Tag Archives: Connectivity

Scarlet Strategic At CES 2013 – Showcasing Cloud Based Connectivity Innovation

The buzz surrounding next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is about many things – from the replacement of Microsoft as the Keynote to connected home solutions to the introduction of even larger TVs that may still take a while to make it to market. Scarlet Strategic and Scarlet Terrier Productions are proud to be part of CES through their participation as a contributing member in the ng Connect program.  Of the 12 demos being shown, Scarlet Strategic is involved in two of them that bring connectivity, information and entertainment to public spaces – and best of all, they can be deployed right away.


The ng Connect Program – founded by Alcatel-Lucent – is a multi-industry ‘ecosystem’ dedicated to the creation of the next-generation user experience for connected consumers. The program is comprised of more than 190 member companies, of either Contributing or Associate membership levels, and including leading network, application and content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers.

In Alcatel-Lucent’s booth, South Hall Booth 31412, the demonstration of 12 new cloud-based service concepts created by the ng Connect Program aimed at stimulating application innovation as consumers seek ever more exciting experiences from connected devices like smartphones and tablets.

The two Demos featuring Scarlet Strategic involvement are:

  • MALL WALL – Showcased on the Video Wall
    A large format digital sign that is placed in a mall or public setting. It takes digital signage to the next level of interactivity, allowing shoppers to interact with the sign from their mobile phones. Shoppers can use their NFC enabled phones to scan NFC tags and initiate a session with the Mall Wall. No custom application is needed on the phone, as all phone screens are implemented as HTML5 mobile web pages. The screens can vary in size from what people may be accustomed to for mall maps to huge 120 foot long bilboards (or more) with multiple points of interactivity.  The scope and dynamic scale provided by this offering is what makes it truly stand out.ng Connect Collaborating member(s): Brass Monkey, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions, wCities

    Alcatel-Lucent Highlighted Products:  CloudBand, Velocix, Optism, LTE

    These fully interactive surfaces serve advertising, entertainment, and media in transitional waiting spaces.  They provide a delivery and consumption platform for digital media.  They also provide interactivity via a multitouch screen and smartphones. The tables offer flexible 4G/LTE or wired connectivity.ng Connect Collaborating member(s): Brass Monkey, iGoLogic, wCities, IntuiLab, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions

    Alcatel-Lucent Highlighted Products:  DMS, CloudBand, Velocix, Wi-Fi Offload Products

The partnership opportunities generated by the ng Connect program have been phenomenal in that we are able to bring reality-based connective media platforms to market quickly and effectively.  In the case of both items being demoed, the infrastructure is already in place to enable deployment to high-trafficked venues and the integration of media opportunities that Scarlet Strategic’s clients are actively looking for.

Scarlet Strategic’s involvement in the program and CES 2013 makes perfect sense as we move into an age of connectivity that could have only been dreamed of in the past.

ESPN Can Second-Screen My Life!

As part of an article about the possibility for networks co-opting event rights – like NBC’s Olympic coverage this Summer – without paying a penny, ESPN’s EVP of multimedia sales told Adweek, “We want to see ESPN as a second screen for all sports. We know we have a lot of companion [mobile] usage even when it’s not our event. We want to take co-viewing to the next level.” ESPN may be one of the brands that are best positioned to move beyond just the games they air when it comes to second-screen apps. I would even go one step further… They should expand their definition of second-screen to include all live sporting events – whether you are watching the show on their networks, other networks and, most importantly, if you are physically at the games. This would align with my feeling that the best branded solution for second-screen apps is to focus on affinity groups rather than broad networks or shows.  By doing this, second-screen apps can best complement life and not just viewing habits.

I know this is a little “ideal” or “out there”, but imagine if ESPN was to focus on building that environment that extends the experience of “being there” to all viewers and building bonds in the real world between people who are all at the same event. What if there were special check-ins for people who are physically at the games – or if it automatically tracked whether users were at a venue or not and framed their comments in such a way that they could be found more easily. They can post bits about what they’re seeing in the venue and allow those at home to feel even more connected to the game. This can be done in association with ESPN’s already popular GameCast feature – building out a whole new feel for the game.

