Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer (cool title right?), Dave Coplin, launched SES London 2013 this morning with an enthusiastic and thought-provoking keynote on the future of technology. More specifically, how brands and businesses can harness developments in technology and data to give consumers a great experience.

Below I wanted to highlight the key stories, ideas and takeaways that he raised, since there were some really important points at the centre of his presentation.

Evolution or Regression?

The main point of Dave’s argument was that everyone is always amazed at how powerful and ‘smart’ technology is becoming, but that there are so many more opportunities we’re missing.

The web of people, places and things have emerged over the last few years but people tend to use these in fairly restrictive ways:

  • People: The power of social media isn’t tweeting about what you had for breakfast, but rather seeing your friends’ opinions and recommendations when it comes to life experiences, restaurants and so on.
  • Places: Not just how to reach your destination, but more granular. For example if you’re disabled, which access to the building has the ramp?
  • Things: The web is full of knowledge, but how do we verify and use this data?

Dave emphasised that the potential in these areas – when combined – can be really exciting. For example augmented reality is an instance of technology which merges these assets. It can give you real time information about your surroundings, via mobile devices. If your mobile device knows where you are, what’s in your schedule, what your interests are, and holds information about your environment, it could curate a personal experience for you and give you relevant information about your surroundings.

Big Data

Everyone always talks about ‘Big Data’ but what are we doing with it as businesses? Microsoft’s translation app is an example of ‘machine learning‘, where real time information is analysed and translated to a different output relevant to the user. In the future, suggests Dave (perhaps only a little tongue-in-cheek), why would we even bother learning languages? Calculators made log books obsolete, now translater apps could make learning foreign languages an unnecessary hassle.

In short, if brands are putting the effort in to gather ‘Big Data’, they should consider how they are using it, how they are organising it and how they are re-purposing it to help the user.

Personalisation and Context

At the moment, Dave concedes that personalisation is very basic. Our identities are complex things which change based on environment, mood, the company you’re with and time of day etc. But by taking all these signals and merging them, in the future businesses should be able to improve the personalisation they offer.

As opposed to – “you like Batman, you therefore might like Spiderman”.


One of the most interesting points to the talk was about change. Everyone today uses the QWERTY keyboard which was actually invented 142 years ago. Not only that, but it’s sole purpose was to¬†slow typists down so that the machines didn’t break! So everything we type on now is based on a system that was designed to be sub-optimal. And we haven’t changed because it’s easier not to.

The same has happened in the ‘evolution’ of the computer and the banner advert, says Dave. If you look at what’s changed, the basic format has stayed the same. Banner ads are the same shape, they just changed in graphics and size. And computers evolved in capabilities but remain similar in the basic monitor, keyboard, mouse design.

Dave suggests that as businesses we need to constantly find better ways to do things. That’s where the really exciting opportunities arise.

The Consumer is King

Forget content! (For the moment at least). The consumer is the most important component in innovation. What do we feel about cookie pop-ups, session timeouts, bad personalisation and privacy warnings? We don’t really like them as consumers, so why do we – as techhies and marketers – keep issuing these to other consumers? For our own benefit?

Dave’s other point was that we need to make the value explicit – if users are giving us data, what are we going to do with it? What do they get in return? We need to be honest and give them an incentive to share their information with us.

Key Take-Away

At the end of the day, personalisation and context are bringing huge opportunities for marketers to be human and use big data to give the consumers a great experience and increase engagement. Think about:

  • what apps can you create to use content and really personalise the user experience?
  • what are you doing with big data? Are you making the most of it and being transparent with your intentions?
  • what is your website like? Is it easy to navigate from any location, on any device? Do you use any conventions simply because ‘that’s the way we (or everyone else) have always done it?
  • and most importantly, how can you use all these new possibilities in technology and data to really help the consumer?

And thank you to Dave for a very insightful talk! Since Linkdex is a data and technology company this was a keynote we found particularly interesting, so thanks again.

Did you enjoy the keynote? Do you have any thoughts on Dave’s suggestions? Would you like us to cover anything in particular from SES London this year? Let us know in the comments.