Prototyping science fiction

“The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.” –
Dennis Gabor

Tiago Forte wrote a great piece about “What I Learned About the Future by Reading 100 Science Fiction Books“.  The article is one of the more inspirational posts about how to imagine, define and build a future for humanity. So much of what we as designers do is try to imagine a future. The devices, the interactions, the business models, the behaviours and the implications of choices played out on different timescales.

I also read a lot of science fiction (you can see what’s on my Kindle) but I had never thought about it as providing a near or long-term impact on to my speculations on the human condition. Here are a list of books including the Briand David Johnson book identified in the Tiago Forte piece that I need to add to my library and reading queue.

Photo credit: Ron Brinkmann CC-BY-NC-SA-20

Trying to understand the marketing technology landscape

MarTec 2015 Marketing Technology LandscapeScott Brinker has published his 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape. The landscape is shocking/impressive. It is an almost 2 fold increase in the number of companies from the 2014 landscape. Understanding the changing marketing technology landscape is interesting for companies entering the market, for marketers choosing technology and for investors. John Hurley’s piece for Radius is a great start to understanding this market. (I also loved that I found Influitive, LookBookHQ and Vidyard  on one of John’s images for demand generation).

MarTec landscape is growing

What is happening in marketing technology?

  1. The market is growing
    The number is probably greater than the 2x increase in companies that are listed in the landscape. There are a large number of solutions available to customers. There is vertical segmentation by provider activity (analytics, events, e-commerce); there is additional segmentation by customer size or data volume (small business, enterprise). More people doing things online means more opportunity for tools to reach them and capture their attention. Internet advertising is set to increase between 21.5% (mobile) to 23.8% (Internet). It is incredible growth that is trailing adoption.
  2. The lines between marketing and advertising technology have blurred
    Marketing and advertising technologies are blurring. The transition to a digital, always on, always connected panopticon has allowed a blending of the techniques and technologies between advertising, marketing, CRM and other industries. The focus of marketing is shifting from communications to understanding and delivering the customer experience. The goal is to get closer to understanding what behaviours, content and tools allow companies to reach and engage their audiences and generate revenue. As this moves closer to making real-time decisions about predicting customer behaviour, it feels more and more like the DSP of ad tech in particular the DMP allowing companies to use their internal data and tools to build behaviour segments possibly based on a customers location in the sales funnel.
    Benedict Evans - Mobile is Eating the World - More time spent consuming mediaImage from Benedict Evans: Mobile is Eating the World Oct 2014
  3. Sales funnels are compressing
    The sales funnels are being compressed by technology. Customers are able to move through very quickly. And the desire of marketing groups is to show strong attribution of customer behaviour to purchase. This is the holy grail. And it is about to get worse as e-commerce players add customer acquisition and attention capture tools. You can see the pending battle for where customers spent their attention. With Alibaba, Facebook, Rakuten and Amazon all building different parts of the customer purchasing and attention stack. Customers are able to make purchase in a tweet, timeline, maybe an ebook in Viber, etc. It is about being able to provide potential customers the opportunity to complete purchase in the appropriate channel when they are ready.Being able to better understand customers and customer behaviour and the likelihood to purchase in real-time will be critical to marketing departments. But it will be the conversations between people that matter most. The people that have a problem that needs to be solved, the people that have solved problems using your software/service. It is tools that build trust and increase the connectedness between customers are quickly becoming most important. This was a big bet at Influitive in 2010, and it seems more and more having a strong, honest, viable community of customers is the best thing for any company.
  4. There are multiple big acquirers across multiple industries
    The market is extremely fragmented. Fragmentation is not a challenge in a market with no incumbent leaders and with the spend increasing at >20% CAGR. It is likely that we will continue to see more companies, new technologies and evolutionary improvements, basically, it’s a crowded space and it’s going to get more crowded.The technology is changing quickly. New technologies are being adopted at all points along the stack. These changes and the situational awareness of optimal uses has made it very difficult to have a robust understanding of the marketing technology landscape, the technologies and customer needs. It also means that there are a large group of varied companies that continue to look to fill gaps in their customer base, their technology stack and in capturing attention (think social media, messaging, etc.). For a startup, there is a need to spend time with the investment banks and boutiques like LUMA Partners to make sure you are aware of how potential acquirers are thinking about the landscape and to make sure that you are part of the conversation.

