Google Maps becomes more “social”

Yesterday, Google announced that from now on users of their Google Maps application are able to share their physical location with friends and family. While this is by no means a completely new innovation, Apple does it with Find My Friends and there are other offerings on the market as well, it can be considered a “big thing” if the market leader in mobile navigations adds such a functionality.

Without going into much more detail of how the feature works (refer to the embedded video),  I would like to talk about the controversy that surrounds applications doing location sharing. If you are like me you probably see the benefit of sharing your position with a good friend or your parents for instance. Since these features are usually time limited it makes sense to share your location in case you are shopping and splitting up or you are in an unknown city and have a hard time naming an exact meeting point.

A potential drawback, to put it lightly, is if you accidentally forget that you allowed somebody to see your exact location. Imagine breaking up with your partner and your ex is still able to see where you are. Not so nice, huh? This is one of the reasons why Facebook discontinued this feature in their Nearby Friends section last year.

Well, you can certainly argue that it is not the fault of the service if the customers forget to turn location tracking off. I do agree with this statement but I see another, bigger problem.  By promoting location sharing between users Google indirectly banks on getting even more data from their users. In this case, the information is highly personal and specific.

Google-Privacy

Again, this not news. Google probably knows a lot of your location specific information if you use Google Maps to find your way around. The thing that changed is the amount of location data that Google can gather. Not to mention the connection between people sharing their position.

Without opening the whole privacy and “Google is evil” debate again, I am just wondering if you see a use case for such a functionality. Do you think you will use Google Maps to share your location with friends/family? Post your comments below.

AI: Transforming Digital Marketing

Today I want to talk to you about Artifical Intelligence and how the advent of machine learning will impact marketers and consumers in the near future. AI and machine learning should be clear in the broader sense but let’s make sure we are all on the same page.

AI

A lot of people know Artifical Intelligence as malevolent robots that turn on humanity and try to annihilate everybody that is in their way. This depiction, often supported by movies in the science-fiction genre, is not completely accurate as you can imagine. Right now people are able to create so-called narrow AI, the computer you play chess against or the autonomous driving car are all examples of narrow AI applications. The illustration that you might have in mind when thinking about AI is what is called general AI. At this stage, a computer would be roughly equivalent to a human being in terms of reasoning, learning, language, creativity and so on and so forth. Below you can see the current (estimated obviously) process regarding AI research. It is assumed that we are on an exponential trajectory in terms of AI research (Law of Accelerating Returns).

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AI process against time (Image Source)

For those more interested in AI and futurism, I can highly recommend the article(s) by Tim Urban (The Artificial Intelligence Revolution).

Machine Learning

Concerning Machine Learning, this term usually describes the process of a computer learning iteratively from a large dataset. Learning here refers to optimizing certain functions that are relevant to the purpose of the computer. Example are for instance recommendation systems that suggest Netflix users which movie to watch or Google Adwords to estimate which user will be most likely to respond to an ad.

Semantic Analysis

Now that we are aware of the situation and technologies, it is time to think about how applications of AI and machine learning impact digital marketing processes at the moment and potentially in the future. According to Tara Thompson, there are several areas, specific to digital marketing, that AI has and will have a huge impact on. I just want to discuss one of those here but feel free to start a discussion on another issue in the comments below or on your blog. The area I want to point out is: Semantic Analysis.

 

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Semantic analysis of a customer review (Source: Lexalytics)

 

Semantic analysis refers to the process of extracting valuable and insightful information from a piece of written text. Similarly to a verbally expressed text, a written text usually contains a meaning and in the case of opinions a state of mind that is conveyed. This is where semantic analysis can be extremely useful for businesses, which want to gather customer data from reviews or posts on social media platforms. Since written text can be quite ambiguous at times (keyword: irony), a reliable mean of how to extract the true customer input is highly valuable.

Impact on digital marketing

This is exactly what can be achieved using AI and machine learning applications. While this is only one form of how AI is and will be impacting digital marketing, I think it is a particularly important one. Since companies are more and more reliant on what its customers are thinking about their products and their brand, an understanding of consumers is crucial. The emergence of AI allows current and upcoming businesses to effectively use their community to gather product/brand impressions without having to conduct extensive studies.

Other approaches already focus on analyzing verbal speech to extract information about a person’s emotion and face expressions and Google’s AI can now perform better at lip-reading than humans. Once again we are coming to the conclusion that more and more of what we share of ourselves online is being watched and analyzed. And all that using highly effective and fast computer algorithms.

Where do you guys see AI applications for digital marketing purposes in the coming years? Do you think that customer relationship management is the main focus of those efforts or are there other areas that will be targeted? Post your comments below.

 

Internet of Things a privacy disaster?

The WikiLeaks release of thousands of confidential CIA documents showed once again the poor state personal privacy is in. While most people are aware of the potential danger they find themselves in when using Facebook or Whatsapp (despite using it anyway), a rather unaware threat is the emergence of more and more devices connected to the internet that traditionally could not be accessed over the internet. These devices are commonly summarized under the umbrella term “Internet of Things” (short: IoT). You might have seen one of these fridges with a build in display and internet services:

 

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Image Source

Other products include Smart TV’s with built in microphones and webcams for Skype calls or voice recognition/control or devices that promise to automate your home, keyword Homekit.

 

What the CIA leak now reveals is a new form of danger, a danger not only to our mobile and desktop devices but a threat to an area traditionally seen as a very safe and shielded place: our Home. Dystopian scenarios of somebody with malicious intents gaining access to your bedroom TV webcam or your Homekit enabled thermostat or door lock are easy to imagine (if you need some mental stimuli I can recommend the British TV show “Black Mirror”) .

The question now becomes, how do you go about this potential danger? To be honest, I would love to be able to make coffee using a finger tap while still laying in bed or increasing the heating without interrupting an exciting episode of Westworld. I guess at this point one has to make a trade-off between convenience and personal security and privacy. Otherwise we have to hope for a tremendous increase in cybersecurity.

What do you guys think? Are you afraid of those potential threats or are you willing to take these risks for an increase in convenience and something that your parents will be amazed by?

 

Hello world!

Dear readers,

Welcome to my blog! In the coming weeks I will use this space here to share my experience and thoughts on current trends in the exciting world of digital marketing. As part of my ongoing course on digital marketing at Monash University, I hope to learn about this always changing field of technology and marketing and simultaneously share my knowledge with you.

If you would like to accompany me on this journey feel free to stop by once in a while and leave comments. This blog is meant to involve two-way communication and everybody is more than welcome to contribute.

Until then!

Paul