Tag Archives: tech

CES 2020 Review: The most interesting tech from this year’s show

Gekko Field Marketing MD Daniel Todaro rounds up his interesting tech finds from this year’s CES show

The New Year in tech wouldn’t be the same without CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas between 7th – 10th January attended by almost every established tech brand, start up brands, incubator and brand on the periphery of technology with something to showcase. The products on display range from the expected to the unusual, as in the case of sex tech, which for the first time seems to have found its place and acceptance at CES. As indeed has Ivanka Trump, who was controversially invited to headline as the keynote speaker when arguably there are far more qualified females, actually from the technology sector, rather than this particular privileged individual.

CES welcomed over 175,000 visitors to see over 4,500 exhibitors and 1,000+ speakers making it quite a big deal within the technology industry. It also means lots of product and innovation announcements, such as the smart shower head with Alexa built-in from Kohler, a smart frying pan that analyses your food whilst you cook it from SmartyPans, to autonomous vehicles from the now established brands in this sector and not so with Sony launching its autonomous vehicle prototype named Vision S. The vehicle is a prototype designed to show off the firm’s sensors and in-car entertainment technologies. The dashboard is flanked by an ultra-wide panoramic screen for driving information and entertainment. However, Sony did not indicate that it had any plans to sell the car to the public with Sony’s chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida only stating “We will accelerate our efforts to contribute to the future of mobility”.

Do you Uber? Well in future you may be doing so in the Uber Hyundai flying taxi. The S-A1 concept is an electric powered aircraft with four rotors for vertical lift off and landing and conceptually able to travel at a maximum speed of 180mph carrying four passengers. Flying autonomously at 2,000ft for a maximum of 60 miles, it may be zipping across a city skyline near you in the not too distant future.

Surveillance related technology seemed to be big this year with multiple brands showcasing security equipment such as cameras, doorbells and motion sensors, which is really rather boring and perhaps only serves to feed the paranoia of those who fear the worst. Loosely connected to this category is one of my favourite products to be announced, a smart mailbox developed by Canadian company Danby, which addresses the common problem of parcels thefts and re-deliveries. The device would assist in reducing the carbon footprint of our propensity to order online for delivery rather than buy in-store. The smart mailbox will apparently go on sale in the UK later this year offering a box which has an anti-theft drop-in slot for smaller packages opened with a code or smartphone app. The app will also be able to place phone calls between a parcel courier and a customer if they need to open the box remotely. I suspect this will get simplified should usage increase amongst users and online retailers.

Samsung Balie device
Samsung’s Ballie – a tennis ball-like robot that rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’

Another neat headline grabber announced at CES 2020 was the Samsung tennis ball-like robot called Ballie. It beeps and rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’. Ballie also acts as a fitness assistant, can help with household chores, and activates smart home devices such as robotic vacuums when it thinks something needs to be cleaned. However, in common with the Daleks, it will find stairs a challenge! No release date has been announced, however AI and 5G are the main focus for Samsung in 2020 and not Bixby, as had been much hyped last year. Another product launched by Samsung and to be available in the UK and US later this year is the Sero TV, a rotating TV which connects to your phone. Perfect for Generation Z or those who spend equal time watching on a small device as they do TV. It can be rotated from landscape to portrait and is only available in a 47” 4k screen and estimated to land at £1,200.

Another twist on the laptop came from Dynabook. Majority owned by Sharp and formally Toshiba, the brand that launched the world’s first laptop computer in 1985, Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. Weighing in at an impressive 0.9kg and sporting a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor the Portege X30L-G is built using a magnesium-alloy chassis and includes a full-size HDMI. With Gigabit Ethernet, up to 24GB memory and Wi-Fi 6 the device also includes a TPM 2.0 IR camera and fingerprint reader.

Not to be outdone was Lenovo with its ThinkPad X1. A dual/ folding screened laptop with an Intel processor that runs Windows on a 13” screen when unfolded. It is slated to arrive mid 2020 in the US at a price of $2,499 with no word yet on UK pricing.