    [slideshare id=14347180&doc=strategicbuyerlumascape9-19-12-120919114611-phpapp02]
    There are other players that are consumers of the technology that are looking for advantages and tools for reaching, engaging and connecting their customers.
    Benedict Evans: Mobile is Eating the World - Tech is a small industry
    Image from
    Benedict Evans: Mobile is Eating the World Oct 2014

  5. Community is important

    “if we want to know the truth about your products, we’ll find out from one another”

    Doc Searls & David Weinberger

    It will be amongst others of our tribe that we find the answers to what pieces of this puzzle work. In what situations did you use this or that? Writing, connecting in person, sharing, attending events and meeting others interested is one of the best ways to learn. The way we move beyond being cattle, something thing that consumes only to be used for our by-products or meat, is to realize the conversation is ours. People aren’t just consumers, they are people. And supporting a community of individuals is more than just marketing. Don’t believe the hype.

I love this space.

Questions for 2015

Benedict Evans posted the questions he’d like answered in 2015 and in mobile with the platform wars over. Here are some of the questions I’d expect to see answered in 2015 for Canada and Canadian companies.

  1. What happens to Canadian companies in the mid-stage?
    Jim Orlando described a strong 2015 market in both early stage (local) and late stage capital (international) for technology startups. Are their enough Canadian funds that can invest >$15MM/company, i.e., >10% of their capital pool, to fund growth stage Canadian startups?
  2. Where will Kik land?
    Ted Livingston’s view of messaging as universal UI and the race to become the Wechat of the West feels like the right thing. It seems like figuring out how to operate profitably is not the most likely outcome, so it must be an exit. Facebook has already acquired Instagram and Whatsapp, so it seems like this is out (particularly given a teenagers view of social media apps).  Does a non-Google Android provider like Cyanogen or Xiaomi purchase Kik?
  3. When will a Canadian company report their first major cyberattack and breach? We’ve seen attacks and branches on the federal government it feels like only a matter of time until a financial institution or retail announces a major breach.
  4. How many narwhals will we see?
    There have been a number of US companies go to the public markets including HubspotBox and others. It feels like there are a number of Canadian companies that are on cusp. How many will forego the TSX and only go NASDAQ or NYSE?
  5. Will Shomi and CraveTV become true OTT competitors allowing non-cable subscribers access to compete with Netflix? Or do these offerings plus GameCentre Live and other live sports keep cable subscribers in Canada?
  6. Will Netflix be forced by content owners to cut down on grey market geofencing? What does this mean for services like Unblock-Us and TunnelBear? What does it mean for accessing foreign content like BBC iPlayer, Premier League Pass, NFL Game Pass? (p.s. where is my Internet access to Formula 1?)
  7. Will the Copyright Modernization Act changes that went live on Jan 1, 2015 impose additional fee increases because of management costs for independent ISPs?
  8. When will ApplePay launch in Canada? Will Apple be able to get mobile payments adoption than Suretap, Enstream, PayWave, PayPass, etc. that the carriers and banks have?
  9. Will one of the Canadian wearable companies begin rolling up others, that do not find product-market fit or a large enough audience, for the talent? Or will they be acquired by larger players like Under Armor?
  10. What impact for will the falling Canadian dollar and resource economy have on the tech ecosystem? We’ve already seen the rise of minimum app prices in the iOS store on Jan 9 to Cdn$1.19. Will a weaker Canadian dollar see a resurgence of the conversation and companies around near-shoring for larger US companies? Will this continue to build a stronger acquisition market for startups that struggle to find mid-stage growth capital?
  11. Do we need a Canada-based data centre for one of the larger hosting providers, i.e., Digital Ocean, AWS, Azure, Rackspace? IBM opened a SoftLayer data centre in Markham in 2014, with a few startups building on the infrastructure but all of the startups were still very small. Does data or computation sovereignty matter to Canadian startups?
  12. Is there a need for another startup conference in Toronto? There are great events in Montreal (Startup Festival), Vancouver (Grow Conference) and an investor focused event in Toronto (Canadian Innovation Exchange). But is there a need for more functional led events (design, growth hacking, CTOs, etc) like Warm Gun or Brooklyn Beta?
  13. Does one of the wireless carriers create a division or group with tools and pricing to support a strong IIoT ecosystem? We’ve seen Canadians like their oligopolistic carrier ecosystem, but there are segments like Wind Mobile users that are willing to compromise coverage or roaming for price. It is unclear if a 4th national carrier can survive on these customers alone, and the CRTC has determined that Telus cannot absorb Wind as their discount brand (like Fido or the MNVOs on Bell). Is there an alternate model where Wind or other carrier bets on the data carriage fees and the necessary tools to build a stronger IIoT ecosystem. The tools that mix RFID, cellular and Wifi?

