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What Excites Me About Next Month's Event?

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I was asked what I'm excited about in relation to the third American edition of the Emerging Communications Conference & Awards taking place next month. I'm excited about everything on the schedule; from an extremely disruptive VoIP technology (to be announced) to a keynote about how the source of economic value is shifting from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows (to be announced).

However if I were asked what excites me the most right now generally, I'd have to get vague and abstract.

Augmented reality (AR) has arrived on smart phones. In the long run it's going to move computers out of their separate modality and into our lives; meaning that the distinctions we make today of "online"/"digital" lose meaning. The significance of this is clearly on par with the 20th Century mediums of television and radio. AR represents a brand new media type and a new type of user interfaces. I believe that 2010-2020 will be the decade of AR causing fundamental changes to the way people interact with computers, the world around us, and each other. I also believe that it will become a conduit for augmenting communications between people and as such a social necessity. I don't think many people are aware of the potential and the tremendous excitement already around mobile AR, which is why day 3 has been dedicated to it.

Abstracting at a level somewhat above AR, what excites me immenseley right now is the effects that ubiquitous computing and network connectivity will have, i.e. when we have access to computation and bandwidth "everywhere" - "in the air". What we have today is very "raw" and "severed". To try and tie this down a bit and to try and share this gut feel a bit and succinctly, let me bring up some more analogies. Look how coarse time used to be: shadow clock, sundial, waterclock, hourglass. We're in a similar position today with mobile, computing and connectivity. With sundials you can't power too many applications, e.g. from train systems to finer embedded versions of time found in much of the IC based control equipment which helps support Earth's overpopulation today. Today the clocks necessary to sync. telecom control networks may be off by one second every 300 million years!

Ubiquitous computing and network connectivity will give rise to exponentially higher means of weaving the raw materials of computation and bandwidth to create quite utterly mind-blowing new "things". Using analogy again to get a feel for "things", think how you could not weave say a web page together using Charles Babbage's Difference Engine. That was a good choice of analogy, as it's believed the engineering tools were too coarse during the Victorian era to actually build the Difference Engine! As another analogy think of money: from barter, to metal money to paper money and nowadays complex financial instruments such as derivatives. Or think how water used to only fall out the sky (i.e. no control), then we developed irrigation and nowadays, have microelectronic controlled water display fountains, complete with coordinated LED lighting!

AR represents a major new industry opening up due to the march towards ubiquitous computing and network connectivity, i.e. a new "tool" to make even finer "tools". It's only part of that higher abstraction outlined though. I highly suspect that much of the "weaving" made possible will be directed towards interfaces that completely redefine our surroundings, and our relationships with it, as well as with other people. I see a migration of value away from basic services ever more towards interfaces, ones far more agile, "air like", fluid and rendered on the fly according to social circumstances and precise Cartesian coordinates.

Yes we're talking long-term. But then again the debut eComm 2008 picked out the iPhone as a source of a revolution primarily because of the interface innovation (it was the first conference to cover both the iPhone and Android). At that conference I stated that the "telephone" was dead. By odd coincidance Mark Rolston built out that theme from a design front. In part of that great talk, he stated:

In the end with this happening, the phone ceases to be a phone. It ceases to be the "it" that it was originally born with. Why is that? What we are facing here is that software is allowing for the product's ever shifting identity. That original product, the thing that we hold becomes almost a non-object to this dynamic reality that sits within that. It is almost just like a hole in the world, a portal that allows something dynamic to come through. "It" can essentially be anything you want it to be. And that, in a way that we normally think about products is really challenging...And that is the opportunity in front of us. "It" is changing. "It" is becoming something else. This industry has an opportunity to seize that moment and to define something new.

At eComm 2009 Ge Wang had chrystilized such concepts into fact by turning the iPhone into a flute (video)!

As a side note following his talk in 2008, Mark Rolston was asked if Nokia could compete. Mark replied:

what I have seen so far in the touch platform that they are developing and the existing platform is that the experience is shabby. It is kind of cobbled together and the market is growing out of that. It looks like the technology underneath and it should not. This is too late for that.

