March 9, 2017

MWC Barcelona 2017: Jamon, Chaos, and Mobility

For those of you who couldn’t make it to MWC this year, we can catch you up with the first-person experience of Director of Strategy and Design (EMEA), Greg Flory. Here’s Greg’s run down from MWC Barcelona:

It’s Sunday and I’m still recovering from last week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. If you haven’t been, I totally get why that sounds a little ridiculous—after all, you’re in one of the nicest cities on the planet, constantly eating jamon Iberico, quaffing tasty Rioja and nibbling on that amazing bread with tomatoes and olive oil. And it’s all lovely. Seriously, you should go. But the reality is that MWC has you running around all day, and most nights, trying to make sense of the chaos created by the collision of technology, vision, globalization, the rapidly advancing future, and the rippling impact of mobile innovation on adjacent industries and technologies. It’s overwhelming. And exhausting.

So, as I gradually emerge from the dreamy Catalan fog, there are several takeaways that I’d like to quickly share:

  • Autonomy is a thing. We tend to think of this in terms of smart objects or connected cars—and there were cars everywhere throughout the exhibition halls—but it’s the impact on human experience that is truly interesting. We have arrived at a point where tools and information can remove uncertainty and the mundane, allowing us to invest our energy in what we care about the most. AI-powered bots will get better, giving us immediate access to precise solutions. Autonomous drones will inspect, map, and deliver to locations quicker, and more safely and efficiently than we can today. Even lighting, championed by Philips, will change dramatically, moving beyond simple illumination to help us heal physically and make sense of our environment in new ways.
  • Data is your business. Or your next business. Investing in mobile ensures that you will have access to information about your customers that you never knew was available. Brands such as Spotify are working with companies to help find better ways to engage their customers. Connected devices, aligned with connected cars, houses, and cities will create even more data, while revealing services and products that we couldn’t have imagined or seen previously. And there’s no excuse for not knowing your customer—the actual people—with names, preferences and an increasing array of options.
  • We all need partners. Now more than ever. Having worked exclusively in mobile for the past six years, I thought I was pretty aware of my limitations. But there are entire parts of the ecosystem that I didn’t know existed. It is expansive and there is opportunity across the spectrum. And wherever you are on the mobility journey, it is an enormous benefit to have the right people to help you manage all of the moving parts. And believe me, there is no shortage. For every one person I saw and/or bumped into on the conference floor, there were 20 trying to get through passport control on Friday morning. And obviously, I think Bottle Rocket is an excellent choice. If you think the partner suggestion contradicts my first point about autonomy, I’d just say that having the right partner allows you to focus on the areas of your unique expertise, ceding certain specialties to people best prepared to manage.

When I wasn’t speaking my unique brand of broken, largely unintelligible Tex-Mex Spanish to patient and accommodating Catlan cab drivers, I was most likely wandering around Halls 8.0, 8.1 and 3 of the Fira Gran Via prepping for and/or leading a technology tour with WPP’s Data Alliance. The tour may have been the best thing that could have happened since it forced me to explore and engage with a lot of people I would normally have avoided. It challenged some of my assumptions and confirmed others.

You can expect a healthy dose of what’s next at the world’s largest mobile gathering, but there seemed to be quite a few brands and manufacturers pushing back against the future, trying their best to pluck our taught little, nostalgic heartstrings. Here are two headliners and one wild card:

  • Nokia, with its 3310, demonstrates that you don’t really need a good reason to dredge up the past (unless this is intended for the developing world) and plenty of people crowded the table to get their paws on the retro hand candy. Looks fun. Feels great in the hand. But the proprietary OS is very much a drill down—endlessly—to take simple actions, then drill back out. This was an instant reminder that UX in the pre-smartphone era was painfully slow and often unrewarding. The 3310 has 22 hours of talk time (not that anyone really does that on their phone anymore), plus about a month of standby between charges. Seems just about right considering how infrequently anyone in the developing world would be likely to use this phone. But easily one of the most crowded stands at the show. I guess it’s kind of like stalking your old crush on Facebook. Nice to see how they’ve done over the years, but probably still pretty happy you’ve moved on.
  • BlackBerry's KEYone brings its CrackBerry heritage to the Android OS, delivering a physical keyboard to the brand's long-suffering addicts. If this quickens your pulse, enjoy, but I found the physical keyboard with its tiny buttons harder and less forgiving than a typical touchscreen. I was never a huge fan and easily moved on almost a decade ago. So, are we facing a resurgent BlackBerry that will draw legions of former obsessives out of the smartphone forest (much like the gobs of zombies in the near certain impending apocalypse)? I wouldn’t bet on it.
  • Moscow-based, Elari, producer of the self-proclaimed “anti-smartphone” Cardphone 3G, has an interesting array of products for people looking to simplify. Their phones are generally small, with the Cardphone looking like a minimalist calculator that can fit in your wallet. I think this is the phone that Walter “Heisenberg” White wishes he'd had as his second “business" phone.

January 6, 2017

What’s Next in In-app Purchases | A Mini-Hackathon Recap

At Bottle Rocket, we like to host mini-hackathon events through the year. Similar to our annual Rocket Science event, these hackathons are nights where our engineers concentrate on one theme or aspect of technology development – beacons, healthcare, etc. – and create an application or idea within a few short hours. These short bursts of iteration, testing, and collaboration help our team conceptualize the next big solution for future-focused brands.

For our latest hack night, Bottle Rocket explored in-app purchases, where our developers prototyped in-app purchase mobile experiences for everyday and business situations. For example, Rocketeer Drew Wyatt experimented with Apple Pay for Web for a current client of ours. Another project consisted of curating a playlist for events based on a bidding system, where all the money would theoretically go to charity. A few Rocketeers even created in-app purchasing for their ongoing Poker app project.

