How audio is changing lives for the better.

This post was originally posted on http://www.spotifyforbrands.com

At Spotify, we understand the power of audio. Music and podcasts bring joy to millions all over the world, and we see audio taking center stage as a result of our day-to-day screen burnout. And at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, we saw more clearly than ever how audio is changing people’s lives for the better. 

There is nowhere better than CES to see where technology is headed. Spotify was there all week, seeing the many — and sometimes surprising — ways technology is being used in every aspect of our life. This central role of technology is leading towards a big macro trend known as the “quantified self.” This trend is all about how we are using technology to understand ourselves better as humans — and how we are diagnosing, reporting, and creating tools to enhance people’s lives. 

One key trend of the “quantified self” is the number of applications that have audio as central to the solution. Audio is now helping people live a better life, supporting when screens are not relevant or indeed, individuals can’t see the screens because of visual impairment. I wanted to highlight four of the interesting solutions we saw, some incredibly sophisticated and life-changing, some more for fun!

Take OrCam’s MyEye 2 — a wonderful piece of technology for visually impaired or blind individuals that scans full-page texts, money notes, people and more, then reads it back to the visually impaired person through a small device worn on the ear. If there is a product in a shop, the person can scan the barcode and the product details will be read back to them, translating the visual world into speech. 

In a similar vein, there is Addison Care, a virtual caregiver who monitors in the home, making sure the individual’s vital signs are strong, while assessing their movement to look for signs of trouble. The system calls out reminders to take medicine and is mainly voice activated, something that is more intuitive to many older people. It is yet another exciting use of audio and technology that is changing lives for the better.

Not everything is serious and life-changing. We saw a lot about how voice assistants are being incorporated into every device imaginable. One of particular note was built into showerheads, giving you the chance to catch up on the day ahead, the weather, commute and traffic as you shower and of course, call out your favorite Spotify playlist or podcast! As a marketer, thinking how to connect in a world of screenless devices and screenless moments is going to be vital — how could you take advantage of Alexa in the shower if you knew that’s where someone was streaming?

Finally, we saw how voice will play a prominent role in the future of the auto industry. Auto brands announced massive screens for the driverless cars of tomorrow, and more cars announced integrations with voice assistants. Per Axios’ Sara Fischer, “one of the big themes at CES this year has been the race to own the media experience when cars go driverless.” Fischer noted that Lamborghini’s Huracán EVO will be adding Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant this year, while Amazon and Exxon also announced a deal to allow voice-enabled gas purchases. Meanwhile, Anker and JBL both revealed new Google Assistant-equipped devices that can plug into cars new and old. It’s clearer than ever that our voices will be the remote controls of the car — ultimately shaping the future of how we listen.

Thanks to continuous innovation happening with earbuds, connected speakers, cars and more, audio already surrounds our daily lives. Even still, all of these developments at CES showed just how much the role of audio will grow in our daily lives in the future. Of course, as we at Spotify aspire to become the world’s largest audio network, I’ll be keeping my ears open as more new devices, gadgets, and integrations are launched in 2020. And exploring and executing creative ways to bring brands along the journey. Here’s to another year of listening!

BertozziBytesize: I LOVE CES.

There, I said it.

I am a proud CES attendee since 2010. Every year between late December and early January my mind flitters to thoughts of Vegas and CES. Depending on how depressing the weather has been or how much fun we have had determines whether I dwell for a longer or shorter period of time!

Part of this comes from the fact that I still thank my lucky stars for the fact I can travel to Las Vegas, stay in amazing hotels, see so much and do so much as part of my job. I have a persistent gratefulness for the opportunity, same goes for Cannes and all the other events I attend. We are a fortunate group.

On top of that though, is still the feeling of excitement that I got the first year I attended as part of the VivaKi Nerve Center, part of the Curt Hecht, Sean Kegelman, Kurt Unkel crew. I had just left a very depressing role in a depressing company and had the chance, in fact was positively encouraged to come to Vegas, embrace CES and learn everything I could. That first year was an amazing year and we had a great time, That feeling has never left me.

When I hear or read people saying ‘ Oh no, I am not going to CES, that would be the last thing on earth I would choose to do’ I always think the same – Oh come on! followed by the thought that they were not invited or you are not doing CES right. CES is a massive opportunity to learn. Over the years I have written about my experiences – this one in 2013 on TV Measurement or in 2014 I wrote about the fact that data capture and usage was getting out of hand with my post about ‘Just because you can, does not mean you should. Also in 2014 I wrote about the in car tech that was flooding the conference. It was the first time that car manufacturers started to appear in droves. That post called ‘The one piece of tech you cant fit in your pocket.’ Featured in M&M. In 2015 I wrote for the Drum about how advertising feels like it is becoming out paced by technology and hardware driving consumer choices, like the fridge that orders for you and therefore could choose the contents for you. It turns out that Alexa and Dash buttons have taken that role!

