TCM Conversation with Gary Schwartz

In this session The Connected Marketer Institute's Michael Becker will have a conversation with mobile and connected marketer Gary Schwartz on the theme If Things Could Speak.

We’re kicking off a conversation today with Gary Schwarts, a mobile luminary. Recently Gary has been working on a new book, If Thinks Could Talk. Gary, can you let us know what the book is about? What do the thinks want to talk about?
The book is called IF THINGS COULD SPEAK. I started writing on the IOT (Internet of Things) but realized that IOT is simply connected + electronic design. It puts the HUMAN at the center of the design process.
The problem is the powers-that-be (CISCO, IBM, Qualcomm) see IOT as a way of rebranding their services and capturing the imagination of the public markets. These players put the machine-in-the-middle and confuse IOT with their incumbent machine-to-machine services (M2M).
The connected economy is about understanding the needs and behaviour of the data-dependant consumer and making the experience seamless and intuitive. This is a tremendous challenge and requires fewer clicks and more things that “SPEAK”.
Gary, we could not agree more with this statement “connected economy is about understanding the needs and behaviour of the data-dependant consumer and making the experience seamless and intuitive.”
Although, we’d want to change the term “data-dependant consumer” to “connected individual,” as we see consumption, shopping, etc. as labels defining activity, rather than who they are. Would you agree?
Can you share some examples of compelling experiences in the conencted age? What must companies do to create these experiences.
There is no question that we are more data dependent. We are trained to use our devices as data swords - to make us invincible. I like to quote good old Sigmund Freud when I talks about “man as a prosthetic god” - these devices are now part of our outer armer.
In order to access this data we need to be connected. Connection is a means to a data end ...
Companies become fixated on developing solutions and devices for this ubiquitous, always-on connecting economy. Whereas they should be designing for the data dependancy of the shopper. Sometime the solutions that are created miss the need for immediate access to info.
I like to point to Amazon’s meteoric rise to dominance based on their patented 1-click check out. A wallet without any of the market complexity.
Yes, Amazon is certainly a leader in providing a personalized experience, in fact on average there are more than eight links on any given Amazon page to individualize my experience. Gary, talk about data and information, but are they one and the same?
Is not information a collection of data packaged in the right way to provide a coherent and relevant experience, i.e. to have our things speak to/with us in an appropriate manner? Is it really about access to info or access to the experience. Any other examples?
Staying with Amazon, Echo and even their Dash Button are examples of how information about the consumer makes the experience seamless and natural. With Amazon, in large part, it only has access to your commerce relationship. This is limiting.
Alexa, who is’s Lab126 personal assistant, falls short of passing the Turing test as she doesn’t have access to your emails and calendar in the same way that Siri and Google Now have. This limits her to smart pizza, music and UBER orders.
Gary, let’s go back to the original question(s)...If Things Could Talk. What do the thinks want to talk about? What’s the point? Are they talking to us, with us? Are the things assistants, servants, slaves, or are we those to the things? What about the data. Who owns it?
It is not that things talk. It is that we require things (connected things in an IoT economy) to have a human-like relationship with us. In order to have this relationship, we require human-centric design and this includes a sharing of data with us.
Data ownership is based on a barter relationship. We are willing to trade our data for a better experience - I am not talking about advertising - I am talking about a trust relationship we establish with a vendor that allows them to provide a more intelligent service.
Ultimately, the smarter business - like Alphabet - maybe able to leverage their ad biz (Google) and their home biz (Nest). We as consumers will allow this is if passes the Turing test. Meaning it does not surprise or spook us in any way.
Gary, all good points. However, in a predictive world, won’t things/services actually talk (in words, images, voice), i.e. initiate the conversation or action? This is what many refer to as real-time services, or predictive services.
As for data ownership, studies are showing that “trading our data for a better experience” is not enough. People are recognizing that their data has value, and there are risks for sharing. They want more transparency, control, and in some cases actual cash and tangible rewards.
Yes, this data will allow us to predict and anticipate the needs of the user. This is the key difference between an ASK SIRI relationship and a GOOGLE NOW service that will anticipate your needs.
The value in this case is a seamless experience in our homes, cars, offices. This is NOT an adnetwork money for data to target qui pro quo. Google Now seems smart and human. Amy Ingram from X.AI seems smart and human. We value this experience.
This is the currency of convenience. We needed to open our calendars and emails to Amy and Google Now to allow for this experience.
