CommonSense Blog

Fireside Chat: Mike Schneider on the Future of Mobile

By Aaron Strout | Dec 18, 2013

Just about three years ago, I sat down with my good friend and fellow location-based services nut, Mike Schneider, to write a book titled, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies. The book was decidedly before its time and was hard to write because the space was still evolving rapidly (in fact, it’s still evolving rapidly). But for that very reason, it was a fun, rewarding and challenging exercise — not necessarily in that order.

Fast forward three years and Mike and I are both still passionate about mobile and location-based marketing. I work for an agency and mainly focus on digital and social strategy but stay current by writing a monthly mobile column on MarketingLand. Mike took a different path and ultimately became the head of marketing for a company called Skyhook Wireless that focuses solely on mobile and location-based solutions. To that end, I thought it was about time the two of us sat down and compared notes (with me as writer and Mike as marketer).

Aaron: You recently took over marketing at Skyhook Wireless. What does your company do and how long has it been around?

Mike: Skyhook is location. We have been around since 2003. We are constantly reinventing how location is obtained in apps, devices and online and then we go to great lengths to add context to make it useful. We care about providing the means to capture and then use massive amounts of location data to give developers, devices, advertisers and more the ability to create and optimize awesome user experiences.

Aaron: A lot of marketers are trying to figure out what the future of ad-tech looks like. Obviously your view will have something to do with mobile/location. Can you give us some of your thinking on how those two connected forces will change marketing?

Mobile is advertising’s best friend because nobody knows a consumer better than their phone. The future of advertising delivered by ad-tech is “relevant content delivered everywhere”. When consumers makes their location known, publishers, brands and ad networks need to be ready to provide them with the best possible experience. The difference between now and then is scale. Getting precise location and tying behavior context to venues is easier than it was when we thought it all up because of the amount and quality of data we have. Concepts that everyone loves to talk about, but have been traditionally more challenging to implement, like geofencing and geo-conquesting can now be done through mouse clicks instead of lines and lines of code.

Aaron: It’s been said that the future of computing is wearables/the Internet of things. Can you tell us more about what this means and why they are so important?

Mike: Let me address them as two separate entities.

  • Wearables
    The wearable market is the collision of technology and fashion. Consumers are going beyond our phones to make “the quantified self” easier by wearing things that capture information about us that we can analyze. You’re a runner, Aaron, and you and I both use MapMyRun and RunKeeper and Nike+ to track our progress and tell our friends how amazing we (or you, I don’t do much more than 3 miles to your 10-15!) are. We then use this to analyze our progress, set goals and push ourselves to be who we want to be. A person’s activity level is a really interesting piece of context. Add this to moods, interests, foods and location and we have some really rich context around a person at a given time. The promise of wearables is that we get all of this information from a low powered, good looking, less noticeable device that means we can leave our phones at home and still capture and use the data we care about. Right now we track steps and calories in most devices, but the future is the addition of exertion and location.
  • Internet of Things
    Human behavior plus connected devices means a greener planet, better customer service and more reliable products. Warehouses are using indoor location to track human behavior and optimize lighting and heating. Thanks to location tech, products that could communicate with beacons and sensors so we know when they are entering a cart and leaving the aisle or the store. They also could know what’s in the cart with them. The communication with other things that are nearby allows us to build profiles of product behavior, attach that to venues for content creation purposes, optimization of energy consumption, finding lost items, inventory optimization and a lot more.

Aaron: Will marketers ever be able to detect users location when they are offline? If so, how do they use it?

Mike: We can do this today. A phone doesn’t need to be online (all of the time) to capture location. We can capture location and then based on where the device moves, capture further data points and trigger geofences or decode them and use them later. Devices like the Eye-Fi card can capture access points when a photo is taken and then attach location to photos in cameras that are not connected. Add this ability to armbands or clothing and we can capture your running route when the device doesn’t have GPS and isn’t connected to a wireless or cell network.

Aaron: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel just wrote a book called The Age of Context. Tell us more about the importance of “context.”

Mike: It’s all about context and context comes from people, places and things that share their data. The collision of people and things data makes place data incredibly rich which allows us to create better experiences for people without knowing exactly who they are. Time makes things extremely interesting. Who we are and what we need on a weekday morning where we might be a “coffee drinking, business traveler obsessed with Spotify” is different than a weekend afternoon where we’re a “coffee drinking, dad of three coaching soccer and looking for baked goods”. Aaron, we are always drinking coffee.

There you have it. Some wise words from a wise man. It’s been a while since Mike and I caught up but it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. By the way, you can see what Mike and some of my other mobile/location-based savvy industry friends predicted for 2014 here.