You get the idea, this show is FULL of fascinating trends, companies, hardware and you can soak it all up, you can learn from it and you can bring it back to base. If you dont attend these shows everything you hear is 18th hand, you hear it from some guy, who was sent it by another person, which was released by their marketing team. You see and hear things you would never expect to and you become a more knowledgeable person for it. People often ask me one of my biggest lessons I have learned from someone and I always reference Curt Hecht who once said to me, if you dont go to these events but work in a company like the Vivaki Nerve Center which is meant to be future facing, then you are no different to the local digital guy from London who heard it all from their Google, Facebook, Twitter rep. Advertisers want to meet people who have just met Apple at their HQ or spent time with a product manager in Palo Alto. He wanted us to go off and learn, I loved that, because at the time the prevailing sentiment was that going to these things was just a jolly and a waste of time. They can be, if you dont do anything with them.

This year is my second with Spotify. The first year was my first week at the company! You can imagine that was a little crazy, this year I am so excited to be part of this amazing crew and we have a great set up in the C-Space that is designed to help people like me of the past to come and learn something about culture, how we fit into culture, how we use data and understand people through music. We will talk about how voice enabled devices and connected hardware are impacting our lives and where Spotify will fit in that, it is fascinating what’s going on right now and CES has never been more relevant and informative as hardware powered by data and AI is changing our day to day, I hope those who come to the C-Space will walk away having learned a little more.

As someone who works for a specific company, I dont get to see all the interesting behind  the scenes stuff I used to on the agency side, I see and learn different things now about advertiser businesses, agency businesses, our own hardware partners etc, so for those who genuinely do have a choice as to whether or not to come and chose not to, dont  make the same mistake again. CES is the most relevant conference for our industry and understanding culture, you just have to know where to look. If you want to come see Spotify, let me know, it is a pretty cool story!

BertozziBytesize: The Pebble smart watch reviewed.

I have always liked technology, I had an iPaq when others had paper diaries, I wasted time with a ZX81 when I should have been out making dens and more recently I bought a Pebble watch when others wait for the Apple Watch or ignore the whole thing. I read a lot about the Pebble online before I bought it, and I have to say overall the reviews were positive. I have now lived with it for a month and decided to share for anyone else who is considering buying one.

The first thing to say is it seems to work better with the android devices than the Apple ones. The Android companion app is better as well. The second thing to say is that I have noticed just how the general population is not at all hooked up to this tech and/or interested. Finally I have realised that wearing two watches is strange and so if I am going to give up my Omega it needs to be for a bloody good replacement.

I only bought the watch to fill in the tech gap until the Apple watch which I am certain is going to be a game changer, I believe it will create a market like the ipod did, and the reason I think that is because the Pebble gives you a glimpse of how a wearable device like this could improve day to day without actually delivering entirely.

My biggest disappointment? – you can only hook up one device at a time, I missed that in the reviews and was the greatest let down. Many of us carry multiple devices and we cant watch them all so having a wearable device help you not miss what is happening on the second or third device would have been useful. The connection to the iPhone is buggy and is hard to connect, it should be much simpler, this becomes irritating but once it is connected there are some nice benefits.

a) I don’t miss calls so much – don’t tell people though, they will know you are ignoring them
b) One small thing I had not considered but like is if your phone goes off in your bag or somewhere embarrassing, a quick touch of the button on the watch and you switch it off with out too much fuss
c) It does have a good golf GPS and Runkeeper App which hooks up seamlessly to the phone
d) If you receive a text, Whatsapp message etc you can delete from the phone via the watch and not go into the phone to do it.

There is more, lots of Apps which I have not explored too much as they all seem very basic. In fact that is the issue for me. It is like going back in time when you buy this device. The world has moved forwards to much to have buttons and not touch screen, to have black and white instead of colour. The phone is just not clever enough. Why does it need to be clever? well the main reason is that the Pebble does not replace enough functions of the phone and so the phone remains close at all times. If the phone remains close at all times then I agree with the sceptics who say it would be quicker to just pull out your phone rather than fiddle with the watch. However if you have a watch that can reply to texts, talk, listen, swipe, watch, find and so on and so on then you would leave your phone in your bag or pocket a lot more and if we do that we spend more time looking around us and at other people. That can only be a good thing.

So would I recommend the Pebble? No. Just more hassle with limited upsides. Just wait for the Apple watch which is coming very soon.