How Real-Time Data Creates a More Comfortable World

Plus Other Things That Will Change the World for Marketers in 2010

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"We are at the cusp of huge changes around us in everything we look at," predicted analyst and futurist Mark Anderson, when I attended his annual predictions dinner last week. "There's never been a more exciting year than 2010."

Mr. Anderson, author of the influential Strategic News Service, is worth listening to -- unlike many navel gazers, he pointedly rates his predictions at the end of each year and currently claims a 97% accuracy rate. Some of his notable "calls" over the past five years include predicting the meteoric rise of netbooks, the HDTV price collapse, the oil price increase and decrease, and the bottom of the 2008-2009 stock market crash.

For marketers, Anderson's prediction about real-time information is probably most important, and also the fastest moving. In his words:

"Connecting remote data to people and things in real-time will lead to a series of exciting new devices and applications. Possible examples: real-time comparison and recipe-driven shopping, facial recognition (in social spaces) linked to bios, self-guided tours by phone, voice-queried information about your personal environment. Many of these are technically proved out today, but they will start to emerge as an exciting and brand new trend in applications in 2010."

And it's already happening. In the 48 hours leading up to the predictions dinner, a significant step towards this real-time world was released by Google -- the awkwardly named yet amazingly significant Google Goggles. This cell-phone app, which runs on the Droid and other Android phones, introduces the concept of visual search. Take a picture of a person's face, and Goggles tells you their name. Snap a picture of a building, and find out who built it, and what companies reside inside.

It's more than just being able to perform searches on physical objects. Anderson sees this real-time overlay of data atop the physical world as leading to a fundamental change in the human condition. "The world today, for most of us, is a mildly hostile environment," he observed. Buildings are mysterious, [and] when you meet someone you often can't remember how you know them, or even if you do. This creates anxiety, he claims, where you tend to gravitate to the people you know best at a party, or the places you're most familiar with.

But behavior changes when you layer in real-time search overlays onto the real world. Imagine if you could immediately pop up a LinkedIn profile over everyone you meet, including where they work, your mutual connections, their likes, dislikes, latest tweets and more. Imagine walking down a street and being completely in touch with what's inside every building.

That world will be here very soon -- and the building blocks will emerge over the next 12 months. "It has less to do with technology," predicted Anderson, "and more to do with psychology." Almost overnight, the world will change from hostile to comfortable -- and that will change us.

It will also open up an amazing opportunity for marketers to deliver relevant messages based on location, interest, relevance and context. The privacy concerns will be huge -- the first version won't let you search faces, due to privacy concerns -- but in the end this is an inexorable trend that will change our world.

For more on what you can do today, check out our Google Goggles review, released last week.

Three of Anderson's other ten predictions focused on the tremendous havoc mobile computing will unleash on the world in 2010.

  • "All content goes mobile. Everything gets tagged, multi-channeled, and the walled gardens open up. TV and movie content, particularly, break free of old trapped business models. We are moving toward watching first-run TV and movies on phones, for a price."

    If you are not on that little tiny screen, says Anderson, you will be nowhere. The ramifications for marketers and advertisers are clear -- if you don't have a mobile strategy now, you better get one pretty darn soon. Because if you don't, the world will pass you by in 2010.

    Luckily he sees a revenue lining inside these looming storm clouds, and he even -- reluctantly -- sided with Rupert Murdoch (probably for the first time ever).

  • Mobile apps and mobile content drive micro-payments, which move from niche to mainstream payment models. Payment for content will split along age lines, at around 35; above, pay; below, don't pay.

    There's light at the end of the tunnel for content creators, says Anderson, and "on the phone, we will pay." It's psychological, but he sees people ponying up for objects of value. But it is age-driven. If you want to make money, then "start marketing towards slightly older people in general."

    That's good news for the news business too -- at least what's left of it next year.

  • News media that survive will move to the subscription model, in whole or in part, along age lines.

    Don't expect advertising alone to save your bacon, he advised, and urged the media industry to "re-examine how we talk about the ad problem." Over the last three years, we've been bemoaning, complaining that ad dollars aren't moving quickly enough from traditional to online, but "that's not the problem," says Anderson. Instead it's a matter of scale. In the old media world, the roughly 60 billion dollars spent was divided pretty much among ten top players. Online there are 50,000 players, and no one has scale. Even if half of it goes over to online, it's still not going to amount to big bucks.

    "It is a completely different game," he explained, with many more players vying for the same ad dollars. "We never should have expected that it would work. No chance. If we had known three years ago what we know now," he says, "it would have been a subscription model" from the get-go."

Anderson's other predictions -- he made close to 20, rather than his formal 10 -- focus on broader economic themes and fundamental technology changes. A quick recap is below, but for more, you can check out Mark's site, along with my own personal blog for a broader analysis of the rest of his forecasts.

  • Oil will be up to $120 dollars in the next six months, "and then the speculation increases again." Anderson sees a return to market manipulation, and much higher prices.
  • The technology industry will go through both platform wars -- between PCs, netbooks and cellphones, and OS wars. He predicts netbooks will be big winners, along with (in this order) Windows 7, Mac OS and Android.
  • Enterprise computing will also split away from the consumer, with the cloud becoming less pervasive in big companies, but more pervasive in everyday life. "There will be a cloud catastrophe in 2010" at a large company -- either a security breach or a major outage, which will restrict enterprise growth of cloud services by turning CIOs against the whole concept.
  • Something "bad" will happen in China, as the world comes to grips with the huge problems caused by pegging the yuan to the dollar. It won't be Obama vs. China, but instead "the world against China," and "that pressure (on China) will be unable to ignore."
  • Finally, "Microsoft loses in its consumer play: except for gaming, it is game over for MS in consumer." If you're aligned with Microsoft on a consumer play, whether on MSN, Windows Mobile, netbooks or anywhere else, better come up with a new strategy or you will fail.

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Jim Louderback is CEO of internet video network Revision3. For more details on these issues, you can reach him at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @jlouderb

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