THE BLOG

Technological Smorgasbord in Silicon Valley

19/11/2015 09:35 GMT | Updated 17/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Last week, I was lucky enough to be chaperoned by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), around a variety of emerging tech companies in Silicon Valley. The IPA/UKTI interactive mission has been a real smorgasbord of tech inspirations and here are my views on the trends that will be coming to European shores shortly.

1. Big data is as important as a big idea

There is imminent potential for big data to rule the boardroom and for agencies to drop out of significance, unless they swiftly integrate expert data and analytic capabilities into their businesses. This may not be entirely new news, but is something chief executive David Schwartz of adtech business Cold Creek technologies was keen to impress upon us.

His deployment of tech-jargon bombs left me a little scared and incredibly confused. It's easy to see why people stick their head in the sand and default to the standard creative agency line of "you still need a big idea".

It really is time that the creative end of the industry accepts and gets excited by the fact that big data and big ideas are equals. Although, admittedly, I still can't see the chief data officer and chief creative officer ever hanging out.

2. People prefer robots to people

RobotLab advocate that we are about to see a huge surge in a new type of robot, the social robot - not quite the Darryl Hannah variety - that will apparently drive enormous returns for customers and end up eating our advertising lunch. Pepper, the robotic fashion sales assistant, is able to style you 'smartly' and professionally and in a way that slovenly teenage in-store assistants can't.

RobotLab argue that people prefer not to interact with people - would you rather take money out of an ATM or engage with a bank clerk? And according to them, social robots are less threatening and judgmental than their biological relations, better at making money and delivering customer satisfaction. Pepper has already piqued the interest of retail businesses, GAP and Macy's.

3. Solve a problem, make money

Turo is a new innovative car-sharing service, which takes its inspiration from AirBnB. This is a brilliant example of the sharing economy in practice and a tech company spotting a problem (lots of expensive and depreciating assets sitting unused on people's drives), identifying a real need (low cost access to great cars of your choice vs. a fleet car of random description, anytime and anywhere), resolved through a technology platform and a seamless customer experience. It will be coming to Europe soon.

4. There's more to Pinterest than a mood board

Until today and as a rookie user, I had never fully appreciated the diverse opportunities that there are for users of Pinterest. I love the fact that pins are now buyable and that visual recognition technology allows you to discover similar items at the touch and drag of a finger. I never thought about how Pinterest can help businesses assess the potential of their new ideas, through re-pins. And that it is an insightful search tool for signs of user 'interest & purchase intention'. Check out the kinds of weddings people want, the types of baby-wear expecting mums are exploring and the cars that men are lusting for. Voyeuristic but very pinteresting... sorry!

5. One Bitcoin is currently trading at $330.60

Akin to gold and easier to carry, Bitcoin is a stable virtual currency and certainly not a fringe financial anomaly that is about to disappear. The Bitcoin system works using a blockchain ledger to record transactions. It's something that governments are looking into seriously to guarantee the long-term security of their sovereign currencies. The UK is piloting it now. And yes, you need to be bloody clever to understand it.