In fact, there were a rash of foldable screens on display this year and it certainly seems to be a trend not looking to abate soon, making 2020 potentially the start of a flexible decade. Foldable screens were launched on devices from turkish brand TCL and its prototype Foldable Phone (no name as of yet) and Dell with two concepts, the Duet – Foldable Notebook and Ori – a Foldable Device, unfortunately no plans to release these have been indicated. The much publicised Motorola Razr foldable phone was on display which has been available for pre order since December but was set for released during January 2020.

As you can imagine, smart speakers and assistant-enabled products were everywhere at CES 2020. With over 46 third-party Google Assistant-endabled products and 40 Amazon Alexa ones, it made the presence of both brands more notable throughout the show, with Google creating theatre to engage, as they do best.

Google revealed, for the first time, user numbers for the services is at 500 million people in a month and also a whole range of new features enabling users to schedule certain tasks with other connected devices. The features will allow users to, for example, schedule the washing machine to start its cycle at 6pm and also upload contacts from your phone to your Google Nest Hub.

Users will also be able to leave Sticky Notes on the screen for others in the house to see and have the ability to control 20 different types of devices through Google Assistant, which is needed with the increasing third party product partnerships.

Dynabook Portege X30L-G laptop
Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. The Portege X30L-G weighs in at an impressive 0.9kg and sports a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor

Now we are all busy people and many time saving devices were on show but two stood out to me. The first will make sure we never need to drink a warm tinny again. The Matrix Juno supercooler is a kitchen countertop device priced at £300 which uses a thermoelectric cooling engine to absorbs heat using electricity known as the Peltier effect. It can cool a can of beer from room temperature to 4oc in two minutes or a bottle of wine to its desired 9oc in five minutes.

The other is the Y-brush toothbrush from FasTeesH designed to clean your teeth in 10 seconds. It’s a mouthguard type contraption packed with bristles that vibrate to clean all your teeth at the same time, arriving in March at around £100. I can’t help but think that making time by speeding up the process of cleaning your teeth has never been a priority for many, the cleaning is what counts.

Not wanting to ignore the most progressive news at CES this year, I think it important to highlight and applaud the CES organisers decision to now formally allow sex tech brands to exhibit at CES in 2020 after many years of exclusion. What this means is that sex tech companies are on the same playing field as all but in particular the established tech giants. However, there are exclusions with those companies exhibiting sexual wellness products having to agree in addition to the CES’s standard contract and rules also a separate sex toy addendum.

Why is this a progressive move? It’s predicted to be a $50 billion industry by 2025 and as taboos tumble and generations embrace a pragmatic approach to sexuality and sex, it’s an industry sector the ‘big players’ may wish to enter and penetrate as a lucrative growth market.

With so many new products announced at CES 2020, what does it mean for retailers? And how must they adapt to innovation across existing and new categories? Experience. Consumers are looking to experience innovation in order to make educated purchasing decisions. Whether that be by seeing a foldable screen in their hand to believe it, engaging with a personal robot to realise its value to them as a user or see that TV rotate 180 degrees, it’s all about the in-store experience a retailer can create where no online retailer can.

Innovation needs to be experienced live, not online and the retailers who can identify with this can cut through to make the tills ring by giving the customer an experience worth coming back for and spreading the word. People are never going to stop shopping on the high street. It’s just the way they shop and where they are do it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of high street retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel the brand.

To read the article on PCR online click here

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Do millennials ignore the environmental impact of online shopping?

Bdaily blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit BDaily.

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Are millennials ignoring the environmental impact of online shopping?

Retail Times Blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%.  And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers.  In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds.  And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit Retail Times.

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Live the Experience and Feel the Brand

BrandingMag Blog

Henry Matisse once said “creativity takes courage” and we’ve certainly seen a lot of creative bravery from brands that now have an incredible marketing canvas on which to paint. It’s a great time to be a marketer, leveraging opportunity and enabling people to immerse and engage in what a brand has to offer. And this has seen some incredible business transformations, with brands rising out of the ashes to new-found fame whilst others find themselves, sadly, unable to capitalize.

Let’s take Gucci, for example, and think about where it would be without social media. Partnerships with the upper echelon of society and celebrities were no longer cutting it – Gucci is a beautiful, classic, heritage brand that had lost its relevance. But wait a few years, bring in the influencers, and Gucci is massively cool again. If Billie Eilish wears it, then who am I to judge?! And, of course, this is all backed up by expensive, gorgeous, and glamorous ATL activations.