Thanks Gideon Hayden for feedback and insight on the post.

Mapping the next three decades of health tech

Envisioning the Future of Health

The good folks at Fast Company sourced an interesting visualization from futurist Michell Zappa and the Envisioning Tech crew. Lots of science fiction, but it provides an interesting analysis based on the breaking down of information silos.

“This visualization is an exercise in speculating about which individual technologies are likely to affect the scenario of health in the coming decades. Arranged in six broad areas, the forecast covers a multitude of research and developments that are likely to disrupt the future of healthcare.”

The article provided interesting links to 2 other visualizations:

Communication and cooperation

Matt Ridley gives a great TED talk about the power of exchange and specialization.

“What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas and how well they are cooperating and not how clever the individuals are…it’s the interchange of ideas that are causing technological progress.” – Matt Ridley

It’s a discussion about the power of the crowd to mix and mash and build ideas that enable the rapid pace of technological change and increase in the standard of living. It brings me back to a quote I heard at PARC a long time ago:

“Much of what we think of as innovation, is really the creative tension between differing viewpoints”

The PARC team has started to record and publish the PARC Forum events which include some great talks:

Many of the talks above are from the Ethnography in Industry series at PARC. But this is about looking outside of your comfort zone for insight and research to inform product design and strategies.

The fortunate at the bottom

Students from , Colombia. Photo: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank
Students from , Colombia. Photo: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank

I finished reading The New Global Opportunity  and I was introduced to some new concepts and texts that helped explain much of the focus on Africa and entrepreneurship. The concept of “bottom of the pyramid” and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad. It helped frame why there is so much focus on entrepreneurship in third world nations. In particular it helped frame micro-loan programs, product marketing, and other tools for me.

What struck me was the verbal description of the size of the world economy:

“Think of the world economy, very roughly, as 32 Californias. (California today is about $1.8 trillion strong.) The U.S. accounts for eight of them; the European Union plus Switzerland and Norway, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand make up another 10½. Prosperous Asia — that’s Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore — gives you another 3½ Golden States. That already gets us to 22, meaning the rest of the world —  the BRICs, the whole Islamic world, including its oil-rich states, most of Southeast Asia, all of Latin America, and Africa — is the equivalent of 10 Californias, with China accounting for about a third of that output.

Now let’s divide the world another way: The population in the first group of wealthy countries is about 1.1 billion, or 16% of the world’s total. The rest of the world is home to 84% of the planet.”

The comparison of relative size of different different aggregations of economic outputs (aka gross domestic product) struck me.

GDP by Region from in Californias (~$1.8 trillion)

The striking figure is the population statistic. Which is that 16% of the world’s population in the US, EU + Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Prosperous Asia account for 68.75% of the economic output. There is a huge potential for the remaining 84% of the population in BRIC and the rest of the world. My basic assumption that if you could match the economic output of prosperous nations there is a potential 115.5 Californias. There is a huge growth opportunity in growing the economic output of the rest of the world to match developed nations. In the article, Michael Elliot does a great job highlight the impact of the opportunity looking at the growth rate of China in 2009.

“Last year there were 37 Chinese companies on the Fortune Global 500, and the number is only going to increase. From oil giants such as CNOOC and Sinopec, to network equipment manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE, to telephone operators like China Mobile, Chinese firms have become household names in the corporate community. China has become a true motor of the global economy — according to official figures, it grew 8.7% in 2009 and its role as both a market and a supplier of goods and services to the rest of the world is now established.”

I need to spend more time learning about the cultures beyond Canada, the US and Western Europe.

The most revealing insight for me was the impact that education for women has on the economies of nations. As a father of two daughters, this hits close to home. I want/need to do things that provide the best educational opportunities for my daughters. Four years ago Sutha and Leila asked me the things I hope to happen in my lifetime. I didn’t have daughters, I wasn’t concerned about economic growth, it was just something I hoped could/would change.

“Whenever I’m asked what a country can do to compete with China,” he notes, “I say, ‘The first thing is, Educate your women.'” Give Mao some credit. Even in the darkest days of unreformed communism, China educated its women, with the consequence that it now has an adult female literacy rate of 90%. India’s is just 54.5%.

