doors

At C2MTL, you got to choose your alter-ego. Photo by Kristina Velan.

Would you be the pupil, gardener, outlaw or something else?

Four doors, each representing a specific role, greeted C2MTL attendees at Montreal’s fourth annual commerce and creativity business conference—a call to action, to step outside of your comfort zone by stepping in.

Tech giants, advertising titans, a tennis superstar and an Emmy-Award winning actor were all part of the C2MTL package, which made it easy to refuel on creativity and acquire insight from the cutting-edge.

Here’s what Sparksheet learned from this one-of-a-kind event:

Enchanted Objects Should Be As Relevant As They Are Magical

glowCap image

A pill bottle on steroids (pun intended). Photo on Vitality Website

At C2MTL, the Apple Watch was old news. Instead, speakers like David Rose from Ditto Labs pointed the crowd in the direction of connected objects that are becoming talismans for services in the 21st century.

Between GlowCaps, light-up pill bottles that remind patients to take their medicine, and “doorbells” that automatically ring differently to signify when each family member is approaching, it looks like we’ll be relying a lot less on to-do lists and a lot more on connected objects in the coming years.

But David Shing, AOL’s “digital prophet,” reminded the audience that brands are massively confused when it comes to understanding what the consumer wants, and that in the age of digital distraction, context matters.

While Amazon Dash Buttons, which can be used to automatically restock on household essentials, and “magic” pill bottles are successfully infusing technology into our lives, creating enchanted objects that are both magical and relevant remains the challenge. Items need to be able to incorporate into daily life without coming across as superfluous or uncool (Google Glass, anyone?).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=42&v=NMacTuHPWFI

Mo’ Mobile Mo’ Problems

Chances are good that you’re reading this on a mobile device, given that, according to Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions, there are currently 7.2 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. Everson’s talk was rife with statistics demonstrating the extent to which both mobile usage and accessibility have ballooned over the past few years. But the fact that mobile subscriptions are increasing at five times the rate of population growth has some people worried.

Tata’s Communications CEO Rangu Salgame on mobile. Photo by Allen McEachern.

Shing expressed concern when explaining how extensive mobile usage in developed countries—where the “sixth largest contributor to stress is media overload”—has created a fear-of-missing-out culture.

Growth in mobile subscriptions is not all bad, mobile has shrunk the role of the middleman and as a result has enhanced accessibility. Tata Communications CEO Rangu Salgame thinks mobile’s biggest potential impact lies in empowering women in developing countries by enabling education and facilitating entrepreneurship. More specifically, he argued that women may now exert more control over their finances through the ability to transfer money electronically in places where markets remain closed to them.

Video: The Universal Language 

During Shing’s animated presentation, the elephant in the room was Verizon’s recent purchase of AOL, a purchase that was largely centered on acquiring the company’s massive video content bank. With user demand for video surging, companies are rushing to respond.

AOL's David Shing aka Shingy jazzing up the C2MTL crowd.Photo by Allen McEachern

AOL’s David Shing aka Shingy jazzing up the C2MTL crowd. Photo by Allen McEachern

Although videos are being viewed 4 billion times daily on Facebook, Everson admitted that even the social media giant had underestimated the growth in demand for video content. 

Users are hungry for visual—the lingua franca of content—and as its production becomes easier and easier the supply is growing exponentially. As a result, companies are playing catch-up to support the widespread adoption of this universal language.

Business isn’t all fun and games…but should it be?

Gamers are too often thought of as lazy, socially inept basement-dwellers. Game designer and author Jane McGonigal challenged this stereotype, and asked the C2 audience to tap into the collective problem solving skills of gamers as a way of predicting and changing the future.

C2MTL was described as a mullet — business in the front, party in the back. Photo by Jimmy Hamelin.

C2MTL was described as a mullet — business in the front, party in the back. Photo by Jimmy Hamelin.

Her “serious game for the public good,” World Without Oil, launched in March of 2007 and invited participants to imagine what would happen in the event of an oil crisis, and how they would react. The 1,500 submissions ended up accurately modelling the effects of the American housing market crash, which began in the same year.

Appealing to the inner child can be a means of engaging the customer, especially when the customer is a child. Alex Kazaks, McKinsey & Company’s leader of West Coast Innovation Practice, explained how children’s fear of a medical procedure can be eased by making the process into a sort of game. His company transformed a room where CT scans are conducted into a scene out of Finding Nemo, turning the test into an underwater adventure.

 Photo by Kristina Velan.

Alex Kazaks on transforming a CT scan into an underwater oasis. Photo by Kristina Velan.

The “gamification” of health issues doesn’t stop with the Finding Nemo crowd. Shing shared examples of electronic lighters that encourage smokers to quit and Fitbits that send stats directly to fitness trainers to encourage efficient weight loss. No matter the age group, adding a dollop of fun to an activity is a great way to increase participation.

Wi-Fi: A Human right?

All this talk about video content, social media and swelling mobile subscriptions got us thinking about all the advantages that technology offers. As connectivity grows, so too will the disadvantages to those not wired-in.

Those unable to participate in the connected world are becoming further isolated and that’s why start-ups and tech giants alike are treating connectivity as a human right.

Facebook's Carolyn Everson connects the crowd to the social gian. Photo by Allen McEachern.

Facebook’s Carolyn Everson connects the crowd to the social giant. Photo by Allen McEachern.

Human rights are things to which everyone is entitled by the simple fact of their humanity.  While having the latest smartphone clearly doesn’t qualify, the value of being connected to society during times of crisis should not be overlooked.

Following the earthquake in Nepal, 7 million people checked-in on Facebook to alert their loved ones that they were okay. With initiatives like Internet.org and Facebook’s own amber alert system, connectivity may be on its way to joining shelter and water as basic human necessities.