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Manchester Digital #DigitalRevolution Conference March 2015

We recently attended the Manchester Digital #DigitalRevolution conference hosted at AutoTrader in Manchester. The event, as usual, was another fantastic event full of insights from the digital world and how things are significantly changing for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

With the recent announcement of a £4,00,000 fund for Manchester to support the launch of Tech North, this is a clear commitment how the world is changing and how every businesses needs to adopt digital technologies throughout every aspect of their business. While this isn’t a huge sum of money, it is a great start and builds upon the work from many other digital organisations, groups and partners within the Greater Manchester region.

We first heard from a panel of speakers who took a step back in time to look at where we have come from and how we have got where we are now. Taking Google as the example in comparison to the dominant search engines of the time, Alta Vista and Lycos (if you can remember those!) and looking at how Google managed to gain such an enormous market share. Current data puts Google’s market share in the up at almost 90% which is unbelievable. The one thing they did though is make their search engine easy to use for people. While all other search engines at the time kept adding more features, functionality, content, widgets and other clutter to their homepage, Google kept things simple and just allowed people to search. After all, that is what their entire business model is built on so why get in the way of people searching? In addition to this, Google’s AdWords platform was, and still is, industry leading. To the point whereby there is no real competition to this for targeting potential customers searching for your products or services.

The discussions soon turned to the skills gap that every business currently faces related to digital technology. A topic of conversation at every Manchester Digital event. The point was made about continual learning and about how essential this is for anyone and any business touching on digital. If you don’t move, you get left behind. It really is as simple as this. Whether this is related to personal career development or as a business. The build it once and forget about it approach is not suitable and if this is still your approach, you will soon (if not already) be in a position whereby your website and digital assets are out of date. We take continual learning extremely seriously which is why we are always getting out and about to industry related events, conferences and exhibitions along with sharing our insights on our client friendly blog and our developer blog.

On a personal level for your staff, are you investing enough in their skills and career development? Most companies within the SME bracket aren’t. I’m sure you have heard the saying “What if we invest in training and people leave….What if we don’t invest in training and they stay….” This couldn’t be truer with how fast the digital world moves. We run regular digital training events and also run bespoke training sessions for your individual business needs which cover many of the topics and more listed on our events page.

Next it was reiterated about utilising all of the digital marketing opportunities open to your business, SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Social Media, PR, Branding, Marketing and more. Simply doing things in silos isn’t going to cut it, there needs to be an integrated marketing approach across all channels.

It was also predicted that by 2020 we will have homes with no computers. To the point whereby regular devices around us would allow us to connect with the digital services seamlessly. We have already seen the proliferation of smartphones and how this has changed customers’ lives. Only last year, the BBC announced over 50% of their traffic to iPlayer and recently announced that now over 65% of traffic to the BBC website is now using a mobile or tablet device. This is an enormous change in a very short space of time. Which is one of the reasons why Google recently announced that they are going to be giving a boost in the search engines for mobile friendly websites and penalising websites that aren’t mobile friendly. This point was stressed to the point whereby if your website isn’t being built with a mobile first approach then it is soon going to be obsolete if people simply cannot use key functionality on your website. People are inherently lazy and don’t want to go back to their laptop or desktop computer to complete a task.

Another prediction, which I personally don’t agree with, but it was predicted that Facebook would lose 80% of their users within 5 years. We will see how accurate this prediction was. With over 1 billion monthly active users on Facebook globally, I can’t imagine this changing so dramatically.

Going back to the point about continually investing in all digital areas of your business, we were reminded about how giants can fall with examples cited including Nokia and Blackberry. Continual innovation of your digital assets, products and services is essential to survive.

Discussions soon turned to educational establishments, with a bit of unfair bashing as we are starting to see many leading organisations such as MMU and Salford University running courses designed for the needs of the digital world. That said, there are still many educational establishments who are still running marketing courses that don’t even touch on the digital world, which are totally pointless in this modern day and age we live in.

Google’s recent 5 predictions were highlighted on the day which I’ll expand on a little to put them into context;

  • Acceleration of everything: This needs no further explanation. The rate of change for digital technologies shows no sign of slowing
  • Ubiquitous internet: Internet is soon going to be available anywhere and everywhere. People expect this. Manchester city centre now offers free WiFi, most bars/cafes/restaurants offer free WiFi. This significantly changes how people behave, to the point that they have access to everything from anywhere. This does raise some serious security related issues which we will cover in more detail in another blog post as it is a serious area businesses need to consider and plan for.
  • Any and all screens are a gateway: The idea of a computer has gone. Anything can be a computer these days to the point whereby screens and devices are simply a gateway for you to access anything you need online.
  • Everyone is informed: No longer does information or knowledge have to sit in silos. The Government Dashboard is a prime example of the UK Government leading the way in this area.
  • Internet of Things: This is going to change the world we live in


The idea around watching YouTube on the TV, Game of Thrones on the PC, playing games on a mobile device and watching iPlayer on a tablet is natural to the younger generations. There are no longer clear boundaries of what activities you perform on different devices. KPMG put together a global report that looks at The Changing Landscape of Disruptive Technologies [PDF] which is well worth a read through the key statistics and findings. Putting this into perspective, a piece of technology launched a few years ago from NEC was brought up. The technology turns traditional billboards into smart billboards whereby content is personalised to you as a person. The billboards can understand your gender, approximate age, facial recognition and more. Personalised advertising using traditional methods. More information can be found here and here. While I’m not too sure this will come to fruition on the masses, it is never the less interesting technology and shows where the future is heading.

Next we looked at open data and the importance of sharing data across towns, cities and countries. Leeds have the fantastic Leeds Data Mill which shares over 140 open data sets within the city. With data sets ranging from locations of parks, fire stations and more, it is a good starting point to a fully open data platform for anyone to access.

All in all, another insightful event discussing lots of topics that businesses of all types need to take advantage of. With endless changes in the digital world, it can be confusing for a lot of businesses to see how these apply to your own situation. We speak with a lot of companies in very similar situations, whereby they are a little confused about where to start. Let’s meet up for a coffee to see how we can help your business.

Online Fraud and Cybercrime is a Serious Threat in 2015

Being part of Manchester Digital, we get access to exclusive events talking about the serious changes in digital and current trends. We recently attended an event talking about online fraud and cybercrime, and honestly, this is much more serious threat that most businesses even realise.

At the event we heard from DC David Stott from Cheshire Police force and Raoul Charlett, a Complex Fraud and Corruption Investigator. Talking about cybercrime and fraud proofing your ecommerce business. Also speaking was Gareth Williams from Metapack who covered various tips and advice about how businesses can protect their-self online.


Traditional Business Fraud

Some of the more common business related fraud relate to long term frauds within organisations, invoice diversions and even internal fraud related to BACS, accounting and false invoices being processed. These clearly have serious consequences for businesses beyond the obvious monetary costs. From data loss, disruption within your business, the branding and PR nightmare if this information gets released and more.