However, one thing that these currently successful brands all appear to have invested in is the ‘brand experience store’ — and bringing marketing to life on the shop floor. If you’re going to buy a Gucci handbag that you see on Instagram, Facebook or TV, you’re certainly going to want to touch and feel it before you buy it. For some people, it may be like buying a high-street bag but for others this purchase will be a naughty bit of extravagance or a once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

Creative brand artistry needs to live in the ‘real world’ for consumers and to maintain longevity for a brand. Consumers need to be able to feel, see, touch, and engage with a brand and its products to truly buy into it, not just for one purchase. So, with brick and mortar retail struggling globally, it’s important that we hero its role for brands, consumers, the community, and society in general. In the UK, 78% of purchases are still made in physical retail — a figure that astonishes most people.

Retailers may have axed 85,000 UK jobs in the last year, according to the British Retail Consortium, and yes, it’s tragic, but a lot of the blame lies with those brands that didn’t have the agility to reimagine their business models quick enough, with too many stores and not enough experience. But juxtaposed against this — and interestingly alongside fashion and beauty brands which you’d expect — it’s the ‘technology super brands’ doing brand experience really well. The exact brands you think would shy away from a traditional retail presence are sharing their creative artistry and putting the customer experience at the core of their strategy.

Brands like Samsung, Microsoft, and Apple have invested heavily in their experience stores in prime retail sites. These stores are cool and innovative — mixing retail and leisure — showcasing full product suites, curating ambiance with luxury lounges, and most importantly ‘talent’. Those people who work on the shop floor, greet your customers, represent your brand and product portfolio every day and who drive sale through your product by creating interactions that are rewarding for everyone.

It was recently reported in The Times that Amazon, once deemed as fully responsible for the demise of the high street, is discreetly building a team of British property experts amid speculation that it will expand its physical presence. So, if the most successful online business, whose Amazon Go and Whole Foods brands are examples of physical retail, believes in bricks and mortar as part of their commercial strategy, then surely everyone else must?

It becomes too easy to believe the self-fulfilling prophecy that online shopping is perfect, and the high street is a busted flush. So, the moral of this story? Brands can spend as much money as they like creating extraordinary marketing artistry, but at some point this has to live in the real world, with real brand advocates in-store, selling your products, making the tills ring, and giving the customer an experience worth coming back for and spreading the word. People are never going to stop shopping on the high street; It’s just the way and where they are doing it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of brick and mortar retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel your brand.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

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Tapping into the booming esports market

PCR BLOG

In July 2019, spanning three days, the largest gathering of gamers from around the world – 40 million – took part in the Fortnite World Cup tournament. Hailed as a monumental moment for esports, the winner, a 16-year-old, took home £2.42 million. The prize sum overshadowed the £1.6 million Shane Lowry won at this year’s Golf Open Championship in Portrush. The esports industry is becoming increasingly popular, rivalling many traditional sporting events with the Fortnite tournament watched by 23,000 people in a sold out New York stadium and millions more through live streams.

This highlights how the gaming industry and its place in culture has evolved, with gamers stepping away from their own consoles to watch others play their favourite games. And not surprisingly, this is reflected in the size of the gaming market which continues to grow rapidly. According to Newzoo, there are reportedly 2.3 billion active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1 billion) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. More so with the forecasted growth of gaming from $137.9 billion in 2018 to more than $180.1 billion by 2021. Looking just at the UK, the gaming market is now worth a record £5.7 billion thanks in part to the strong foundations in place for innovative games and entrepreneurial developers.

The next 12-18 months looks set to be a very interesting for the sector with some of the big names in gaming hardware expected to reveal their next generation platforms. Expectation is that Sony, who have sold 525 million consoles since launching PlayStation in 1994, will start to ship their latest console in the second half of 2020. And of course both Nintendo and Microsoft will be in the mix too. Microsoft officially announced its next generation hardware, codenamed Project Scarlett, during its E3 2019 conference and it’s due for release in time for “Holiday 2020”.

Before that is the exciting debut of Stadia in Q4 this year which may be a potential fly in the ointment for the established gaming brands. Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer, and a move that will have Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony quite concerned. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality.

