Blog
  • Albert Banks
  • Alex Runde
  • Brett McCoy
  • Caleb Loffer
  • Daniel Parker
  • Eddie Paik
  • Elliott Antal
  • Liz Hill
  • Mallory Starnes
  • Mark Conachan
  • Michael Chatten
  • Myjive
  • Ron Edelen
  • Shelton Clinard

Posts by: Albert Banks

Jurvetson Google driverless car trimmed

There is no hiding the fact that I’m a techie. On of my favorite phrases is, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s actually Sci-fi writer and Futurist Arthur C. Clark’s Third Rule.

But to me, the real magic is in understanding how a new technology might affect our lives. I often ponder, research and debate the merits and impact of Technology and Society. The key word being “And”. There is really a synergistic relationship between culture and tech.

My most recent muse: Self-Driving Cars. These vehicles purport to carry passengers without drivers by utilizing radar, laser sensor, processor, wheel-hub sensor and orientation sensor. The most recent news splash was made with the reveal of Google’s new driverless car.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained researcher or strategist. I simply love to dive below the surface of new tech by asking (hopefully relevant) questions and considering the potential answers. Below I’ll reveal the question, potential answers and opinions I formed while exploring a future with driverless vehicles:

Why would (auto) consumer want the technology?

Studies reveal there would be tremendous savings:

  • Safety: Save 42 lives per day
  • Money: Prevent $576M from crashes per day and save $14M in speeding tickets per day
  • Fuel: Save 420,000 barrels of fuel (35% reduction) per day

There is no doubting the convenience factor. Less time in the car, more productive hours at work and home and less variability in traffic.

Driverless cars are more accessible, empowering blind or disabled people who may not have other transportation options.

How might the technology affect our (auto transportation) experience?

Initially vehicles may allow optional drivers but eventually there will be no need (or equipment) for active drivers. You are simply a passenger in the vehicle.

Owning a car will become optional. Vehicles could become a service rather than a possession. Owned vehicles currently sit idle a staggering 90% of the time.

Mobility on demand will become the future of transportation in cites. Catching a ride will be as simple as summoning a vehicle via a mobile app. This paradigm can already be found in services such as Uber and Lyft.

For any family that chooses to own a driverless vehicle it will decrease the need for multiple vehicles. You could summon or preplan where your vehicle should be at any given time for various household members.

How might the technology affect (the auto) industry?

Cars may see a significant split: City vs Country. City cars would be designed to move slowly (25 mph for the Google car) while others would be designed for high speed travel between cities.

Design of future vehicles may be focused on locale, not individuals. When cars are no longer a possession, the type of person (soccer mom, yuppie, etc.) utilizing the vehicle may be deprioritized.

As driverless vehicle use transitions to on-demand or ride sharing, new markets open up. The industry could target those who can’t afford a currently priced vehicle. They are the second largest purchase people make.

How might the technology change (auto) advertising and marketing?

0-60 in… who cares? Purchasing or use of vehicles may not be largely influenced by their acceleration, torque, size or shape. Advertising and marketing will have to shift focus.

There may be buyer segmentation. City cars may be purchased by municipalities and companies for use as fleets. Country cars may be owned by individuals or groups of individuals. The split target audience will require unique communications.

How might the technology affect (traffic) laws and enforcement?

Courts set precedence by determining liability in an accident involving a self-driving car. Does it lie with the owner/passenger or vehicle manufacturer. These laws would greatly affect insurance coverages and costs.

Make no mistake, software developers for driverless vehicles are programming morality. Should the cars be programmed to prioritize passenger or pedestrian safety? Is the logic different if there are children involved? Will developers, manufacturers, courts, insurance companies or society have the last word on how to decide the fate of those involved in collisions.

Traffic laws will need to be adjusted or confirmed. Would it be legal for a self-driving cars to speed or run a light in certain cases (avoiding oncoming vehicles, animals)?

Police can change their focus. With self-driving cars and smart intersections, less police will be required for traffic violations and accidents.

