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What we're thinking about right now.

Realtimers, meet the Centurions! We’re no longer running our London Speakeasy event series, but we have joined forces with Centurions.

Centurions events currently take place in London, NYC, and Istanbul with more cities in the works.

If you’re on our Speakeasy mailing list you should automatically receive invites to Centurions London events.

We look forward to seeing you soon at an upcoming event!

Speakeasy

Speakeasy

This week the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York appointed the city’s first Chief Digital Officer, Rachel Sterne.

An civic journalism entrepreneur and consultant, Sterne will be tasked with helping city government use digital technology to better communicate with residents, with bringing social media and other new tools into municipal agencies, and serving as a representative of the technology community to the government.

Nearly immediately, Sterne was caught in a thoroughly post-Millennial conundrum when the Wall Street Journal quoted comments that friends were posting on her Facebook page, causing her to immediately adjust her privacy settings. Ahh the double-edge sword of transparency. (more…)

IBM continues to use its sponsorship activities around the Grand Slam tennis events to innovate in the arena of realtime content delivery. Dialing back to the summer of 2009, IBM’s Wimbledon Seer app pushed the envelope by pulling together official tournament news, player tweets and updates, and on-the-ground event logistics and updates in a clever little package for smartphone users. Our only critique after the fact was that the app’s lifespan could easily have extended beyond the duration of the event. With minimal resourcing the app could actually have morphed into a go-to source for tennis info beyond the two-weeks of the tournament by programming content feeds of tennis news and updates (perhaps in partnership with a news provider like ESPN). Instead it idles dormantly on my Blackberry as a nifty little relic.

This January, we’ve downloaded the Australian Open’s iPhone and iPad apps to get the inside scoop on what’s happening Down Under. The Aussie Open app is clearly designed as an armchair companion more than as a tool for event attendees. Logistics and ticketing information is basic with no clear functional benefits for people on the ground (GPS/mapping/ticket availability updates, etc).
The livestream of Australian Open radio is a neat feature (though listening to it while watching ESPN’s North American feed is a little confusing because of the slight time delay).

The killer app, however, which is still in beta, is IBM’s Point Stream app provides realtime data visualizations of the matches. As a companion to the live broadcast it is amazing to see the drama unfold as the two players – one highlighted in yellow, and one in blue – progress through the course of the match. After the fact, the graphic gives a visual snapshot of the match along a timeline with scores highlighted and along the top axis an interactive menu that activates a ‘waterfall’ effect of the key activity in the game: aces, double faults, unforced errors, net points, and break points won and missed. (Australian Open Pointstream)

The practicality of the app for TV viewing is challenging since you have to look away from the on-court action. Better presentation would integrate the graphics window alongside a live streaming video window (possible revenue opportunity for IBM to license this nifty little gadget to whoever owns live streaming rights?). Also as a companion feature for VOD post-match viewing and analysis, Point Stream certainly scores. We only wonder if Rafa and Federer are as gluded to their iPads as we are.

Last week we were happy to present our second instalment of Mobile App Smackdown!, our mobile app rapid prototyping competition, at Hub Culture Pavilion, London.

This time around, we partnered with CNN to challenge the teams to design a mobile travel app.  James Whitmarsh, Turner’s European Mobile Product Manager, provided two high-level briefs:  an app for time-strapped CEOs on a short, sharp business trip (Global Achievers) and an app for a family of four on a more leisurely holiday (Global Enquirers).

Which? Mobile magazine were kind enough to cover the event and filmed the team presentations.  Have a look here for a full run down of the competition!

We will be hosting another Smackdown in the coming months so if you are interested in getting involved, participating or co-hosting the event with us, please drop us an email at kit@therealtimeproject.com.

We were thrilled to get a sneak peek at KnicksNow in the downtown NY offices of the KMCo two weeks ago.  Using digital platforms, and in particular, social media, to broaden and deepen fans’ engagement with their favourite sports teams is a subject near and dear to our hearts.  What we love about Knicks Now is how brilliantly it combines official content with user-generated content in a live timeline.  As a fan, you’re at the center of a personalised experience, and because of that you’re more likely to want to share it with your friends.

As the NY Times noted there are a lot of cooks in the KnicksNow kitchen – KMCo is one of 5 agencies involved in the project.  It was a small point in the article, but for us it’s a big one.  A lot of our work over the past 18 months has involved finding and orchestrating the right portfolio of partners to deliver what the client needs.   To that end, we have been actively solidifying relationships with a range of entities and individuals who complement our core expertise in business innovation and strategy.

