Technology is always advancing at warp speeds – that’s never been more true than over the past year. A lot of the innovation conversation has focused on tech advancements for work. But so much has changed when it comes to how tech impacts us as whole humans, including life outside of work.
Two of our agency leaders, Juliana Allen, Senior Vice President, and Kelly O’Brien, Vice President, hopped on the phone recently to debrief on how they’ve been feeling about tech – when is it all too much? – what they’ve been observing across the industry, and what’s on the horizon for consumers.
Juliana Allen (JA): Technology is in our personal and our work lives and we focus on a lot on technology during the workday. I have also been thinking about it in my personal life, and how it impacts me. Kelly, is this something that you’ve been thinking about as well?
Kelly O’Brien (KOB): I think more than ever, it’s hard to separate some of what we do in our nine to five because our home has become our office and a source for many other things. There’s a macro trend that’s surfacing coming off last year. Whether that’s a meaningful ritual or a connection, and certainly work provides both of those.
When I look at consumer tech and I’ve taken advantage of having real life “away from the home” experiences, brought to me virtually. For example, a virtual cooking class or DIY online class. Those are things I had never done in the past and never really expected to, but I’ve been able to find that meaningful connection through the computer or whatever the technology is. It’s filled a gap of something I would normally be doing in real life.
JA: I’ve still been trying to wrap my head around all the changes. Not really having that separation in my personal and work life. It’s made me I feel dependent on technology. Now, from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed I am using technology. It’s a feeling of over consumption, whether it’s online shopping or virtual healthcare appointments. It’s made me want to push it away, more than before. On the other hand, it’s helped get us through this as well.
KOB: As we watch, technology is not going to go away, but there is a craving for a moment of relief from it. I think that could create an area for innovation. It won’t be taking away screen time necessarily, but how do we use our screen time? For example, how we use that screen time and make the most of it. Setting boundaries on our own consumption may be where we’re going to see some innovation this year and the year to come.
JA: The advancement of technology is a blessing and a curse. There’s so much technology that it is impacting our lives negatively because we can’t get away from it at times. I was reading something about funny grocery deliveries that people have gotten accidentally that aren’t used to shopping online. One woman got 200 lemons instead of 20 lemons. Another guy got 30 bananas instead of five bananas. That man was taking it with stride and made five different kinds of banana breads and donated them to the community.
What’s your million-dollar tech idea?
KOB: Maybe tech helps us not lose out sense of humor in this time too. What do you think technology has enabled us to do? What’s the piece of tech that you’re missing? What’s your million-dollar idea?
JA: With everything being remote right now, I would love to have a technology that helps me limit my technology consumption. Sometimes I just feel like it’s dominating my day. Like the screen time feature on the iPhone, some sort of more advancement in technology that helps me limit my technology. That is something that would be useful for me right now.
KOB: I think I’m really watching closely what’s happening in the pet and animal tech space. We’re working from home full time; my dog can be quite reactive to outside stimulus. So, I think things like headphones or headsets that help cancel outside noise would be helpful. Those are important to me personally and I’m seeing a lot of innovation there. Also, what’s happening for my pet himself? What’s being innovated in the dog world? Whether that’s virtual services if it’s tough to go to the vet. What other kinds of innovative tech is there? Maybe something that keeps my dog busy when I’m on an important call, or a technology that is essentially a doggy trainer or a doggy play date.
JA: I was just thinking about the other day for my dog, he’s seven-month-old, 75-pound puppy, and loaded with energy. When my husband and I are both working from home, we have limited hours in the day and it’s hard to make the time to get him outside and exercise. So, wouldn’t it be awesome if there was something that I could throw outside for him to chase and entertain him for hours on end by himself, without having to do go to the playdates and be near others?
Cross-over between B2B and B2C
KOB: That is where I think tech can really play a role. Julie, you lead a lot of our b2b clients or enterprise clients, and I, lead a lot of our consumer tech and innovation clients. Where are we seeing that crossover?
JA: I’ve been in tech PR for 17 years now. When you say, “I work with companies that do cloud computing, or cybersecurity, or AI” my family and friends are like what is that? I feel like, because work, business and consumer are merging. It’s an ongoing trend where they’re continuing to go closer and closer together. Even on social media accounts, businesses are using Facebook and Instagram more for their businesses compared to five years ago.
Many of the technologies that we work with, particularly with AI and cybersecurity are making their way into consumer conversations. For example, many people understand what a data breach is, a lot of people have been victims of that over the years. With the increase in ransomware, like ransomware attacks on hospitals or local and state governments, it’s becoming something that people understand a lot more than they did a year or two ago. People are getting a better understanding of password protection and two set authentication, terms that were typically reserved for business environments. AI is another big one, we work with a lot of AI companies. For the longest time, AI was a buzzword, and now it’s becoming much more of an understandable topic as the driving power of Siri and Alexa, and the recommendation engines of things like Netflix and Spotify. It’s just interesting to see them converge.
KOB: There’s two big takeaways, if you look at what you just ran through. One, is the crossover in technology and how it’s impacting us on a much more personal level, and whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay. I think we need to have a bigger appetite, and therefore an understanding for how everything comes together and what is powering our lives right now.
The other thing is looking at, is the intersection of work, home, and play all happening within the same walls of our home.
On one of our consumer tech cybersecurity accounts, we’re doing a National Consumer survey about awareness and understanding of cybersecurity and the threats of cybersecurity. One of the questions we’re asking, and getting interesting results, is how do your devices overlap? Are you using your devices that for work or for school? Conversely, are you using your school or your work devices for personal use? I think we’re going to find some interesting numbers come out of those responses and the realities of people and their devices. This device overlap is something we need to pay attention to. Especially companies because they now must worry about their employees being protected at home.
Listen to the full conversation – and three others about what’s on the horizon in 2021 – on our podcast, The Innovator’s Mic.