Adidas, Amazon and Nike: we look back at some of the best use of tech in The Drum's New Year Honours 2016

We take a look at the best use of technology in The Drum's New Year Honours 2016

Best use of messaging apps

Adidas

As mobile messaging apps such as Snapchat grow, naturally brand interest has followed. However, one aspect that has slowed investment is the challenge of dark social, i.e. traffic that originated from a share of a URL. It renders traditional web analytics tools redundant and has pushed some advertisers to run their own tests to see whether there is another way to shed light on how people are discussing their content.

Adidas is one such brand, but admits user engagement has been harder to track than it initially thought. To track the untrackable, the sports brand built hyper communities in WhatsApp in cities across the world, sending fans in these dedicated ‘squads’ exclusive content such as invites to events and access to Adidas ambassadors.

One key takeaway from the test is how dark social isn’t somewhere to push product messages, which the brand admitted would be dismissed by younger fans, who would probably leave the group were they to see them consistently appear.

Best use of connected tech

Helpmet

In Thailand, scooters and motorbikes are the de facto way to travel for many, and road safety remains a serious issue. BBDO Bangkok and ThaiHealth’s Road Safety Project found that voice-based reporting on accidents wasn’t sufficient because riders who sustain head injuries are left unable to call for help. And so they created a connected helmet, or Helpmet, to automate part of the process.

Using a built-in Piezo shock sensor, GPS and GSM cellular technology, if a head impact is measured and exceeds 95 g-force (a dangerous level that leads to unconsciousness), an emergency SMS

will be sent by Helpmet to the National Emergency Centre. The rider’s emergency contact will be sent in real time, along with geolocation and important health details

such as blood type, medical record and insurance information.

Best uses of virtual reality

Dreams of Dali

The promise of VR may not yet be fully realised, but every now and then a project comes along that reminds us of just what the technology can deliver. ‘Dreams of Dali’ was one such project, bringing to life the vivid imagination behind Salvador Dali’s surrealist landscapes.

Created by San Francisco’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the Dali Museum,

the project allowed museum visitors to immerse themselves in the painter’s imagination, while a 360 video on YouTube took the project to a wider audience.

Inside Abbey Road

Following Google’s 360 desktop and mobile experience in 2015, Inside Abbey Road returned in virtual reality form this September when 80,000 Google Cardboard packs were distributed to readers of NME. After assembling their freebie into a headset, consumers could use the viewers to explore the famous Abbey Road Studios with the campaign’s dedicated app.

RecoVR Mosul

The Economist has set a benchmark for how publishers could use VR to tell stories and has created a dedicated app where readers can watch its VR experiences simply using their phones and a Google Cardboard headset.

One of the most powerful stories to be told using the medium is that of a museum in Mosul, Iraq. It was destroyed by Islamic State militants, with antiques, statues and other priceless artefacts completely lost.

The Economist set out to recreate the museum in collaboration with non-profit group Rekrei. The result was an experience that takes the form of a virtual tour of the museum, with a voiceover that explains the background to the project.

For making IoT a little more acceptable

Amazon Echo

In the race for artificial intelligence, 2016 saw Amazon steal a march with the launch of Echo (in the UK, that is – it had been available in the US since 2015), a smart speaker/microphone combo that answers to the name ‘Alexa’ and is capable of connecting to and controlling various IoT systems throughout the home. It is also compatible with third-party apps that allow it to do everything from ordering pizza to telling you the weather.

Initially dismissed by a sceptical public, coming as it did on the back of Amazon’s less-than-successful foray into the smartphone market, it now seems the company has a firm foothold in our post-smartphone future, with consumers more ready to embrace Echo’s interface – and the awkwardness of speaking to a robot – in the privacy of their homes, rather than when out and about with Apple’s Siri.

Best innovation you knew was going to happen at some point

Nike self-lacing shoes

When Back to the Future first hit cinemas,

we all thought it would be great to have shoes do our dirty work by lacing themselves. It was a futuristic thought but, not surprisingly, Nike has dug in on the technology and launched the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, with ‘adaptive lacing’ technology. Yes, the $700+ price point is a little steep but, over time, that should go down as the technology matures. This is just one of many innovations to come out of the brand based in Beaverton, Oregon – expect it to continue to lead and make a significant impact on the present and future of sports.

New category we never knew we needed

Canned water

The UK consumes some 3bn litres of bottled water a year. Without getting into how ridiculous this is when we have perfectly drinkable water on tap that costs around one-tenth of a penny per litre, it is understandable that marketers don’t want us changing our habits any time soon when that habit has a retail value of around £2.5bn.

What isn’t understandable, though, is that it took until 2016 for a company like CanO Water to come along and offer an aluminium alternative to plastic bottles that take 1,000 years to biodegrade.

Its success in 2016 owed as much to clever marketing as it did to the public’s desire to save the planet, with celebrity endorsement from David Gandy and shelf space at Selfridges no doubt helping it get off the ground. However, it was design, from the minimalist black-and-white packaging to its aspirational brand positioning and clever, German-engineered resealable lid, that really ensured CanO could compete with bottled on every level.

You can read more New Year Honours here.

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