As Phil Harrison VP and general manager at Google stated when launching Stadia: “It’s a new generation platform, rather than a next generation platform”. In evolving the concept of platforms, rather than recreating them, Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63 million daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future.

The excellent features are great news to those who have grown up used to on-demand web-based entertainment, app-based games and instant updates to technology, but for generations who are familiar with buying physical consoles and games, this could be a transition they may not make because nostalgia can come into play. Owning a console and saving up to buy the latest must have game and completing it before trading it in to buy the next release, has been a pleasure to many.

The generational changes in consumers has seen Millennials identify with nostalgia and they recapture their youth through console gaming just as they have been doing for over 20 years. There is a shared enjoyment amongst social groups in getting together and playing a multiplayer game on Mario Kart on the original Wii. It’s also interesting to see how the retro gaming sector tapping into this and making headlines. Available to buy this Christmas will be a reimagined full-sized reissue of the Commodore 64.

Giving this generation a chance to either buy or play the consoles and games of their youth could open up a new opportunity for gaming retailers, because a streaming service is not great news for those retailing the hardware to eager gamers needing to upgrade to access the dream being sold by the platforms. Indeed, GAME has been battling tough high street conditions and has seen in the past three months a successful take over by Sports Direct. The British sports gear retailer said it did not believe that, as a standalone business, GAME was “able to weather the pressures that it is facing”.

Furthermore, the introduction of streaming could see the resale market suffer too, again a blow to high street stores such as GAME and CEX.

This is an evolving and exciting market with opportunities and pitfalls for the whole supply chain. I started this piece discussing the phenomenon that was the Fortnite World Cup and for retailers, this presents a huge opportunity to tap into this ‘experience’ economy and revive their fortunes by using empty high street spaces to create purpose-built gaming arenas for live gaming where the community can come together. But there’s no doubt that we’re going to see a ferocious battle between Stadia and the console manufacturers – so let the games begin.

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Equipping young minds for a successful digital future

Bdaily blog

The UK is leading the adoption of digital technology enabled in education with UK Schools allocated an estimated £900 million in funding from the Department of Education for 2019-20 for EdTech according of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

In physical terms this equates to 3,392,100 computers in classrooms across the UK with an average Primary School having 70 computers and Secondary an average of 431[BESA.ORG]

There are currently 32,113 schools in the UK. Of these, 20,925 are primary schools and 4,168 are secondary schools. There are 2,381 independent schools, 1,256 special schools and 351 pupil referral units. [BESA.ORG]

The opportunity to expand Edtech sales are obvious for those who know how to tap into this growing market that values accessible technology to equip young minds for a successful ‘digital’ future. There are also benefits for already stretched schools to help bridge the gap through Edtech as it’s proven to reduce teacher workload, boost student outcomes and help create a level playing field for those requiring learning support. So much so that the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, set out plans in April this year to support innovation and raise the bar in education establishments across England backed by a £10 million injection.

School funding per pupil is expected to be frozen in real terms between 2017-2018 and 2019-20 albeit at a level of above 4% – IFS

The target audience is not exclusively schools, it’s also parents, as many public secondary schools employ a BYOD program, therefore parents are expected to buy their child a suitable device. However, this is becoming stricter as previously it was an “any device will do” approach but due to different devices having different capacities and capabilities, this has changed. Today, school book lists stipulate the minimum requirements for a device to create a more uniform and compatible ecosystem that is hassle free for all.

The retail market for Back To School is worth, in all categories, some £1.45bn in the UK and is an increasingly important fixture in the retail calendar, becoming competitive for both brands and retailers endeavouring to appeal, in particular to secondary school pupils and those students heading off to university.

From PC to projection and display technology such as Jamboard from Google & BenQ the classroom is changing where technology is the norm and standard for students as they transition through their education and eventually into the workplace.

It’s not just about the hardware and software solutions, it’s also about the teachers who need professional development and training to understand how each device could work and how they can effectively add them in to their lesson plans. Figures from Bett highlight that 74% (rising from 60% in 2018) of educators surveyed said that educational technology is often not sufficiently easy to use for ordinary teachers. So, those brands that offer the end to end solution that enables education access to the best technology with the easiest interface, least maintenance and highest reliability will capitalise on this growing market.

