Let’s free up innovation from the bullshit-bingo-trap!

Innovation is the driving force of the economy. Without it, there is a standstill. But innovations only work if they solve people’s problems. Dennis Pfisterer calls for a new approach to innovation.


Innovation is the driving force of civilization. The engine of the economy. Without innovation, there’s nothing but standstill. And standstill is death. Everything old must be disrupted and new technologies help set us free. Digital! Social! Global!


A new year begins and when if not now will it make sense to question how we want to tackle things in the future. Are there any new ideas or insights that will help us in 2018? Ones that will characterize us personally, commercially or even socially in the long term? Innovations promise progress, but is that really the case? Is innovation worth striving for?


By definition, innovation is a deliberate and targeted process of change towards something original and new. The search for new knowledge or solutions therefore puts curiosity, creativity and desire for renewal at the fore. That explains why the term “innovation” is so eagerly and often chosen to sell novelties of any kind. From thought constructs such as communism, which sought to change individuals and society from the ground up, to very tangible products like the iPhone X, which largely claim to do the same.

If we start with the relatively new research field of neuroscience and thus the deeper realms of our brain, we realize how deeply that concept is anchored in us. If we consider, for example, the model of the limbic map developed by Dr. Hans-Georg Häusel more closely, innovation is one of the three main forces that significantly influence our thinking and actions: stimulus. In very simple terms, our brain subconsciously (in the limbic system) examines all sensory information, whether it’s a) helping us to maintain our status quo, b) stimulating us in some way, or c) possibly lending us power.

In evolutionary terms, innovation can actually be understood as a primitive human urge to free oneself from the status quo in order to secure our future. Of course, anything that’s new and innovative is always dependent on a specific geographic and social context and as such dependent on the zeitgeist. Logically, innovations are only relevant for a limited period of time. We all know the embarrassing moment when mom excitedly talks about Facebook in hopes of some recognition or the acquaintance from the country who thinks that this look or some other is totally Berlin style. Today hype, tomorrow mainstream, and the day after tomorrow old-school. One innovation overtakes the next. And that’s nothing new. But back to the question. In the future, will we really only be successful if we totally “think different” and beat our new ideas into our heads with full power?


In any case, a problem arises when we as people can no longer keep up with our own innovations. That’s because the rapid development of technology has recently and yet again received a good kick-starter thanks to digital change. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of human evolution. On the contrary, humans have unfortunately always been and are naturally more inclined to slow and linear change. Our human processor has received far fewer performance updates over the past 50,000 years than computers over the last 50 years.

If one considers the exponential developmental curve of computing power, which follows what’s known as Moore’s Law, it can be assumed that this will reach a dizzying level in just a few decades. As such, a single supercomputer will likely attain the computing power of all human brains worldwide sometime between 2050 and 2060. The thought of what would be possible – in the technical sense – at that point is truly fantastic. But how will our largely neolithic brain handle the constant confrontation with AI-enhanced superbrain cars and vacuum cleaners in emotional terms?

Even today, more and more people seem to be suffering from the excessive demands of innovation overflow and the associated wealth of information that comes with it. Which is particularly absurd because they usually come with the promise of greater personal freedom, self-determination and happiness. At the same time, an increasing number of studies established a direct correlation between the rise of depression and the increasing use of new technologies, suggesting the so-called ‘digital detox’ as a potential treatment. Even if the architects of the big innovation forges in Silicon Valley were to confess that their technology is destroying the social fabric of the real world, seriously questioning the simple inference that innovation = new technology may be called for.


In addition to the extreme speed with which it progresses, the great danger of digital transformation may lie in the overuse and abuse of the word “innovation” itself. Anything promising global, digital-social disruption is celebrated at tech summits, in start-ups, marketing departments and social networks. This, in turn, only leads to innovative ideas brandishing a sort of ‘wow, how awesome’ technology label. Out of sheer enthusiasm for innovative technology, the truly exciting question of where it should take us is all but lost.

