Why Data isn’t the Future of Advertising

Why Data isn’t the Future of Advertising

by Adam Skikne

Advertising people like to talk a lot about data. There is a commonly held belief by many people in the industry that data is the future of advertising. And while I do believe that data has the potential to revolutionise advertising, I also can’t shake the feeling that a lot of people talking about data don’t actually know a lot about it.

So without any further ado, here is why advertising people should calm down a bit when talking about the future of advertising and data:

1. Businesses Already Have Plenty of Data

Most marketers paint data as this magical silver bullet that will solve everything that is currently wrong with advertising (which is a lot). But if data is that amazing, why aren’t more advertising people making use of the data they already have? Every company already has plenty of data that could be used to grow their business – so why isn’t it being used?

It’s already possible to work out things like the lifetime value of a customer or a brand’s share of a customer’s wallet. Every company is able to track their competitors’ online activity.  There is a wealth of public social data that brands can mine and merge with existing CRM programmes. You can already do amazing things with data. Instead of talking about the future of data and advertising we should rather be seeing what we can do with data we already have.

2. More Data is Not Always Better

The amount of data and information available to us is increasing all the time but that doesn’t mean that all of it is actually useful. This idea is something that Nate Silver unpacks in his book The Signal and the Noise.

In the book, Silver looks at the factors that prevent us from making accurate predictions. Why didn’t the majority of economists see the global financial crisis coming? Why can’t scientists predict the weather or the effects of global warming? Why do security agencies still miss terrorist threats? In all of these cases, a number of extremely smart people had access to a lot of data and still got things very wrong.

More data is not necessarily a good thing. Avinash Kaushik echoed this sentiment when he described the paradox of data: “A lack of data means you cannot make complete decisions, but even with a lot of data, you still get an infinitesimally small number of insights.” When people talk about data, what they really want is insights. Ideally, we should be focusing less on data and more on insights.

3. Advertising People Are Not Data People (or at least not yet)

Everyone in the industry is talking a lot about data but how many of them are employing people who actually know anything about data? What percentage of agencies are made up of data people? 5%? 1%? 0,5%? If data is so important, why don’t we have more data people in the industry?

I may be unlucky but I’ve sat through some very questionable “data-driven” presentations. For example, one post-campaign report focused on the click through rate of mobile banner ads. The result was less than 2%, which was still double the average click through rate for mobile banner ads. Sounds great right? The problem was that the content on the other side of the ad was not mobile friendly and would crash the smartest of smartphones. Even with a 100% click through rate, the only thing those ads would have done was waste a client’s money and frustrate the end user.

I’ve got one friend who is a process engineer and another friend with a doctorate who is an actual data scientist. Compared to the average Art Director, I might consider myself to be a “data person”. But in the real world, I’m not a data person. I’m still someone who works in advertising that understands a very limited set of metrics. Let’s not lose our minds here.

Having said that, agencies need to hire more data people. Real data people. They need to up-skill their staff or encourage them to watch some statistics videos on Khan Academy… or something.

Future of Advertiisng

Of course data is going to play an important role in the future of advertising. But we need to stop talking about data and start using it. We need to understand the limits of data because it’s not magic sauce. And if we want to be taken seriously, we need to seriously up our game or start hiring some real data people.

Age of Context Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Age of Context

by Adam Skikne



Age of Context is a new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel that is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the future of technology, social media, digital and business. The book details how companies are using the convergence of five key forces (mobile, social media, data, sensors and location) to create a new wave of smarter products and services.

The book is literally fascinating and should get you excited about how technology is going to change our lives in the near future. Here are a few key trends that we can look forward to once we enter the Age of Context:

The Rise of Wearable Devices

Wearable devices such as Google Glass and the Nike Fuelband are one of the biggest trends within the tech industry at the moment. Scoble was one of the first people to receive a pair of Google Glass outside of Google and is incredibly bullish about the future of these types of devices.

While it is still early days for wearables, Scoble and Israel argue that these devices will only get smaller, cheaper and more powerful over time. In fact, the wearable market is expected to grow to an estimated $50 billion in the next 3-5 years.

While smartphones are currently our primary mobile device, it will soon be normal to carry around multiple mobile devices with numerous smart sensors. While we may scoff at the current iteration of a device like Google Glass, younger generations will embrace them and may not be able to live without them as contextual technology creeps into more areas of our daily lives.