How might the technology effect the (driving) environment?

Eventually we will not need most traffic lights and signs at intersections. Sure, we should keep them around during the transition period from driven to autonomous cars. Studies estimate 3/4 of cars will be autonomous by 2035.

We will need a more connected infrastructure. Vehicles will need to be online. Sensors must be added to roads and smart intersections programmed.  Currently planners are relatively silent on these, but the need is real.

With very little owned (not utilized) vehicles and more availability of on demand vehicles, there will be a decreased need for parking spaces. Self-driving cars will drop you off at the store and return home or move on to the next passenger.  There should be little need for large parking lots and decks, opening up valuable real estate.

How safe and secure is the (auto) technology?

By simply slowing down, city vehicles will be safer. Under 25 MPH collisions are considered “low speed,” greatly decreases injury. At those low speeds, cars may not even crush in collisions.

Very soon vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication will become standard. All cars will communicate their vitals (location, speed, acceleration, braking) to nearby cars. With V2V, your car could calculate the hazard risk within about 300 meter, alert drivers or take collision-avoidance action automatically. The tech may be required in all vehicles (not just self-driving cars) by 2017.

There is a long way to go before consumers trust the logic in self-driving cars. People can’t help but question if the logic  is sufficiently programmed and tested to be trust worthy? A recent poll revealed 79% of people questioned whether the technology might fail at some point.

In that same poll, more than half said of people said were worried about hackers getting into the car’s computer. With cybersecurity already a modern day issue, security of in-vehicle software is a real concern moving forward.

How will (auto) jobs be affected?

There is no sugar coating it, some jobs will become irrelevant: professional drivers (taxi, truck, bus etc), road safety professionals, traditional transportation planners.

Other jobs will have a reduced need: injury lawyers, ER personnel, collision repair, police and auto-insurance brokers.

But, like most technology new and increase jobs arise in other areas: ride sharing companies, car fleet management, technology roles and jobs updating the infrastructure.

Ask Questions. Consider Answers.

If you read this far, I applaud you. As you can see, a significant technology can pose tremendous questions and even more potential answers.

After all, this post is not actually about Self-Driving Cars. Take the “auto” out of these questions and they are valid for many topics: Wearable Tech, Home Automation, Robot Caretakers.

Trying, learning and exploring is core to my being and infused in Myjive’s DNA. No matter your approach or depth I challenge everyone to continue exploring technology and society.

Self-Driving Car Sources:
http://www.auvsi.org/DriverlessCars
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/google-reveals-more-details-on-its-automotive-vision/371761/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/pikeresearch/2013/11/13/how-self-driving-cars-will-change-the-world/
http://www.cnbc.com/id/101724113
http://www.voanews.com/content/vehicles-may-soon-be-talking-to-each-other-/1886895.html
http://www.cnbc.com/id/101719072

SXSW 2014

There were a few common themes at SXSW Interactive this year. Below are some thoughts from the more memorable tech centered sessions.

Internet of Things Too Smart?
Yes, this is happening. Smart things will soon be everywhere. There are a lot of social and cultural questions raised as we move forward. Will smart objects have the power to change our cultural values? Will the big data collected from smart things  belong to the few. Should we trust these companies with our data? Should we demand access to our data? Perhaps digital literacy is the larger concern. Will the masses understand enough to care? It will likely take consumer demand to force platform openness.

Designing Smart Objects for Emotion
One panel cut right to the heart of the matter. Smart objects should evoke emotion from people. By tapping into our emotional intelligence, tech can enhance our relationships with ourselves, other people and our environment. When designing we should focus on how an object might affect our motivation, self expression and empathy.

Valuable Wearables
Wearables are here, but they haven’t reached its potential. How can we create a wearable valuable enough to be adapted by the masses? One path might be to consider what experience the user might have if the device were inside a body rather than being worn. Another idea may be to fully separate devices by use cases (health monitoring, fitness, etc.) and mainstream functionalities (notifications, directions, etc.). Either way, to create a truly powerful wearable you must first understand the person wearing it and their motivations. Only then can you create inspirational and truly valuable technology.