Chromebook by Google is one of these, Google shared in January 2019 that 30 million Chromebooks are now used in education, up 5 million from the last reported figures in 2018. Growth has been aided by many country’s education systems choosing to use Chrome OS devices and G Suite cloud based computing solutions that enable collaborative learning accessible whenever you need it. In London the brand has worked with London Grid for Learning to help over 90% of schools across the city bring technology to more students by offering free training in Google Classroom, G Suite and other tools to help improve the digital skills of teachers.

Similarly, are Epson who have identified that 58% of students cannot read all content on a 70“ flat panel. Epson’s interactive display solutions provide scalable image size. Having the right sized image for a room can make a huge difference to levels of concentration, enjoyment and understanding.

The DFE in April 2019 published a white paper entitled “Realising the potential of technology in education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry” DfE White Paper.

This white paper identified 10 challenges for industry to assist in eradicating these within education quoting: “To catalyse change in the use of technology across the English education system, we are launching a series of EdTech challenges. They are designed to support a partnership between EdTech industry and the education sector to ensure product development and testing is focused on the needs of the education system. The challenges are to industry and the education sector (including academia) to prove what is possible and to inform the future use of EdTech across our education system.”

Setting out their stool to really help children in education be ‘digital’ ready.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily News.

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How 5G will boost the smart home market

PCR Blog

Over the last few years, smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s white paper, ‘Connected Home 2.0’, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. But despite this, a recent survey we carried out into the connected home highlighted consumer frustration with smart home technology, with consumers citing that they can’t get their smart home technology to connect to each device and talk to each other, they have no idea how it all works, they are worried about security and there’s little perceived benefit or value.

Whilst this may sound negative, this presents a huge opportunity for 5G to boost further device adoption and showcase the future possibilities in the home.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look round your home, count up the numerous devices that rely on a strong wireless connection to stream, to work, to secure, to survive – tablets, mobiles, TVs, voice assistants, PCs, thermostats, light-bulbs, alarms, cameras, and gaming right through to connected appliances. Without a good connection, they can all come to a grinding halt.

Stadia by Google is an example of where 5G and gaming complement each other. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future. Now with Stadia, the internet – accessed increasingly via 5G – will be your store, with the network and data centre as your platform.

The innovation that is 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, faster, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion, 5G will enhance the possibilities for entire communities and not only the smart home.

This will pave the way for 5G enabled fully integrated living spaces that adjust to the needs of each member of the family, changing the way people entertain, consume media, use their utilities, communicate and cook. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home are only the start and we’ve seen just a fraction of what personal assistants are capable of. Google announced at CES earlier this year that it wants to make its assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life; in the home, in the car and on mobile devices. 5G will be that enabler.

Layer on top of this the possibilities of 5G enabled in-home augmented and virtual reality for cooking. Imagine at the touch of a button, Delia or Jamie standing next to you showing you how to cook one of their recipes. Sit down with your friends and family to watch a tennis match and image real time sports data appearing over tennis players as they hit the ball. 5G will make smart homes even smarter by unshackling developers from the speed restrictions and other issues that exist with today’s solutions where devices rely on Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth connections.

For those who feel security could be an issue, the good news is that mobile operators are ensuring security is built into the fabric of their 5G networks and there’s no reason for 5G networks to be any less secure to use than 4G. When connecting a device to a 5G network the same protocols you’d apply to security software, passwords etc. should be applied as normal, however it is worth noting that all data sent over 5G is encrypted and 5G devices will offer increasingly advanced security options. Interestingly, according to research from Ericsson, 29% of people would like DNA authentication to be a biometric security option.

The reality is that 5G can provide a more consistent approach, making things easier to setup and thus encouraging product development through to subsequent consumer adoption and increased usage of the vastly developed Internet of Things. With inbuilt future proofing, one of the most interesting effects will be the societal impact 5G will have for our ageing population, assisting those who are fit but may be less able to manage themselves. This may blur the lines between hospital and home. For many, it’s more effective to manage the healthcare of patients who require the most resources from home rather than via our currently overloaded NHS. In addition, its adoption can reduce loneliness and speed of response in the event of an emergency.