Pin Point Marketing 

The problem with marketing and advertising today is that is creates more noise than signal. In the near future, companies will be able to use contextual technology to create right-time experiences based on a consumer’s needs, what they are doing and what they are going to do next. Companies are already experimenting with contextual marketing through a combination of online monitoring, social CRM and geo-fencing.

Business will become “Uber-ised”. Products and services will come to you when you need them. When you don’t, they will disappear as your context changes.

Another interesting company worth mentioning is Shopperception. The company creates 3D sensors for shopping aisles that measure what consumers look at, what they touch and what they place in their trolleys.  These sensors will give merchants unprecedented data and real-time analytics of what happens at the ‘point of touch’ in stores.

Shopperception: tracking real world conversions like web analytics from Shopperception on Vimeo.

Contextual Cars

According to Scoble and Israel, the cars will be as much of a contextual device as a smartphone, only a lot bigger.  The entire auto industry is focused on using sensors to improve safety and security of drivers.

Google, Tesla and Audi are just a few of the companies that are working on self-driving cars that help people save time and money, as well as dramatically reduce the number of accidents on roads. As Marc Andreessen says: “People are so bad at driving cars that computers don’t need to be that good to be much better.”

But there are a number of other interesting ideas in this field. Tesla has developed an alarm system that only unlocks the vehicle for recognised drivers. OnStar is a vehicle tracking company that disables the gas pedal of a vehicle once it has been reported stolen. GM is investigating a sensor that can detect if drivers are falling asleep at the wheel  Another company is developing wristbands to monitor a driver’s alcohol levels in order to prevent them from driving drunk.

Health in the Age of Context

Health care is another industry that is set to be transformed by contextual technology. Health care encompasses two elements: prevention and treatment, and there are a number of examples of how technology is being used to treat and prevent illness.

Researchers are already testing pills containing smart sensors. Once consumed, a patient’s condition can be tracked and monitored. If a patient’s condition changes, both the patient and the doctor can be instantly notified. This might sound like science fiction, but these pills could come to market as early as 2015 or 2016.

There are a number of examples of how data, sensors and location are currently being used in medicine. One study crowd sourced the location of asthma attacks to identify asthma hotspots. Smart masks have been created help create heat maps that measure air quality. A bra has been created that is able to detect the early stages of breast cancer.

Scoble and Israel predict that, unlike in science fiction, humans won’t become part of computers but computers will become part of humans. The two authors have also met with company’s developing the next generation of smart prosthetics as well as bionic suits designed to help paraplegics to walk.

The Connected Human:

The pair also write about Personal Contextual Assistants (PCA’s) like Siri and Google Now. Scoble and Israel believe that these PCA’s will evolve into anticipatory systems for every aspect of our lives thanks to the Internet of Things. According to the authors, there will be 3.5 billion networked products by 2015.

The home will be just one of the spaces that will be transformed by contextual devices. Houses will soon be fitted with smart windows that can change properties based on weather conditions – thereby eliminating the need for blinds and saving energy costs by up to 25℅. Smart glass and smart mirrors will soon come with facial recognition so you’ll be able to check the weather and read your messages while you brush your teeth.

The Cost of Context

The Age of Context promises to improve our lives in a number of ways, but these benefits will come at the cost of personal privacy. The extent we allow contextual technology into our lives will depend on our own comfort levels. Trust will become an increasingly important factor in the relationship between companies and consumers as we tackle issues relating to who owns our data, who can access our data and how our data can be used.

But once we find that balance, there is no doubt that the Age of Context will be an exciting time.


How Africa Accesses Facebook on Mobile

How Africa Accesses Facebook on Mobile

by Adam Skikne

We’ve often heard that Africa is the next big opportunity for businesses and brands. We also heard that social and mobile are two factors that are going to shape the way that business is conducted in Africa. So with this in mind, I thought it might be worthwhile to try shed some light on how how Africa accesses Facebook, the world’s largest social network, on mobile.

It sounds like a simple question but the answer is a bit more complicated. We should all know that there are a number of social and economic factors that make each African country unique in their own right. But through data from Facebook, we may be able to shed some light on the current mobile landscape in Africa and make some predictions about how it will change in the next few years.

