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Design Bridge Visits: London Tech Week 2018

June has been a month of excitement and anticipation. The creative industry partied hard at Cannes, the World Cup kicked off, and London Tech Week took place. With all sorts of exciting and interesting things happening across the city, we set off to explore the world of tech and consider what it means for design thinking, and for the brands we work with.

Enriching & Elevating the Brand Experience

First things first. The idea of ‘technology’ is no longer synonymous with ‘tech geek’. We all use technology continuously throughout our day in different forms. Whether it’s to manage the temperature in our homes, track the number of steps we take each day, connect us with family and friends all over the world, or to buy what we want, when we want it (and have it in our hands within the hour), technology is part of our lives. The world we all live in has become a vibrant fusion of online and offline, digital and physical – and the brands we work with live there, too.

With this in mind, we wanted to share a few highlights from London Tech Week; some of the things we found inspiring, and what this all means for us as brand strategists, thinkers and designers. We’ll begin with something delicious and topical (ice cream for all!) and if there are a few terms you’re not sure of then do not fret, we’ve provided explanations in a short glossary at the end.

Saving the environment

One collaboration we’re really impressed with is that of Ben & Jerry’s and not-for-profit organisation, Poseidon. Leveraging blockchain technology, the aim of this partnership is to enable consumers to offset the environmental impact of each scoop of ice cream they buy.

So how does this work? When you go into the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in London’s Soho and pay for your ice cream at the checkout, the brand will pay a penny (via Poseidon’s technology), which is enough to counterbalance the carbon footprint of your purchase. It will also ask you if you would like to donate an additional penny to double your contribution. These donations are then filtered back into environmental projects, such as building new wind farms and hydroelectric power stations, or planting new forests.

windfarm_cows

This collaboration puts the power back into the hands of the consumers, rewarding them by supporting their own personal environmental principles. Through effective design and communication, Ben & Jerry’s is raising awareness of what it is doing in a tone of voice that resonates with its customers. And, as people love to see the good they are doing tracked and promoted, there is also an app in development that that will enable customers to visualise and share their carbon offset impact.

You can find out more about the initiative here.

Helping the homeless

Amongst the many brilliant ideas, innovations and inspiring uses of technology we learnt about during Tech Week, the work of Seattle-based startup Samaritan really stood out for us. Here’s why:

The Problem: In the USA over half a million people are homeless and in considerable need of help.

The Insight: These days we carry around little or no cash, and the ‘digital wallet’ has meant that impulse donations to homeless people has dramatically dropped.

The Challenge: How do you create a connection between those wanting to give with those in need, but without physical money changing hands?

The Solution: Walk With, Not By is an app created specifically for people who want to help the homeless. Using a beacon system (Bluetooth technology that detects nearby smartphones and sends information to them), the app notifies users of someone nearby who is in need. The user can then find out more about the person, and choose to donate money digitally. The money is transferred into credits, which are added to the person’s Samaritan account and can be redeemed against food, accommodation, and other useful items and services. You can get a sense of how it works by playing the short Instagram film below:

A post shared by Samaritan (@cityofsamaritans) on

Although this concept is not perfect and does pose some significant legal and ethical challenges around geo-tagging people and holding personal information, it does demonstrate how we can combine creative thinking with technology to help combat some of our social challenges.

A human future

We also attended a really interesting talk on how automated technology is changing the landscape of how we purchase some goods and services, particularly in the Financial Technology (fintech) sector.

Increasingly people are challenging traditional financial systems and processes using new technology. Banking, insurance, and travel booking services – where prices fluctuate unfairly and customer service can be a web of red tape – are prime targets, and there are a variety of new services that are looking to disrupt tradition and fit in with modern lifestyles.

Automated bots and AI (artificial intelligence) can perform tedious procedures at speed, and even chat with human 3rd parties if need be to get jobs done. One such use is DoNotPay, an automated bot that acts like a virtual assistant to help you get refunds where relevant products or services have lowered in price after you have purchased them. For example, you can request your DoNotPay bot to keep an eye on flight and hotel prices that you have already booked. If the prices drop below what you originally paid, your bot will automatically initiate and complete the legal process to get the difference refunded back onto your card without you having to do anything. Genius!