Smart Kitchen

The term, “Internet of Things” (IoT), has blown up in the past year. Due to its relative infancy, the term doesn’t have a common definition. But the gist is this: Uniquely identifiable, connected devices. Everywhere.

These “internethings” are increasingly common in the home. Smart locks, light dimmers, proximity sensors, thermostats, fire alarms and cameras are all a part of the new “connected home.” And it is becoming big business. Recently Google purchased Nest Labs, maker of the popular Nest Learning Thermostat, for whopping $3.2 billion.

CES 2014 brought us move connected devices: watches, fitness trackers, baby monitors, doorbells, pet feeders, child trackers and even toothbrushes. While this list may sound unnecessary, the IoT was also highlighted at CES by tech heavyweights Cisco, Intel and Qualcomm.

It is an exciting time for this trend. But like all things new, there are inevitably challenges.

Interconnectivity
Imagine if your baby monitor could detect cold temperatures and automatically turn up the heat on your thermostat. To make this scenario a reality, there needs to be common standards for connecting these endpoints. Currently, most devices exist in their own bubble, utilizing a proprietary hub, data cloud or mobile application for connectivity. Fear not; efforts to unify devices have begun by the likes of AllSeenSen.se, Xively and even Wolfram.

Security
What if your “Smart” TV or Fridge was hacked and started sending spam? That may sounds crazy, but it just happened. Like most early to market technology, current devices have less than stellar security. Many can be accessed via simple web interfaces or utilize insecure internet protocols. To prevent an army of “thingbots” spreading viruses or hackers turning off our lights just for kicks we may need to isolate devices from the internet with software like AllJoyn. Bottom line, security has to get better for widespread adoption to continue.

Purpose
Why do I need a smart watch? What’s the big deal with a learning thermostat? Sure, connected products have a purpose at the simplest level: adjust my heat, feed my cat, unlock my door. But for the IoT to really hit its stride the hardware must solve big problems. Currently, the devices are independent little helpers that appear to exist just because they can. They need to do more: affect environmental change, drastically improve our health or save invaluable time in our day. When connected “things” reach that higher level of purpose, the “Thingolution” will be unstoppable.

SoDA GMM Las Vegas, NV 2013

I have followed SoDA, the Society of Digital Agencies, since the early days of Myjive. Founded in 2007, SoDA was the first organization that fit how we saw our company.

For years, I checked out member agencies and their amazing work. We even reached out to them, years ago, to join the exclusive club. But it was not until the last few years that our company deserved acceptance. In late July, Myjive was selected as a new member, surviving its infamous selection process.

Myjive’s co-founder and Executive Creative Director Ron Edelen and I headed out to Las Vegas for the annual SoDA Global Member Meeting (GMM) this past July. The event brought executive leaders from others agencies, who brought presentations, discussions and an open dialog on issues facing our industry. Attendees genuinely lived up to the organization’s principles of sharing, respect and confidentiality.

Going in, I expected to learn solutions to challenges agencies like us face. Yet, regardless of size, location or type of agency (production, digital, etc.) our peers face many of the challenges we do. But everyone was willing to share past experiences, outline current approaches, offer suggestions and sometimes just commiserate.

SoDa has an incredibly diverse international membership, all included under its “The Global Society for Digital Marketing Innovators.” I was able to chat with agency leaders from Australia, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, Brazil and Canada. Despite the physical distance between our companies, the origin story, passion and challenges they all shared hit close to home.

Our experience at the GMM reinforced the values and goals Myjive established early on. It also spurned long needed changes that you’ll see as we move forward. As a member of SoDa, we are stronger, smarter and more confident.

I can’t wait to participate in the many wonderful benefits of the organization moving forward.