How Africa Accesses Facebook in Africa

How Africa Accesses Facebook in Africa

If you look at Africa as a whole, there are over 77 million Facebook users with over 51 million users who access the service on mobile. It is interesting to note that the ratio of Android to Blackberry devices in Africa is over 2:1 – (although this may include Android tablets). But this only provides a broader picture, so for your convenience, I’ve broken down the data for the five largest countries in Africa, based on the number of mobile users (a full PDF of all the data for 50 African countries can be found at the bottom of the page)

1. Nigeria

How Nigeria Accesses Facebook on Mobile

How Nigeria Accesses Facebook on Mobile

87% of Nigerian Facebookers access the social network from mobile devices. 68% of these mobile users use feature phones while another 18% use BlackBerries.

2. South Africa

How South Africa Accesses Facebook on Mobile

How South Africa Accesses Facebook on Mobile

93% of South African Facebookers access the social network from mobile devices. 47% of these mobile users access Facebook through a feature phone while another 30% use BlackBerry devices.

3. Egypt

How Egypt Accesses Facebook on Mobile

How Egypt Accesses Facebook on Mobile

FUN FACT: Egypt has the largest number of Facebook users in Africa but only the third highest number of mobile users. 45% of Egyptians use feature phones to access Facebook with another 38% using Android devices.

4. Morocco

How Morocco Accesses Facebook on Mobile

How Morocco Accesses Facebook on Mobile

Only 55% of Moroccan Facebookers access the social network on mobile. 39% of these users do so on feature phones while 37% of users use Android devices. It shouldn’t be long before the most popular way to access Facebook on mobile is on an Android device.

5. Kenya

How Kenya Accesses Facebook on Mobile

How Kenya Accesses Facebook on Mobile

85% of Kenyan Facebookers access the social network on mobile. Like Nigeria, a large percentage of these users (71%) do so on feature phones. Unlike Nigeria and South Africa, the next most popular platform is Android.

Some General Observations from the Data:

  • Feature phones are still king
  • Android’s market share is gowing in a number of a of African countries
  • BlackBerry is still prevelant but only in a select number of markets
  • iOS has found a niche in a number of markets but is not widely used
  • Microsoft should quit now or start making Android devices

A Note on the Data:

All of the data used in this post was sourced directly from Facebook’s Advertising Tool. To the best of my knowledge, all of the above data is as accurate as possible at the time of originally publishing this post. If there is an error in the data, it may be my fault (please let me know if you find something wrong). If I was not at fault, then Facebook was drunk. You can find a full PDF of the data here. If you would like it in an editable spreadsheet, please let me know and I will gladly supply it.

I have tried my best to not be misleading with the data in this post. You are free to reuse any of the figures in this article but please do so in context – this is important to make both you and myself seem less stupid.

Android Kit Kat Android Kit Kat

Android Kit Kat

by @adamskikne

It’s been a crazy 24 hours in the world of tech. Microsoft announced that they’re buying Nokia for $7.2 billion. Apple confirmed that they’ll be announcing their new iPhone on 10 September. And Google announced that the next version of the Android operating system will be called Kit Kat. O yeah, and that over 1 billion Android devices have been activated around the world.

It’s crazy to think that Google acquired Android in 2005 and, in just 8 years, they have managed to activate over a billion Android devices. This stat alone should blow your mind and get you thinking about the the future mobile landscape. The global population is currently sitting at 7.13 billion people. This means that roughly 1 in 7 people around the world have an Android device (although to be fair, some people might own more than 1 Android device but it’s still pretty impressive).

According to recent stats, roughly 80% of all smartphones sold around the world in the last quarter were powered by Android. And with the prices of entry level Android smartphones continuing to drop, it’s not hard to imagine Android’s growth continue to soar in emerging markets in the coming years.

Remember, Android is free for manufacturers to use, has a highly committed developer community and is designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other smart devices. Apple has been rumored to be launching a cheaper iPhone which may be unveiled later this month. Microsoft has hedged their bets on Nokia and Blackberry…well BlackBerry has a really good messaging app.

Taking the above into account, I think Android has a good shot in emerging markets.

Kit Kat is also a really good name for the next version of Android. It’s much more consumer friendly and much better than Google’s other option: Key Lime Pie. According to TechCrunch, a deal for Google struck a deal with Nestle to use the Kit Kat brand in less than 24 hours with no money changing hands. This was another brilliant move by both parties as it will lead to massive exposure for Google and Kit Kat. Kit Kat have already rebranded their Facebook page and released a video that parodies the world of tech. Expect to see much more from Google and Kit Kat in the next few weeks.