DoNotPay

Other apps we discovered during the talk that use automation to remove hassle and complexity while providing value or monetary return (and are downright great ideas!) include:

  • Drivy, a car sharing app that connects vehicle owners with those looking to hire a car in the local area
  • Humm, a fashion app where people can advertise and/or hire designer clothing and accessories
  • Teambrella, a completely new and innovative way of crowdsourcing insurance that also leverages blockchain technology

Ideas like these allow us to live leaner lifestyles, avoiding the inflated costs of using legacy systems and opting for more mutually beneficial co-operative approaches, ensuring that we only pay for what we want, when we want it, often cutting out the costs of idle assets or services. So whether you are making money or making savings by using these kinds of apps, it’s clear that technology is providing completely new ways for people to do business, and for consumers to obtain goods and services.

Audio Gastronomy

We’re sure you can think of a personal example of how sound can affect your mood; an upbeat song might make you feel energised, listening to waves crashing can make you feel calm, or something else you hear can stir a memory. But what about how sound can affect the things we taste? Well, lots of companies have been researching this, and Monzo hosted a Tech Week talk on ‘Audio Gastronomy’ to explain further.

In a society where we are constantly surrounded by visual and audio noise, we rarely eat in silence. Maybe we’re listening to Spotify whilst having a snack, or we’re watching Netflix during dinner.

ITunesCoffee

At Design Bridge we work with lots of leading FMCG brands around the world, and this got us thinking about how our clients could consider the influence that sound might have on how a consumer tastes their products, or their competitors for that matter, and what difference it could make. How might listening to music affect the taste of a piece of Cadbury chocolate or sipping a bottle of Lipton Ice Tea? How might music in a bar or restaurant influence the way you experience the perfect Tanqueray No.TEN Martini or a L’Or Espresso at the end of your meal? Did you know that, for example, loud music has been reported to suppress sweet and salty taste notes?

To win in holistic 360° consumer experience, brands need to be aware of (and responsive to) the influence and impact of all of our senses, and how each of these sensorial experiences can be used to complement each other to elevate our experiences of their products. A great example that was shared during the talk came from our clients at Guinness. For the launch of three new beers – West Indies Porter, Hop House 13 Lager, and Guinness Draft – the brand created a multi-sensory virtual reality experience in Tesco supermarkets across the UK to immerse users among colours, shapes and sounds that are scientifically proven to enhance the flavour profiles of each beer. You can find out more here.

But what does it all mean?

When it comes to brand design, for some of our clients the idea of considering some of this technology might seem quite far in the future, but there are immediate and relevant opportunities that tech can offer all of our clients right now. It’s through bold design thinking that we can explore the role and potential that technology can create as part of a holistic 360° brand experience. Purposeful, useful ideas like these can work wonders for brands, people, and the world we live in alike.

Glossary

Not familiar with some of the terms used? We’re here to explain…

AI or Artificial Intelligence is an area of computer science that emphasises the creation of intelligent machines that think, work, learn and react in the same way that humans do. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for range from speech/object recognition to problem-solving, organising and planning.

Blockchain is a kind of database or ledger where transactions are recorded. It’s a record of events that is shared between many parties, and once information is entered it cannot be altered. There are many kinds of blockchain with different features. Some of them are more suitable for currency, others can be used to control supply chains and the ownership of assets.

Beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, notifications or supplementary product information. A great example is Starbuck’s, which uses beacon technology to notify users if they are near one of their stores and promote special offers.

A bot is a software application that runs automated tasks across the internet. Companies and customers can benefit from bots. For example, chatbots are allowing customers to communicate with companies without having to communicate with a person – receiving content and reminders to help them.

Fintech, also known as Financial Technology, is new technology and innovations that aims to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services. Similar use of the ‘tech’ suffix is seen with Legaltech, Cleantech (sustainability) and Instech (insurance) – the suffix implies a disruptive association.

by Ed Mitchell, Jim Hare & Richard Colson

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