Spring is here in Austin, Texas, which means it’s that special time of year where we can all expect the lovely Texas sunshine to accompany us while we traipse around the Austin Convention Center during the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival. Well, the sunshine hasn’t been quite as present as we would have liked, but even some rainy weather can’t put a damper (see what I did there?) on KG’s time at SXSW!
For the last six years, Ketner Group has had a presence at one of the top technology and innovation conferences in the world that takes place right in our own backyard. We saw it begin as a little seedling of an event, and then grow into the geek-meetup monster that it is today. Before I dive into the hottest topics covered at SXSW Interactive this year, check out these cool stats on the festival:
- SXSW began as a music-only conference in 1987, but added in a vertical for techies in 1994, marking the beginning of the festival’s 20-year history in tech, innovation and communications as a vital role to the conference.
- Past keynote speakers include Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Elon Musk of SpaceX, and Mark Cuban, tech investor and current owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team. This year adds “Cosmos” host Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of President Bill Clinton and Senator Hilary Clinton.
- The first SXSW had about 700 attendees, and this year the organization expects to see more than 70,000 techies, musicians and film buffs exploring the streets of Austin and probably enjoying more than a few breakfast tacos.
Along with the growing attendance of SXSW, new and exciting brands, startups, and entrepreneurs are venturing to Austin to showcase the latest and greatest ideas in the tech community worldwide. And speaking of worldwide, several nations have brought their top techies to the festival, with companies representing Germany, Ireland, Chile, Argentina, and the UK (to name just a few) hosting trade show booths and after-hour events, as well as sessions on innovation in their respective countries. Fun fact: Ireland was named the best startup ecosystem in Europe by Forbes magazine. So who knows, the next new neighbor in your office complex may have an endearing accent with a strange affinity for Guinness…
But I digress, let’s talk about the top three trends at SXSW this year:
Wearable Tech: Where is it Now, and Where is it Going?
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, wearable technology is beginning to grow more and more popular among the innovators and first adopters among us. It’s a term we’ve been reading about a lot lately it seems, but what actually constitutes a technology as “wearable”? A list of the most recognizable wearable tech accessories include smart watches, fitness tracking devices for the wrist or ankle, and of course the always controversial Google Glass. But many products that haven’t yet become mainstream, such as wearable tech accessories that range from audio sensors that connect everyday objects to Bluetooth enabled rings that act like wands at the end of our arms – yes, really! We’ll be digging in a little deeper on a follow up blog post, so don’t miss out on what’s coming in wearable tech!
Personalization: What’s Appreciated vs. What’s Creepy
Brands are arriving at a crossroad between giving the customer the ultimate, personalized experience and being just plain creepy. There’s a wealth of data out there, and businesses are beginning to utilize it to learn more about their individual customers in order to bring them exactly what they need and where there need at the right time. So how can brands approach personalization without going too far? One tip: Don’t be overt about why you’re offering the discount you are (“You normally eat lunch at noon, but we noticed you haven’t gone to your favorite sandwich shop yet – here’s a coupon for a $1 off if you stop by at 2 p.m.!”). Check out KG’s PB&J blog in a couple weeks for a more in depth look at how to keep the “creepy” out of personalization.
Bitcoin: Why it’s the Next Mainstream Currency
Bitcoin is becoming more and more popular, but it’s still not very widely used and is commonly misunderstood. I’m one of the curious-but-cautious types regarding a virtual currency, as it’s a concept that seems too abstract to hold real value. But that’s just it – what does give any of our familiar currencies, paper, coin or virtual, any value in the economy? Value is all perceived and relevant in the marketplace that fluctuates from nation to nation – and a virtual currency works in the same way. Some say that because it’s more secure than credit cards, (again, yes, really) Bitcoin is worth a second look from the non-believers. We’re posting a comprehensive look at Bitcoin on the blog in the next few weeks, so stick around because Bitcoin seems to be doing just that!
Stay tuned for follow up blogs on these three topics, as each deserves their own dedicated, in-depth look so we’re all as well versed as our SXSW Interactive session leaders.What other trends have you noticed at SXSW this year? Comment below – we’d love to hear from you!