5 Ways That the Future Failed Us

5 Ways That the Future Failed Us

by @adamskikne

Do you remember when you were a kid and people spoke to you about “the future”? The future was filled with things from science fiction like space travel, flying cars and robots. The future was a time when anything would be possible.

But after you grow up, the future quickly becomes something different. It’s the thing you start saving for; hoping that you’ll have enough money to live relatively comfortably in between the time you retire and the time you drop dead.

Personally, I think the flying cars and space travel version is much better.

And while I’m amazed that we have things like GPS, smartphones and Wikipedia; I still feel that there are some things from when I was growing up that “the future” promised us…and never quite delivered:

1. Lightsabers

I remember watching The Empire Strikes Back and realising that lightsabers were the coolest things that I have ever seen. What could be cooler than a glow in the dark laser sword with awesome sound effects? On a side note, my childhood mainly consisted of watching The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I didn’t see the original Star Wars until much later. I don’t know why but I blame our local video shop for this.lightsabres

2. Hoverboards

Hoverboards were the second coolest thing I saw when I was a kid. I still can’t believe we don’t have these. There is something wrong with the world when Elon Musk can get the world to buy into things like the Hyperloop and living on Mars but no one can make a commercially feasible hoverboard.




3. Aliens

Space was also another cool thing when I was a kid. NASA used to launch rockets into space. Astronauts used to go to the moon. Everyone got together and built a space station. And then things got expensive and everyone lost interest. But when I was a kid, the space of the future was also filled with…ALIENS! And for some reason they could all speak (or at least understand) English. The aliens could still be coming…but the English thing might be asking for too much.


4. Robots

As I mentioned earlier, the future was also supposed to be filled with robots. Robots were the things that were supposed to do all the crap that’s just too much effort. Think I’m being stupid? 96.4% of all the reasons that your life sucks can be traced back to a lack of robots. Fact.


5. Self-Driving Cars with Condescending British Accents

Ok. I’ll admit it. Out of everything on this list, self-driving cars are the closest things to actually becoming a reality. We should be eternally grateful to companies like Google who have made enormous strides in helping perfect this technology that is going to fundamentally change the way we live in the next decade. BUT…where is the snarky AI thing that makes you feel like there is a tiny British butler hiding in your dashboard or smartphone that makes you hate yourself by openly judging every decision you ever make? Sure Siri has a bit of sass but is she sufficiently advanced enough to make you feel you’re speaking to a robotic version of a Jewish mother? I’m on Android so I honestly don’t know.

knightriderIf there have been any other ways that you feel the future has failed you, please feel free to comment below.


Smarter Smartphones The Moto X (image from Eurodroid)

Smarter Smartphones

by @adamskikne

Over the past few years, most smartphone manufacturers have been engaged in a specs war in an effort to  differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market. With each new launch, smartphones has become thinner, lighter and faster. But while smartphones have become more powerful, they haven’t necessarily become smarter.

Until now.

Two weeks ago, Motorola officially unveiled the Moto X, the first new smartphone that the company has developed since being acquired by Google in 2011. And while some have criticised the Moto X for shipping with what they consider to be “mid range” specs, Motorola is betting their success on providing customers with a smarter user experience.

This smarter experience is powered by the Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, an 8 core processor that has two cores dedicated to natural language and contextual computing. This allows the Moto X to  always be listening for a specific phrase (in this case, the incredibly catchy “Ok Google Now”) that activates Touchless Control.

Through Touchless Control, the Moto X benefits from deep integration with Google Now – one of the smartest and most useful of Google’s services that will soon be baked into the Chrome browser and Google Glass. Without even touching the phone, Moto X owners will be able to make phone calls, send messages, ask questions, perform web searches, navigate and so much more.

The Moto X (image from The Verge)

The Moto X (image from The Verge)

Like most smartphones, the Moto X also features a number of contextual sensors. It will know when it’s in your pocket and when you might be able to see the screen so that it can show you subtle notifications. It knows when you are driving and will automatically alert you to incoming calls and read new messages – all through Touchless Control.

What makes the Moto X so special is that it is able to  power these various sensors and processes in a highly efficient way. Motorola claims the Moto X offers 24 hours of battery life…which is pretty impressive if these claims are true.

