During my marketing career I have undertaken a number of innovative marketing projects. I have been fortunate to work at GXS where the small team size and entrepreneurial style of marketing allowed me to experiment with a number of marketing ideas. In fact innovation is something that I have been keen to introduce into many of my marketing projects over the years. I have discussed some of these projects in other pages of this section of the website, here are a few more examples.
@GXS Industry News Mobile App
Given my participation in various social media websites I was keen to try and leverage this content in different ways. As a long term user of Twitter I wanted to find a way of displaying industry related tweets in a much more user friendly environment. I wanted to try and develop an app that looked and felt like ‘Flipboard’, providing a magazine look and feel to navigating through industry related Twitter content.
I looked around the market to find a suitable mobile app development agency that I could work with. I chose UK based Locassa to help me develop the GXS Industry focused mobile app. The app was very simple to use and relied on a hashtag coding system to help the app decide where to place specific industry content. For example automotive tweets would include #auto and technology focused tweets would include #tech hashtags. The app would then read various GXS industry twitter feeds, extract the relevant tweet content and then populate the relevant industry section within the app.
The @GXS app worked perfectly well but has been somewhat hampered by Twitter’s continuous API updates which has slightly affected usage rates. That said the app worked as originally intended and I worked closely with Locassa to develop the app, full credit to the agency as they managed to translate my original specification into a fully working app. As you navigate through each industry section and then into each article you then had the option of sharing the article via social media channels.
Visual Content Viewer
GXS Marketing decided to run a hackathon project to try and develop and nurture innovation across the marketing team. The purpose of the Hackathon was to allow team members to come up with new ideas and provide a platform to showcase innovation across the team. Hackathons are widely used across the computer software industry to encourage programmers to come up with new software. The marketing hackathon worked in exactly the same way. For the first year I ran one of the teams which involved providing guidance to the team members on how to use various pieces of technology or social media to deliver their projects.
For the second year I entered my own project and I wanted to try something that had never been done before. I have always been impressed with the many different ways in which Google Maps have been used for different applications. What I wanted to do for my project was see if I could use a Google map to access marketing content. For the purposes of this particular hackathon I wanted to use a map as a way of navigating through customer related case studies. Given that case studies are normally related to a customer where their HQ location is known you can very quickly associate mapping ‘pins’ across the customer locations.
The map below shows a few pins that have been grouped as either case studies, webinars or video interviews.
As you zoom into each location and then click on a pin you can then read a brief introduction about the piece of collateral associated with the pin and then view the piece of content. In the example below launching a case study based on the steel maker, Arcelor Mittal.
I also decided to provide some ideas on how the map concept could be extended to offer other functionality. GXS operates one of the largest B2B networks in the World. Trading Grid helps to connect over 600,000 trading partners around the world. What I wanted to do was see if a map could be used to provide a visual way to navigate through the trading partners connected to Trading Grid and the 16billion transactions that were flowing across the network each year. This is clearly a Big Data type of initiative and anything that can help digest the transactions flowing across the network would make life easier for both GXS and their customers. A few use cases are highlighted below, click on the thumb nail images to enlarge:
Using the GXS customer billing list it would be possible to assign a pin to each customer based on their office locations and also the industry that they serve. Using the view layer facility within Google Maps you can very quickly filter customers by industry and see which industries are the most popular across each country that GXS serves.
In a similar way, the same billing list provides information on all the products and services being used by a customer and hence you can apply coloured pins based on the type of product or service being used. It provides a great way to visually report on product usage around the world.
In addition to industry and product based mapping another important area is in the area of trading partner analytics. For example of the 16billion transactions being processed each year how many are e-Invoices, purchase orders or advance shipping notices?. By interfacing with Trading Grid and monitoring the transactions you could quickly determine the volume of transactions flowing, either by message type or per country.
The final example shown to the left allows you to overlay the map with a trading partner network. This is an incredibly useful way to visualise a supply chain and see how suppliers are not only connected to their customers but where they are located. During a period of supply chain disruption, this type of visualisation provides a great way to look for single points of weakness across a supply chain and more importantly identify alternative suppliers quickly.
Active Track 3D
I originally developed this idea as an April Fool’s Day joke in 2013, but interestingly most of the technology to achieve this capability actually exists on the market today. Many supply chains suffer from counterfeit goods working their way into logistics networks. It is possible to produce counterfeit shipping labels to aid the introduction of counterfeit goods or parts to a supply chain and what I wanted to do here was introduce a new type of shipping label based on augmented reality. Even with RFID tags that are currently used on today’s shipments, you still need a way to read these tags as goods pass across the supply chain and a truly global network of RFID readers still does not exist today.
Active Track 3D addresses these challenges, namely to the naked eye you cannot see the actual shipment details, you need to use a special mobile app that would scan a specially treated metallic label. As you place the mobile device over the label it would be scanned and a 3D cube would be displayed on the phone, which could be rotated to reveal different pieces of shipment information on each surface of the cube. Given that mobile devices are almost used everywhere today and in co-operation with a secure app you could easily keep track of shipments, as each scan of the label would be sent to a centralised supply chain visibility solution.
OK, so this is purely conceptual in nature, but what it does demonstrate is my approach to thinking about a problem and how technology could potentially be applied to address the issue at hand. Given that augmented reality solutions are now starting to enter the market I am sure it won’t be too long before applications such as this one are developed.
Google Glass Based Warehouse and Logistics App
This is another example of how I can develop thought leadership when it comes to identifying applications for new technology. In this example using Google Glass to help warehouse pickers to not only locate goods within a warehouse but to be able to scan bar codes and then read shipment or product information within Glass. Even though Google Glass is relatively expensive it does provide a great way to assist manual warehouse workers with their day to day task of locating and managing goods within a warehouse.
‘Facebook for Machines’
In October 2013 I attended the Internet of Things World Forum hosted by Cisco in Barcelona. During this conference I heard about how connected devices in the future could potentially have their own avatar. This idea was only mentioned but no one had actually developed a concept idea as to how this could work. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to apply some creative license as to how I thought this concept could work in reality.
I mocked up the image above, click to enlarge, to show how each machine connected to the Internet of Things could send and receive information through what in simple terms is a Facebook for Machines. Today, each piece of Caterpillar equipment is shipped with a WiFi connection to help fault find or to undertake remote diagnostics. In the image above I have highlighted that within the excavator there are 252 internal machines that are able to send and receive information. This could be performance related information for example. The excavator is also connected to 1459 other Caterpillar machines.
Now what if the engine detects a problem with a blocked air filter. The engine would post a standard message to the profile saying that there is a problem with the filter and it has also tagged the supplier of the filter, namely Donaldson. So the supplier indirectly gets notified of the problem filter and they can then arrange to ship a replacement filter to the location of the excavator, which is also mentioned on the profile. So this is purely a hyperthetical example but just think for a moment about all the information that will come from connected devices or machines in the future, this Big Data will need processing and managing and given social networks are now a part of every day life, why shouldn’t there be a similar network for machines? The blog associated with this concept idea can be found by Clicking Here
Food for thought and this is a great example of how I look for creative solutions to problems, even if the problem does not even exist yet!