Of course, you could say we live in a free market. As long as it can be used to make money, and the user feels they can get through everyday life more easily or quickly, then all’s well. But on the other hand, who’s convincing whom here? Facebook recently ended its AI program because it invented a more efficient language that its creators no longer understood. How long will the masses pay attention to the flood of innovations is questionable. In addition to any block-chain-based cyber currency, attention is likely to be the true currency of the future.

The mechanics that one uses to gain permanent attention from users is called “computer-aided persuasive technology”. The term comes from the behavioral scientist BJ Fogg, now head of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, where technology theorists learn the latest tricks of manipulation. Nir Eyal describes in detail how to create emotional dependency in his bestselling book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”. The most important part in his model is the trigger that transitions into flesh and blood. A like here, a notification bubble or vibration alert there – all to provoke user reactions. Snapchat’s Streaks, for example, reward the user for activity with small flame icons that go out if no more snaps are sent within 24 hours. And how long will these developments continue to go well? The stock market seems to be asking itself the same question and isn’t betting on rising rates for Snap Inc.


So, before innovation gets completely out of hand, we’ll free it from the bullshit bingo and put some sense back into this vital concept. For example, with two well-known approaches: the honest human-centric approach and its close – very reasonable – customer value. This real-deal team might have the power to really do something revolutionary, instead of reflexively only going in the direction of technology-driven digital social disruptive progress. Because innovation that does not benefit or even harm people simply isn’t innovation at all.

As such, a step to the left, to the right, or even backwards at times, would no longer be a contradiction of innovation, provided it creates added value. A few examples: In a transformed, digital future teeming with digital voice assistants, could a service provider with real people in their support team not be at the forefront? Or could not a slightly less slim mobile phone, which offers the battery charging time of a Nokia 3310, establish itself as the smarter option? Or a car that does not have to be attached to a cable for hours, but rather whose battery can be easily switched by remote control at any gas station, not be the obvious choice for urban explorers?

In principle, those who use technology in the future to produce proximity to reality may count among the winners of digitization. Innovative new brands, such as the English manufacturer of cycling clothing Rapha, use existing social and digital channels to bring people together in the real world and have them truly experience their products in an active way. After the content-is-king-years in which “media” and “the message” were almost indistinguishable from each other, in a post-fake bullshit era, actually experiencing products almost inevitably comes to the fore.

In many areas of life, what’s supposedly old is rediscovered and represented in new innovative packaging. In the future, however, the use of as much new technology as possible, such as the virtual, augmented or mixed reality, will become less and less important. Rather, it will be crucial to use technology innovatively to create a product experience that moves the users emotionally and at the same time answers the question “Why this brand?” Such truly “immersive” experiences take more time and cost more money than purely digital measures, but also provide a demonstrably more sustainable added value for users and also generate unique brand content for all marketing channels.

Wherever this year’s journey takes you and your company, innovation will drive you. But innovation must not become a problem for people, but rather a solution to problems. As such, a key challenge for brand owners will be seeing through innovation and seeing when it’s a dead end for users.

The amount of data from business and research that’s already available allows us quite clearly to sketch a technology-driven image of the near future. The question is to what extent we want to make this reality. This year, let’s allow ourselves to hit the breaks for such In-NO-WAY-tions instead of instinctively hitting the like and follow buttons. Instead of spending a lot of time looking for the right innovation, we can use it to drive real innovation. And sometimes, it only takes a very small step in the right direction to bring the greatest benefit to our customers.

The Next Reality

Thinking about buying a new TV? Ah, the excitement! Measuring the living room, looking for the right place where it could fit, or choosing the color of the bezel, the right resolution, figuring out the necessary connectivity options and brightness? And if the couch you will be sitting on watching TV has the right viewing distance, because you don’t want to watch a football game without being able to recognize the players, do you? If you are not dealing with decisions like this right now, chances are you did in the past or you are going to do it in the future. Let’s face it, it’s inevitable, just like most things that are coming our way, the future is worth talking about, so let’s focus on this concept of time right now: The Future.