What is more worrying is around the lack of capability for a lot of digital fraud to be investigated. As you know, the UK has borders and so does the capabilities of the law enforcement organisations who can pursuit such fraud. Typically speaking, a lot of digital fraud is instigated overseas which means that the efforts involved in bringing criminals to justice required a lot of work and often never actually happen. This is a huge issue for businesses, particularly those running ecommerce websites as you can lose a lot of money in the process with little chance of getting this back.


Data Commissioners Office

Information Security

One point reiterated at the event was about how all organisations storing personal information that is used for specific purposes must register at the Information Commissioners Office. If you aren’t sure if you need to register, then it is recommended to complete the self-assessment on the website, and if you do need to register this is only a nominal fee of £35 per year.

With data breaches on the rise, it is essential that businesses treat data security seriously as it is a criminal offence if you don’t do this and are required to do so. Over recent years we have seen literally billions of customer details stolen from only a small handful of companies storing personal information for their customers.


Digital Fraud and Cybercrime

Moving onto some of the more modern frauds that happen, it is often the ones you may not even have thought about, yet are a serious problem for businesses. We are increasingly speaking with clients and other businesses about how to mitigate the risk for their businesses related to cybercrime and we are able to provide key recommendations on this topic.

Digital Fraud and Cybercrime


Intellectual Property Theft

How secure is your intellectual property within your business? As a digital organisation, your intellectual property isn’t likely to be in the form of manufacturing processes, secret recipes, physical designs or some of the other traditional areas that you would generally relate to intellectual property theft.

When looking at digital businesses, how secure is your data, your databases, your software code and other sensitive information about your business, your customers, products and services? In our experience, for many small to medium sized businesses, there is often quite a significant opportunity for fraudulent activities and cybercrime to take place due to lack of procedures, understanding and internal training.


Hardware Security

This is way beyond our level of expertise at Contrado Digital, although we like to keep our ears open to the news related to hardware security. Specifically around open source and freely available software called Reaver which is designed specifically to hack into WiFi routers using WPS, WPA and WPA2 passwords using a brute force style attack.

To keep this into perspective, once someone accesses your internal network, they often have access to a wide range of other data within your business if your data isn’t locked down and secured well. This is beyond simply having a more secure password on your router, this comes down to how you and your staff access the files, data and systems within your organisation. To the point that you not only have the internal security of only allowing access to data from an internal IP address, but also only allowing access to data for staff who have the authority to view this data, regardless if they are within the internal office IP or not.


Systems Prevention

There are a lot of technical ways and some common sense methods which you can use to protect your business from cybercrime and online fraud. Have a think about some of these questions to see how they relate to your own business;

  • What is your fraud policy?
  • How are individual members of staff managed in terms of the data they can access?
  • Do your staff understand how Trojans, malware and phishing scams work, specifically related to clicking links and opening emails from unknown sources?
  • How do you mitigate risks from updating your accounts, specifically related to invoice fraud?
  • How do you investigate new customers to check that they are genuine? A note on this topic is that you can be legally responsible and open to jail time if you have not performed detailed enough checks and your customer ends up being identified as part of a criminal organisation. This could have serious implications for your business
  • How do you thoroughly vet new and existing members of staff? This sounds obvious, but have you spoken to their references?

A note on background checks related to companies is rather interesting, as the data that you will often be researching on freely available company check websites and companies house is only as accurate as the data that is entered by the company. This is really important to understand because this data does not state that the data is accurate, the information you see on these services states that this is what the company has said is accurate. This can be significantly different, particularly when online fraud and cybercrime is taken into account. Do you honestly believe a companies that is not legitimate would submit legitimate data? The same applies when another company could be created with a very similar name to your business which could confuse people trading with you, or you viewing another company.

An interesting service that was recommended included WebFiling Protected Online Fraud (PROOF) which helps companies, i.e. yourself, safeguard your information and protect against corporate identity theft and fraudulent filings. The short video below explains this in more detail;


Another check point discussed was The Gazette which allows you to check company information from an official source. When checking details of a company you are either working with currently or about to work with, it is essential to check through as many sources as possible to get a good understanding of who you are working with.


Hackers for Hire

Thinking hacking and cybercrime isn’t that much of a threat? Think again. There are services popping up such as HackersList which allows you to actually rent hackers for a specific project and pay for their services. And this is just the public face of what is happening. Within the underground there is an awful lot more happening that most people simply aren’t aware of.

Hacking is always seen as this big bad term, yet often hacking isn’t that difficult. Hacking can be extremely simple, particularly when companies employ sloppy web developers and leave their customer details wide open for anyone to access. This isn’t difficult for anyone to access with half a brain cell and a small bit of technical knowledge. This isn’t cyber criminals working away, this can be simply equated to finding a hidden link on a page that happens to be the same colour as the background. The technicalities behind this aren’t much more complex than that.


London Met Fraud Advice

The London Metropolitan Police are very much leading the way when it comes to cybercrime and security prevention in an official sense and have a very valuable website on the topic to help individuals and companies protect their-self. If you aren’t too familiar with some of the basics of protecting yourself and your business, I’d suggest you spend a bit of time researching this and understand what you can do within your own business.



MetaPack Logo


MetaPack is a service designed to track ecommerce deliveries from end to end while looking to reduce fraud at every step of the process by using smart technology. Interestingly, 80 of the top 100 online UK retailers use MetaPack which managed around 50% of the online orders in 2014 (excluding Amazon).

Another interesting fact is that between 1-3% of sales are classified as Goods Lost in Transit (GLIT) which is actually an extremely high amount when you think about the scale of online orders within the UK, some of the highest per capita in the world. Some of the common problems related to this simply comes down to different departments within larger organisations simply not talking to each other, whether this is people or systems, think sales, website, warehouse all using different spreadsheets, databases and platforms  with no centralised system.

A prime example of this is for items with a higher value which is often simply not worth the ecommerce retailer collecting the item from the customers. Imagine, as a fraudster, ordering a bathroom suite, 5 items, from 5 companies (bath, toilet, bidet, tiles and basin). When each arrives, calling each company to inform them that the item has arrived damaged. Then when they ask if you would like another item delivering, you say no and they simply issue a refund without ever collecting the apparently damaged item from you because it is too expensive to collect or verify. This is clearly an issue if you don’t have the correct procedures in place for your business and happens more than you could imagine.



While I hate to say this, the authorities are too slow to adapt to the changes within digital to keep up with the ever changing technologies, threats, knowledge and information with an ever decreasing budget for public services. When you compare the resources and knowledge the official sources have on cyber security and online fraud in comparison to what is actually happening, this is worrying. To the point whereby Stuxnet managed to go unnoticed for quite some time. If you haven’t heard about this, read up on it if you don’t want to sleep at night.