In New York we are working with RevSquare (formerly Mignon Media) on a range of initiatives.  We were fortunate to pull in preHype’s Stacey Seltzer and to tap his expertise on the Asian market, and are also working with ex-Forrester Head of Consumer Research, Jaap Favier of Small Circle on developing a crash course in emerging technologies that we’re already talking about with a range of prospective clients.   On the brand licensing side, we’re partnered with Tatiana Whytelord’s Intelligent Brand Extension collective to bring emerging technology intelligence and insight to their clients.

We were asked recently by Small Biz Trends about how viable it is to scale The Realtime Project business. We’re finding that the two-way nature of these collaborations are generating their own momentum, and keeping us pretty busy.

If you’re interested in working with us, let us know!

After a summer hiatus, we are kicking off the autumn series with a Realtime Speakeasy event on Tuesday, October 19th, 7-9pm.

Please join us for an evening of discussion and drinks at Hub Culture Pavilion off Carnaby Street.

Realtime Speakeasy
Tues, 19 October
Hub Culture Pavilion (HCP)
49 Carnaby Street, 1st floor Kingly Crt (entry in passage next to Ben Sherman)
W1F 9PY
London

We’ll announce the presentation theme soon and promise it will be a good one!

If you are new to the Realtime Speakeasy and interested in attending, please drop us a line at kit@therealtimeproject.com.

In our ongoing quest to find examples of companies pushing the envelope in integrating their digital strategies with their real-world platforms, we tip our fedoras this week to Jack Wills.

A British fashion label targeting fans of over-priced US imports like Abercrombie and Hollister with distressed plaid, and university-logo style branded tees and hoodies, Jack Wills came onto the scene quietly a few years ago with locations in tony, but tourist-y locations such as Portobello Road, Westbourne Grove, Kings Road, and Kensington.

Now, in a tipping point for targeting more mainstream shoppers, Jack Wills has opened a 3-floor emporium in Covent Garden on the same stretch of Longacre opposite high street staples, Esprit, Gap, and H&M.

But what sets this store apart besides its theme-park interior – is the clever and ubiquitous integration of digital calls-to-action throughout the store.   From QR-codes to crudely- lettered wall paintings invite shoppers to “follow Jack Wills” on Twitter, Jack Wills acknowledges the blurred lines of their young consumers’ lifestyles, shopping, and behavioural patterns.  Staffers are also incented to encourage shoppers to participate in the environment (when a young man named Angus saw me covertly shooting photos of the store interior with my camera phone, he proudly stepped up and launched into a pitch about all of the ‘innovative’ ways shoppers can interact with the brand.  He also told me to be sure to ‘mention his name’ in my tweet and hash-tag it  #jwsummer to gain him more kudos from his bosses and a possible performance-based bonus for ‘most tweeted about employee’!

Jack Wills

To solidify the brand’s positioning to the aspiring country club set, a wall banner invited users to access exclusive video of the store’s recent Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket openings.  To be part of the Jack Wills community means to have a connection with like-minded lovers of the brand across the Atlantic, and a vicarious all-access pass to some of the most exclusive summer resorts in the world.

The basement lounge level of the store boasts comfy couches, hang-out space, wifi, and a stage on which (according to Angus),  bands will periodically perform.  Retail space as third place, as theatre, and as digitally-enabled environment that extends all the way to the US.  Consistent with this “store-as-performance-space” theme, Jack Wills sister brand, Aubin & Wills has entered a collaboration with Soho House to open the Aubin Cinema – a sparsely merchandised, but beautiful store in Shoreditch with a movie theatre in the basement.

All of these physical locations becomes nodes in the Jack Wills network, which along with ubiquitous and consistent presence on social networks like Facebook and Twitter enables the brand to integrate with all aspects of their young consumers’ lives:  their musical tastes, their film preferences, not to mention their fashion likes and dislikes.

We’ll be tracking this brand’s evolution, and advising clients to pay close attention as well to what could well be one of the first success cases in 360-degree lifestyle branding in the age of realtime.

Every major sporting event has its share of upsets, controversies and break-out stars, and this year’s World Cup extravaganza in South Africa has proved no different.  What has set this tournament apart from its predecessors has been the widespread use of realtime tools by consumers and companies alike. This has been one of the most exciting things for us at The Realtime Project because it has allowed us as fans to track the progress of our favourite teams and players with greater precision.

As emerging tech trend watchers, meanwhile, it has enabled us to monitor the impact of brands directly or indirectly associated with the tournament. Without doubt, the World Cup has highlighted the disruptive potential of realtime technologies, and offered a glimpse of how they’ll affect our lives in the future.

