communication. It aims to reach new audiences and connect with citizens and stakeholders on the platforms they prefer and the devices they use. The Commission’s web presence is undergoing a massive digital transformation programme which aims at putting users’ needs first. The new web presence will be “mobile first” and integrated with social media. Find out more about the Commission’s web and social media communication and its plans for the years ahead.

A question that was raised during the debate was “how can the EU communicate with one voice?” This is indeed a challenging issue for institutional communicators of such a simultaneously diverse, intricate but united organization and I believe a similar challenge is raised for other similar international organizations like the UN. This is was a good opportunity for me to mention the European Union’s presence at Expo 2015, the biggest event of 2015 and the biggest event on nutrition ever organized. The participation of the European Union at Expo 2015 is a project managed by the European Commission (more precisely by a task force of the Joint research Centre) but it is a European Union-branded project. In our communication we always refer to ourselves as European Union. This is a challenging task but it definetely helps EU and institutional communicators get an idea of how communicating on common global goals benefits the overall understanding of a European project.

See my intervention at 56:56

Twiplomacy is the Bible of social media professionals in international organizations


The Twiplomacy report is par excellence the guide book to the use of institutional tweeting or, as they better put it, it is an annual global study looking at the use of Twitter by heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs.

While some heads of state and government continue to amass large followings, foreign ministers have established a virtual diplomatic network by following each other on the social media platform. Here is the executive summary from this great work put up by Matthias Lüfkens and Marek Zaremba-Pike together at Burston Marsteller. I had the pleasure to meet Matthias and Marek at their presentation of the report at BM’s offices in Brussels last July (See video below and my short intervention at 40:57)

For many diplomats Twitter has become a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft and not all Twitter exchanges are diplomatic, real world differences are spilling over reflected on Twitter and sometimes end up in hashtag wars.

“I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world,” India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in his inaugural message on his new website. Within weeks of his election in May 2014, the @NarendraModi account has moved into the top four most followed Twitter accounts of world leaders with close to five million followers.

More than half of the world’s foreign ministers and their institutions are active on the social networking site. Twitter has become an indispensable diplomatic networking and communication tool. As Finnish Prime Minister @AlexStubb wrote in a tweet in March 2014: “Most people who criticize Twitter are often not on it. I love this place. Best source of info. Great way to stay tuned and communicate.”

As of 25 June 2014, the vast majority (83 percent) of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network.

Most Followed World Leaders

Since his election in late May 2014, India’s new Prime Minister @NarendraModi has skyrocketed into fourth place, surpassing the the @WhiteHouse on 25 June 2014 and dropping Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül (@cbabdullahgul) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RT_Erdogan) into sixth and seventh place with more than 4 million followers each.

Modi still has a ways to go to best U.S. President @BarackObama, who tops the world-leader list with a colossal 43.7 million followers, with Pope Francis @Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono @SBYudhoyono, who has more than five million followers and surpassed President Obama’s official administration account @WhiteHouse on 13 February 2014.

In Latin America Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the President of Argentina @CFKArgentina is slightly ahead of Colombia’s President @JuanManSantos with 2,894,864 and 2,885,752 followers respectively. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto @EPN, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff @dilmabr and Venezuela’s @NicolasMaduro complete the Latin American top five, with more than two million followers each.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta @UKenyatta is Africa’s most followed president with 457,307 followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame (407,515

followers) and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma (@SAPresident) (325,876 followers).

Turkey’s @Ahmet_Davutoglu is the most followed foreign minister with 1,511,772 followers, ahead of India’s @SushmaSwaraj (1,274,704 followers) and the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates @ABZayed (1,201,364 followers) Continue reading “Twiplomacy is the Bible of social media professionals in international organizations”

#iMinds 2013: What if…?

This article was also published on Waltzing Matilda Blog

Last 5 December I have had the pleasure to attend the iMinds conference in Brussels. iMinds is an independent research institute founded by the Flemish government to stimulate ICT innovation. iMinds brings together companies, authorities, and non-profit organizations to join forces on research projects.

The theme of the event was “driving digital innovation in Europe” and the leitmotiv of most presentations during the day was “What if…?” This question is the foundation of every invention, but of course an invention does not always turn into innovation. Because most challenges cannot be solved by a single effort or organization successful and innovative ideas need a structure.

One of the first lessons at this regards was given by Bart Decrem (SVP at The Walt Disney Company) who talked about his personal experiences in the Silicon Valley and his involvement in various projects and start-ups, leading up to the acquisition of his mobile gaming company Tapulous by Disney. Bart provided insight into the Disney strategy on mobile content and talked about the next big things he sees coming in digital technology.

My favourite quote from this part (and from the entire day) was “Successful apps are those that change people’s behaviour”

This is so true. In a market saturated with apps, many of which present very similar functionalities, the only ones deserve the “success” labels are those that managed to stick to people’s mind and actually make an impact on how people simply “do things.” Continue reading “#iMinds 2013: What if…?”

Twopcharts, tracking Twitter users by language and by city


Here is an interesting project I have found a couple of days back.

Twopcharts made an effort to find the most influential active Twitter users for cities around the world, as well as widely spoken languages. By selecting any of the cities or languages available in their database, you will be directed to a dedicated page with several lists and search capabilities. Twopcharts have also created a number of twitter tools that can be used for any Twitter account. As they say in their about page, they welcome any suggestions you may have.