But if girls and women are really to play their full role in leading nations out of poverty, Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation, argues, education alone is not enough. The real multiplier effect comes from linking education to some sort of economic opportunity. And that has to start early, when girls are in their teens, before they are forced by social and family pressures to marry and have children. If adolescent girls can be helped along the road to economic independence — given a microloan to buy a cow or a beehive, for example — then the economic equation for the family changes. A father realizes that it makes more sense for his daughter to stay in school and earn some money on the side, rather than being forced into early marriage. Policy focused on girls, says Eitel, “is uniquely capable of breaking the intergenerational cycles of poverty.”

What I’m learning is that I need to spend some more time to better understand what folks like Oxfam are doing and how I can help. However, I don’t want to be an NGO. I don’t want to be a not-for-profit. And I wonder if there are technologies that can help enable the safety, security and education.

Innovation Zeitgeist

Photo by kunchia

“Much of what we think of as innovation, is really the creative tension between differing viewpoints” – parc

Where do you go to get learn about new trends? See new ideas?  

Maybe you prefer to go to conferences?

Where do you see the latest and greatest thing since sliced bread?

Building a city that thinks like the web


Today marks an interesting day in Toronto. Today Toronto joins Washington, D.C., Vancouver, San Francisco, New York City, Australia, and the US in opening city data to citizens, companies, and the world to improve the quality of life. It begins a great journey to creating a strong new economy in Toronto around an infrastructure of city data.

It’s the data, stupid

(I feel like I’ve said this before).

“More and more governments state that opening government data is their priority, from the U.S: to the UK, from Australia to Belgium. Application contests (or mashup or idea contests) to engage citizen developers in creating new and valuable applications that leverage government data” – Andrea DiMaio

David Eaves identifies that data is the infrastructure for the next economy. It is the baseline upon which applications, value, and wealth can be built. I’ve talked about the benefit of data collection and the value-added analysis services in relation to personal health care. Data is the backbone, it is the building blocks from which developers can begin to build new applications and new services.

Mark Surman provides a great vision for the role that data plays in the development of a city. Re-reading his post has me thinking about a couple of challenges that need to be overcome to continue to enable the opening of city data.

  1. Costs of open data
  2. Economics of contests

Costs of open data

I think there needs to be an active discussion with citizens, politicians and staff members that open data is not free. There are costs associated with the production, release, maintenance, and up keep of the data sets. Additionally there may be a “build it, and they will come” model of development. Open data is not a replacement for city procurement. The city will still need to purchase software and look for ways to innovate to improve citizens lives. Open data is a building block to enable citizens, companies and communities to create applications the enable under-served (or self-served) parts of the city.

Economics of contests

Many of these cities have elected to host contests to encourage and incent local application developers to build upon the data sets.

I’m curious at the effectiveness of contests to engage the developer community and create a sustainable ecosystem. There is no question about the initial effectiveness as a tactic to create value. Apps for Democracy has shown a very strong contribution to the citizens, companies and communities of the District of Columbia.

“A $50,000 dollar investment in changing processes and offering prize money has so far yielded $2.3M in value. That’s a 46 times return on investment in one year.” – David Eaves

I’m curious about decay rate for contests. My feeling is that it is similar to the Chatter of the New Cycle. Where the contest and the data sets spike and then flow through the developer sphere just like news flows through blogosphere. 


I could be totally wrong, Sunlight Labs API shows a steady growth of the number of API calls. Apps for America 2 drew 46 submissions versus 44 for Apps for America, only a 5% growth in the number of submissions. (You might value measure of the applications as increasing with the increased API calls). More interestingly there are only 3 repeat submitters: ForumOne Communications; Jeremy Ashkenas; and Todd Fine in an initial pass of submitters. It’s actually highly probable that the number of repeat submitters is higher given submissions are often submitted with the name of the product or project.

Sustainable economies

Next I need to spend some time looking at sustainable digital ecosystems and economies. Looking at Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon for examples of engaging developers and creating an ecosystem for developers.

Any suggestions for reading would be appreciated.


My friend and colleague, August de los Reyes, was in Toronto over the past few days. He spoke at two of our local institutions that have a very strong footing in the design and design thinking worlds (OCAD & Rotman). At the end of his presentation on emotion, August showed a video from the Envisioning project at OfficeLabs.