Courtesy of Adweek

Though the Adweek article was focused on television and rights, it did get me thinking about the possibilities for second-screen apps that deep dive into themes that matter to affinity groups. There are those brands that could work best to serve those affinity groups in all parts of life – as a second-screen. ESPN is obvious for sports, but could Bravo be the second-screen app for all things Arts – with check-ins and instant reviews from cultural facilities?  Could Food Network be the same for both restaurants and grocery stores? How about E! or Style for nightlife.  In all of these instances, there could be a great opportunity to enable connections in real-life that also feed into our digital lives.

To a certain degree, Facebook is a second-screen App to our lives.  But I think it is too broad. Narrowing down our second-screen-life Apps to the affinity groups (Sports, Culture, Food, Partying, Outdoors, Crafts, etc.) and anchoring them to the large niche cable networks could be just the ticket. If a brand is already developing a companion app, and the cost of including some location-based functionality is incremental, doesn’t it make sense to reach for greater inclusion, interaction and engagement?

Maybe I’m thinking too much in the clouds, but I really don’t think this is too far off.  Even from a sports perspective, there was a time when the new sports venues were installing systems to provide real-time stats at your seat.  Obviously, that went by the wayside when mobile Apps came on the market that could do the same thing.  There is obviously a demand for it in that engagement model.

If the right branding partners are leveraged, it could mean quicker and simpler access by people no matter where they are and what they are watching. Rather than a whole bunch of Apps that are specific to certain locations, requiring people to download a bunch of occasionally used Apps, those brands with the penetration should look to really run the gamut and make their Apps whole for the affinity groups that would most use them.

At that point, we’ll be talking about Second-Screens for our lives – whatever that life may be…

JCDecaux Really Providing the OOH in Ooh-La-La

I have always been on the lookout for ways to not only connect with audiences in bustling cities, but also to enhance the social experience.  JCDecaux recently announced a series of “Intelligent Street Furniture” that is being placed in Paris that really excites me. We have obviously seen bus shelters with signage and even video and interactivity, but JCDecaux’ new concepts go beyond that and provide opportunities for enrichment in real-time. It’s unfortunate that I can’t yet find images of more than just one of these new products, but I am hopeful that the Out Of Home executions will not only provide some Ooh-La-La factor, but also make its way to more installations around the world.

Briefly, the city of Paris is testing some new forms of advertising and service products and they selected a number of JCDecaux products to test.  A couple of them – like the Digital Totem and Concept-Bus Shelter – are simple solutions with a twist.  The Digital Totem offers  real-time information, Tweets, and historical facts. The Concept-Bus Shelter adds free wi-fi connectivity and mobile phone chargers (beyond additional comfort benefits).

But what really gets me excited is their Digital Harbour.  I really can’t wait to see it because I imagine it will really look great, due to the involvement of designer Mathieu Lehanneur. But again, my real excitement is about what the Digital Harbour will actually do. From the way it is presented, it will provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, “a 100% connected area with internet access and space for discussions for people who want to work, rest or access information.” I hope it won’t just be a space made just for solitude – it will be a space for sharing.  With the wi-fi connectivity (and the requisite advertising opportunities), the space will be conducive to connecting literally and figuratively. I would gladly be subjected to advertising if the pay-off is the ability to step out of the busy flow to either take a break or have a conversation (or even a meeting!) with an associate.

Far too often, our lives exist in our offices or in the scuffle to and from them. Innovations like these might be just the thing to compel us to step outside or angle for the in-between. I definitely wouldn’t want these to take the place of parks or other beautiful open spaces, but if they actually entice people to either take a break or see things from a different perspective – even with a healthy dose of advertising – I’m all for it.

The only thing I would be pushing more for is the enticement to share and not isolate.  If these come across as something to rest and shut out the world, then I don’t think it works as well as it could.  It will be interesting to see how they balance the need to place advertising amidst the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.

