Wednesday, July 30

Too Late, is Already Taken

Interesting story about HP's nanotechnology initiatives:

HP's grand vision: measure everything

Imagine walking down the supermarket aisle with a cheap device you could hold up to a tomato. If the sensor detects a pesticide residue, you'd know the "organic" label is a lie. Similar tools could track the chemical content of water in a stream, telling you if there was lead contamination and when it got there, or keep constant watch on a bridge and tell if a structural steel beam was at risk of collapse.

Such products are almost certain to become common in coming decades, according to Stan Williams, who heads Hewlett-Packard's Information and Quantum Systems Laboratory. He aims to develop a panoply of microscopic-scale nanotech devices that will be able to measure essentially anything - and at low cost to boot. Viruses, bacteria, the chemical composition of molecules, vibration, moisture levels, particular sounds - these are just some of the things that the super-cheap devices he envisions will be able to detect.

The Internet is great at collecting massive amounts of information. Search engines are great at tracking and sorting massive amounts of information. The WWW is great at giving visual context to massive amounts of information. Mobile technologies are great at collecting/distributing that information anywhere we want. Imagine worldwide tracking of carbon emissions in realtime, viewable via Google Earth.

So it will be interesting to see how these technologies jump the shark into the public space. Toss some in the fridge to automatically add items to your webgrocer shopping list when the food starts to go bad? Paint some on your lawnmower to let you know when it is time to fertilize the grass?

And if marketers start implanting them in their products, and network them together into a massive consumer database (think really small RFID), what research insights and marketing programs might be spawned? At least the privacy groups will then have something bigger to worry about than behavioral ad serving.

Tuesday, July 29

Maybe a Information SuperPanicRoom is Acceptable

So last month I discussed the pleasures of an Internet-free vacation.

This month we went on family vacation #2 in southwest Florida. Standard "live at the beach for a week" lazy tourist trip. We left the laptops at home, but I still had some online connections via my iPhone. Which, as an information retrieval device, came in quite handy for making the trip more enjoyable.

We checked low tide times for optimal sea shell hunting. Quickly found remedies for jellyfish stings (4 beers is the best antidote). Used the new Yelp iPhone app to find good places to eat dinner. The Facebook iPhone app to mock my coworkers with news about manatee sightings, gulf waves, and sunset photos.

But it paid for itself at 4 AM when our 6 year old woke up with major eye pain, after taking a face full of ocean waves the day before. It took less than 15 minutes to find a good local ophthalmologists (yes, mom knew the techical name) via consumer reviews, confirm that they were in-network from our insurance company's site, and pull the exact location/directions via Google Maps. The only bad part was waiting 4 hours to make the appointment.

If you find yourself in the Fort Myers area with a child's scratched cornea, West Coast Eye Care is highly recommended.

Which has me conflicted between being Internet disabled (no access) and Internet restricted (no broadband/computer access, maybe mobile WAP/SMS access) while on vacation.

We could have printed out the tide charts, local restaurants, etc. prior to the trip. But mobile Internet access allows us to be more spontaneous and not have to think so far in advance.

We could just as well have waited until morning to begin calling the insurance company, local eye doctors, etc. and I'm sure everything would have turned out OK. But the ability to speed up treatment by a few hours -- and have some peace of mind at 4 AM -- definitely was preferred.

In the end it is all about self control, which it increasingly difficult in an always-on culture. Of course, once WebTV takes off, it will be less of a debate as long as your hotel room has cable...

Friday, July 11

You Have to be Nice to the IT Department Again

Looks like the IT department has found their opportunity to jump back into online marketing efforts and justify some headcount.

Forrester just published this POV = IT Departments Play Key Role In The Acquisition And Deployment Of Web 2.0 Technologies. They have allowed marketing groups to drive these programs under the guise of "web marketing stuff." But now that Web 2.0 apps are getting more popular and more robust, IT will want to control the efforts.

Which means we are destined for a slowdown in implementation and evolution. Nothing against IT departments (really, please don't shut off my Facebook access). But they exist on disciplined process, technical thoroughness, and the staffing formula where new projects don't justify additional headcount -- just a longer to do list. A mentality that clashes severly with the rough and tumble chaos of online marketing. All those who have been told that a 5 page microsite will take 6 weeks to go live, please raise your hand.

Forrester's recommendation:
Web 2.0 Marketers Must Embrace The IT Department

My recommendation from the agency side of things:
Try to keep your Web 2.0 efforts off the "client site." Disguise it as part of an online media buy or short-term marketing effort. It worked for microsites for years.

Here's the Forrester summary:
Marketing departments, corporate communications, or other lines of business led early enterprise Web 2.0 deployments, with IT departments along for the ride, if they were involved at all. That dynamic is changing rapidly; our recent Web 2.0 survey shows IT departments taking a more active role in the acquisition and deployment of Web 2.0 technologies. Budgetary controls, the need for integration and technical skills, and the growing importance of Web 2.0 tools are all putting IT departments in the driver's seat. Technology product managers and marketers will need to not only deal with these departments but also appeal to them outright. Those that can do so most effectively stand to close more deals, shorten the sales cycle, and grow deployments more easily.

This Way To The Information Supertrail

Just spent some time in the Michigan UP deep woods. Cabins, lakes, fishing, beer. No cellphone access, internet connections, or even a hardlined phone.

After a week of being cut off from instant information, you realize that you could survive without the internet. I missed George Carlin dying and the break of Madonna's divorce rumors. And I didn't know exactly what the weather would be like when I pushed the boat off at 6 AM. But jumping off the Info Superhighway was a nice break.

On the other hand my cousin, who is a freshman in college, found a 3' X 3' area in her cabin where she could get a weak cellphone signal. She spent a lot of time standing in one spot mashing away at her Sidekick keyboard.

Which made me contemplate The Kids today. Personally, I am old enough to remember life before email, WWW, and Windows 3.1. A week without it is a blast to my past. I suffered through AOL on a 28K modem, so tolerating slow webpage downloads on my 2G iPhone isn't complete torture. But The Kids will have no concept of life prior to always on / always fast / always realtime information.

Richard Louv is co-founder of the Children & Nature Network. He wrote a great book titled Last Child in the Woods. It analyzes the connection with children and nature, and the impact of society's alienation between the two. He warns about the decline of "unstructured outdoor play" and Nature Deficiency Disorder. It can be a bit treehugger at times, but overall it raises very valid points regarding how a disconnection from nature can have a broad impact on a child's creativity and social awareness. It can also induce pangs of parental guilt, but even a walk in the local nature reserve is a great first step.

So I think of The Kids and how they will be tracing their nature walks on Google Maps, posting their 24" Northern Pike catches to Twitter, blogging around the campfire. This digital multitasking behavior already runs rampant through most companies. Hotels have started offering conference rooms that don't have Wifi/cellphone/Blackberry coverage to keep offsite meetings ontrack. Why not the same for vacation spots? It was refreshing to tell everyone at work that there was no way to contact me for the next 10 days. Not my fault! Don't even try! You could probably charge more for those cabin rentals or all-inclusive resorts.

Meanwhile I posted my vacation photos to my Facebook page, staked out our next nature vacation on Google Earth, and found a section on that tracks prime fishing times throughout the day. Old habits are hard to break.