Traditionally, the tournament’s official sponsors (which this year include Adidas, Budweiser, Visa and Sony) have shelled out megabucks to be associated with the World Cup because it’s an opportunity to raise their profiles and gain exposure to a massive global audience. This one-way model has been effectively torn to shreds with the advent of microblogging sites like Twitter, interactive multimedia and other digital platforms that enable consumers and brands to engage directly with each other.

Perhaps most significantly, these new tools have allowed non-sponsors to muscle their way in on the action and generate their own buzz surrounding the tournament. The breakaway star in this respect has been sportswear behemoth Nike. Arch-rival Adidas is a name that has long been synonymous with football and, as one of the game’s sponsors, it’s the Adidas banner that adorns the playing fields at matches.

But Nike stole a march on the German sporting goods company by rolling out its “Write the Future”  campaign several weeks before the start of the tournament, centred around a star-studded and widely praised ad featuring the likes of England’s Wayne Rooney, Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo and Homer Simpson that promptly went viral. On YouTube alone, the commercial has racked up in excess of 20 million hits.

Adidas managed to claw back some of that buzz several weeks later with the debut of its Star Wars-themed spot featuring England’s David Beckham and rap star Snoop Dogg.  The ad has garnered a respectable 5 million hits on YouTube, but compared to the views Nike’s commercial received, it has only underscored the brilliance of Nike’s guerrilla marketing tactics.

Non-sponsor Pepsi has had similar success with its “Oh Africa” effort featuring singer Akon and a line-up of football notables. Pepsi’s quite funny official spot may have generated fewer than 2 million views, but its dedicated Facebook fan page has more than 20,000 members. Akon’s separate video of the song has further fuelled Pepsi’s campaign, with more than 13 million hits.

Rival Coca-Cola, an official sponsor, has used realtime outlets including Twitter as part of its largest-ever World Cup advertising campaign, yet the average viewer would be hard pressed to identify which soft drinks maker was the tournament’s backer.

All of this begs the question: Why should a company pony up the cash for official sponsorship bragging rights when non-sponsors have shown they can generate as much–or more—attention by employing non-traditional (i.e. realtime) means?

FIFA, the sport’s governing body, earns about a third of its income from sponsorships, according to AdAge. While it can control promotional efforts in the stadiums, it can’t block non-sponsors from leveraging Twitter, Facebook and other realtime tools.

Ironically, the brand to have emerged most damaged from the tournament is FIFA itself for its steadfast opposition to cutting edge goal-line technology. This tournament has been marred by the sheer number of controversial referee calls, and it was only after a handball by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez prevented Ghana from progressing to the semi-finals that FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on July 9 that it would reconsider its policy at an October meeting with the rules-making panel.

Blatter himself remains adamantly against the creation of a rule to allow “penalty goals” when handballs clearly prevented a score as in the Uruguay-Ghana match. But is only by accepting that the sport must adapt and make use of realtime technologies that FIFA can rebuild its credibility.

It’s still early days yet when it comes to realtime technology and, as predicted this World Cup has been an ideal test bed of its potential. We can’t wait to see how it evolves in coming years, but as our archive article “How We’ll Be Watching the World Cup in 2022 and Beyond” shows, it will only enhance and enrich the user experience.

A couple of weeks ago, June 11th, we attended the ReadWriteWeb Realtime Web Summit in New York, the East Coast follow up to last September’s event in Mountain View.  It was a great day.  The Summit brought together many of the core people who are helping to define and deliver the “realtime web.”

The ‘unconference’ format which was both fun and perfectly suited to the participants.  If you’re not familiar with ‘unconferences’, have a look here.  In essence the participants set the agenda, calling sessions on topics that they are interested in.  It breaks down the formality of a typical conference because everyone is part of the discussion.  When you have a room full of a rich mix – both thought leaders and hands-on professionals – the end result is an incredibly varied, inspiring, thought-provoking and productive day.

We were delighted to see that, from the outset, RWW put an emphasis on a broader definition of ‘Realtime’ with an attempt to push people’s thinking beyond Twitter and the Twitterverse.  This is something The Realtime Project has been adamantly championing since day one with a broader focus on the array of emerging technologies that are rapidly becoming mainstream thanks to the ubiquity of broadband, and the acceleration of smartphone penetration.