As an advertiser, I would even play into it by not doing the hard sell (in print or video) at these locations. I would have fun and “sponsor” the moment of peace or sharing you can enjoy in these Digital Harbours.

Too often, the concerns about out of home advertising relate to noise and interference with no social benefit in return.  Features like these could help to turn that tide and make things even a little bit better.  I’m glad that JCDecaux is not resting on its laurels and is continuing to innovate. Hopefully, brand and advertisers buy into the innovation to bring the “Wow!” or “Ooh-La-La!”


Proliferation of Second-Screen Screams Entertainment

I would be so baffled if I didn’t have any idea about the entertainment industry. The intriguing issue – which makes that much more sense when knowing how the industry works – is related to second-screen Apps and their proliferation. What strikes me as typical entertainment game-play is the fact that, while Twentieth Century Fox’s FX Network and Home Entertainment groups planted a second-screen flag in the ground with their release of a SONS OF ANARCHY App powered by Technicolor and its MediaEcho product, Fox’s FBC just announced a partnership and equity play with upstart second-app Actv8.me. This would make more practical sense from a non-entertainment standpoint if it were different companies who were launching these partnerships, but because it is the same parent company  entering both partnerships, we’ll have to chalk it up to “That’s Entertainment!” even as some corporate accountants are screaming in some room in Century City.

Certainly, both deals make sense on their own.Fox Home Ent and FX are able to leverage technology back-end that is already being used for the production of product and FBC is not only partnering with a company who can support many shows AND provide an equity deal. But it represents the growing issue as more and more players enter the fray and the consumers become more and more confused about the option and less-likely to want more and more apps on their phones. The FBC deal’s big tout is for activation with their breakout show, THE NEW GIRL. Actv8.me offers contextually relevant opportunities to play along with the show and receive rankings that relate (i.e. Roomate Level.)

Actv8.me has made quite the stir in the past few weeks with the launch of the CELEBRITY APPRENTICE App and now this partnership. Though its CEO, Brian Shuster, seems to have begun the company in 2009 and started marketing in 2011, they were still relatively unknown until the recent announcements. While trying to find out more, I could only find an announcement from November of ’11 and one of the leading reporters in the second-screen space, Chuck Parker, didn’t even include them in his latest Second-Screen Ecosystem chart dated March 2nd.

I commend Shuster and his team for not only coming out of nowhere quickly, but launching with some big catches. I also commend Fox (FBC) for stepping in and taking advantage of the opportunity to receive a piece of the company in return.  Both of those could help Actv8.me move quickly to gaining market share.  It’s a good story for those who are not first to market and a cautionary tale for everyone about the importance of not only product, but connections.

But, back to the larger issue and the proliferation of second-screen and its partnership with Entertainment… Just as the battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD, the current confusion about Ultra-Violet and what that means and the different tools for different networks dilemma that is currently in place, how long can the market bear all of these different options offering different capabilities?  And how long can entertainment conglomerates have their own groups work in vacuums when developing new technologies? I’m sure something will shake out in the end to make it all sort-of OK.  I know that this is normal when new ways of doing things come about, but at first glance the disconnection surrounding connectivity really makes me want to scream.

The Silly App Constraints of Streaming Premium Content

Time Warner Cable announced at the end of last week that they are now providing their users with the opportunity to stream live television on their mobile phones and tablets.  Exciting, yes? Well, not too exciting.  You see, it only works when you are within the confines of your home wi-fi network. Doing a quick search online, there was a report from Nielsen last January stating that the average TVs per U.S. household numbered 2.5 with 31% of households having more than four TVs.  With those numbers, will people be able to find a place to watch TV on their personal devices outside the range of one of their televisions?  At first glance, the announcement of such a seemingly inane addition of yet another screen in the house is silly.  But when you look into it deeper, the issues are more complicated and perplexing.

The silliness stems from the fact that you can’t just stream content to your device anywhere.  The perplexing part relates to the further fragmentation (and possibly confusion) of content delivery.