In the not so distant future, you most likely won’t have to deal with decisions like this at all. Not because of the breakthrough in projection technology, not because TV will become obsolete, nor because manufacturers will die out and Apple or Netflix will take over the TV game (well, that is happening anyways); it’s because you will be able to watch TV on a screen any desired size, anywhere and anytime you want – not just on your comfy couch at home. The magic behind that is a thing called augmented (AR) or mixed (MR) or even virtual reality (VR), but only in its final form. The final form of media. The final form of consuming content. The final form of entertainment. The end game.

So let’s focus on the present for a minute: there are a couple of VR devices out there, and most of them are pretty nerdy; you probably heard of names like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR or Samsung Gear VR. Manufacturers gaining momentum in creating the device to end all other devices – no wonder, since VR hardware is supposed to earn $17.8 billion by 2020. By the way, Samsung has sold more VR headsets in 2016 than Oculus, HTC and Playstation combined, namely 4.51 million pieces. And a lot has already been achieved with them: High resolution: check. Variety of content: check. Availability of devices: check. A cure to motion sickness while using it: check. Even motion, movement and eye tracking has been conquered not so long ago, getting VR one step closer to be a realistic experience in an unrealistic, digital environment. But one crucial thing is still missing, and all of the current solutions are not even close in delivering it: ease of use. A no-fuzz device. A device for people who are not expert gamers or scientists or enthusiasts. Something you can put on your head without having to connect a cord, a battery back or a head strap. Easy as putting on your shades and unlocking your smartphone.

Some manufacturers are still trying to mimic the success story of smartphone development, because it is their field of expertise, and it worked already in the past: increase screen resolution, add a new camera, mix it with a better microprocessor, a newer software version, and a dash of some weird new experiential technology. But baby steps are for babies, in a saturated market walking slow is not an option anymore: we don’t need another device that’s slightly faster and better looking than the other one. We need a breakthrough. We need something to control our movements in a virtual world, that feels like the real world. We need a way to trick our brain into thinking we really are standing next to a lava stream or inside an imperial hangar from Star Wars, awaiting the devastating blow out of the Death Star’s Superlaser instead of knowing all the way that it’s all just a game.

So back to our initial question, adding some more amazing stuff: You want to turn your living room into a dark dungeon to hunt zombies? You got it. You want to measure your new fridge and see if it fits in this impossible slot in your kitchen? Done. You want to have a look at the interior of your new car in life-size, standing in the middle of your bedroom? Sure thing. Or you just want to watch the final episode of your favorite TV show in your garden, on a huge canvas, and next to it keep track of a hockey playoff game that happens to run at the same time, on a smaller screen – and all of this together with your friends? Yes. That is the future I’m talking about. And the end or at least a fundamental change in the field of consumer electronics.

If the rumors are true, the first company to deliver something like this is called Magic Leap. Quote: “This technology could affect every business that uses screens or computers and many that don’t. It could kill the $120 billion market for flat-panel displays and shake the $1 trillion global consumer-electronics business to its core.” Says David Erwalt from Forbes Magazine. And he is right: if this thing kicks off and has finally a release date and price, it will change everything we know about consuming digital media in an instant. So maybe you should hold off on that purchase of a new TV set for now. The future is just a (magic) leap away.

Augmented reality milestones

The first marketing initiatives with augmented reality (AR) appeared in Germany around the year 2011. Back then, Plan.Net integrated AR functions in a campaign for the special interest channel Syfy, for example. Posters were impressively brought to life using the technology available at the time from the Munich-based company Metaio.

Ever since, individual projects involving augmented reality were implemented every now and then, but the big breakthrough failed to materialise. Yet last year, AR suddenly became a hot topic of conversation again thanks to Pokemon Go. Augmented Reality was euphorically celebrated by marketing experts – they believed this would be the breakthrough. But this certainly was not the case. There was enormous hype surrounding Pokemon Go, but AR barely received a mention. Instead, it was virtual reality that appeared on the scene and drew the attention with HTC, Sony and Oculus hardware, associated with lots of interesting application scenarios. However, VR has so far more remained a good option for local productions or audiences enthusiastic about technology.