This is going to change over time within the authorities, although as a business you need to take responsibility and protect yourself to avoid any serious issues within your business.


Website Security

WordPress Maintenance and Security Header Image

Online fraud and cybersecurity covers a lot of topics from user behaviour, training, IT hardware, physical security and more. This blog post isn’t designed to be a resource covering all of these topics, instead more of a warning to companies to take online fraud, cybercrime and security seriously.

We do our part related to website security which is why we offer services designed specifically to help businesses manage their online security through our WordPress Security and Maintenance packages along with providing industry leading web hosting solutions for small to medium sized businesses.



Online fraud, cybercrime and security needs to be taken seriously by businesses within the small to medium sized range. Do not take the threat lightly and assume that it will not happen to you. Cyber criminals will be targeting non-corporate businesses as these are the businesses who often have the least security policies in places throughout their website and internal procedures.

If you would like to talk through how business could be impacted, get in touch to discuss your specific business needs and how we can help protect your business.

Creative Entrepreneur December 2014

Just before Xmas I was invited to speak at the Creative Entrepreneur event at Media City in Manchester to share insights into how online retail is changing. In-between speaking, it was great to listen to other online retail experts to hear their thoughts about where things are heading. So we can take a look through some of the discussions points in this blog post.

Creative Entrepreneur December 2014



First up we heard from Dom Burch, the serial speaker and senior director or marketing innovation and new revenue at Walmart UK (Asda). He shared his insights into how some of ASDA’s recent campaigns have been hugely successful in many aspects online and offline.

Dom’s first tip was around innovation and the importance of innovating throughout your entire business, regardless of how big or small you are. Innovation is key to long term and sustained growth. Simply dipping a toe in the water isn’t going to cut it here, Dom advised that you need to be giving projects at least 6 months to succeed (or fail!) so that you can be confident that you have exhausted all possibilities for the idea and had the time to gather data and assess the results accurately.

With all innovative ideas, you are starting with a goal of some kind for the business. Starting with ambitions to “become a big business” is equivalent to starting with the idea of “making a video go viral”. It’s simply the wrong approach to take and will inevitably lead to disappointment as goals are not hit. Instead, start with goals that are relevant for your business, goals that are in-line with your customer demands and goals that you can actually influence.

In between these ideas, Dom shared a few interesting statistics about ASDA;

  • ASDA FM listeners have more people listening that Radio 1 and Radio 2 combined
  • There are over 18 million customers who visit ASDA stores weekly
  • ASDA’s website has over 300 million impressions every month

These are quite similar figures to what was announced last year at a digital marketing conference in Manchester.

With ASDA spending over £100 million per annum on broadcasting adverts, Dom’s approach was to get the PR team using Twitter, which was quite a challenge. Spending as little as 2 hours per week on Twitter, the newbie-to-Twitter PR team were already having a conversation with the editor of Vogue within 2 weeks. Where else could you get this kind of conversation going in 2 weeks? It simply wouldn’t be possible.

Another tip came in the form of doing something yourself first so that you know how to do it. This is something that I firmly believe in personally and in business. If you don’t at least understand what is happening, how can you ever hope to really manage this process? This is not to say you need to be an expert in every aspect as this would be impossible. Instead, it is hugely important to get a good grasp on every aspect within business and digital so that you can fully understand why things are being implemented and the reach they will ultimately have.


Build Measure Learn Iterative Process


The simple process above will help you to build fast, fail quickly and innovate throughout your business at speeds you have never done before. Ideas are worthless, implementation is key and the only way to see what does and doesn’t work is to loop through the process as fast as possible, while giving every idea the time and energy to succeed.

Have a think for a moment, what are the 10 ideas that you have been talking about in your business last year? I can guarantee that there will certainly have been more than 10 ideas, but what were the 10 most important ideas? How many of these have you actually implemented, 5, 3, 1, none? Start the year off as you mean to go on. Run through these 10 ideas and measure everything to see how they impact your business. Capture the data and make informed decisions about the success of each campaign or idea.

For established businesses like ASDA, they aim to spend between 1-5% of their marketing budget on what Dom called “Trial and Error” campaigns which may or may not work. For businesses within the SME market, I would suggest this should be much higher as you are often still in the stages of experimenting with campaigns to see what works for your business. We naturally review and manage a lot of campaigns in the day to day work we do, although even we cannot tell you with 100% accuracy what will or won’t work for your individual business. We can certainly take into account the years of expertise and make a highly educated decision, although every business and every customer is different.

ASDA know that 74% of their customers are on Facebook, 20% are on Twitter and 15% of their customers watch YouTube daily. This information allows ASDA to invest their digital marketing spend in the right areas and not simply spend money on ‘more followers’ with no engagements. Their YouTube strategy focuses on how-to style videos and researching products which are broken down into 3 main groups;

  • Hygiene content: Something that is core to what you do and for your core target market
  • Hub content: Regularly created content designed to push this in front of your audience
  • Hero content: Large scale campaigns to raise brand awareness, think about the epic Volvo Trucks campaign

The next of ASDA’s campaigns that was shared was with the involvement of Tanya Burr. Who you ask? Ask your teenage daughter if you have one. If you don’t, like me, then I also had to Google her to find out a bit more about her! She is described as a “Beauty, Fashion, Baking, Lifestyle Blogger & YouTuber” in a nutshell. And more than that, she has 1.2 million followers on Twitter. This is the reason ASDA worked with her, to reach this huge audience. The reach that ASDA’s products gained on social media was astronomical, just take a look through the number of views for each video that they produced together and you will start to understand how collaborations like this can pay off. Where else could you gain that kind of reach? To put things into context, Game of Thrones receives around 1.3 million views every week, which is less than what ASDA managed to reach with this collaboration. Likewise, Tanya Burr has more followers on Twitter than Sheryl Cole, Madonna and BBC Radio 1. Just because you have likely never heard of people like Tanya, doesn’t mean that they aren’t hugely successful.

When looking at YouTube videos specifically, always keep an eye out on the engagement levels and not simply the number of views of a video. Any brands that have a lot of views yet very few likes/dislikes means that they have likely paid a lot of money to drive traffic to the YouTube video and no-one liked it so they just bounced straight back out again. High engagement levels allow you to listen directly to your customers in ways like never before. ASDA’s videos with Tanya weren’t simply ‘buy this product’ videos, that’s boring and a fast way to drive customers away. Instead, they focused on food, health and wellness, beauty and style.

ASDA took this whole campaign one step further by creating the Mums Eye View YouTube channel which linked together their partnerships with Tanya Burr, Zoella and the Lean Machines. Google them all to grasp the scale of what is being achieved with strategic partnerships. This is a very young audience that ASDA was targeting here and one that has clearly paid off. With reports of as little as 2p per view of a YouTube video, 70% retention rate, 4 minutes minimum viewing time with an average of 7 minutes in length per video. You could only achieve these results with effective digital marketing that focuses directly on your customers. Not once did ASDA think “let’s make this video go viral”. What this also shows is that people like long form content on the web. No more do videos have to be 2 minutes in length, don’t be afraid of pushing the boundaries to meet customer demands.