Skateboards

Myjive has evolved greatly in the years since Ron Edelen and I founded the company. Our growth required struggles and thrills, failures and successes. I’d like to share eight lessons I learned along the way:

1. You must have contracts
You need them with clients, contractors, employees and partners. They allow you to have the tough, awkward conversations about worst case scenarios. So if any of those scenarios come up, always when they’re least expected, the answer has already been agreed upon.

2. We are here because of our clients
They are our livelihood and deserve respect. You have to live and breathe their brand, audience, goals, product and services to serve them effectively.

3. Be straightforward and honest
Our greatest successes (and most lost prospective work) is from being honest with ourselves and clients about what we can and can’t do, what we think about a brand or decision, or even if a project should be done.

4. Sometimes you just have to make a decision
Running a company and being a leader means making decisions every day. It doesn’t always matter if you are “right,” but often an employee or client just needs you to make a call. You have to own it and move forward.

5. Keep learning, even if it’s not what you want to learn
What I choose to learn goes well beyond my official duties as a Technical Director. To keep our business running and thriving I have had to learn about contracts, business structures, taxes, accounting, human resources, facilities maintenance — whatever was needed. You have to embrace learning, even if you hate Quickbooks or legal jargon.

6. The people make a company
Myjive is what it is because of the crew that works here. And I can’t help but care deeply for each and every one of them. You should hire people smarter than you, who have ambition and aren’t afraid to challenge you and be challenged themselves.

7. Running an agency is not easy
Your contracts are not bulletproof. Not all clients will respect honesty. Sometimes your decisions were not the best call. You can only learn so much, so quickly. People move on and take other jobs.

8. Running a successful business is awesome
Impacting a client’s business in a positive way can be a thrill. Being true to our core values and beliefs allows me to sleep easy. Learning something new is an adrenaline rush. Hiring an all-star or watching an employee blossom is a “proud parent” moment.

These lessons are my own and not everyone will agree with them. Sure, there are business leaders and experts out there who can tell you more. But this is an honest look back at what I’ve learned from running an agency that I hope can help you.

Cheers.

this-is-the-web

I was thrilled to return to Austin, TX this spring for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. The learning, debating and socializing makes the experience fulfilling and enlightening.

The hottest topic in web design and development was “Responsive” and “Adaptive.” Defining and properly communicating Responsive and Adaptive has been challenging. We use these definitions:

Responsive layout responds to different screen sizes via Fluid Grids, Flexible Media (images & video) and Media Queries

Adaptive layout adapts to specific device types, screen sizes and use type via Media Queries

I should state that “Responsive” is a technique used in “Adaptive” web design and development. Therefore a mix of Responsive and Adaptive may be an ideal approach to many projects.

Panels covered a vast range of topics including Adaptive Principles, Responsive Process and Responsive WordPress sites.

Common questions and complaints arose across these sessions, so I thought I’d address them for those not in attendance.

When should I use Responsive and Adaptive?
The common, yet unfulfilling answers was, “It depends.” Many factors must be considered including: project budgets, business goals, content strategy, user experience, technology constraints, brand standards and target devices.

What is the full Responsive Process?
Now that we understand what Responsive Design is, what is the workflow? One panelist shared his company’s process in detail. This somewhat traditional process is a great approach, but does not include a Prototype. We find having a working responsive prototype with actual content helps us and clients identify issues and opportunities much earlier in the process.

What screen should I design for first?
At SXSW I heard three different answers from panelists:

  • “Design for desktop and scale back”
  • “Design for mobile first”
  • “Design for them all simultaneously”

If industry leaders can’t decide on the approach where does that leave us? Perhaps the answer is again, “It depends.” Are you going fully Adaptive or a Responsive hybrid? Does the experience or content need to be vastly different on a phone?

Responsive Interactive Design is boring!
Many designers are frustrated with the new world of flexible layouts and modularized content. Dealing with small screens could make creatives feel like they are designing for the least common denominator. The consensus in Austin was that there needed to be a shift in perceptions to see this evolution as an opportunity. Accept touch interfaces as the future. Embrace progressive enhancement over graceful degradation. Utilize the extra “white space” in wide screens to pull content up or even add Easter eggs.