So this time around, because we're seeing increasingly technological acceleration, I can't be sure anymore that a "long term" view may not happen in the medium term or even shorter. What I do know is this, I see far too many people thinking they can "Google-Up" what's next, it seems to give security/comfort a bit like when disasters strike and people look out the building windows to see what everyone else is doing in order to make their judgment. My strong belief is that if you believe Google results and a quick Internet-trawl tell you what's next in an industry, you've either lost a significant part of the opportunity or it's plain wrong.


Lee S Dryburgh (Founder)

PS The hotel has only reserved 400 room nights for the event (we used more last year) and the cut off date is soon (to get the 159.00 rather than 239.00 room rate). Details here, booking online here

The schedule is now full. In fact, there is a double-digit waiting list of accepted talk proposals. It filled a blistering speed; it even caught me off guard. What amazed me this time around was few people had not heard of the conference and many had been eagerly planning to get on for sometime. Day 3 which is a special day this time around (mobile augmented reality) is now a 12 hour day and there are still great proposals to be added.

I'm not prepared to extend days 1 and 2 beyond 9 hours each; we're approaching audience exhaustion levels and must have planned social networking opportunities.

Another extraordinary fact is that ticket sales are up 75% on last year. This is particularly great since there are no marketing and sales people. It's a lean setup, primarily focused on research and content. I rely on word-of-mouth marketing. (Register before regular pricing kicks-in soon)

At the end of last week the very first sponsors were added: Voxeo (Platinum), Global IP Solutions (Gold) and MetaSwitch (Gold). I'd expect by the end of this week more sponsorship opportunities to be taken. Lanyards have already been taken by a privately held company, one not wishing for acquisition (my guess). This will break the nice run we had - the debut America 2008 lanyard sponsor Ribbit was acquired months after for 105 million by BT; America 2009 lanyard sponsor JaJah was acquired months after for 207 million by Telefonica.

Anyway, by attending you'll be part of an extraordinary three-day conversation. A conversation that will help you and your company grasp more accurately - and critically, much more quickly than any other possible means - the challenges, technologies, key people and opportunities ahead in the emergent communications space.

Please spread the word. Maybe pass along some key points, for example it's the only industry event which:

  • Focuses on communications innovation
  • Straddles telecom, mobile and Internet communications (which is ever more critical as the demarcation lines erode, increasing both challenges and opportunities)
  • Takes a multi-disciplinary approach (a telecom exec can be followed by say an anthropologist; all pre-designed to help you brainstorm new ideas and company innovation)
  • Sets a very high content bar, ignores job titles and is "brains to play" rather than "pay to play" (thus it attracts the most innovative sponsors and you don't have to sit being force-fed tradeshow style industry brochureware)
  • Promotes honest and intelligently driven conversations (rather than political/sponsor agendas, orchestrated by event marketeers)
  • Helped pioneer what some are now calling the "conference 2.0" format (very short, marketing free short speaking slots without the gloss and fluff)
  • Knows your time and attention is valuable

Remember that the event is a free 10 minute shuttle ride from San Francisco Airport. The venue is very comfortable and is perfect for conversations that go on late into the evening. However the hotel has only reserved 400 room nights for the event (we used more last year) and the cut off date is in 14 days (to get the 159.00 rather than 239.00 room rate). Hotel details here, so I'd act quick (online booking including group discount here).

There is a lot of exciting news on many fronts but I'll save that for future posts starting later this week. In the meantime please do help spread the word. Together we'll build the communications innovation community, bigger, better and stronger.


Lee S Dryburgh (Founder)

Today the "two month drive" started. As of today until the event itself, efforts will be made daily to drive attendee numbers, garner sponsors and to recruit press (as well as prominent bloggers).

I'm pleased to say that things are starting from a good position. Ticket sales are up 50% on last year. There has been significant tier one press interest. I've also got the suspicion that there may be a higher sponsor count this year than in previous years going by sponsor inquiry numbers recently. All good signs that we are going to have a larger conference this year by all means of measurement. In terms of attendee numbers I think the 30% year on year growth rate will repeat.

In terms of content some really stunningly interesting pieces are coming together. I'm quite reluctant to pitch, but I feel compelled to share the opinion that if your in the communications industry, it's a must gathering to stay ahead, know what's next, foster new ideas and creativity and to network with the very best in the industry. ROI is very easy.

Please participate in the following ways:

I'm looking forward to what the communications innovation community can pull together for the third Emerging Communications Conference & Awards, America.

Please help spread the word and help create the best communications innovation event.

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