Month: January 2015

Solar powered plane launches in Abu Dhabi

I originally wrote this article for Lovin’ Trends. Click here for more.

Sustainable energy has been a hot topic now for a number of years. And rightly so. The amount of energy that is consumed globally is the highest it has ever been, and most governments around the world are yet to actually start taking global warming policy issues seriously.

In particular, the aviation industry takes a lot of flack when it comes to energy consumption, and aircraft manufacturers are facing increasing pressure to put an emphasis on fuel efficiency. That’s why, when something comes along that flies in the face (pun very much intended) of people’s general perceptions of a fuel-guzzling plane, it’s worth standing up and taking notice.

The Solar Impulse 2 was launched in Abu Dhabi during the week, an aircraft that runs entirely on solar power that is attempting to be the first plane ever to fly completely around the world under it’s own steam.

The aircraft is quite a sight, with a longer wingspan than an Airbus A380 (236ft), but weighing less than a Range Rover (5,000lbs) and it’s wings are covered with 17,248 solar cells that power it’s four 17.4-horsepower electric motors.

The aircraft is the brainchild of aviation nuts Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg and is scheduled to take off from Abu Dhabi in early March and fly 35,000km around the world, stopping off in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, the United States, and Southern Europe or North Africa, before landing back in Abu Dhabi sometime in August. The whole trip is expected to clock up 500 hours of total flight time.

The plane won’t be breaking any speed records though, with an average speed of between 50km to 100km per hour. The implications for commercial air travel are not that obvious either, but that’s not the point according to Piccard, “When the Apollo astronauts went to the moon, it wasn’t to launch tourism on the moon and open hotels and make money, it was to inspire the world.”

Who knows, maybe sometime in the future we’ll all be going on holidays on solar powered planes. But for now, we’ll just have to let projects like the Solar Impulse 2 fuel our imaginations.

Posted by Rob in Dubai, Tech

Dubai launches a slick new interactive city tour website

I originally wrote this article for Lovin’ Trends. Click here for more.

Dubai is a city that is not afraid of ambition. Between pumping billions into positioning itself as a hub for innovation and technology, and spending big on sponsoring activities around the world through state-owned bodies like Emirates Airline and Dubai Duty Free, the city is an attention seeking over-achiever of sorts.

Sprouting up from the desert almost from scratch over the last 20 years, the entire city has a start-up mentality. So it’s no surprise that they don’t spare any expense, or imagination, when it comes to promoting themselves.

This week, the city launches a ridiculously slick online interactive city tour experience called Dubai 360. The website uses a combination of super high-resolution 360 degree panoramic photos, videos, maps and timelapses to give visitors a feel of what it’s like to stand on top of the tallest building in the world, float over The Palm Islands, take a ride on the Metro and sneak a peek inside some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

Over 500,000 individual photographs were used for the project and it took a team of 30 designers, photographers and coders more than 18 months to complete with unprecedented access to the city’s landmarks. Every city should have something like this. Not just to woo tourists, but to give residents views of their city that might otherwise be off limits to them. Well worth a look.

Posted by Rob in Dubai, Tech, Web Design

Over half of all the phones sold over Christmas were Apple

The results are in, and it’s very good news for Apple. Over the Christmas period, more than half of all new mobile activations worldwide were Apple devices. This is huge when you consider the fact that Apple typically accounts for around 12% of  total worldwide smartphone sales during any particular quarter. Surprise, surprise – we’re all less price sensitive at Christmas, and this year people seem to be falling over themselves to gift the new iPhone 6.

What’s striking about these figures though is how far ahead of the competition they are when it comes to cold hard numbers.  Samsung devices only make up 17% of new mobile sales over this period, three times less than Apple (Samsung will face a tough 2015 as I mentioned before) and Nokia accounted for less than 6%. Out of all the other competing smartphone manufacturers, only Sony and LG managed to make up over 1% of sales. It looks like it’s going to be a good year for Apple.

Xmas Device Activations

Posted by Rob in Apple, Mobile

Some thoughts on tech and digital for 2015

I was delighted to take part in the Irish Digital Outlook 2015 released this week. This is my contribution to Shane O’Leary’s annual digital trend forecast. Download it here.

Digital / Social Marketing

So much has been said about the collapse of Facebook’s organic reach for brand posts over the last 12 months, but I think most clients are still unaware of what this means for their brand. Either that or they’re in denial. I think that 2015 will be the year that SMEs are finally forced into looking at Facebook for what it now is, a paid marketing tool.

By still seeing it solely as a free communication platform, not only are brands largely wasting their time and effort, but they are ignoring the potential of using the platform as a great way of running well-targeted, cost-effective digital ad campaigns.

Hopefully brands will also start considering the potential of moving some of their customer engagement from social channels to their own websites, where they are the ones ultimately in control of the relationship. The benefits of creating a space where customers can interact with a brand on their own site, not to mention the possibilities of owning their own customer data and using that via email and mobile, will hopefully become more obvious.

Video Advertising

Video advertising will continue to grow in popularity and will become more and more accessible to smaller brands. Expect to see smaller agencies beef up there video production capabilities, and some larger agencies maybe even distinguishing their video production service from the rest of their operation to differentiate between the quick-to-turnaround videos made for social, and more high-end TV quality videos that could be sold as a standalone service. Also, expect Facebook’s amped up video function to steal some of YouTube’s thunder.

Tech / Mobile Platforms

There’ll continue to be a lot more experimentation from the big players in the tech / mobile space, capitalising on their resources and user base. Uber for example are testing out a courier service as well as offering lunch and grocery deliveries in some markets. Most of these types of platforms are still finding out the different ways they can improve users’ lives and what’s actually within their range of capability. In the same vein, I imagine that we’ll continue to see a lot more moon-shot projects from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon to add to the self-driving car, virtual reality and drone projects we saw in 2014 respectively.

In a music sense, Spotify will have to fend off a new streaming service from YouTube, and expect to see a revamp of iTunes as well, more than likely integrating the Beats Music streaming platform in some form, with a fresh emphasis on visuals and premium content.

Apple Pay will roll out globally and hopefully paying for goods with your smartphone will at least start finding some mainstream adoption. Hopefully we’ll see an Android NFC alternative too.

Mobile Hardware

From a handset point of view, it looks like it’ll be a tough year for Samsung. The Korean giants are being squeezed from both the high and low end with Apple introducing larger screens and making their OS more flexible, and a host of decent quality Chinese Android manufacturers launching their models in the West. Expect to see decent spec Android devices from the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus on sale for as low as €300. That’ll give some people a tough decision over whether they really need to be shelling out upwards of €700 or tied to a mortgage-like contract with the latest iPhone.

Wearables & the Internet of Things

From a Wearables point of view, I’m not sure we’ll see too many things that break away from the niche / novelty realm. Apple Watch is due in the Spring but I really don’t see too much potential in the smartwatch space in its current form. As long as a smartwatch still needs to be connected to a smartphone to work, it’s nothing more than an accessory.

What I’m much more interested in however, are iBeacons and ‘Nearables’, sensors that interact with the smartphones we carry, as opposed to sensors that we wear. There’s a whole host of interesting players in this space and I really hope we start seeing some real world examples of this type of technology in a retail capacity. The potential there is huge.

Posted by Rob in Marketing, Media, Mobile