Another aspect of the Moto X that Motorola has focused on is customisation. Consumers will be able to customise their Moto X by choosing from a wide range of colours for the back plates and accents of the phone. Later in the year, Motorola will even be offering a variety wooden options to choose from.

Many have seen this focus on customisation as a move to appeal to average consumers and not just spec-obsessed Android nerds. This is actually pretty ironic, as Touchless Control is probably geekier than anything  you’ll find on other Android phones like the Samsung S4 and the HTC One.

While the Moto X is not a perfect phone, I’m incredibly excited to see how Motorola will progress with their future products. Personally, I’ll be shocked if the next Nexus smartphone isn’t a Motorola device that sports similar features to the Moto X.

Specs will always be important, but currently there is no shortage of great smartphones on the market. Manufacturers might use software to differentiate their products but this will be harder than it sounds. For example, the majority of the added software features on the Samsung Galaxy S4 clutter up the phone, while the software features on the Moto X are minimal and could be genuinely useful.

The smartest bet for manufacturers moving forward might just be focusing on building smarter smartphones.

Digital Comics VS Real Comics

Digital Comics VS Real Comics

by @adamskikne

A few months back, I signed up for Marvel Unlimited, a relatively new service that provides on-demand access to thousands of digital comics from Marvel that you can read online, on your phone or on your tablet. The service offers an all access pass to the Marvel Universe and costs about R500 a year, which is incredible value for money.

I initially signed up for the service with great hopes of writing a review on Electric Sheep. Unfortunately, my review of Marvel Unlimited is pretty simple:

  • It’s a potentially great service plagued by buggy mobile apps
  • There is no easy way to browse through the thousands of comics on offer
  • The offline support is limited to six comics- which you can’t access without a working internet connection.

It’s pretty easy to get frustrated by any of the above issues. But…there is one area where the service shines, and that is the content. The library of comics on offer is absolutely amazing, fantastic, spectacular and uncanny. Plus Marvel keeps adding new comics to read each month. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for some of the more recent titles, or if you’re looking to dig into classic issues from the Golden Age of the Marvel Universe. Marvel Unlimited is worth the price of admission for any comic book fan.

After playing around with the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve given a lot of thought to how digital has changed the ways we consume media. I thought back to what it was like when I first started collecting comics as a kid. And as much as I like all things digital, I think I had my first “old man moment” when I started thinking about the future of the comic book.

I remember the trials and tribulations of trying collect comics while growing up in South Africa. My local CNA had a modest selection at best (basically X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and maybe a few other titles). Availability was often sporadic. I once spent months collecting the first three issues of a particular run of Amazing Spider-Man and then waiting the usual four weeks for the fourth and final issue which mysteriously never came…This kind of stuff happened all the time.

I started collecting comics in an age of scarcity. I remember going over to my cousin’s house and finding out that he had bought a direct edition of X-Men #25. It’s the issue where Magneto rips out Wolverine’s skeleton, and my cousin had picked it up for a whole R25 – which was a lot of money when I was a kid. It was the last copy and there was no way to get another one. I spent years trying to find a comic that my cousin wanted enough to trade for his copy of X-Men #25 but never found one.


One of the best parts of collecting comics was actually going to my local comic shop. The first comic shop I went to closed down shortly after I first visited it. It didn’t take me long to migrate over to Zed Bee in Edenvale which is where I spent the majority of my formative years, as well as all of my pocket money. Visiting Zed Bee was the highlight of my week and I can honestly say that my love of reading and writing was born in that store.

I still try to visit Zed Bee as often as possible. I love browsing their shelves, talking to the staff and getting their recommendations about what’s worth reading. Earlier this year I got into a fascinating conversation about how the comic book is the only medium where dozens of writers have interpreted the same characters for such a long time – pretty much 80 plus years and counting.

Thinking back to my experiences of collecting comics growing up and it makes me feel conflicted about a service like Marvel Unlimited. Part of me wishes I had something like it when I was growing up. I don’t think I could have ever imagined that one day; it would be possible to read almost any Marvel comic with the push of a button. I think that would have blown my tiny little mind.

But for all the value and convenience, I don’t think I would have traded it for my memories of collecting comics.

I hope that any kid growing up today gets their parent to sign them up for something like Marvel Unlimited. I hope any kid lucky enough to have a tablet buys a digital comic or two on a regular basis and spends less time playing Angry Birds or taking photos of milkshakes on Instagram. But I also hope that the parents of those same kids take them to a comic shop so they can buy actual comics.