We live in an age of mobile devices and our content is displayed on myriad screen sizes and devices. And we can’t even fathom where our content will be displayed in the future. Adaptive principles allow your content to be future friendly, ubiquitous and flexible.

Image source: Brad Frost


Not so long ago, social media companies provided open, complete and unrestricted access to data. Through their Application Programming Interface (API), social networks were an open book for the developer community.

Many companies grew user bases by allowing access to social data via APIs and RSS data feeds. Twitter’s popularity is due in large part to the many clients, like Tweetbot and Tweetdeck, that utilize API access. Instagram gained users due to exposure on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Now social media companies are walling off access to their data. This has occurred in various forms including putting caps on data pulls, charging for access or simply restricting access.

Twitter pulled the rug out from under their developers, adopting a closed ecosystem and putting many companies out of business.

Most recently, Instagram, now owned by Facebook, pulled the ability to view it’s photos within Twitter posts.

Even formal agreements to syndicate data are failing as evidenced by Twitter’s breakup with LinkedIn.

It’s not too hard to see why this is happening: Money. As these companies mature, they must find a way to monetize their service amid greater competition. Allowing unbridled access to user data may dilute the brand experience and reduces opportunities to make money.

While shareholders may be happy with this trend, developers and entrepreneurs are left on the outside looking in.

Image from: The Connected Cause

Starbucks Coffeeshop

With the news that Starbucks and Square have inked a partnership it appears mobile payments are finally going mainstream.

Square is a service for iPhone and Android users that eliminates the need for paying with a physical credit card. Users can open a tab, or set the app to automatically open a tab, at a retailer. The consumer’s phone can then be recognized by the store and allow for automatic payments. At the checkout, cashiers validate a visitor’s identity by viewing their name and photo which automatically appear on registers. Other Square features include: discounts, tipping and loyalty programs.

Square utilizes a little known technology called geo-fencing which creates virtual perimeters around a retailer. If someone is within that perimeter with a supported device then a transaction can take place.

Many observers believed Near field communication (NFC) would be required for mobile payments to be successful. But the lack of NFC in smartphones and the cost of updating point-of-sale equipment has slowed the march towards mobile payments in the United States.

Until yesterday’s announcement, businesses using Pay with Square were local, non-chain stores. The addition of Starbucks adds not only significant income for Square, but also mainstream awareness. But will it translate to mainstream adoption?

Surprisingly, the announcement has detailed that the location recognition functionality will not be available and that the Starbucks loyalty program will remain separate. This incomplete experience with Square may result in additional consumer confusion.

If Starbucks and Square can clearly communicate this change in payment philosophy to customers and geo-fencing works as advertised, mainstream mobile payment may finally become common practice in the United States.

Image from Geolocation

Declaration of Internet Freedom logo

Net Neutrality — the principle of preventing any restrictions on content, websites, platforms or modes of communication — is not a new issue. After much debate in the early 2000s, the principle was formalized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2005.

Along with technology, this topic has evolved in the years since the Internet Policy Statement. The advent of social media, exponential growth of mobile devices, war on terror, growing number of patent lawsuits and boom in media piracy has changed the complexion of the neutral internet debate.

In the past year several pieces of legislation have been proposed with the stated mission of fighting online piracy (Stop Online Piracy Act), protect intellectual property (PROTECT IP Act) and even creating international standards for enforcement (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). All of these proposed laws have been greeted with outcry from the tech companies, user protests, service blackouts and even attacks on proponents by hacker groups. Thus far, each piece of legislation has been either defeated, tabled or remains unratified.

Up next is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which hopes to gain traction by attracting tech companies that opposed previous laws. It focuses on preventing cyber attacks, yet is written open-ended enough that many fear it is simply the reincarnation of SOPA.

