London Tech Week is as great as it is gruelling: braving the packed expo show floors, queuing in the rain and sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs that you politely fight over: “Sorry were you going to si… – no, okay thanks!” (who wants to listen to quantum computing for 40 mins standing?). Regardless, London Tech Week is still able to offer its audience the latest and greatest debates on emerging technology. This year’s LTW proved refreshing with its many talks rooted in pragmatism versus the more aspirational thinking that used to lure people into seats in previous years. Instead, the focus this year was on the good and the also (sometime very bad) realities of AI, IoT and 5G – and the policies we can put in place for a safer, fairer and more transparent tech-infused tomorrow.
But what is 5G…really?
5G is currently being rolled out across the world but the question about what 5G is and can do still seemed to be floating around LTW, similar to how we used to (and probably still) hear people mutter “what actually is AI?”. So what can we expect from 5G? If you believe the last 12 months’ hype, 5G will be up to a hundred times faster than its predecessor. That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. We’re still not quite there but as more hardware is developed and 5G infrastructure becomes more robust, existing experiences will get richer and newer ones will emerge. 5G will pave the way for next gen AR/VR and will create new media channels and ad formats. Marketers will need to keep their eyes open to the breadth and depth of ways to communicate with consumers.
Managing security in an insecure world
Issues such as content moderation, online misinformation and data security were the subject of vigorous debate throughout the week. The truth is that innovation works for us and against us, both from a business and consumer perspective. Any business that can successfully build public trust in how it manages data will have a competitive advantage. Similarly, having strong privacy standards are now imperative to gain access to some markets. Global organisations have a responsibility to work with regulatory bodies to provide coherent answers and solutions to data issues to foster a much-needed level of optimism for the future. In the context of advertising, brands need to strike the right balance between data privacy and innovation. Taking strong measures to make security and privacy the backbone of the digital solutions that are being delivered will be key to winning consumer trust.
Clash of the tech titans – AI, 5G and IoT are (slowly) converging
Joe Baguley from VMware shared how “Superpower technologies such as the Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML, Edge Computing and IoT aren't new. AI has been happening slowly, at the same time as other slowly evolving major powers”. Very true but LTW revealed that it’s the intersection of these technologies that sparks a daring new chapter in the story of how we as marketers interact, communicate, collaborate and conduct business. For legacy brands, being able to converge their traditional and digital marketing to turn the data gathered into compelling customer experiences is vital to staying competitive. Jon Davies, head of digital at Vodafone explained that “maintaining relevance and delivering great customer experiences” will always be a top priority.
Enter the AIoT. As AI and the Internet of Things fuse with together ever-smarter edge devices will not only become data generators but data aggregators, data exchanges and data-driven decision-making brains. For example, despite being a seemingly traditional retailer, Marks & Spencer have been making progress in this area by using AIoT to streamline and gain full visibility of its supply chain.
The unparalleled access to richer data that this technology offers will give marketers the ability to offer more intuitive experiences, freeing brands from the conventional push/pull tactics and instead meet the consumer halfway. An example is Trainline, the independent digital rail and coach platform, that delivers seamless daily journeys to over 172m people by combining data sources from various technologies to generate delay and pricing predictions. This has had tangible benefits for the company which has experienced 40% transaction growth over the last four years.
Ultimately, we cannot solve for future uncertainty. But what businesses and brands need to do is prepare for the increasing convergence between technologies, products and people. The stakes are high and developing genuine consumer connections will be key to maintaining a competitive edge. Marketers that can get to grips with the ways that faster connectivity will enable more spontaneous, instantaneous, scalable and transmittable decision making – without compromising on data privacy or ignoring the ethical implications – will come out on top.