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The Internet of Things that Go Bump in the Night

WE Communications Blog: Brands in Motion

10/31/2018
— Joshua Eubanks 

This Halloween, there’s nothing scarier than tech-enabled automation

I was settling into my morning routine and skimming a recent report by Hortonworks called “Data Architecture for IoT Communications and Analytics” when I noticed a small group of co-workers gathered around our sixth floor window.

A trio of window-washers was cleaning the exterior of the Expedia building next to us. One was fully embracing the Halloween spirit, and had dressed as Spiderman. We laughed, we took pictures for our kids, and I went back to my IoT report.

In my line of work, it’s hard not to draw correlations between what transpires in the real world and what future technology could potentially do to disrupt it. For that hard-working Spiderman, ghosts and goblins aren’t what goes bump in the night — rather it’s the internet of things and automated tech that’s truly terrifying.

It’s uncomfortable to think about, but the future probably has a lot more cleaning drones and skyscraper-descending robots than it has human window washers. According to our Brands in Motion 2018 global study, there is a genuine fear of technology. In fact, 54% of some 27,000 respondents in eight different markets said that they agree that artificial intelligence will make their job go away. In a world of constant motion inspired by technology, this fear is entirely justified.

 

Netflix & Black Mirror in motion

WE defines brand motion as the forces a brand exerts vs. the forces being exerted upon a brand. One brand that’s in tune with motion this Halloween is Netflix. From the spooky intro music and Halloween-themed user selection screen to their original content (“The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” both launched in October), Netflix is truly killing it. First they murdered Blockbuster, then traditional cable subscriptions — are they creeping up behind Prime Video next?

Netflix also just announced season five of “Black Mirror.” To me, Jason and Freddy have nothing on “Black Mirror” when it comes to haunting my nightmares. The sharp, suspenseful, satirical tales of techno-paranoia tap into our fear of future tech. I can’t work with the fear data we collected from Brands in Motion without thinking of “Black Mirror.” Our study found a real global unease around where technology could be headed. Globally…

  • 84% fear their personal data is not secure
  • 80% fear they or their family can be compromised online
  • 77% fear hackers could shut down the power grid and other public services
  • 72% fear customer service reps in the future will no longer be people
  • 71% fear their medical records will be compromised
  • 67% fear being a pedestrian in a world of self-driving cars
  • 63% fear their phone is listening to them
  • 54% fear artificial intelligence will make their job go away

Of course, we can’t put digital transformation back in the box. It’s going full steam ahead, and carrying consumers along with it. But for brands, ignoring these fears isn’t an option. To succeed, they need to recognize them and find ways to address them.

 

Embracing and celebrating fear

“Black Mirror” is scary because it shows us a world where technology has taken away our control — control over our lives, our identities, the ways people see us. For tech brands, especially, new and innovative technology is way to enable self-control.

We’ve already seen brands like Facebook embrace this, giving users much more fine-grained control over what kinds of data they allow Facebook to share with advertisers. If we fear what we don’t understand, it behooves brands to remove the ambiguity, as Facebook has.

I’m hopeful that we’re moving toward a world where people like the Spiderman window washer from this morning don’t need to fear technology. His future may not have him dangling from platforms and washing windows, but given his experience, he’ll likely be the technician monitoring the fleet of cleaning drones, ensuring objectives are met and identifying new optimization opportunities for his company. To me, that sounds a hell of a lot less scary than swinging from ropes for a living.

Embrace and celebrate your fears. Happy Halloween!