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Chicago Ideas Week 2012: Tech Talk Roundup – Change, Disruption, Oh My

My inner tech geek got a chance to indulge itself with cartoons, StarTrek and V references and a sneak peek at one of the hottest 3-D printing products to hit the streets at a few of the CIW talks last week.  Both sessions I attended served up meaty insights and perspectives from heavily road-tested entrepreneurs and change agents along with some serious comedic relief on the epic battle for our identity (three guesses who go that short end of that comic karma stick).

Technology = Constant Change, hosted by Katie Linendoll Tech Reporter for CNN, ESPN and Spike TV

Katie Linendoll, Tech Reporter – highlighted the X2 Impact Mouthguard, which is instrumented to monitor the effects of head traumas during sports play. A wireless protocol sends real-time data on ‘head hits’ to a cloud-based database that sends alert notifications to coaches and families via their tablet device when player head trauma thresholds begin to reach concerning levels.  The technology was created by a father of a high school football player who saw a void in the market for head injury prevention.  According to Linendoll, the CDC reports nearly four billion head injuries annually, while ten times that amount go unreported.

Logan LaHive, CEO Belly – creator of a customized digitized loyalty program for small-medium businesses.  He talked about the challenge of injecting technology solutions into a mostly ‘offline experience’ of retail stores.  LaHive and his team spent a considerable amount of time in actual retail environments to develop a platform for better customer experience using data analysis.  He cautioned other solution providers to narrow their focus on the things that people truly want and need to use – balancing what’s next with what’s now.

Will Smith, Founder Euclid – positioned as the ‘real-time Google analytics of the real-world’, his solution tracks the foot traffic through sensor data and maps it against actual retail promotional and transactional activities.  Smith said the offline and online worlds are quickly converging and data modeling between the two is what makes companies like Amazon so successful.  He described how data leads to more democratized decision-making in the field while providing a better shopping experience.  Smith pointed out that data is also starting to become the retail product.

Nicole Lazzaro, XEO Game Design – a pioneer in the study of human emotions and gaming techniques.  She found that emotions are required for humans to make decisions and that gaming as a design tool could be used to change consumer behavior.  Lazarro described four elements to successful gaming-decision experiences:

Hard Fun – about the ‘epic win’, the mastery of accomplishing a challenging task/mission

Easy Fun – the ability to explore, role play and be surprised

Friendly Fun – fostering friendship, camaraderie and caretaking

Serious Fun – encompasses the excitement, desire to acquire, get smarter, etc.

Disruptive Technology MegaTalk, hosted by Richard Stengel, Managing Editor for TIME Magazine

Steve Case, CEO Start-Up America Partnership – Disruption is an old principle, there are mutations happening across every generation – its part of our DNA.  It took the Internet nearly a decade to gain traction and a lot of other disruptive ideas track this way.  When contemplating new technology and ideas, it takes a long-haul approach, a built to last mentality because these shifts don’t happen overnight.

There has been a big focus on Silicon Valley, but there are many other regions in the U.S. that are developing terrific entrepreneurial ecosytems.  But how many realize that there are more tech investors in China than SV?  Americans should find this worrisome – we’re a nation of entrepreneurs, it’s what got us here and we need to preserve that legacy.  Case said we are operating backwards with our immigration policy and kicking out talent that comes here to study at our top engineering and business institutions, then go home and build new companies that compete with us.  The immediate threat to America is losing our entrepreneurial edge.  According to Case, almost half of the Fortune 500 was started by first and second-generation immigrants.  Early disruptors are hackers and attack the status quo pitted against the larger companies who become defenders and protectors of the status quo.

Kara Swisher, Editor AllThingsDigital – Mobile is big – smartphones growing 30% and tablets jumped from 2-29% annually. The desktop is in trouble.  However, despite the adoption growth, the monetization for mobile and willingness of consumers to pay through these devices is still quite low.  Business plans for it are being figured out and now everyone is rushing to get in.  Google had to buy Motorola to get in the mobile game.

Yahoo is still in the Web 1.0 era – they missed it all.  They had Flickr and blew it – now there is Instagram.  Amazon is becoming the digital Walmart, Jeff Bezos is the inheritor of Steve Jobs – he’s still taking risks.  Sensors, real-time data communications is the next hot play – those Star Trek folks nailed it.

Elain Chang, Social Teeth; Asa Raskin, Massive Health & Dan Rosenweig, Chegg Disruptive Panel – Too much money is being spent on protecting the past – the educational textbook system is a classic example of this scenario.  Brilliant ideas are almost obvious in hindsight – we need a method to keep finding the obvious in the market and develop it.

Bre Pettis, Founder MakerBot – Maker of a transformative 3-D laser printer for the masses.  This is a revolutionary device to allow ordinary people to create beautiful things – check out the Thingiverse hub for some of the amazing digital model designs being transformed into physical objects with this device.  According to Pettis, the barriers to start-up manufacturing are dropping largely due to the modularization of hardware and software – so much easier to get in the market.  He cited sources such as ‘hacker spaces’ and ‘KickStarter’ being entrepreneur’s friends within the infrastructure for getting ideas done today.

Bre Pettis describes the wonders of the MakerBot on stage at CIW 2012

Big overall theme from these two sessions – real-time data decision-making, hyper-connectivity present even greater opportunities for commerce and loyalty; make sure you get your wiring and plumbing straightened out or you will fail to capitalize on them.

About Michelle Batten

Michelle Batten is a seasoned digital marketing & advertising leader. She has spent two decades in the interactive arena, working with Fortune 1000 brands + start-ups to define and execute their digital initiatives. An emerging media visionary, Michelle is currently serving as Head of Global Marketing for Mobile & Innovation Intrapreneur for Amadeus, a global travel technology company. She is also the President for the Chicago American Marketing Association. Her passions include culture + tech evolution, mentoring, experiential travel and foodspotting.

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