By releasing ARKit, Apple is now achieving another dimension. Hidden within the system is the software that Metaio from Munich have been enhancing since 2011; it is now much more accessible to all Apple developers and can be implemented even more easily in iOS apps.

With great joy and excitement, we relied on the new options available in the recently founded Plan.Net Innovation Studio – and we certainly haven’t been disappointed by the beta version of the ARKit which is currently still available. Habitually good software documentation provides the user with a quick introduction to the available options and therefore makes it as easy as possible to understand the world of AR.

Even though the beta version published by Apple in June still appears to be somewhat limited in terms of technical functionality, in a short space of time we have already explored many exciting applications and have used them to improve the first customer projects. The application examples range from AR-based navigation, to the placement of virtual furniture and the first mixed reality examples. A flood of ARKit-supported apps can certainly be anticipated in the App Store when iOS 11 is released.

Source: Apple

It will take some time before the full potential of the platform can be exploited. There is certainly still a functional gap when it comes to location-based data layers (Location Based Services). But Apple will probably add other functions soon and upgrade one or two components with new iPhone hardware before long.

Nevertheless, the options in existing devices are already very promising – and with around 380 million supported devices currently in circulation, the target audience isn’t exactly small.

The next anticipated milestone is certainly like to keep us in suspense: when will augmented reality applications continue to go beyond the constraints of smartphones and find their way into everyday glasses and lenses? Once this has been achieved, the gap between hardware obstacles and available data will be closed and everyone will be immediately able to access surrounding information in any place. About buildings, artwork, people, products.

A world of unlimited networking that we can help to shape both constructively and critically. We are certainly looking forward to this time!

Trends 2017 from the Middle East


Technology and education is on the rise, with companies like IBM and Apple working hand in hand to release Watson Element in a bid to help teachers gain insights into individual learning behaviors. In Dubai, the vision of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to provide “NEW GENERATIONS with the skills needed for the future” is prompting VR giant, Samsung, to seek content cooperation partners like Serviceplan to create VR experiences in both the classroom and the workplace. Brands can take advantage of AR and VR by creating content, instead of merely looking at devices to push content through. This will be a tall order for VR and AR content creators, as International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that the augmented and virtual reality market for the Middle East and Africa will grow robustly over the next five years, projecting annual growth rates of more than 100 per cent by 2020.


Realtime Influencer Markting will now, more than ever, require brands to slowly give up creative control. With new social tools like Facebook Live and Instagram Stories now available to supplement Snapchat, transparency between brands and influencers, as well as authenticity in influencer content, will become more apparent in 2017. Brands will want to see immediacy in content, regardless of its ephemeral nature, but will, in turn, require statistics behind it. This means shorter lead-times to conceptualize and create content, giving influencers more control of the pieces they publish. Consequently, influencers will start choosing to collaborate only with brands that allow them to stay true to their personalities, and to maintain the core of their online following. With real-time now invading our social spaces, influencer authenticity will replace influencer popularity. Brands will come to realize that fame does not necessarily equate to quality, and that quality, served to a smaller, more targeted audience will hold more value and influence. Other, more established brands will revert to celebrities over mere influencers, if only to defy the already dizzying predominance of so-called “social voices”. Dubai’s clever use of Sharuk Khan in its latest promotional film is one such example.


Today, attention is a rising commodity in itself, as smartphones have left humans with such short attention spans that there is only a 3-5 second window of opportunity to grab the consumer’s attention. This change in consumer behavior places increased value on content marketing with short video at its core. In this new landscape, social platforms are assuming the role traditionally occupied by broadcast media. Brands and marketers should start looking into innovative content that would make their platforms more and more relevant to the already hooked Arab audience. Live video, for one, is now being experimented with by brands (primarily from owned events to amplify reach) and this will be utilized even more in 2017.