This brings us nicely onto newspapers and traditional newspaper advertising. Quite frankly, no-one reads newspapers anymore, and I don’t say that lightly. Ask yourself, when was the last time you bought a newspaper? Personally, I can’t remember the last time I bought one, other than on the occasional times when I’m featured in one to keep as a little memento. Keep everything into context, could you seriously generate a response of someone looking at your advert for 4 minutes in a newspaper? I don’t need to answer that for you, it is clear. For ASDA, they know that 4/5 people don’t shop in ASDA and that is OK. So why spend £150,000 on a single press release in a national newspaper when 4/5 people of the people still reading newspapers aren’t ever going to be interested in ASDA anyway?

The summary of Dom’s keynote speech was that brands and businesses need to take a step back and see what is happening in the world. It’s time to start creating more content that relates to your audience.


Cyber Security

The next session was all about cyber security and the steps you can take to protect yourself. You need to look no further than the recent headlines about how many companies have been hacked into last year with millions of customer details stolen; eBay, Sony, Moonpig and endless more including 273 million customer details stolen from Yahoo and 250,000 customer details stolen from Twitter.

Some interesting statistics announced around cybercrime included that it costs the UK economy over £6.8 billion per year and the global economy £238 billion annually. With 81% of large businesses having experienced security breaches in 2014. The cost of a typical breach is now at £1.15 million, up from £600,000 in the previous year.

Some of the most common attacks are due to very basic hacking just after Update Tuesday. Windows PCs are updated every Tuesday with security patches that have been identified to keep your system and data safe and secure, yet so many people either ignore the messages on their computers or simply turn off the automatic updates. This is mad! As part of the weekly update from Microsoft, the hackers use this information as a shopping list of exploits on computers around the world they can attempt to get access to. If your system isn’t up to date, then you could be at risk.

Moving onto more sophisticated attacks such as DDoS attacks, which stands for Distributed Denial of Service attacks, these can bring down websites with ease. To the point at which you can actually purchase an attack on the black market to target a specific website for a specific amount of time. Unlawful and illegal hacking is turning into an underground commercial business. DDoS attacks are actually quite simple;


How DDoS Attacks Work


This method for DDoS are often using thousands, hundreds of thousands if not millions of computers from around the globe. For example, here you can see a short visualisation of a DDoS attack happening in real time on my personal blog a couple of years ago;



Have a read more about the full details if you are interested. The exact same thing happened to Mastercard, Visa and PayPal when they decided to stop sending funds through to the hacker group Anonymous. Whether you agree or disagree with this is another discussion all together and one that doesn’t have a simple answer. The important point here is that DDoS attacks are a real and present threat for businesses. While it is unlikely that you will encounter the wrath of some of the more prolific public hacking groups, the reality is that a lot of business websites for SMEs are hosted on cheap and nasty web servers that are poorly configured and have very little security built into them. Make sure your web server has the right protection in place to at least minimise the chances of DDoS attacks affecting you. The unfortunate reality is that if someone is determined enough to bring your website down, they will do. You can make it harder for this to happen though by having the right infrastructure in place for your website.  Aren’t sure if your website and web server is protected? Then get in touch and we can review to check for vulnerabilities.

Moving away from hacking and looking at other types of data breaches now. Some of the most common data breaches often come in much simpler formats and often due to human error, aka. lack of awareness about threats. Threats including basic passwords on mobile and tablet devices to avoid automatic access to cloud based file storage systems for your company if a device is lot of stolen, to a deeper understanding of programming languages to avoid rookie mistakes.

Website vulnerabilities in particular happen for a number of reasons including unpatched software/content management systems/plugins, poor coding practices, poor server configuration, unencrypted data and more. Getting all of the above right is the absolute minimum businesses should be doing. Simply having a website built and not thinking about on-going updates is madness with how easy it is to exploit unloved websites. Every website should have regular and on-going maintenance to keep the website, content and data secure.

As of this year, there will be new EU Data Protection legislation that will be coming into force that businesses must adhere to. All of which is designed to move the current legislation into the digital age where customer data is collected at an alarming rate, often with very little visibility about what is being collected. This is likely to include full disclosure when data breaches happen so that customers are aware of what has happened. Far too often, businesses try and sweep large data breaches under the rug and hope that no-one will notice.

During the session, a live demonstration was given showing how easy it is for someone to steal your details – Even with my background, I was surprised at the level of things that can be done to steal personal details without you ever knowing what has happened. For example, simple things like clicking a link in an email can allow hackers to steal all of your saved login information in your browser. It really is that simple. Likewise, downloading a seemingly normal looking file from an untrusted source can result in a Key Logger being installed on your computer which will then be able to ‘read’ every single key you press, including your online bank account details and email passwords.

You may have heard about the infamous Stuxnet virus that swept the world almost by stealth last year. If you haven’t, you really need to read a few articles about this serious security threat; Wired, Business Insider, Wikipedia and what is even more worrying is that the source code for the virus is now publicly available on certain websites.  As a quick overview if you haven’t come across Stuxnet before, the virus was designed specifically to find a physical controller located in power plants that controlled the heating/cooling of the nuclear material. As you can imagine, hacking into this and reporting an incorrect figure would lead to catastrophic results. This shows how sophisticated hacking has become. Some sources say that the virus was created by the US to target Iran’s nuclear facilities – how true this is, I don’t know. Other notable viruses including Duqu and Flame again highlight the level of sophistication that is happening right now.

Other common hacking attacks include the likes of SQL Injection attacks and Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. Have a read up on these, again hugely important issues to be aware of and protect yourself against. Inexperienced and junior people working in digital are often oblivious to all of this type of information and most importantly how to protect against it. Always work with a company and people who are professional and have a very deep understanding of the industry they are working on. Remember the quote “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”.

Now can you see why it is important to keep your systems, website and servers secure? Good, I’m glad the message has been received. If you don’t know what to do next, then get in touch and let’s have a chat.


Online Retail Panel

Online Retail Session 3

Next up was the panel that I was part of alongside three other digital agency owners in Manchester and London along with the Head of Online Retail for Iceland Foods, Andy Thompson. The session took a rather interesting turn to talk around a lot of digital topics about business growth through online retail, internal communication challenges and solutions along with some blindingly obvious opportunities for large brands to improve their sales online. The talks should be going online once they have been edited which you can look forward to watching, so for the meantime, here is a quick summary of the whole event and more information can also be found on the website;



Online Retail Panelist

Digital Marketing, SEO and the Internet of Things

The last few sessions of the day are combined within this section. We heard from many different speakers and panellists in the final sessions with lots of great tips for businesses. One key message that is extremely relevant for the SME market is that you simply can’t have social media accounts without creative content. You need to be creating your own content and sharing this socially along with utilising other great content around the web to fuel your social media channels.