Here’s an example of what happens if you look for your Twitter account

New Picture

To thank or not thank (for the follow) shouldn’t be a dilemma


Thanking for the follow is a quite common practice especially among consultants, communication experts or people working in public relations. Still, I find it hard to see the added value in “thanking for the follow.” Let’s break it down:

PROS

  • You display engagement with your audience.
  • You acknowledge and digitally “reward” your new followers, giving them “social currency.”
  • You look kind and friendly.

CONS

  • You look like you’re trying to sell a second-hand car.

Acknowledging your network is absolutely golden, but is thanking for the follow the right way to do so?

What do you think?

thanks-for-follow

I tried Google Glass…and I liked it. But, do I need it?


Right, here we go. I finally managed to try Google Glass. It was at Google’s offices in Brussels (lovely offices by the way) some time ago. I had a lot of expectations from this product. I had noticed already that a few well-known communications and innovation experts had been already given Google Glass for trial and test but still it was hard for me to understand what this item could actually do. Besides, the hype around them has been really huge especially since the release of the first teaser video in 2012 so, I was very curious.

GoogleGlass

The presentation was lovely with a group of well-prepared young American (I think all of them were) Google employees who had been touring around Europe and the rest of the world to provide Google Glass demos.

Google Glass is interesting for specific uses, but you’re going to struggle to find a use for them all the time. It didn’t seem like they’re going to replace looking at your smartphone any time soon.

I’m not a particular fan of wearable computing and I admit I’m not a big fan of people using Siri or talking on the phones directly through their headphones…Brrrrrr They look to me like they have watched too many Wall Street-based movies and they actually look ridiculous. Anyway…

The device lent to me was both light and comfortable possibly also because I’m used to wear glasses . You can wear Google Glass without lenses, so you just have the frame, although Google is planning to make them adaptable for actual prescription lenses. The frame is made of titanium, which you can bend to fit your face without breaking.

Now, let’s talk frankly. When you wear them, you don’t look that cool. Although the Swedish designer did a great job making such device sort of conceivable, you still look a like Vegeta from Dragonball Z who is now claiming that he used to wear Google Glass before it was cool. See picture below in case you were born out of the Dragonball Z generation.

dragon-ball-glasses

You turn Google Glass on by moving your head up, or tapping the side of the frame. This activates a tiny screen showing the time, and the phrase “OK Glass” floating about 10 centimetres in the upper right part. By saying “OK Glass” you get a menu with a range of options such as “Google…(something)”, “take a picture”, record a video”, “get directions to … “, “send a message to … “, “call somebody”, “hang out with … ” Regardless what I read in other reviews, I actually found it pretty accurate when I asked for instance to get “directions to the Atonium” or to “Google my blog” or to “take a picture.”
The presenter explained that in some cases, it might be good to put up an American accent but that sound recognition is constantly being assessed and improved.

A problem with the voice command is that obviously you are not inaudible. Think about other people’s reactions when hearing a man just shouting things out loud. Can you imagine being on the bus and say “OK Glass, give me directions to the nearest sushi shop…” or something like it, or worse, witnessing something unusual on the streets and start shouting “PHOTO, PHOTO, PHOTO!!!!!” or “RECORD A VIDEO, RECORD A VIDEO!!!!” Let’s not forget that “normal people” don’t do so.

There is a way around this of course. You don’t really need to say: “OK Glass, take a picture”. You can just press a button on the top of the sidepiece, or hold it down for video. But then, why wouldn’t you do it with your smartphone? This brings up the notorious privacy issue since there’s no warning to anyone around you that you’re taking photos or videos. Still, there are plenty of similar conceivable devices already available on the market so I don’t see why this very product would create a different case study.

One of the key strengths of this product is that it shows a considerable effort by Google to impose themselves as innovators. In fact, I see how some niche markets could make good use of Glass like in the medical sphere, in technological research or even (why not?) in sports refereeing.

On the other hand, regular people don’t need to walk around needing to Google things. We use our smartphones for that.

Bill Gates’ missed prediction on printed paper

In 2000 Bill Gates foresaw that printed paper would disappear by 2007. As we all know, this turned out to be a reckless forecast. Even though digitalization and the actual number of computers (including desktops and laptops) has grown by 1000% since then, even though we have witnessed the advent of e-mails, chats, the web and cloud computing, paper has still not abandoned us.

Since 2011 the whole volume of printed paper has only declined by 1.5%. More precisely, global production went from 3.03 billion down to 2.98 billion printed pages. (Data from IDC analysis related to inkjet and laser print-outs.)

Right, we can record a light decrease but we must also consider that the economic crisis has reduced drastically the production and usage of paper of many Western businesses.

Even though tablets are beating sales records since 2008, black on white print-out is still the most comfortable, pleasant and healthy way to read. Especially in the office environment we enjoy reading print-outs in order not to tire our eyes and have the opportunity to scrabble on them.

The morale that this data tells is that gurus’ ideas can be often creative but reckless and what is worse is that they are passed on new generations…on paper obviously.

 

Does social networking make us less social?

Mike Elgan raised an interesting issue on his Google Plus account recently. See below:

Our waiter at a side walk restaurant in Florence last night (I don’t recall his name, sadly), believes that social networks are making us all less social. He said that over his years as a waiter, people have become more obsessed with checking their social networking feeds and less polite. When they come into the restaurant, the first thing they say is: “do you have WiFi?,” rather than “hello.” Then they sit there with their faces in their phones instead of talking. Is it true? Do social networks make us less social?

Capture

The post  received over 165 plusses and 80 comments, demonstrating how the issue is very interesting to people.

I think the definition of being social has to be revised, meaning that the offline and online aspects of this activity have to be merged. Is somebody who is very socially active online not a sociable person?
Probably yes, within the current most accepted definition. Continue reading “Does social networking make us less social?”