We’ve already seen how sensor operated smart home tech can alert families to movement, so they know their elder relatives are up and about in the house and not lying there injured. There are also remote surgeries where doctors see patients by video call, however buffering is often an issue in remote locations, which makes the service more difficult for vulnerable people to use. The implementation of 5G will take this to a whole new level; real-time remote monitoring of medication usage; food intake levels and exercise; connecting the vulnerable to seamlessly operated telehealth services and tracking indicators from sleep to blood pressure and insulin levels.

It can help power personalised, preventative and smarter care capabilities and elevate connected medicine to an unprecedented level, helping elderly people live fulfilling and productive lives on their terms. This is exciting times for a growing societal issue here in the UK but let’s not underestimate the understanding we need of the health ecosystem and what it will take to implement the systems to connect to these technologies.

The opportunities 5G technology offers all generations extends beyond the home and to the streets through autonomous vehicles, traffic management and the smart monitoring of the environment around you, telling you in real-time, for example, where best to avoid pollution on your daily run. Moreover, everything you would currently expect to be able to access or control in the home will be available to you wherever you are, without any comprises imposed on you by being away from regular Wi-Fi based connectivity.

Ericsson forecasts that by 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9bn, and that coverage could blanket up to 65% of the world’s population.

The UK’s largest network operator, EE, was the first to launch 5G in the UK on 30th May, 2019, beaten by the Swiss who launched in April. Service started in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester, with several other cities joining before 2020. Vodafone also launched on 3rd July 2019 in seven cities with 12 other cities to be included before 2020. Three will join the 5G race in August in London. A total of 25 other locations will get 5G in the UK via Three before 2020. Lastly O2, with no published launch date, announced its plans to roll out its 5G network in 2019 in Cardiff, London, Belfast, and Edinburgh to start, with more areas getting 5G in 2020.

Whilst the UK is already partially 5G enabled, devices are limited and we’re not that far ahead of the vast majority of developed nations whom all plan to launch in 2019/2020 such as Germany, Italy and Norway all behind Vodafone Spain who are ahead of all EU nations having launched on 15th June in 15 cities.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Wearables for all: How the decade’s most hyped technology has found its groove

PCR Blog

There was much talk of wearable technology in the early part of this decade and in what can only be described as a media frenzy. Google launched its hotly awaited Google Glass in 2012. It was everywhere, Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights. Whilst available to a selected group of subscribers, it unfortunately never made the shelves but set the pace as the pioneer.

The sale of smartwatches and trackers such as the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex accelerated in 2013 and things started to evolve rapidly. Then in 2015 we saw the launch of the first Apple Watch. While there has been commentary on the demise of the whole category with Jawbone already defunct, smartwatches are still the only product where we’ve seen continued sales and enhanced innovation, with luxury brands like TAG Heuer launching a range of Google Wear OS devices. According to Statista, global wearable technology sales in 2018 were 123 million units, with trackers making up 15 million and smartwatches 80 million. Watches are still growing faster than any other category and forecasted by CCS Insight to reach 142 million units worldwide in 2019 and a staggering 260 million units by 2023.

There’s little doubt we’ve come to a point where the market is less about the consumer tech and gadgets that we might see in store and rather more about the application of wearable technology – driven by trackers and smartwatches – into other fields such as health and wellbeing that are having a real and valuable impact on people’s lives.

Wearables are evolving. Motiv’s smart ring won Breakout of the Year at the Wearable Tech Awards 2018, but the jury is still out on its success. Looking at the exhibitors at 2019’s Wearable Technology Show, it indicates that there’s more than just smartwatches, but many innovations are being driven by health and wellbeing.

Looking at the impact automated insulin delivery has on patients and parents of children with severe diabetes, WELT is well documented and was one of the most talked about pieces of tech from CES 19. The new SMART belt from Samsung, launched at IFA 2018, can help tackle one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century, rising obesity. The belt can monitor weight, walking speed, sitting duration and eating habits. Another interesting application of wearable tech is Quell 2.0. This over the device wearable from Neurometrix uses advanced neurotechnology to stimulate sensor nerves sending neural pulses to the brain and blocking pain signals. The device is designed to block multiple types and sources of pain.

