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Tea, Scones & Tech: An afternoon at Microsoft

Last week, the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) hosted a week of ‘Upfronts’. This unique week provided a platform for media owners, tech companies and content creators to showcase their most innovative and coveted creative inventory packages.

Cup of tea and plate of scones

For 5 days, brands, agencies and journalists were treated to presentations by heavy hitters in the industry including AOL, DigitasLBi, Facebook, Google, Mashable, Microsoft, Millennial Media, Twitter, Vice, Virool and Yahoo.

Ever the inquisitive marketer, I registered for Microsoft’s event, held at their offices in Victoria.

What struck me most about their office was how social it was. Glass everywhere, making it a very transparent inviting space. The staff restaurant with views externally onto Westminster Cathedral and internally onto Microsoft’s reception and walkways. This produced a buzzy environment which felt very human and inviting.

After a light networking lunch, the doors of their auditorium swung open and the 250 strong audience was greeted by a wall of sound in the form of 3 beat boxers. Our host for the event was Sales Director, Stuart Flint – a personable guy who created a relaxed atmosphere, instantly captivating the room.

The theme for the afternoon was innovation and how tech should complement human beings in their everyday life, not be a blocker but to make life easier.

Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer, Dave Coplin, kicked off proceedings “Technology is supposed to be a force for good. Problem is I don’t see that liberating force”.

Dave went on to say that our aspirations are so low when it comes to seeing what tech can do for us. In work, organisations want individuals to be agile and think for themselves but technology and antiquated work practices (or organisations they work for) aren’t allowing us to do that. “We are all ensnared by technology – we spend little time in utilising the tech available to us “

Dave shared with the audience trends we will see coming through in the next few years, reminding us that tech is there to help and make life easier. Firstly, “we are moving into a world of prediction. The world will move from a world of using data for reflection to a one where we use it for predictions. This goes from football scores (Microsoft boasted that it’s tech can predict football scores to 93%), text, shopping to even crime!

There will be a ‘Copernican shift’, “we’ll be surrounded by tech & devices spewing out data”, this will lead to ambient intelligence – a layer of knowledge which will make sense of all the data around us.

And finally, “context is king”. Data is only good if it’s delivered in the right context, so no more ads on your home screen reminding you to buy those shoes, you bought 3 weeks ago! Information will be delivered to us, on the device of our choice when we actually need it.

We were treated to two further inspirational talks including Frazer Hurrell, Creative Technologist at Microsoft, who shared the innovation equation.

After the beat-boxers played the audience out, tea, scones, Wilkins Tiptree jam and fizz were served.  An extremely civilized and social way to close an event.  I walked away from Victoria confident that humans are taking control again. I won’t be a slave to the tech around me…it’s there to make life better.

 

 

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