There are so many great things about the digital world. Digital makes our lives more convenient and can offer value in ways that the real world can’t. But when I think back to my experience of collecting comics as a kid, I realise that you lose something if your only experience of something you love is digital.

It doesn’t matter if it’s comics, books or music. There is no question that the majority of the content that we’ll consume moving forward will be digital. But there are still some books that I want to own as physical books. There are still some artists that I want to see live instead of on a playlist. And there are still some experiences like visiting your local comic shop that no digital offering will be able to match.

So what does the future of the comic book look like? More than likely, it will be mostly digital. But hopefully there is still a bit of room for the real comic books that I grew up with. I’ve still got the entire collection that I built up as a kid and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

How to Get Rid of Second-Hand Smartphones Would you donate your old Smartphone to charity

How to Get Rid of Second-Hand Smartphones

by @adamskikne

A few weeks back, I wrote about The New Digital Age, a book that tries to predict what will happen as the world becomes increasingly connected. One of the predictions in the book is that 5 billion new people will connect to the Internet for the first time in the next decade. Most of these new Internet users will come from the third word and many will be connecting to the Internet for the first time through smartphones.

This shift is going to radically improve the lives of these 5 billion people. So… What are some of the ways to speed up this process?

It’s almost been two years since I bought my last phone which means that is almost time for me to upgrade. And while I’ve been going back and forward trying to decide between the latest offerings from Samsung and HTC, I’ve also been struggling with another decision: what to do with my old phone.

Besides needing a new battery (R600 on, my old HTC Sensation is still going strong. And since there is no second hand market for smartphones in South Africa, I’ll be lucky to get R1000 for a phone with  a reasonable camera and that can run thousands of Android apps like Google  Chrome,  Google Maps, Wikipedia and Twitter.

I’m sure I could give my old phone to a family member or keep it as a spare, but I’m sure that my old smartphone could be doing more good. And while I’ve never seen anyone else with an HTC Sensation, I have seen plenty of other people rocking Samsung Galaxy SIIs or iPhone 4s who are in exactly the same position.

And that’s when it hit me.  Why isn’t there a local corporate or NGO who has tried to encourage people to donate their old smartphones to charity? This would be a perfect initiative for local operators. I would gladly sign up to a new cellphone network if I could give them my old phone which would then go to a school or some other worthy organisation. If others need more of an incentive,  they could easily be bribed with mobile data (5 Gigs seems fair), which would be a cost that could be easily absorbed by a cellphone network.

I really think that this would be a great way to do good and bring more South Africans onto the Internet. If given the option,  wouldn’t you donate your old smartphone to charity?

The New Digital Age The Digital Age

The New Digital Age

by @adamskikne

In The New Digital Age, Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, look to the future and try to predict what implications technology will have on a world that is becoming increasingly connected. The New Digital Age was one of the books I was most looking forward to reading this year and I enjoyed it immensely. If you are interested in technology in any way, this book is a must read. Here are just a few predictions from The New Digital Age:

The Next 5 Billion

In the next decade, 5 billion new people will join the Internet. Many of the people will be from the developing world and will be accessing the Internet for the first time from cheap smartphones. The impact of this shift will be huge, with the majority of the world’s population having gone from having no access to unfiltered information to accessing all of the world’s information in the palm of their hands. All in one generation.

But this shift will not take place in a vacuum. While the majority of the developing world will come online for the first time, the developed world will benefit from a number of new innovations; including self-driving cars, photo-realistic 3D holograms and robots. Let’s not forget the robots.

In the words of the authors: “Everyone will benefit from connectivity, but not equally”

Two Worlds

For nations, governments, people and governments, it is becoming increasingly clear that we live in two worlds. One physical and one virtual. But while people are embracing the digital world, governments are still trying to find (in their opinion) the best way to regulate it.

Regulation may change from country to country which may lead to a “balkanization” of the Internet, allowing each country to filter and control what information is accessible online. This would most certainly suck and not be a good thing.

News and Journalism

Due to an increase in connectivity, the ability to “break news” will be left to luck and chance. To demonstrate this point, the authors refer to one unwitting civilian in Abbottabad Pakistan who unknowingly live-tweeted the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But while some new digital platforms like Twitter will break news, people will still refer to traditional media organisations for commentary and analysis.

