This month Peggy Smedley sits down one-on-one with Laurie to get her thoughts on everything from digital watches to ads that watch us.
Smedley: What have you been up to with Lamberth & Associates?
Lamberth: Last year, 2011, was a huge year for Lamberth & Associates, and 2012 is shaping up to be a big, big year. Probably the most important thing I’m working on this year is Bulzi Media … they’re the company that’s developing a smart digital-signage network that’s able to sense the audience near a sign and insert ads that are relevant to that audience onto the sign in realtime.
It’s really exciting. It doesn’t quite know that it’s you looking at the sign; it knows that it’s somebody like you or somebody from your neighborhood, so it’s kind of like “Minority Report” only for small groups of people instead of individuals. Bulzi completed the field trials with a major mobile operator of their audience-sensitive digital-signage platform last fall, and right now it’s scaling for production launch sometime in the second quarter, so I’m helping them secure some of the last remaining strategic alliances we need to be ready for production launch.
And I’m also just finishing up a little project with a company that will remain nameless that has a big idea for a whole new paradigm for the connected home … perhaps later in the year I’ll be able to chat about that too.
Smedley: What is the next thing you’re going to be doing? Talk about all these disruptive devices out there.
Lamberth: I’m currently madly in love, head-over-heels with the Meta Watch … it’s a wrist device, there are two versions of it—it’s either analog or digital … (and) it is a development platform that’s designed to bring the notifications that you get on your mobile phone to your wrist. You might want to think about, why do I want to do that?
Smedley: I don’t want people using this while they’re driving, Laurie …
Lamberth: Well this is exactly why Meta Watch is so important, because let’s say you’re driving and you hear that there’s an alert tone on your phone or it’s laying on your dashboard and it vibrates, and you’re tempted to pick that thing up and look at it.
Nine times out of 10 whatever that notification is, it’s something that’s not particularly urgent, so I got a new email in my Gmail account or my next meeting is in 15 minutes—I already know that, I’m on my way! A lot of the alerts that we get on our mobile phones are not necessarily immediately actionable, but we still have to pull that phone out, turn it on, swipe to unlock it to see what the heck it is, this notification. By that time you’ve now tied up both of your hands … you’re also paying your visual attention to it. (This is) highly interruptive activity not only to driving, but to being in a meeting, being with your family, whatever (it) is.
So what Meta Watch does—I like the digital device, which is just kind of a dumb terminal—think of it just as a digital screen on your wrist that communicates over Bluetooth to your phone.
It not only gives me the weather in the current place that I am from the Internet and the current time, but when I get a notification on my mobile phone, I get a vibration on my Meta Watch and all I have to do is just look down, just glance down, and it will tell me I have a new Gmail … (or) it tells me if I have a calendar appointment coming up, if my timer is going off, and what it does is it provides all the strength and functionality of the notification processes we have on our phones in kind of an ambient, glanceable way.
It makes my life tremendously easy, because I just keep my Meta Watch on and my phone in my pocket, and I can look at that and go ‘oh I have a new Gmail, don’t need to see that right now.’
But if I have a new email at laurielamberth.com from Peggy Smedley, I might want to actually pull my phone out and look at that message. So Meta Watch just really transfers that whole alert functionality into something that’s noninterruptive, right at your eyes, so that you can make effective use of those notifications and ignore the ones that aren’t important.
Smedley: You’ve had the opportunity to look at a lot of cool technology. What really gets you fired up? What makes this product unique from all the others out there?
Lamberth: There are really two things that make it special for me. It’s not that the product itself is necessarily all that revolutionary; in fact, the Meta Watch is just a dumb terminal, it takes you straight back the ‘80s practically except it’s connected to a computer—your smartphone—over Bluetooth. But what the Meta Watch does, and what a lot of the new technologies that I see coming to market are doing, is making the technology easier for us to use, more friendly to us in our real lives, less interruptive, it allows us to prioritize how we respond to the things that happen on our phone instead of having our phone drive that prioritization just because it’s serially telling us there’s this and now this and now this. So it adds ease and convenience and control over our smartphones, which are becoming increasingly demanding.
But what’s also exciting about the Meta Watch is it has a lot of onboard capability of its own; for instance, it has accelerometers in it. There’s one woman I’ve spoken with who has written an application that can, using the accelerators on the Meta Watch, recognize when someone is going into an epileptic seizure because it recognizes a particular type of tremor that is a precursor to an epileptic seizure.
When the Meta Watch recognizes a seizure starting, it both turns on a logging function and contacts that person’s designated caregiver so that help can come as soon as possible. So that’s a really powerful device, and I’m excited that we’re starting to have things that can just in an ambient way, capture things that (are) important and bring us medical help if we need it.
Smedley: Maybe what we’re saying is that the better technology is addressing a pain point, a real problem that we as consumers have.
Lamberth: Yeah, (it’s) repurposing existing powerful technologies to point directly at things that are annoying to us or dangerous to us every day. Meta Watch is one tool, with its limited set of capabilities that are actually quite powerful, that kind of brings out ease and awareness to our lives. And it’s not really revolutionary or new, although … there’s a lot that goes on behind the curtains to even make this possible.
Laurie Lamberth is constantly on the lookout for interesting examples of connected devices. Learn more about her strategic marketing and strategy consultancy at www.laurielamberth.com