SXSW 2015: THE STORY SO FAR

Story So Far

As regulars at this shindig we affectionately call SX, we can officially confirm that it continues to impress, overwhelm and inspire. Once again, the Texan capital is heaving with thousands of marketers, geeks, nerds, dreamers, musos, movie types (so far I’ve only spotted Rupert Grint aka Ron Weasley in the lobby) and agency folk from all over the world – jostling amongst a few jaded Austinites.

When not busy putting finishing touches on our presentation we’ve managed to cover some pretty eclectic ground. We’ve been soaking up info on predictive, beacons, retail experience, content engagement and making makers, to name a few. We’ve tried to squeeze in sessions with a few legends like Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, Roger Dooley author of Brainfluence, and Malcolm Gladwell, author of many books including the seminal Tipping Point.

So what’s the big trend for SX Interactive this year? Hard to say whether it’s our internal bias, but we keep hearing the word data (and it’s not just coming from Adam). Invariably privacy pops up, but it’s more a by-product of data this time round. Beacons, wearables, security and privacy were pretty huge last year. But so far in 2015, data (and what the hell to do with it) is the topic du jour.

We’re finally hearing less about big data and more about actionable data. Even the Beacons, mPay and the Great Shopper Reboot, which we hoped was going to be mostly about tech unifying the online and offline shopper experience, inevitably swirled back to data.

One of the most elegant solutions integrating IOT and data we’ve seen so far was SteadyServe’s iKeg case study, presented by Daniel Gutwein, Director of Retail Analytics at Intel. Draught beer is a US $20 billion dollar industry and 20% of the orders from distributor to retail are incorrect. That’s a massive outage. With a simple keg scale, RFID sensor and Intel Gateway, iKeg users can accurately give their distributor usage data in real time. No more empty kegs or thirsty customers. The information facilitates timely distribution, market analysis, ROI measurement and helps map the success of promotions.

The most entertaining talk so far has been Koert van Mensvoort’s Next Nature: How Technology Becomes Nature. In his surrealist exploration of the dynamic relationship between tech and nature, Van Mensvoort discusses which is emulating which and argues that lines are blurring between what is ‘made’ and what is ‘born’. His examples of in vitro meat and Rayfish footwear were simultaneously absurd and challenging, both ethically and culturally.

Interestingly, he asked us to consider what technology really is. After all agriculture, cooking, the wheel and the light bulb are all forms of technology. Yes, technological advances that have irretrievably changed us, but they have not lead to our oblivion. Check out his provocative work at Next Nature.

Hopefully that gives you a taste of the wild extremes experienced in SXSW so far. We’ll endeavour to post a final overview in a couple of days. In the meantime, stay weird. And if you have a moment, check out the schedule. It’ll blow your minds.

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