SXSW: 3 digital trends you need to know

The South By South West festival showcased emerging technology that will change the world in which clients, PR professionals and everyone else operates. Amelia Torode reports.

SXSW: 3 digital trends you need to know
SXSW: 3 digital trends you need to know

The interactive festival SXSW (South By South West) has acquired the status as a cooler Cannes and a more democratic TED in the advertising world. It appears not to have resonated so much with the PR industry.

At SXSW this year there were 31,000 people including inventors, professors, tech start-ups and, according to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, up to 200 UK agency folk, but a distinct lack of UK PR professionals.

Clients attended the festival to be better informed about digital innovations to help shape the direction of their brands.

Here are three near-future trends that emerged with the potential to shake up clients' worlds and by extension ours too.

1. 3D printing - Bre Pettis, founder of Makerbot, unveiled the Digitizer, a desktop scanner that scans physical items, digitalizes them, then prints them in 3D, no design skills needed.

Think of it like Napster for objects - copyright is impossible. You like my Nike trainers? Just scan them and print out a pair for yourself. You want to do some DIY? Borrow my hammer and scan it. No need to buy.

2. Computation - Stephen Wolfram talked about his computation engine Wolfram Alpha, which uses built-in knowledge curated by human experts to compute a specific answer to every query.

Unlike a search engine, such as Google, it actually solves problems for you as opposed to pointing you to a link. As computers get more powerful they become smarter than humans. Think about law: why use humans when you can use a computation engine to solve legal problems? Consider medical diagnosis: humans are not great at identifying and explaining pain, and GPs don't know every single condition in the world, but a computation engine together with data from body sensors could do that job more efficiently than any human.

3. Data - There was a lot of talk about crunchable real-time date. IBM is trialling wearable sensors in clothing with Leicester Tigers to predict and stop injuries occurring. 'Citizen scientists' are using smartphones to collect data about their cities to share with local government to impact on local policy. Google Glass has an always-on data capture feature that could be the end of privacy as we know it.

All clients will be using data more integrally.

We need to be in a position to navigate it with them - and for them.

Amelia Torode is head of digital and innovation at The Good Relations Group.

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