In the past few weeks, groups have issued not one, but two versions of a Declaration of Internet Freedom. The first is from Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of reddit, and Josh Levy, from Free Press. The second is spearheaded by TechFreedom and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Even Ron Paul has joined the crusade with a manifesto from his Campaign for Liberty.

The most basic is the initial Declaration focusing on five basic principles: Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation and Privacy. The Preamble challenges us to discuss the principles — agree or disagree with them, debate them, translate them, make them your own and broaden the discussion with your community — as only the Internet can make possible.

We took this challenge to heart at Myjive. We did some roleplaying, acting as politicians, hackers, Internet service providers, the Motion Picture Association of America, corporations, media providers, rights organizations and the average Joe. It was enlightening to see the large range of opinions because of the wide variation in motivations.

Afterwards, we were able to have a healthy debate on the principles and future of internet freedom. I encourage everyone to join the discussion — on the web, at the office or at home.

Now that we know the fate of the PC and we’re up to date on the platform war, let’s get to know those millions of mobile users.

Mobile users are content consumers. In fact, consumption in many categories nearly doubled between 2010 and 2011 including: health information, reference and entertainment. This growth can be attributed to not only overall growth in mobile users, but also increased data speeds, ubiquitous connectivity, mobile formatted content and the proliferation of social integration.

Mobile users are gamers and the demographic is not just young males. In fact, women over 30 are the most avid players of mobile games. A recent report shows that 64% of users who downloaded an app in the past 30 days downloaded a game. Games are the most popular app category particularly amongst paid apps with 93% of app downloaders willing to pay for a game.

Listening to music on mobile devices is huge. Currently, 70% of Pandora’s traffic is from mobile devices. Along with Spotify, iHeartRadio, Last.fm, Rhapsody and many others, music apps offer the mobile consumer free, ad-supported or paid access to a nearly infinite library of music. Integration of mobile devices in home theater electronics and vehicle stereos, coupled with pervasive internet connections has turned the mobile device into the consumer’s music headquarters.

Certainly mobile devices are used for socializing. Facebook (33%) and Twitter (55%) are experiencing a large increase in percentage of traffic from mobile devices and the numbers are expected to continue growing. Many social networking platforms either originated as an app or exist only as an app. Location-based apps like Foursquare prominently feature social sharing features. Even photo-sharing apps such as Instagram have millions of users.

A huge differentiator in the mobile versus desktop consumer market is the concept of apps. Desktop users purchase a limited number of software titles and are often very deliberate with these often expensive purchases.

Meanwhile, the now $100 billion mobile app market is growing at nearly 100% per year. On average, mobile consumers have 33 apps on their phones. The relatively low cost of apps and the ease of purchase, download and installation has turned buying “software” into a cheap and trivial task.

The miniscule cost and easy adoption of apps has resulted in a volatile market. New or popular apps can see astronomical growth. Consider these stats:

  • AOL took 9 years to reach one million users
  • Facebook took 9 months
  • Mobile app Draw Something took only 9 days!

Of course, with finite time to spend on their devices, mobile consumers can be quick to abandon apps. Popularity may be fleeting. As Draw Something rapidly gains users, the popular Words With Friends app has seen a steady decline in usage.

Shopping and spending using mobile devices is becoming mainstream. Nearly 38% of mobile consumers have used a smartphone to make a purchase. This was reflected on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, as 14% of web traffic was from mobile devices that day in 2011.

Mobile payments are also growing via services like PayPal and Square. Paid media content such as downloaded music, books, movies, magazines and TV shows has become big business, particularly amongst tablet users.

The mobile consumer behaves inherently different than a desktop user. Mobile devices make information, games, music, socializing, downloading and shopping immediately available. This changing behavior will only continue to grow. Internet users will double in the next 3 years and most will be using a mobile device.

Consumers are different in the Mobile Future.

Additional References:
State of Media: Consumer Usage Report
Play Before Work: Games Most Popular Mobile App Category in US
Mobile made up 14pc of Black Friday Web traffic
Mobile Shopping Goes Mainstream
The Future of Mobile