The Tales of Things by Oxfam

Oxfam was involved in a very interesting project with the University of Salford titled The Tales of Things. Oxfam have invested £1.4 million over the past 3 years with the aim of revolutionising business systems and processes through the use of digital technologies. The Tales of Things project was a very interesting one and one which I believe we will start to see more of over the next few years.

The idea was around selling donated products that also have a QR code attached to them. Customers looking at the item would then scan the QR code to listen to a short story from the person who donated the item. Oxfam found that this actually increased sales by 57% in the Manchester shop. They then extended this into Selfridges in London where celebrities donated items with the same concept behind. Within 14 weeks, they had this technology applied in 10 Manchester shops. This is ultimately a historical archive for objects that are traded, thus turning an object into something more than an object as it has a story behind it.

Personally I hate QR codes with a passion due to the way that they are misused in 99% of circumstances by businesses. Although in this instance with Oxfam, this is a really great way to bring things to live and genuinely adds value to the product being purchased and the customer experience.

This project has been on-going for a few years now so have a good read about the finer details over at the BBC, Oxfam and Tales of Things.


Cool Tech

Where would we be without a blog post talking about some cool technology that is on the horizon? Here is a really cool digital air hockey game that Tom Cheesewright and I played (which I think I won, Tom may disagree, not that I’m competitive in any way! );


Digital Air Hockey - CreativeEnt

Image courtesy of Aleksej Heinze


And this was even more amazing, a 3D holographic projection (apologies for the poor quality, it was taken on my smartphone);

Summary of Event

Overall, the event was excellent with lots of great tips and advice to take away and implement. I’m sure there are a lot of questions about what you need to be focusing on in your business after the security discussions and digital marketing opportunities discussed above. Get in touch and we can talk things through with you to see how we can support the growth of your business.

Keep an eye out for next year’s event

The Big £5k PPC Give Away

The Big 5K PPC Give Away PNG


As you know we recently renewed our Google AdWords qualifications for another 12 months after spending a couple of days over at Google’s Manchester office. Following on from this, we have a little over £5000 of Google AdWords vouchers to give away to businesses looking to increase traffic, sales and enquiries through their website! In addition to this, we are going to be hosting a full day event to help businesses get started with using Google AdWords and setting your account up in the best way possible.

Whether you are a complete beginner and know nothing about Google AdWords or if you are looking for some expert guidance, this training session is designed for you. We will talk you through the benefits of how Google AdWords can be used for your business and how it can be used to directly increase revenue for your business. Even better, all of this will be explained in a simple way that you can understand. If you don’t know your AdWords from your Analytics, then we will demystify this for you and get you set up on Google AdWords in no time.

Far too often businesses will jump in with both feet and set up a PPC campaign without fully understand the finer details about how Google AdWords actually works. What this inevitably leads to is a campaign that often doesn’t perform very well and businesses coming to the conclusion that Google AdWords doesn’t work for their business. This is such a shame to see as Google AdWords is an extremely powerful marketing channel that can grow your business. You just need to make sure that your campaigns are set up correctly to get the maximum return for your advertising spend.

The event will be a full say session with the main agenda outlined below.


When: Friday 5th December

Time: 9:30am – 4:30pm

Venue: Contrado Digital, The Innovation Centre, 1 Evolution Park, Haslingden Road, Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 2FD


Morning Session

  • Introduction to Google AdWords
  • Account management
  • Campaign and ad group management
  • Keyword targeting
  • Language & location targeting
  • Ad formats
  • Budgets and bidding
  • Measurement and optimisation
  • Performance, profitability and growth
  • Managing multiple accounts


Afternoon Session

Bring your laptops, it’s time to put everything you have learnt in the morning session into action and start your AdWords campaign running. Hands on second half to set up your campaign with qualified Google AdWords professionals on hand to help you along the way


As you can imagine, we are likely to get quite a large number of businesses looking to take advantage of this free training and Google AdWords voucher worth £150 per business, so get in touch now and fill out your details below;


Request Google AdWords Vouchers

Request Google AdWords Vouchers of £150. Terms & conditions apply. Match spending required. Successful applications will be informed with full information about qualification criteria.
  • What is your planned monthly AdWords advertising budget?


Due to the popularity of the event, we cannot guarantee a place although we will do our very best to accommodate where possible. Get in touch now and you will be updated next week when places will be confirmed for qualifying businesses.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one. There will be a small charge between £15-£20 for the full day training event which is purely to cover the cost of lunch, drinks and room hire. What we would hope is that once you have your account set up correctly and it is working well for your business, that when the time comes that you decide to work with a company to manage your pay per click advertising campaigns, you would get back in touch to discuss things further. Managing pay per click advertising campaigns is something we understand in a lot of detail.

Having a Play with Oculus Rift and Google Glass at Get Digital Manchester

Last week we attended the Get Digital event in Manchester to look at some of the latest technology hitting the market and what this means for businesses and consumers. The event was organised by The Business Growth Hub. The organisation is designed to help ambitious businesses increase revenue through support across a range of areas. One of their key focuses is around digital and creative skills, which there is an enormous skills gap in the market. If you are based within Greater Manchester, then take a look at how they can help and also find out more about the Superconnected Cities grant where businesses can access up to £3000 towards superfast broadband.

Throughout this blog post we are going to take a look at some of the cool technology we got to play with at the Get Digital event including the Oculus Rift to Google Glass and a Bluetooth beanie. This isn’t just about the technology though, this is about how the technology is being used in the real world and the applications that this technology has for everyone. All of this technology is blending the digital and physical worlds and enriching our lives as consumers.


Oculus Rift

The first piece of technology we got to have a play with was the Oculus Rift. If you haven’t come across this before, the Oculus Rift is the latest virtual reality headset designed for the consumer market when it is officially launched later in the year. What you can see in the image below is me wearing a rather odd looking headset. What I am seeing inside the headset is what you can see on the screen behind with the left and right eye being slightly different views to give a true 3D immersive simulation.