Innovation in wearable technology is as big as manufacturers dare it to be and wearable tech used today has evolved to be practical and convenient to make our daily lives more efficient. For resellers it’s interesting to note that it’s claimed that one in ten wearable owners have two or more devices, with those who don’t currently own a wearable stating that they are in the market for one. Research shows that fitness devices and smartwatches are equally wanted to aid in health, detect calorie intake, assess overall fitness and provide stress measurements.

Advances in nanotechnology, batteries and microprocessors have meant the devices can be small and lightweight. It therefore looks to me like the future of wearable tech is in the sublime not the ridiculous. Tech companies that succeed will be the ones that understand consumer behaviour and are solving real world customer needs or problems, rather than just focusing on ‘what’s possible’. Linked to real time data and tapping into human needs, its potential now does seem potentially revolutionary, with applications in health being a particular game-changer for the wearables category.

This decade’s most hyped of technologies has found its groove, enabling not just athletes to monitor wellbeing and lifestyle but for all manner of consumers and in a variety of exciting form factors.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Can the new tranche of Chinese tech brands take the UK by storm?

drum blog

In recent years, more Chinese brands than ever have broken new ground in Europe and continued to develop outside of their established Asian markets. One of the most immediately recognisable Chinese brands is Huawei and possibly Hisense but have you heard of Haier, Oppo or Xiaomi? Chinese consumer electronics brands have recently launched in the UK and are fast gaining traction in their respective categories since being made available on the UK high street.

We live in a society where global brands are the norm. Whilst we are, or at least believe we are, familiar with many of the brands we are exposed to, there are others that we don’t know so much about even if we buy-into them as consumers. Do we care about a brand’s origins and heritage? Or are consumer purchase decisions driven by a products’ look, functionality, usage, price point and status? If this new tranche of Chinese tech brands doesn’t focus enough on building their brands and resonance with the UK audience, will they be able to compete with their Californian cousins and achieve their full potential in the UK market?

Cleverly Haier, the world’s number one major appliance brand in terms of volume bought Hoover Candy, a traditional stalwart of the Major Domestic Appliance market in the EU which enables Haier to tap into the trust associated with a familiar European brand. Now listed in John Lewis stores, there’s brand reassurance of Haier is being established among shoppers.

Oppo, China’s leading 4G smartphone manufacturer, launched its range of mobile phones into Dixons Carphone earlier this year. With flagship models coming in at under £800 SIM free, the brand offers premium and innovative features at a fraction of the price other brands may charge. Time will tell if the brand has done enough to resonate and take a big enough market share and see a return on investment on their ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon sponsorship.

Xiaomi, pronounced ‘ShwowMee’, is actually the world’s most valuable privately held company, and the third biggest smartphone maker, selling 61 million handsets last year. Xiaomi has been bold with its UK launch strategy and has opened a great new Mi store at Westfield White City. The store is familiar looking, sharing many similarities, all be it on a smaller budget, to that of its Californian cousins.

It sells a variety of products from mobile phones, TVs, smart kettles, electric scooters and other accessories in an environment where you are encouraged to play and explore. Its pricing is competitive and it’s certainly within the budgets of a far wider demographic than other brands but what it lacks is star quality. Star quality on build, packaging and its ability to give consumers that ‘feel good’ factor from an anonymous brand is essential if it’s to mean more to consumers. All possible if its proud heritage and brand storytelling was more obvious.

Tell me what Mi means to the technology industry and I may be persuaded to purchase some of today’s most competitively priced technology and become a brand advocate. Hide from me what Mi is and I may react a bit more suspiciously and feel the brand isn’t the best fit for me. Brands, wherever they are from, should be proud of their heritage and success. A confident, honest and ethical brand will help instil the necessary confidence in consumers to help a brand to gain traction and ‘win’ in a new market.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Brand collaboration is the key to a high street retail revival

The Drum Blog

The high street is dying, or so we keep hearing from all angles of the media – but is it?

No. But it is evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival.

Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm – it’s just how life is now – therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast.

With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that “it’s you, not them” that’s the problem.

Clashing styles

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidently’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadia’s brands around?

Maybe not. The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store.

Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Retailers assemble!

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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