Google I/O: Better-Connected World, Greater Advertising

My head is spinning. The Google I/O conference is still in progress, yet my brain can’t process another line of code.

When it comes to “seamless integration” with the world around us, I don’t think there’s an area of our lives Google did not address in yesterday’s keynote, whilst serving up a side order of “sensory overload.”

By connecting each of us to each other, and to our gadgets, Google is effectively “burrowing” into the bedrock of our modern lives faster and more encompassing than any of their competitors. At least for the foreseeable future.

As an iPhone user, my first thought when witnessing all this amazing new technology, was simply, “wow.”

I wonder if the folks at Apple feel the same? As an Apple “loyalist,” it feels like the time I was showing off my new Big Wheels, until the kid across the street came along in his new, motorized Go-Kart. The tectonic plates of power are definitely shifting under our feet as we speak.

With Android’s new operating system “Lollipop,” no matter if you’re driving in Death Valley, working out at the gym, or attending a house party in the Hamptons, your ability to stay seamlessly connected – be it on your wrist, in your car, or on your flat screen – has implications that boggle the mind.

Of course, the more you’re “connected,” the more chances advertisers have to sell you their wares. And, after witnessing the potential of Android “L” (short for Lollipop) they have to be salivating at the prospect. From the looks of it, the only way to be safe from the ever-extending reach of Madison Avenue will be by lowering yourself down a well. And, aside from the “wherever/whenever” angle, Google has (intentionally?) introduced a myriad of other ways advertisers can/will profit.

For instance, the “Pinterest” feature of Google’s new LG G-Watch is particularly interesting, as it enables the app to tell you if you’re near a particular restaurant or shop a friend has previously tagged. Obviously, if you trust that friend’s opinion, you may change your plans and stop in for a bite or end up browsing through the store, thereby increasing that establishment’s foot traffic.

To me, the most impressive area of improvement is in your car. The new Android Auto is the in-car infotainment system that everyone has been waiting for. And Google’s Open Automotive Alliance, too, allows any developer to code without having to worry about different/incompatible platforms between companies/devices. With more than 40 manufacturers all around the world already signed up, it’s the technology world’s version of MIDI.

However, while removing the urge to reach for your phone while driving will no doubt save lives, the one thing that gives me pause is an advertiser’s ability to reach you with visual ads in your car. Though, if they thought of all this, they must have some sort of safety feature in place for that.

As far as your television goes, Google’s Android TV has it all figured out. Everything from the YouTube video your friend wants to share with the room to your phone’s photo album can instantly beam to your flat screen. Though, as we speak, already having 80 or so icons to choose from on my current TV makes my head want to explode, thus, I shudder to think what 100 more options will look like. It would be great if they allow you to simplify your home screen with just the eight to 10 icons you use most. I’m a minimalist.

Commenting on yesterday’s product announcements, Shenan Reed, president of digital at MEC North America, says, “The connected home is a very interesting topic. The more we understand about a consumer’s behavior, while not including personally identifiable information (PII), the smarter our advertising dollars can be. Less waste, more value to the consumer, and better results for the advertisers. A fully connected home (as I am hoping to have in my own in the near future) is an amazing opportunity for advertisers.”

So while Google’s new product launches all seem very exciting for all, there seems to be a certain level of irony in all of this. Is it just me, or, while Google is setting about their mission of making everything we do “simpler,” are things, in fact, getting more complicated? And not just from a technological angle.

If, indeed, advertisers are gaining more control over everything we do and see in our daily lives, what will it mean for free enterprise/thought if one company controls the advertisers? Will there even be “free enterprise” at that point?

Technological wizardry aside, the thing that impressed me most about yesterday’s Google keynote was that there were 8 percent more women in attendance this year than last. Congratulations, girls. You, too, can be nerds.

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