It should be noted that many of the next five billion people who will join the Internet live in impoverished, censored and unsafe conditions. But despite this, safer reporting backed by encryption and wider reach due to advances in connectivity will help expose corruption and wrong doing.

The Future of Conflict

While technology will help improve the world, it will also make it more dangerous. Cyber attacks and incidents of hacking are on the rise and we may soon see conflicts from the digital world spill over into the physical world.

Connectivity will make it easier for terrorist groups to recruit and train members, but by being online, their activities will also be easier to track. Once again, one of the things that tipped off the U.S. Government to Osama Bin Laden’s location was that his compound was completely disconnected from the outside world.

Another interesting potential trend is that rebels may begin virtual kidnappings, as stealing people’s online identities may be more lucrative and less risky than actual kidnappings. Additionally, advances in technology may also lead to the world’s first “smart” rebel movements who will aim to topple regimes through virtual means.


According to the authors, warfare will also become automated. Robots and drones will increasingly be used in combat operations in order to help minimise combat deaths, civilian casualties and collateral damage. While the use of drones in warfare is currently being debated, a report published by Wired in 2012 stated that drones now account for 31%percent of all military aircraft—up from 5% in 2005.

The Future:

Overall, the authors believe that more connectivity will ultimately be a good thing. Here is one final quote from the book to give you something to think about while we approach the new digital age:

“Every two days we create as much digital content as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003—that’s about five exabytes of information, with only two billion people out of a possible seven billion online. How many new ideas, new perspectives and new creations will truly global technological inclusion produce, and how much more quickly will their impact be felt? The arrival of more people in the virtual world is good for them, and it’s good for us. The collective benefit of sharing human knowledge and creativity grows at an exponential rate.”



A Game of Phones

A Game of Phones

by @adamskikne

Last week, Facebook unveiled Facebook Home, a brand new approach to mobile that is designed around people instead of apps. Facebook Home is not a “Facebook Phone”, at least not in the same way that the iPhone is an “Apple Phone”. Instead, Facebook home is a launcher – which is essentially an app capable of customising the look and feel of any Android device.

The thinking behind Facebook Home is brilliant. Through Facebook Home, Facebook is extending its reach beyond its traditional mobile app and integrating its services directly into the UI of potentially millions of Android phones around the world. All without ever having to design ship or sell a single mobile device.

Ironically, this feat is only possible on Android, a mobile operating system owned by one of Facebook’s main rivals, Google. In addition to this, Android is also the world’s most popular mobile operating system and continues to sell well in both developing and developed markets alike.

Simply brilliant.

Judging from a variety of hands-on videos, Facebook Home seems to be a highly polished product. It is beautifully designed, fun to play with and even a little whimsical. But despite everything it has going for it, Facebook Home will need to accomplish some pretty big things if it is going to be considered a successful product.

The first thing it will need to do is help make Facebook more money off of mobile. Over the past few years, Facebook have had to aggressively transform itself into a mobile first company. Over 50% of users access Facebook from mobile devices but only 23% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile ads.

Facebook Home is expected to eventually incorporate some form of advertising which may put some people off. If done correctly, these ads might even add value and make Facebook Home an even more compelling product. But until we actually see these ads, all we can do is speculate.

Another challenge Facebook needs to overcome is that, for some, Facebook is becoming less relevant. This is particularly true amongst younger users who have recently been switching to other services like Twitter, Tumblr and Snap Chat.  It’s no secret that there is also a large group of people who are only on Facebook because everyone they know is on Facebook. They use the service begrudgingly and more exposure to Facebook would probably do more harm than good.

Another problem Facebook has is data. This may come as a shock as Facebook probably knows more about you than any other company in the world. As pointed out by The Verge in their early review of Graph Search, Facebook’s other new product from earlier this year, the data collected by Facebook is great for targeting ads but offers very little value for users in the real world. In order to fix this, Facebook needs to change the way we use their social network, which may be more effort than it’s worth.

But despite the challenges it has to overcome, Facebook Home is exciting. Whether it succeeds or fails, it is part of a massive shift that is taking place in mobile. In the past, mobile was all about apps. With Facebook Home, Facebook is going beyond the app. Google will no doubt try take this one step further later this year as they try go beyond the phone with Project Glass. Apple and just about every other tech company are reportedly working on smart watches and other forms of wearable computers.

Make no mistake about it. 2013 will be an exciting year for mobile.