2013: The Year Of The Cloud

Maybe it's just that time of year -- post-holidays, post-CES, pre-SXSW --  but I've been thinking a lot about the role gadgets, gizmos and cloud computing are playing in our lives and in our business.

Every year the percentage of new products on display that feature some degree of connectivity seems to grow. As advertising executives lay hands on each new gadget, this silent question is begged: “What does this portend for the future of media consumption and how quickly do I need to start worrying about it?”

We have been through the year of the smartphone and the year of the tablet. This year, however, I think the most important new force will not be tied to a particular device, but rather to something much more nebulous. I’d dub 2013 the year of the cloud.

The cloud is something that will not be prominently on display at trade shows like CES per se -- it’s not something that you can see or touch. Nor is it entirely new. However, the pipes are finally in place for it to begin more meaningfully impacting our lives. Broadband capabilities are now sufficient and ubiquitous enough to make cloud-delivery of content a reality. And it is fueling many of the devices being touted this year -- from transparent wall screens akin more to wallpaper than traditional televisions, to connected washing machines that can tell you if you’re using too much laundry detergent and perhaps, suggest a new brand of fabric softener.

The introduction of cloud-technology into our daily lives sets up a bimodality of delivery approaches. On the one hand, you have devices, such as the iPhone, capable of housing incredible amounts of intelligence and content. On the other hand, the cloud is able to hold infinite amounts of intelligence and data. With the cloud, as long as there is a powerful enough Wi-Fi or broadband delivery system in place, the device doesn’t need to be quite as “smart” -- or in some cases, not as physically large. Take, for instance, the aforementioned transparent screen. It’s simply a difference between “local intelligence” sitting on a device, versus “cloud intelligence,” on a satellite hundreds of miles away.



That said, the full realization of cloud-technology will change everything -- from the way we consume content to the devices that we consume it on. The promise of the cloud has always been the ability to seamlessly access data wherever and whenever -- across place, time or device. And that promise seems to be coming true.  

Although we’ve been talking for some time about the increasing ability to access content anytime, anywhere, there are still limitations. For instance, a movie downloaded to a tablet remains housed on that tablet. Or a game accessible via an X-Box is not simultaneously accessible on your computer. Cloud technology removes these remaining barriers, ushering in an era of constant connectivity. 

What will this mean for the media world? A cloud will benefit consumers, media owners and advertisers in tangible ways.

For consumers, cloud-based delivery of news and entertainment content will allow complete flexibility in terms of simultaneous or sequential viewing of content across devices and provide a better user experiences. 

For media owners, this continuity will allow greater insight into a user’s viewing habits, thus improving the relevancy of programming offered to that viewer. For instance, if you know that a given user prefers to watch headline news in the morning on their tablet, receive stock market quotes or sports updates in the afternoon via smartphone, and view adventure movies in the evening via connected TV you could program accordingly, helping your audience find and enjoy what is most relevant to them. In turn, by building a better offering, media owners will attract more users more often, resulting in greater monetization opportunities.

For advertisers, this seamless delivery will help brand marketers and their agencies to finally break down the barriers that prohibit holistic messaging across devices. These media silos exist partly because of operational inconsistencies between various platforms. Ad technology has been working to get around this problem in various ways. The cloud, however, will accelerate and facilitate this process by removing these inconsistencies and delivering seamless data sets across devices, eliminating silos, improving efficiencies and achieving unprecedented total campaign ROI measurement.

In short, life in the cloud means that intelligence is no longer tied to a particular device. It can now follow you around the house, into your smart car, and to the corner kiosk. As an analogy, on the moon, you need to carry around a special tank to get enough oxygen. On earth, we’re surrounded by it. With cloud-enabled delivery, our days of space exploration are over, and the era of device-agnostic 1:1 consumer engagement has finally landed.


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