Time Warner Cable had launched an app last year that would allow its subscribers to view content anywhere.  Due to court challenges and general push-back from providers, TWC dialed it back and removed the feature. This announcement for the iPhone and iPad allows users to watch some shows live in addition to the ability to manage your DVR, search for shows and some other things. Yet, you still have to view shows on apps from HBO, ABC and others.  And, TWC even has a totally separate App just to manage the account – much like HBO offers a completely separate App to enable social interaction with their shows. Which leads to the perplexing part…

One of the beauties about television is that you know where to find everything on one box.  You can search through the guides in umpteen different ways and find what interests you.  As discussed in this blog last week, the challenge in finding everything online is quite challenging.  It shouldn’t be so for the content we want to find on our cable or satellite systems. Even if we can’t get everything through one happy shiny app, we shouldn’t have to download multiple brand apps just to be able to fully consume and interact with that brand. The confusion this brings only leads to a further barrier to adoption.

There are huge economics at play in terms of who owns what with streaming, but most people don’t want to have to bounce between a handful of apps to watch their shows.  I would rather have one App to do it, and if Time Warner, DirecTV, or Verizon is my provider in the house, I would much rather access through one app.  Even with the NFL Sunday Ticket mobile app that I have through DirecTV, I have to open up another app just to view that content.  Is it horrible to have to do this?  No.  But I won’t do it with multiple apps for all the different cable networks I subscribe to – it’s just to unwieldy.

Further to the economics, I pay extra for the Live NFL content on my mobile because I knew that was an add-on premium.  If I had to pay more for the mobile version of other premium offerings, I think I would balk.  That is a nice thing about the HBO Go product and others like it – it comes free with my subscription – but there’s too many apps to download when it could be just one. As more and more people become open to viewing video on mobile platforms, the kinks need to be worked out and access fragmentation is one of those biggest kinks.

As a society, we have sadly become more cynical. So, it might hurt the situation more than help it by coming out with a release that causes people to question whether the products are even worth it.  Perhaps companies can learn a lesson from Apple and only put out press releases when there is really something solid to cheer about.  In the case of the TWC release about Live streaming, it’s a total tease because you’ve got to read the fine print that you can only view the content where your access already exists.  Even though people have supposedly been waiting for live streaming to come, this could be considered a waste of excitement and we’re better off waiting for a live ANYWHERE  product that could be streamed through wi-fi or our data plans. As those data plans start bringing in more money, that may be where the companies will have something to cheer about – especially the ones who have bundled the mobile with cable/satellite.

So, thank you for the offering of live streaming in the house. I’m just not buying it – even if it is free.

International CES Recap – Still a While To Go To Really Get Connected

The organizers of CES claim to cover what amounts to 37 football fields for the annual conference and my feet are complaining enough that it seems like it was even more.  There were certainly enough eye-popping presentations in the main hall – where all the heavy-hitters were – but a lot of solid elements were found in the secondary halls.  As promised, I did try to get deeper into the steps manufacturers and other players were taking to strengthen interfacing with content and what I found was neither good nor bad – it was just a little ho-hum.  Where I thought many television manufacturers would be advancing their smart or connected screens further than last year – or adding further interactivity options with second-screens, I really didn’t see much.  In the case of Panasonic, they almost acted like an entire kiosk from last year didn’t even exist.  Specific interfaces to control what shows up on the screen have advanced in small ways. But, from what was shown on the floor, the interfacing with and connecting to vast forms and formats of content still have a while before it becomes reality.

Starting with Panasonic, the exciting use of tablets shown last year to select and share content from your tablet on the big screen was greatly minimized.  Their showcase element of this type of connectivity was a limited example of interfacing with MySpace.  With the program in development, the canned presentation did not excite.  Sharp touted some connected screens, but didn’t go into specifics and their biggest interactivity showcase of the event as their Aquos workscreen meant to take the place of conference room white-boards.  Its direct incorporation of video conferencing, touch screen manipulation of images, documents and spreadsheets on a huge scale were nice, but certainly not consumer-facing.  Samsung relied much less this year on showing how Samsung mobile phones can act as controllers for their TVs and focused much more on their new voice and gesture-based controlling of the screens.  Some speculated this feature is an opening salvo to the reported functionality of the yet-to-be-seen Apple TV, but we’ll see how it plays in the long run against the offering of XBox360 and Kinect controls that would do the same on any TV it is attached to – regardless of manufacturer.

