Today marked the seventh iteration of the Razorfish Tech Summit, which brought together more than 200 technology industry executives in New York City to discuss software innovation. The two-day, invitation-only event was collaboratively sponsored and created with Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Appirio, Dynatrace, hybris, IBM, Rackspace, and Yahoo.
The Lab at the Tech Summit included hands-on demonstrations, in partnership with NYC Media Lab, which gave attendees the chance to experience technology projects produced by students from schools including Parsons, New York University and Columbia University. The students were tasked with inspiring the next wave of technology and were given the opportunity to demonstrate their projects alongside installations from Razorfish Global, Rosetta, Dynatrace and Hybris. Popular demonstrations included:
GlassMouse, which invigorates streetscape and mallscape windows with new invisible powers of interactivity; Flatline, a visualization of an individual’s social media presence as an electrocardiograph; and Pure, a speculative wearable piece commenting on the growing issue of pollution and functionality of clothing. This project is a response to the lack of concern for air quality and the impracticality of the modern fashion industry.
Along with the interactive demonstration area, a lineup of panel discussions inspired attendees throughout the day. The event kicked off with an opening talk from Razorfish Global Chief Technology Officer Ray Velez, who encouraged executives to “build experiences that are timely, relevant and smart.” Velez mentioned Marc Andreessen’s quote “software is eating the world” to highlight the ways in which technology is creating an environment that is bringing together physical and digital experiences. Despite the changes in technology, Velez urged: “Consumers are more in charge than ever before. They are expecting services that are built just for them.” Velez emphasized how machine learning, cloud, and big data technology are critical in putting the customer at the center of their business endeavors.
The consumer experience was at the heart of the first presentation of the morning led by Piers Fawkes, who is the founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK.com and PSFK Labs. Fawkes gave the audience a preview of his “Future of Retail” report, noting the innovative ways retailers and brands are using technology to connect with consumers. He explained that the new shopping experience revolves around ten pillars, ranging from creating confidence among shoppers to delivering a delightful, unique retail experience.
Next, Dr. Steven Abrams, the director of Watson Ecosystem Technology at IBM, took the stage to explore cognitive computing and how humans and machines are collaborating in surprising ways. “It is not man versus machine now,” Dr. Abrams said. “It is man working together with machine.”
He cited various examples of how cognitive computing might work in different industries, whether it is a chef using a collaborative partner for recipe ideas or a physician working to better diagnose patients by analyzing the medical records of those who experienced similar symptoms. A video shown during the presentation also showcased the work of Elemental Path in New York City, which is using IBM’s Watson technology to develop connected toys to aid children in learning.
Following Dr. Abrams’ presentation, Razorfish leaders Christopher Follett (Executive Creative Director) and Eric Campdoras (Creative Technology Director) encouraged the audience to view the retail environment in a new way. Their demonstration of “Talk & Shop,” which involves a mix of iterating prototyping, artificial intelligence, synchronization and voice capabilities, showcased how mobile can enhance a consumer’s shopping experience.
And as today’s consumer is very much influenced by mobile, David Iudica, Yahoo’s director of strategic insights and research, revealed findings from a global study conducted with Flurry Analytics with 6,000 smartphone users.
Highlights of the study include:
- People are adopting smartphones quickly due to the multiple products it has replaced
- More efficiency and a better experience will lead to increased smartphone usage
- Phablets are the fastest growing device; as screen sizes grow, engagement will increase
- In the U.S., people spend three hours and 40 minutes a day on mobile devices
- Native mobile advertisements on premium earn three times more attention from consumers than the static banner ad
Following this deep dive into smartphone usage, Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist of MIT Sloan School of Management, shared how machines and humans can work together, stressing people still have the upper hand. “Our brains and our minds clearly do remain valuable even in a world of advanced technology,” McAfee said. We all felt reassured when he guided us to a recent report, “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market.”
He also encouraged the audience to “be more geeky” and to embrace data to make better decisions. The team appreciated hearing the geeks (data-driven decisions) vs. HiPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion) debate.
Amyx+McKinsey Founder Scott Amyx, Founder & CEO then discussed how wearables and the Internet of Things can provide new capabilities that impact the brand engagement cycle. He shared examples from retail and omni-channel marketing that showcase how to engage consumers in new ways. He also explained how wearables and the Internet of Things can enable better experiences by measuring emotion. One statistic he shared that surprised the crowd was 55% of what we as people communicate is done via body language.
After Amyx’s talk, David Nuescheler, the VP of Enterprise Technology at Adobe Systems Incorporated, delivered a presentation entitled “Technology Paradigm Shifts.” He explained why Adobe’s priorities in open, cloud, and mobile experiences are critical to their future success. He wrapped up with the new truism, “the only constant now is the acceleration of change.”
Next, NYC Media Lab Executive Director Justin Hendrix led a panel with the Razorfish Emerging Experiences team including, Steve Dawson, Luke Hamilton, Charles Fletcher and Kat McCluskey. The group shared about the future of augmented and virtual reality. “These technologies are beginning to create a lot of buzz,” Hendrix said, noting that $150 billion will be invested in the space by 2020. Sensor technology and 3-D design were cited as innovations in the category.
The discussion then transitioned to the NEXUS Customer Intelligence Marketing Operating System (MOS). Panelists Samih Fadli, Chief Intelligence Officer, Razorfish Global; Dmitri Tchikatilov, Global Business Development Executive for Digital Advertising at Amazon Web Services; and Tom Kotlarek, Executive Vice President, Technology Razorfish Global, shared the ways data can be leveraged to drive targeted customer experiences and boost engagement. With incredibly powerful big data technology, enabled through cloud computing, Nexus has a great answer to the oncoming deluge of data coming from the greater and greater proliferation of data. Nexus has a vision to use data to listen to customers enabling breakthrough experiences.
Visa’s Senior Vice President Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation Shiv Singh—our former Razorfish colleague— delivered a dynamic presentation, “Five Ideas for Marketing Transformation.” Singh says this kind of marketing revolves around open source brand building, transmedia storytelling, ubiquitous engagement, being anchored in owned media experiences that mirror the model of a publisher or magazine, and adopting a marketing checklist that takes full advantage of digital. “Software is becoming culture,” Singh said. “Technology is culture—it is life.”
Hilary Mason, the founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, which advises brands on data strategy, closed the Tech Summit with a look at data science. Mason presented on “Innovation Through Data,” exploring how companies like Reddit, Foursquare and Google Maps are utilizing data effectively. She mentioned that companies of this nature are driven by data due to access to sophisticated computation, the ability to collect and store it, and being adept at analyzing it in an efficient manner. Mason also touched on machine learning. “We are at the beginning of machine learning applications,” she said. “We will see machines that interface with us.” Check out her recent book, Data Driven: Creating a Data Culture, on how to use data to help drive your business.
Hands down, it was our best Tech Summit yet. Watch this space—in the coming days we will publish another post that contains links to many of the presentations.