“Take a step into the future and get a glimpse into how technology may transform the way we live and work in the years ahead. Explore some of our concepts for how leading edge technologies might be used in real world settings – such as health care, manufacturing, banking and retail – over the next 5-10 years.”

I had a similar albeit different reaction than I did to the Aurora project, the Starfire video, or Knowledge Navigator. I think it was related to the lack of a narrator. I visualized myself using the technologies in my own context, the video had a more personal feel for me. Having rewatched the Productivity Future Vision, I’m going to make time to watch the other videos, including:

Whether or not this is the future, I can start to frame Project Natal, Surface, Courier and others.

The greater sum

Connected experiences and devices are finally starting to emerge. For me, it means that I’m starting to see a variety of great connected experiences using a variety of technologies, cloud services and providers. This has been Ray Ozzie’s vision for Software+Services.

“When you combine the ever-growing power of devices and the increasing ubiquity of the Web, you come up with a sum that is greater than its parts."

I’ve really be struggling to understand examples in the wild. The 2 best examples that represent for me connected experiences are:

  1. Exchange + Mobile + Desktop + Web: I don’t think I could live without Exchange. My email, my contacts, my calendar are integrated in a single online spot and it syncs will all of my devices. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. I use my iPhone, I use my Windows Mobile phone, I use Outlook on 2 PCs, I use Entourage on my MacBook Pro, I use the web interface on my netbook. It doesn’t matter, I just connect to my exchange account using the device in my hands.
  2. iPod/iPhone + iTunes: This was a vertically integrated experience where Apple provided device, the rich client experience and a very limited web experience (it redirects you to iTunes to purchase Apps or media), which continues to shock and frustrate me. However, it does speak to the media management features of iTunes that we’re present long before the iTunes Store and the need for a rich application with hardware access.

The challenge for me is that both of these examples represent relatively vertically integrated solutions. That is, the ecosystem of devices, software and content is controlled by a few key players (Apple + record labels; and Microsoft and OEMs).

New examples continue to demonstrate solutions including:

  • Kindle: Kindle is a hardware + content distribution solution from Amazon. It provides the device and content.  (Too bad it’s not available in Canada!)
  • XBox + XBox Live + Netflix: Being able to stream TV and movie content to my XBox is fantastic. XBox Live allows me to purchase movies to rent. Netflix allows me to stream TV and available movies. (Too bad it’s not available in Canada! Yes I’m familiar with workarounds 😉

I’ve been looking for other examples that show more diversity of the devices, the services, and the software experiences. And I’ve been looking for examples that move beyond media consumption. We’re all familiar with media portability, it is the history of 8-tracks, tapes, CDs, DVDs, BDs and moving between home stereo, portable music player, or car stereo system. While media examples like Boxee are important are great, i.e., more than 1 television per household is not uncommon, it was more important to find new examples to demonstrate the importance or power of both rich clients and web services. 

  • NewsGator + Google Reader: NewsGator had previously built NewsGator Online to allow customers to sync their feeds with NetNewsWire and FeedDemon rich clients. My biggest complaint with Google Reader (even with offline support from Gears) is that it never lived up to the rich desktop experience provided by NNW and FD. NewsGator apps now use Google Reader to sync to the cloud. It provides me great clients on each of my desktops, my mobile device and on the web.
  • Twitter + TweetDeck + Sync: There have been a large number of rich Twitter clients for most desktop and mobile platforms. TweetDeck has continued to round out both their rich clients (desktop in AiR; and iPhone) but has added a compelling feature for users to sync their groups and columns (think TweekDeck customizations) across device. This recognizes the importance that a rich client experience customized for the desktop or the iPhone mobile experience and the importance of enabling users to configure once and run anywhere.
  • Boxee + Online Video + Social Networking: Boxee is quickly becoming my software application of choice for watching television content. It aggregates online video services and social network for content filtering and recommendations. It hasn’t replaced my TiVO, but add XBox and XBox Live to this equation and it’s pretty close.

So who cares? There are a lot of applications that are just web based. But we’re starting to see devices as end points, i.e., the applications provide access to content and networks. Facebook is still Facebook, but when the experience is better on your mobile phone you use it more. The best option is to understand your users, to understand the context that they use their devices, and then try to build a friction free experience to get access to your application, content, etc. Users live in a world that is open and closed, connected and disconnected. It’s about access to markets, to content and building solutions that enable which is important. It really makes me need to spend more time reading and understanding the Business Model Innovation and business model template because they offer a great way to start to map the infrastructure, offer, customers and finances.