The first, and perhaps favourite, session we attended was ‘The Internet of Things’.  A fascinating discussion about what happens when we move to a state of ubiquitous connectivity for not only people, but the objects around us.  How do we manage the explosion in data resulting from all physical objects having a digital representation?  What is possible when everything has multiple sensors?  How do we distribute the connections between objects?  The participants were diverse and so were the talking points.  This phenomenon is in its infancy and there are a lot many problems to resolve and much to explore.  We are starting to focus our research and perspectives on this area as well as build relationships with technologists at the cutting edge of this space – stay tuned for more.

Next up was a conversation around realtime location-based services.  A smaller crowd that the other sessions, but dynamic and engaging nonetheless.  Location and mobile services is a key focus area of The Realtime Project and it was interesting to hear from startups developing products and services to integrate with Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.  We see an important future for these services that use location as an enabler to contextualise content and information for people.  In the vast majority of cases, location awareness should be seamless to the end user providing an invaluable anchor to connect the physical and digital layers of spaces.

After lunch there was a ‘speedgeeking’ hour where we were checked out a range of product demos.  Two that stood out and that we’ll be tracking going forward were for us were Collecta, echoecho and GetGlue

Given that the World Cup in South Africa kicked off in the middle of the Summit day, we thought it appropriate to host a session on Realtime World Cup.  It was both fun and engrossing, particularly to get a US-centric view of football (and other sports) and how the realtime web is enabling fans in the US to feel highly engaged and connected to events in South Africa and around the world.  See our recent post HERE for more on the Realtime World Cup.

Finally, the last session of the day focussed on ‘Realtime Where – Location, Privacy and Permissions’.  Chaired by Nick Bicanic of echoecho, the roundtable touched on many of the core issues arising from the collision of realtime services and location-aware devices.   For us, this roundtable discussion epitomised the day.  There are often more questions than answers as we wrestled with both the implications and opportunities of living in the age of Realtime – all tremendously exciting.

The discussion was streamed live on Justin.tv and is available for viewing HERE. Comment below or drop us a line to let us know your views.

All in all it was a great day, and we were excited to make contact with such a broad array of realtimers in New York where we are currently establishing a beachhead and beginning to build and activate The Realtime Project Network.

A huge thanks to the RWW crew for conceiving and organising the Summit.

In other event news, The Realtime Project participated as a panelist on this month’s Convergence Conversations series — The Internet of Things and Augmented Reality.  Stay tuned for more event news.

Anyone seeking proof that this year’s World Cup is the first major sporting event taking place in “realtime” need look no further than Twitter for supporting evidence.

The microblogging site, which was just a blip on the radar four years ago, has emerged as the main means of communication for fans and journalists to exchange views on matches, player performances and other World Cup-related topics. As the intensity builds in the run-up to the July 11 final, Twitter is likely to take on an increasingly important role.

Twitter’s popularity, however, has been both a blessing and a curse. The tournament has certainly raised the microblogging site’s profile, and enabled innovative ways to keep tabs on the games. CNN’s World Cup Twitter Buzz, for example, tracks in realtime how often teams and players are being mentioned in the Twitosphere. (It also graphs activity over a 24-hour period to provide perspective.) During Tuesday’s Mexico-Uruguay match, for example, Twitter Buzz was recording upwards of 700,000 tweets per minute at some points.

According to Twitter’s own blog, after Japan scored against Cameroon on June 14, a whopping 2,940 tweets per second were recorded in the 30 seconds after the goal. That’s compared to an average of 750 tweets per second and 65 million tweets per day, the company said.

Twitter is accustomed to dealing with periods of high activity. But its 190 million users are growing increasingly frustrated when they login and are met by the smiling cartoon of a blue whale — also known as the “fail whale” — informing them that Twitter is at overcapacity. The system has been down a record-breaking 8 hours and 13 minutes this month, according to Twitter-tracker Pingdom.

For its part, Twitter has said in a blog post that some of the downtime is related to deeper problems it uncovered while addressing issues created by a planned upgrade. The company was aware that the World Cup would mean additional traffic, but was taken aback by the strain its own changes would create. That, in itself, seems to beggar belief. Aware that so many people rely on it as a realtime communication tool, Twitter should have been prepared for every eventuality.

Twitter has further warned it will periodically need to take the system down to work in coming weeks to address longer-term problems, but has vowed to stay up for the World Cup and will do its best to avoid outages and errors during periods of heavy use.

Let’s hope Twitter can harpoon its “fail whale” as the World Cup edges closer to the final stages and usage continues to break records. Otherwise, the biggest “fail whale” of the World Cup may indeed be Twitter itself.