Trying out the Oculus Rift


The simulation was a rollercoaster which went through some amazing landscapes including past the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Lasting around 3-4 minutes till the end of the rollercoaster, it was amazing being fully immersed in the virtual environment and being able to turn my head in any direction to get a true 360 degrees view at any point within the simulation. Truly ground breaking. What was really interesting was that you could actually ‘feel’ what your eyes were seeing as the rollercoaster went down large drops. Maybe that tells you something about how I feel about rollercoasters more than anything. Very odd when you can experience something virtually and get the feelings of the rollercoaster whilst being sat still in a chair. To see this in action, this video below is a useful one which shows a similar setup on a rollercoaster;

This is unlikely to ever be a replacement for the real thing, although it is interesting to think of some of the applications for this technology. Sure, the rollercoaster simulator is one that grabs your attention but think about a few other scenarios past the gaming world. Imagine a 3D 360 degree virtual tour around stunning landmarks around the world without ever having to leave your house. Imagine being able to walk through a city in a 3D world while getting a full 360 degree view of what is happening. Here is what the Oculus Rift looks like from the other end;


Oculus Rift Development Version

Source: Wikimedia


No doubt this technology will have some innovative uses in the very near future as people start to see what is possible with this. For example when joining this up with platforms that allow you to walk around a 3D environment using a device like you can see in the bottom right of the image below;



Source: Extreme Tech


Google Glass

The next bit of technology we had a play with was Google Glass. I’m sure you will have heard about Google Glass before, but if not, then essentially this is a product recently launched by Google that is designed to provide information through a tiny projector within the glasses. Meaning that you can connect Google Glass to your phone and the internet to pick up on any information you can imagine. In addition, Google Glass also comes with a camera which is built in along with audio which works through bone conduction which is really interesting.


Trying out Google Glass


The people demonstrating Google Glass are from Manchester Metropolitan University who have recently been working with Manchester Art Gallery to look at interesting ways to enhance the experience of visitors to the gallery. You may have seen a recent article in the Manchester Evening News paper which talked about this briefly and another whereby one reporter was a little underwhelmed by the whole experience.

The idea behind the trial at Manchester Art Gallery is to provide visitors additional information about the paintings they are looking at such as the date the painting was created, where it was painted, the type of material used and the dimensions of the painting along with other information about the painting. Sure you can have all of this on a small placard next to the painting, although this is a single static piece of information which often doesn’t give you any context. For example, imagine being able to say “OK Glass, find more paintings in this art gallery by this artist”. This connection is how Google Glass can really enhance the experience for people.

Here are a few examples of what I was seeing through Google Glass, the content on the smartphone is being beamed from Google Glass so we can see it easier when showing you here;


Manchester Art Gallery Google Glass Input

For example if you would like Google Glass to read information out aloud to you.


Manchester Art Gallery Google Glass Paintings

The several paintings at Manchester Art Gallery that are part of the trial.


Manchester Art Gallery Google Glass Information

Additional information about the painting that you are looking at.


Traditionally in art galleries if you want to find out more information about everything you would walk around with one of those clunky audio guides which quite frankly are hideous and not very user friendly. Google Glass can essentially replace these and add an extra dimension of information at the same time through the wireless connectivity with the internet.

Google Glass is essentially still in the prototype stage and it will be interesting to see how this takes off when launched fully to the public. Personally I found the experience of using it a little strange at first, although I have no doubt that as these new technologies enter our lives that we will start to get used to them as they really start to help us with what we are doing.


Bluetooth Beanie

At home you have to charge your mobile phone, laptop, tablet, toothbrush and now your beanie. Introducing the Bluetooth beanie from Bluefingers. That’s right, a hat that connects to your mobile phone via Bluetooth to stream music directly into your ears. Because that tiny wire for your headphones is such a pain.


Bluetooth Beanie


Wearable technology is breaking into the fashion world and is already starting to be looked at seriously by several large retailers both in the UK and the US. While you may be thinking, ‘why’ about a product like this right now, I can assure you that you will start to see a lot more products like this coming into the market over the next few years. Take for example with Burberry who are already embedding RFID chips into their clothing so they know when you re-visit the store again in the future.


Panel Discussion

The final part of the day included a panel discussion from startup companies who are already selling wearable technology to councils and futurologists. The discussion was titled “Future of Technology: World of technology VS the business world, education and cities’ infrastructure. Where will we be among all this? How will technology impact our everyday lives?”


Panel Discussion at Get Dgiital


Some interesting points to come from the discussion from Mike Ryan included a prediction that 33% of jobs will disappear by 2030 as computers and technology start to replace laborious jobs with systems that automate work. We just have to look at the taxi booking application Uber and the amount of uproar that has been caused from this technology throughout the world.

Another interesting point was made around education and that we cannot continue with the current model whereby we ‘learn’ for the first 18 or so years of our life then expect to use that knowledge for the rest of our careers. With how fast technology is moving and how this is having a significant impact on jobs, we need to seriously start to re-think the idea of education and start to look at a life-long learning model.

Taking this one step further, MIT recently completed some research around productivity within businesses and income for the workers. What they found was the ever increasing gap between productivity and income, meaning that as productivity and revenue increases for businesses, these increases aren’t seen by the people employed by those companies as a whole. The image below highlights this very well;


MIT Productivity VS Income



Why this is interesting is because of something known as GVA, or Gross Value Added as it is otherwise known. If you aren’t familiar with this terminology, Gross Value Added is a measure of the value of goods and services produced. Wikipedia describes GVA as;


“Over-simplistically, GVA is the grand total of all revenues, from final sales and (net) subsidies, which are incomes into businesses. Those incomes are then used to cover expenses (wages & salaries, dividends), savings (profits, depreciation), and (indirect) taxes.”


As a further simplification on the above, GVA has a direct link to job creation and job security within the economic world. GVA is the measure that is used throughout government and European funded projects to determine the ‘success’ of a project in terms of jobs created or secured. The problem here is that this is at odds with what is actually happening in the real world, specifically around how technologies are allowing companies to work more effectively while still utilising the same amount of people to accomplish that goal.

It was argued within the panel that this model needs to be seriously looked at as we are going to have a real problem in the future as technology simply replaces people’s jobs. Which links back to the idea of life-long learning so people can move away from laborious work and into something more valuable which a machine isn’t able to replicate (yet).

If you keep a close eye on the discussions in the news, you will see how there is talk around how lawyers are going to be put out of jobs with technology, how accountants are going to be put out of jobs with the likes of Xero appearing on the market and so on. While a lot of this is often scare mongering by the publications, this is a serious area that needs to be thought about. We have experienced this with clients we work with, whereby systems we have introduced have resulted in significant time savings within the business for members of staff by automating a specific function. While this is great to be able to work on projects like this, it is a growing area and one where as a society we need to start thinking about how this has an impact on what we currently measure ‘success’ on, which is jobs.

Technology and the fear of “technology taking our jobs” is nothing new. This same argument has been around for hundreds of years with the Luddites smashing stocking frames back in 1799. Although I personally believe that now we are at a time when technology is moving at such a rapid rate that we really need to start to consider how this is impacting on the society we live in. Enough of that for now though, let’s get back to looking at what other points the panel made during their discussions.

