What are you going to do Now?

Ever thought your smartphone would know you better than you know yourself? Well it looks like that day’s coming sooner than you think.

We all know the online world is never dull and it’s been a packed year so far. Facebook went public and many who bought high are feeling low. Privacy is top of mind with Google and Facebook getting massive slaps on the wrist from the US Federal Trade Commission. Google got a $22.5m fine for Safari tracking and Facebook agreed to 20 years worth of privacy audits. In a world where each of us is the product on sale, privacy will always be a concern.  Twitter has been upsetting developers no end and there’s been the launch of a raft of new channels – so quite a lot to keep up with.

Ultimately though, it’s the subject of privacy that will, I think, form the basis of our future conundrum concerning the latest predictive technologies. The video below – if you haven’t caught it yet – highlights Google Now. Essentially, ‘Now’ helps you along your day, knowing as it does, so much about you. Predictive technologies that anticipate our movements or make suggestions for us – all very Minority Report – are the way the wind is blowing at the moment.

Interestingly, your smartphone might already be ahead of you, knowing what you’re going to do before you do it. Recently published research from the UK’s University of Birmingham, captures a way to predict where you’ll be in the next 24 hours from the data trail on your phone  – even if you spontaneously break from routine and head on holiday – moving us gently from a ‘Minority Report’ predictive experience straight into the Matrix.

It also presents all of us with a new challenge concerning the data we use. For practitioners, the ability to anticipate issues and trends has always been part of the job. Research, audits and environmental scans have long informed strategy but critical listening, semantic analysis and long-term online engagement have speeded up and improved the process no end. Using available data we can predict, with some certainty, the rising issues, giving us the opportunity to deal with them before they actually become an issue – and certainly long before they bloom into a fully-fledged crisis. And there’s the challenge – how well do we take care of the data generated and its sources? What policies do we have in place to make sure that privacy is respected and maintained?

A useful, measurable digital strategy supports and informs an organisation’s overarching communication strategy. Data analysis and visualisation should be at the forefront of our pre-planning stage, not so we can try to predict the future (fascinating as that might be), but rather so that we can form an accurate understanding of ourselves and  our communities. Issues and concerns that could affect our stakeholders can be dealt with, developing the critical relationships we need to sustain in order to maintain our licence to operate.

We’re moving first into a reputation economy, then on to a relationship economy. Prediction, speed and engagement will all be important in this new space, but most important of all will be the ability to understand, interpret and act on the information that’s put before us.


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