Very interesting, assuming these services work as promised, I see the value. However, can people really make a rational economic decision to exchange their personal data for a particular service? Do the have the ability to consider all the possible negative externalities?
Take into consideration the Google Now ex. you shared. The problem with this ex. is it is not a one to one exchange. Google is not using my data for just Google Now, but all their services, services that track/sell me across physical and digital plains. Is this a fair exchange?
I think that folk understand that they live in digital data plains. My Snap Chat is connected to my Snap Specticals and anything Mr. Evan Spiegel has inside his Snap Inc universe.
This is a data / service model. Consumers are reluctant to pay for services. Outside of this model what do you suggest? Perhaps at some point there will be a Blockchain trustless economy where I can trade my data for cash but I cannot see this happening soon.
But do not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Trusting a vendor like Google, Facebook, Snap, Amazon is the digital river we need to navigate - if they abuse the “accepted” data etiquette, we switch vendors. This is a reputation economy.
On the data front we’re already seeing evidence that individuals are being invited to services so that they may be in control, manage and exchange their data for material value. Companies like Privowny, Datacoup, Handshake, Quotidian and many others are making a go of it.
I agree, it will take time before we hit a critical mass with personal information management services, but in the famous words attributed William Gibson “The future is here, it is just unevenly distributedf,” which he later rephrased to “The science is in the science fiction.”
As for your final point ” Trusting a vendor like Google, Facebook, Snap, Amazon is the digital river we need to navigate,” this comments saddens me. Why must we trust? Trust needs to be earned. And in the case of the recent FB video metrics gaffe it may have been misplaced.
Think of the billions of dollars that’s been reallocated through Facebook based on the trust of their video metrics, how this may have lopsided the competitive landscape, or the negative externalities that have occurred by through systems like Facebook or PatientsLikeMe.
Sadly, so many do not feel empowered in the digital era, they’re resigned to the loss of control; not just to Google, Amazon, Facebook or apple, but to their local supermarket, eatery, or employer--the digital system at large. Must we simply accept this, can we not do something?
Data doldrums :) Eventually we will move to a trustless economy as Blockchain represents. But for now, and the foreseeable future, we are in a trust economy meaning we need to rely on human intuition to form relationships with vendors.
If the guy at the door creeps-you-out, do not let him in. Vendors have to present a business or service case to the consumer and the consumer needs to let them in. There is no other verification method.
Without a “trustless” model like blockchain we need to rely on age-old human tools. We meet, we date, we get hitched. If it doesn’t work out we separate and there is a messy data divorce.
Gary, I understand what you’re saying, but that does work in modern society? We can not not use Google, Facebook, or even our local Supermarket, and maintain a place in society. The social contract between humans and the service is not the same, the human tools won’t work.
What does a “modern society” look like today? I am not talking about the future. What data marketplace is available now? The only system I can see for managing data assets across multiple touchpoints in blockchain; however, this is year away.
Blockchain is one technical implementation for this. FPF is important for policy making and best practices. There is a multi-trillion dollar marketer for the exchange of people’s data, but the people are not invited.
There is a growing set of industry players, including our TCM Institute, The Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, The World Economic Forum, Project VRM, CTRL-SHIFT, MyDex, Privowny and many others tackling the opportunity to hep individuals connect with the market on their terms.
Empowering individuals to manage, control, govern and monetize their personal data as an asset is not a new idea, rather it is an idea whose time has come. See “Extensions to the theory of markets and privacy: Mechanics of pricing information” by Laudon (1996). There is more!
I agree with the paper you attach that there is a “growing anger in American public opinion over the loss of control over personal information.” We simply do not have a economic model to price and trade information.
Think of it as the gold standard in the early 20th century. Everyone knew it is not sustainable but every major power was locked in arcane model. It takes time to create a global market based on new values.
Economic models are emerging, here is a treatise on this very subject. And there is an economic model, in ’13 dollars Google earned $49.50 per average user, Facebook $9.50. It is not a model does not exist, it is the indiviuals are not invited. They’ve become the product.
Leading players do not find it econmically viable to invite people to the table as equal and economic actors and current regulation and social pressure are not enticing them to do so. Impending GDPR regulations may have an impact, we’ll see.
That’s a wrap. Gary Schwartz thank you for spending the time discussing your new book and your thoughts on personal data in this emerging connected economy. Gary runs a blog at
Thank you Michael. It was a thought provoking chat and I look forward to joining you again soon.