Another interesting point made by the panel was around the ‘Covent Garden Effect’ which is talking about how cities and town centres need to move away from this idea of shopping on the high street and moving into more entertainment based. Products and services are often much cheaper online than in shopping centres due to the fact that you don’t have the large overheads to pay. Turning cities into fun places to be will lead to a shift in how citizens use meeting places for fun activities for the whole family. Not simply bars and restaurants, but something livelier. It was argued that many of our cities in the UK are too bland and that we need to put some life back into them. Looking at examples of how the Dutch transform their cities into something a little more exciting. One example was around playing Tetris on the side of a building for example which has already been set up by MIT previously;


Overall, by making cities more entertaining spaces to be then we will move away from the shopping based approach and more for something for everyone to enjoy. Another example in this area was around banks and branches, how you simply don’t need thousands of branches around the country, instead you can simply have a few supercomputers. This was highlighted at a recent talk from Barclays bank whereby they talked about the systems powering the whole banking system from website, bank transactions and ATMs which is simply 4 mainframes and 2 database servers. When you think of the scale of a banking system and it is ultimately running on a few very powerful computers it makes you think about where things are heading. Traditionally this would have been a lot of people doing the same processes, but manually.

Next up was Eva Pascoe talking about digital futures. Eva was the first person to create a cyber café in London called Cyberia. An interesting point made was that we don’t currently have inclusivity with digital technology. Currently the focus is around well educated people being able to utilise digital technologies, whether that is through the high end consumer technology products or on the educational side around computer programming. The point made was that the future needs to include everyone with digital and make sure that anyone can access digital technologies with ease, regardless of how wealthy or well educated you are.

An interesting point was about how we are still people who like to share things, create communities and talk about things. This hasn’t changed with technology, it just means that the technology is allowing us to do this in a different way than before. An example given was around the new craze of Toast Art where people are sharing their artistic creations of food on social media channels, which is often referred to as ‘Food Porn’ (probably not the best idea to Google that while in work…).

Following on from this, the talk was around the environmental impact of fast fashion and how 3D printing can help to overcome some of these issues. Currently as a society we waste an awful lot when we don’t need to which is often caused by the constant desire for new and fresh things. An interesting idea was around biodegradable 3D printed shoes, which means that you can print, recycle, then print again in a new style without having to waste a lot of materials each time.


3D Printed Shoes



It was then mentioned about linking in city information into wearable technology like Google Glass. Imagine sending sensor information from around the city into Google Glass and Maps for exactly where the parking spaces were available. To a lesser degree, this has already been implemented over in Santander in Spain.

Following on from this, the term ‘Urban Informatics’ was brought up which essentially is all around using data to better understand how cities work. Think of this like a ‘City API’ where you can access any data about a city for whatever you need.  An important point was made around privacy and that there needs to be a balance between the benefits of new technology and the privacy issues that come from this. Currently, data often belongs to the businesses that capture your information as this is a valuable asset to them. Although as a user, you are often sceptical about giving your data away for fear of how this will be used in the future. Instead, for a sustainable future in this area we need a system where the benefits are clear and privacy issues remain minimal, so the user will ultimately own their own data. Meaning that if they like, they can have any data about them removed from the system. Until this approach is in place, people will continue to distrust services that capture data as they aren’t sure how this will be used in the future.

A somewhat interesting point was made around how ‘the cloud’ is not sustainable. Every service you access on the web is cloud technology in the background. After running an ISP previously, Eva talked about how ISPs and other providers of cloud technology need to be doing more to be environmentally aware since the power consumption for running large server farms is staggering. One example given was around situating setups in cold climates to reduce energy usage on air conditioning and also situating sites near renewable energy sources such streams and rivers, very similar to how traditional cotton mills were created. Then the talk turned to the idea of a personal cloud which is already available now and is something that I expect to see more people looking at as privacy concerns are raised.



Overall the event was a great opportunity to look at some of the future technology that we are going to see coming into our lives over the next few years and how this is really going to change the way businesses and consumers interact with digital. While this technology offers a lot of benefits to us, we also have to seriously think about privacy concerns and how this impacts jobs and the economy that we live in. What we can be sure of is that technology is moving fast and companies need to be quick on their feet to compete.

Exciting Announcements from Google I/O 2014

Last week was the infamous annual Google I/O 2014 conference in San Francisco which talked about where the company is heading and what new cool products they are launching. Kindly, Tech Hub Manchester put on an event to live stream the sessions for us across the pond to watch. With so many announcements from the day, this really is an exciting time to be involved with digital and this presents a huge opportunity for businesses.

Starting the day, one of the interesting announcements was the sheer scale of Google’s Android platform, with over 1 billion monthly active users on the platform globally. That is 1/7th of the population of the planet which is absolutely staggering.


Android One

If you think that is huge, Google announced a new initiative called Android One which is designed to boost these numbers even higher.

Android One Announcement from Google

Image source:


For most people reading this post, this isn’t going to have much of an impact. Android One is a set of guidelines for smartphone manufacturers who are creating budget smartphones. The guidelines are designed to outline the minimum hardware specifications to be able to run the Android platform efficiently.

These guidelines have been developed to increase the number of budget devices running the Android platform in developing countries around the world. With the first devices being built by several manufacturers arriving in India very soon.


Android Wear

For us, this is one of the most exciting announcements of the day. I’m sure everyone has started to see Google Glass in the news. More recently, various manufacturers have been creating Smart Watches too. Android Wear is an extension to the current Android platform that has been designed specifically for wearable devices and technology.


Android Wear Smart Watch


This technology has been floating around for a short while now, although it hasn’t been open to developers on scale. The announcement was that this new platform is open for developers to access, meaning that if you want to look at using this new technology as a business then it is now possible to start building really cool things for your customers.

To summarise the Android Wear platform, it is essentially designed to link up your smart devices such as watches and Google Glass to your mobile phone and send data back and forth with ease. The idea being that you now no longer have to keep getting your phone out of your pocket to find out what the latest ‘buzz’ was informing you about, instead you can simply glance at your smart watch to get the information you need with ease.


Developing for Android Wear


An interesting idea that Google is currently working on with this technology is to add a layer of security which will save you time. Around 15% of people use pin numbers on their mobile phones to protect themselves which is a huge amount of time wasted every day unlocking your phone, especially when the average person looks at their phone around 125 times per day.  Instead, Google talked about the idea of a ‘safe zone’ for technology based on other technology that is surrounding it along with geo location information.

For example, imagine if you didn’t have to enter in your pin number of password every time you looked at your phone. Instead, your phone would be able to detect your smart watch and understand that it is safe to unlock the phone without needing to enter in the password. Saving a lot of time and making your interaction with the technology much simpler. Likewise, imagine if your laptop knew you were in a safe location such as the home or office, and that it was you accessing the device based on the proximity of your smart watch to the device, then you wouldn’t need to enter in your password each time.

There are quite a few potential pitfalls with this idea which I have no doubt will be ironed out before an official release. It is really interesting to hear where Google is heading with this technology and looking at what this means for the future of how people interact seamlessly and securely with digital technologies.