In-app purchases provide a way for brands to monetize additional content, subscriptions, or services within their mobile offering. In the coming year, analysts predict in-app purchase revenue to be the number one source of mobile app income, accounting for 48.2% of earnings (compare that to 14% for ad earnings). Hackathons allow our industry experts to stay on top of the latest wave of technology advancements and puts Bottle Rocket in the best position to advise, strategize, and build state-of-the-art digital experiences.

Our passion for learning and development drives Bottle Rocket’s culture and work. Make sure to contact us to learn more about how Bottle Rocket’s services and offerings today.

November 23, 2016

TechWeek Recap – the Future of AR and VR

At this year’s Dallas TechWeek, Adam Polansky, UX Strategist at Bottle Rocket, sat down with Kelsey Carroll from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dale Carmen of Groove Jones to discuss the future of augmented and virtual reality technologies.

One interesting observation about the panel was that they didn’t talk about games at all – they focused on the thought that experiences need to be human-based to invoke a visceral response. It would be awesome to get a surfing expert’s point of view and drop-in on a 60-foot wave, but becoming a molecule and entering the bloodstream – maybe not so much.

Dale described a future where virtual reality and augmented reality might be deferent parts of the same experience. Kelsey pointed out that companies are working to discover how brands can benefit from applications that don’t focus on the novelty of the technology – especially since the novelty is already there. She even went on to say "If you're a Snapchat user, you're an early adopter of augmented reality." Both panelists were looking ahead to a time when economics, expensive gear, and access to certain technologies become less of a barrier to the experience. They also stated that they expect innovations in healthcare and education will begin to get more traction.

Are you interested in learning more about virtual reality? Contact us today to find out how your business can benefit from AR and VR.

November 21, 2016

TechWeek Recap: from Smartphones to Smart Cities

One of the most interesting panels at this year’s Dallas TechWeek featured Trey Bowles (CEO & Co-Founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center), Jen Sanders (Executive Director of the Dallas Innovation Center), Herb Sih (Managing Partner of Think Big Partners in Kansas City), and Tim Fleming (Director of Enterprise Sustainability at AT&T). The panel focused on the aspects of building a connected, smart city that many do not think about – data and efficiency.

When we think of smart cities we usually think of the visible changes, the science fiction stuff that’s coming into reality - drones, autonomous vehicles, robots, etc. This panel however took a different approach and discussed how to leverage data in smarter ways to improve current capabilities and make them more efficient. Trey Bowles gave us a glimpse of what a day might look like in a world where not only people are communicating with technology but machines are talking to each other. For example, what if sensors told the city waste pick-up when your cans are full…or not? What if traffic and route planning were sent directly to the autonomous car you requested since you no longer own a car. Better allocation and use of everything from power to emergency services would be invisible to most of us, but we’d see the benefits in costs and investment. Jen Sanders pointed-out that this isn’t going to happen quickly or to the same degree in every city. Some towns are better candidates for some things than others. Tim Fleming spoke to resources that we don’t consider now when he said “Cities consume 75% of the energy and produce 80% of emissions. What about the emissions of methane from Cows?” The conversation was rounded-out by Herb Sih who said “The city is a platform, much like a smartphone, that can do amazing things given connectivity.”

 

While it may be a while before we see any true smart cities, the world of connected devices continues to grow along with the benefits they can offer – contact us today to find out how to better leverage data and the internet of things for your business.

November 1, 2016

Hello Again – Apple Event Recap

The Apple event last week featured a major update for the Apple TV and introduced long-awaited hardware updates for the MacBook Pro line.

 

Apple TV – the TV app

The Apple TV’s got a new app – it’s called “TV”. It aggregates content from other apps to bring a more conventional television experience to the Apple TV. Today, content services, such as Hulu and YouTube, are accessed separately through Smart TVs, game consoles, and more. What’s different about TV is users can access their favorite shows, through a single application. TV combines the shows and movies from other connected services and brings them into one Siri and search-powered experience on the Apple TV. There was no mention of how content creators and developers would have their content indexed by on TV, but there will surely be an announcement in the future. In the meantime, check out the AWE platform – our TV Everywhere solution for Apple TV and more.

 

MacBook Pro – Touch Bar

The main focus of the event was the roll-out of the first new MacBook Pro in 4 years. A number of enhancements were made to the body, performance, and footprint of the device. What was really interesting is the addition of the new “Touch Bar”; a long strip of touch-screen that replaced (almost) the standard F-Keys at the top of the keyboard. The Touch Bar creates a fluid set of controls with multi-touch capability designed to do the job of the many different drop-down menus and sliders so people can make fine-tuned adjustments without cluttering-up the screen when using creative apps like Adobe Suite, Final Cut Pro, and the different Office applications. The UI makes use of rich data visualizations that make the Touch Bar a new independent screen. It also includes both Touch-ID and Force Touch so you can sign-in to your system or apps quickly and get the haptic feedback like pulses and clicks that signal events through touch alone.

There are some obvious questions that arise from people who use their laptops as a workstation with a remote keyboard: Will there be a remote version of the Touch Bar for them?  The answer to that question opens up the possibility of designing Touch Bar controls to run apps on tablets and phones which means the apps themselves will need to be designed to work with the Touch Bar.

 

These are pretty exciting additions aimed at refining the user experience. Time will tell how people integrate them into the way they use the apps and platforms. Contact us today to find out how your application could leverage the new Touch Bar.

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