There were a couple of social connectability offerings shown by companies other than TV or mobile manufacturers.  The one that looked promising to me – if not completely there yet – was by a company named Copia.  They allow users to share notes in the margins of books as you read them on your tablet.  It seemed that the possibility to expand the mechanic to other forms of entertainment consumption on their platform was promising.  Cisco announced the incorporation of Cloud technology to its floundering Videoscape product that allows all forms of connectivity and interaction via set-top boxes and mobile by way of ActiveVideo. 

In a much less satisfying form of connectivity, but interesting all the same in what it could be with the incorporation of a Cloud is what Intel was showing off for instant sharing.  The problem with the product as it now stands is that it is only within your Wi-Fi network.  Imagine if you were able to take a picture and share it immediately with pre-determined friends and family around the world without having to compress and send through SMS, email or other.  The mechanics they showed within network would be astounding if they could be controlled through the Cloud for instant sharing.  Perhaps that’s something that could be integrated with Google+ and it circles – yet with expanding beyond the internet and onto TVs and mobile phones…

So, in the end, I couldn’t get much more insight into interfaces other than just the idea of tapping into apps as they are and not APIs.  While we will be connected, it will take a while to really get there.

Come back tomorrow to check out some other general observations of CES 2012…

MTV Shows a Sexy Model for Web Events

It’s rare to see a media outlet that does not either create exclusive shorts or post highlights for web and mobile in order to support on-air properties.  It’s even rarer to see a media outlet putting all their eggs in the online basket in the hopes of generating more buzz for the channel or brand.  MTV just pulled off that rarer feat last week with their MTV O Music Awards online-only program celebrating music and the use of digital to drive fan engagement.  With the infrastructure many organizations have to activate and record events like this, what MTV has done is a model for others moving into the future.

While it is still too early to measure analytics comparable to on-air, the opportunities gained from programming like this are strong enough to carry through to that future time when the numbers could actually hold their own against broadcast. There were a few interesting elements of the OMAs.  The first was the voting process – which was done through Twitter and Facebook.  In a report at CNN Money, they cite eleven million people voting through Twitter.

There was another point that the CNN article brought up that was key.  Having events like this online allows for the inclusion of advertisers who either can’t afford spots on-air or don’t want to be that broad to begin with. The point was made that the real key for advertisers is whether viewers were buzzing about certain parts of the show or actual advertisements.  For that element, it seems that just airing the content in and of itself might not be enough.  There should be communication and connectivity features surrounding the video player.  By doing this, its much easier to track what’s going on in real-time and then port those elements out via Twitter or Facebook regardless of the form the communications were made – generating even more interest for viewing repeats of the show or highlights.

As we’ve seen with basic cable and even network news before, they have done a good job of capturing a bunch of content and either repurposing elements (like ESPN and X-Games) or drawing elements out across multiple programs to drive viewership of other shows (like Presidential or celebrity interviews.)  By doing these lower-cost events, there could be opportunities for cost-effective content creation that could actually make it on-air within the right packaging.

These are just a few of the benefits of this type of programming. Certainly, MTV’s execution might have left something to be desired – I wish they had shown the examples of the nominees’ work (especially for the Digital Genius award) rather than just show their names – but they have time to iron their programming out.  Online and Mobile is still considered a medium where people don’t pay as much attention, so time can be taken to refine mechanics. 

With the resources broadcast and cable companies have and the growing trend for viewers to watch content via outlets other than televisions, this is the future and it would be a huge miss for the established outlets to not take advantage of what web-specific events have to offer in broadening their reach, providing additional advertising inventory and generating content that can be repurposed cost-effectively.