Enhancing the Mobile Web by Scanning Apps

The mobile web has been growing at an exponential rate over the last few years and this is an area that Google continues to see as a huge opportunity for the future. The traditional approach for businesses related to the mobile web is around creating a mobile website (i.e., creating a responsive website, creating a mobile app or a mixture of all of these.

This has led to a compartmentalised approach which isn’t a great experience for the user. Understanding this, Google announced that they are now scanning mobile applications for businesses who have mobile apps and will be displaying this within the search engine results pages when you search on Google. For example, with the Airbnb app below, Google knows that you have this app installed on your mobile device and will direct you to their mobile app when you click on their listing within the search results;


Scanning Apps for Including in Google Search Results


Looking beyond this, Google also announced a new feature within Android which allows users to multitask better. Allowing users to easily switch between open tabs in Google Chrome and open mobile applications on your device. It has always been easy to switch between tabs on Google Chrome on your mobile phone, but not so easy to switch between open apps. Now it is. This is another improvement to the user experience for customers interacting with your brand online.

If you do have a mobile application and want to find out more about what is needed to allow your customers to open your mobile app directly from Google’s search results, then get in touch and we can guide you through this process.


Seamless Experience & Contextually Aware

The two announcements mentioned above so far are all designed to create a seamless experience for customers, regardless of what technology or device people are using. Everything is designed around the user to enhance their lives in one way or another.

The next area Google focused on was around contextually aware devices which would present information to you as a user based on where you are and what is going on around you. Very similar to trends talked about at the recent BIG2014 digital conference as smarter technology enters the market.

To summarise, the main points included around devices being contextually aware so the devices understand what is happening right now, being voice enabled so you can continue working on what you are doing without using your hands such with cooking and driving. Then finally talking about a seamless experience allowing you to pick up where you left off, again on whatever device. This technology relies completely on everything being cloud based so your data and information can be easily accessed from a smartphone, laptop or tablet with ease.


Android Auto

As I’m sure you will know about Google’s driverless cars already. Well Android Auto is designed to link up with current car manufacturers and bridge the gap with traditional industries and make them smarter and digitally enabled. Before talking about what Android Auto is designed to be doing, it is important to note that this isn’t something that Google is simply pushing, this is a platform that a lot of car manufacturers are getting behind as part of the Open Automotive Alliance;


Open Automotive Alliance Members


To quote from the Open Automotive Alliance website;


“There are over 1 billion cars on the road today. We rely on our cars for so many things in our lives, but right now the connection between them and the other mobile technology in our lives isn’t always seamless. The Open Automotive Alliance is a group of leading automakers and technology companies that share a vision for making technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone.” Source


As you can see, this is a huge focus for Google and one where they are looking to integrate their Android Auto platform into cars around the world, allowing customers to communicate more effectively around the globe.


Maps Integration

An obvious use for this technology is to display Google Maps within cars so you no longer have to be distracted changing the settings on your satellite navigation systems which often aren’t anywhere near as useful as Google maps.


Android Auto Google Maps


Message Popups

Following on from this, it will be possible to pop up messages that have arrived on your mobile phone so you can easily read completely hands free.


Android Auto Message Popups


With all of this new technology, safety is still paramount and something that everyone involved within this process will be taking very seriously. It is interesting to see where this technology is heading and I imagine we will start to see integrations like this becoming more mainstream in the near future.

For controlling this technology, the platform allows you to link up the standard steering wheel controls to your smart applications, allowing you to control them without taking your focus away from the wheel while driving along with all commands being voice activated too. Very easy to use. Google envisions the future whereby it is as easy to develop apps for cars as easy as it is to build an app for a mobile phone or tablet.


Android TV

A very similar update to the previous ones, designed to make smart TVs even smarter through the Android TV platform. Customers expect to be able to access content and information from any device they like, at a time that suits them. The idea of sitting in front of the TV at a certain time of day on a specific day of the week is over. On-demand is what customers expect today and Android TV is looking to standardise this industry on the platform.


Android TV


Content recommendations will be based on your history of what you have watched on the TV along with your personal preferences. In addition, allowing you to easily search on your TV with voice commands. It is already possible to control the TV with your Android mobile phone, so as this technology branches out into smart watches and smart glasses in the near future, I have no doubt that this will become even easier to connect with devices around your home.

In addition to traditional TV, the Android TV platform also links up with the Google Play store, meaning that you can access games and content on the big screen in your home.



If you aren’t already aware, Google’s Chromecast is designed to allow you to easily stream content to your TV with ease. Chromecast is easy to set up with a simple mobile app, then you can send your favourite online shows, movies, music and more directly to your TV using your smartphone, tablet or laptop. The small device plugs into the HDMI port on your TV.


Google Chromecast

Previously you needed to be on the same WiFi network to be able to stream content, although Google announced that this is no longer the case. They are in the process of rolling out an update that allows you to stream to any device through the cloud which would authenticate the request. As more smart TVs enter the market, keep an eye out for Google Chromecast enabled devices to allow you to add this extra functionality to your TV.

An interesting statistic that Google mentioned was that they have sold more Chromecast devices than any other casting devices combined from other manufacturers. The power of the Google brand. Another interesting announcement related to Chromecast was for ‘Backdrops’. Backdrops are designed to place ‘something’ on your TV when you aren’t actively using the TV, for example photographs of family etc. An interesting idea which is essentially a huge digital picture frame using your TV instead. While not a very green approach, this is likely being implemented to encourage people to continually have their TV on which will no doubt be a sneaky way to get advertising directly into people’s homes in the future.

The new Chromecast features allow you to stream content directly from your mobile phone, tablet or laptop to your TV with ease. Quick to set up and very simply to use afterwards.



A few other snippets mentioned throughout the various presentations included how there are now over 300 million Google Chrome users on mobile this year, which is up from 30 million last year which is an enormous increase. In addition, Google are working on a platform that allows a single device (mobile phone, tablet, laptop) to be used for both personal and corporate use. As each of these will often have varying levels of security and policies in place, it is important to be able to clearly segment these options to give the different groups of users the correct access. This will be an interesting announcement in the future which will ultimately mean that people can walk around with a single set of devices instead of two mobile phones and two tablets which isn’t practical.

Google also talked about Google Apps for Business where there are now over 190 million monthly active users on Google Drive. With specific improvements for enterprise level customers allowing clear reporting and analytics in the background to understand how your staff are using the platform. Interestingly, 58% of Fortune 500 companies are apparently using Google Apps and 72% of the top 100 universities are also using Google Drive.



The Google I/O annual conference is always an exciting event to see where the company is heading with future products and services, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this year is no different. The key messages to take away from the announcements are around contextually aware devices, wearable technology and creating a seamless experience for your customers as they interact with your business.

For a lot of businesses, this technology will be a little while off until this is ready to be taken advantage of. That said, start planning now for how you are going to be capturing this some of this market in the future. In the near future we are going to be living in an über connected world which puts the control in the hands of the customer. Be ready.