It’s the time of year when everyone starts making their technology predictions for the year ahead. My editor has asked me to dust off my predictive powers — let’s see what I can scry.
Of course, I’m not a huge fan of prognostication so I’ll try to weasel out of making any real predictions. Instead, let’s look at three of the more interesting conversations about the digital landscape.
As social networking and social media sites continue their march through the minds of online marketers everywhere, the drums beat for increasing the capabilities to gather all of the social breadcrumbs people leave across the Web. The companies that aggregate an individual’s different social network identities into one profile, which they then sell, are involved in a practice called "identity brokering."
The holy grail of identity brokering is establishing a primary key for individuals that can then be used to more specifically tailor advertising and other online experiences based on their online activities.
This, of course, raises possibilities of exceptional convenience and relevance or oppressive privacy invasion — depending on whether you fear the dystopian future presented in "Brave New World" or "1984" most. This past year, press reports, including a Wall Street Journal article, caused RapLeaf to change its methods.
RapLeaf is just one of many social profile aggregation services in operation.
The conversation surrounding identity brokering will be relevant to real estate practitioners who actively use Web data and customer relationship management to tune Web experiences and service offerings.
And identity brokers offer significant observational advantages to these kinds of real estate practices.
However, given RapLeaf’s experience, don’t expect the identity brokering conversation to be very easy to hear — the potential value of such a service is great enough that it will continue to be developed, but quietly.
Look for this conversation to be occurring around social CRM, strategic social media use, and privacy issues.
Facebook added location. Twitter added location. Foursquare continued growth. New services based on attaching specific media to location, such as Pegshot, emerged.
New services based on user-generated games, such as SCVNGR, emerged. Developments in location-based media this past year will continue through the coming year.
To date, much of the business-focused use of locative media has been little more than the equivalent of sprinkling digital coupons throughout the physical landscape.
In the coming year I’ll be listening for conversations that involve using existing and emerging digital tools to give us a greater understanding and access to the meaning in the landscape.
This conversation will likely be muted in comparison to the digital-coupon model, because understanding the value of narrative is more complicated than understanding the value of a free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cone.
But for real estate practitioners, the narrative of location will be far more relevant to customer needs.
In reality, the variety of services considered to be "cloud computing" have been around since the dawn of the Internet. The hard-drive-in-the-sky services, like DropBox, are little more than pretty Web interfaces for an FTP server (and yes, I’m very grateful for the pretty Web interfaces).
In the coming year, more organizations will begin to make the internal culture changes required to take advantage of the deeper cloud services. This should result in more specific software tailored to strategic business needs.
The challenge here will truly be in the internal culture-change conversations. The skills required to conceive, plan and develop cloud-computing services are new. Some technology departments will be resistant to change.
In addition, the scale of development for cloud computing will likely remain beyond the individual successful agent to do on their own. This means the bulk of the conversations around cloud computing in the real estate industry will hover at the level of larger brokerages, franchises and multiple listings services.
The more advanced conversations around cloud computing will be strategic and focused on augmenting existing capabilities of agents in the field. These conversations will involve a spectrum of players including technologists, business-strategy team members, and agents.
The less advanced conversations around cloud computing will include only the technologists who, forced to guess about business strategy goals and use-case, will focus instead on the cost-cutting of Internet technology services.
These three conversations — cloud computing, locative media and identity brokering — will all be related in the coming year. Advances in cloud computing will be driven by an increasingly mobile workforce.
That mobile workforce will be encountering and experimenting with locative media services, games, narratives and deal-services. The rise of locative media will result in the increased data surrounding customer location and preferences, which will require some very careful conversations in identity brokering.
From the other direction, data observed by identity brokers will allow a mobile workforce to deploy locative media campaigns in places where customers are likely to receive the messages.
This outside-the-office activity will be made more efficient via cloud computing.
In real estate, regardless of function, these conversations will be worth having this year. Agents and others who work in the field will want to understand how cloud computing works so they can encourage their organizations to have the more advanced conversations about cloud computing and develop services that give them a competitive edge.
Organizations and aggressive agents will also want to have a grasp of how identity-brokering services are being developed to help them with their lead qualification and generation plans.
Vendors may want to examine the locative-media landscape to see if coupons are really the killer app for real estate or if, perhaps, there’s something more.