R&R Partners’ Corporate Director of Measurement and Insight Justin Gilbert co-authored this article.

In case you have been amidst a social media cleanse, SXSW just wrapped up in Austin. It is a weeklong tech, music and film festival that takes place every March, and attendees discuss the future of technology, eat great barbecue and listen to emerging artists. The interactive portion was attended by 32,798 people this year, and we stood in line with the best of them − we even got into a few sessions and saw some pretty cool stuff along the way.

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Tech Trends

The buzz this year was all about Meerkat, a two-week-old, live-streaming app that generated 100,000 users at launch and came close to Twitter’s breakthrough presence at SXSW in 2007. While the app lost access to Twitter’s network on the first day of the interactive festival and was then snubbed by Twitter in its acquisition of competitor app Periscope, it continues to see rapid user growth and press within the last week. Teleparty and Stre.am also aim to provide live-streaming services, leading to one of the key takeaways from this year, being that video is the name of the game in 2015. Tech and media companies alike are clambering at the opportunity to capitalize on the channel to connect with users in real time.

Similar to what we saw this year at CES, wearables are extending beyond the fitness industry into medical to enhance the user’s daily activities. The fashion world is beginning to use 3-D printing technology combined with smart textiles that can read and adapt to the wearer’s heart rate, including a material that transitions from opaque to sheer as the heart beats faster. Robots were also on full display, designed for a wide array of uses, including psychological counseling, journalism and teaching programming.

More than 1,000 beacons were deployed around SXSW, primarily for the purpose of helping attendees network. GE also used beacons to measure people’s brain activity while eating various types of BBQ to determine optimal temp and smoke levels. Proximity targeting and micro-location targeting are now allowing advertisers to interject themselves into “smart networking” around events or within retail locations, augmenting the RFID targeting that we’ve seen over the last few years.

Good Social & Social Good

Tinder created a fake profile for the main character in the film Ex Machina and had a bot carry on conversations with eager SXSW attendees, eventually directing them to an Instagram account with a video promoting the film. Also similar to CES, self-driving technology and connected cars were reviewed in various panels, events and discussions. Data analytics from connected cars are being leveraged to identify traffic patterns, optimize auto safety and as behavioral targeting segments for advertisers.

Social good was an integral part of the programming at SXSW, in addition to the companies showcased. Related to the robotics trend, several panels focused on the use of bionics and drone technology to assist in disaster/war areas, viral outbreaks and social issues. The United Nations hosted a session that discussed “Project 8,” an online research platform that helps the organization better anticipate and prepare for the needs of the global population, essentially leveraging social listening and data mining from a global perspective to identify changes in sentiment, communication trends and human needs. Mophie partnered with the St. Bernard Foundation to bring smartphone battery cases to people at SXSW with drained phones, while driving adoption awareness for the foundation.

Internet of Things

More than 70 sessions at SXSW mentioned the term “Internet of Things” or “IoT.” This latest buzz phrase defines a world of users connected by intelligent devices that offer a new convenience and functionality to day-to-day life. This lofty phrase intends to enhance life, not only on the individual level, but also on a global scale, leading to improvements in farming, medicine, clean water and smart cities.

So what does this mean to an already fragmented and saturated media landscape?

The proliferation of cloud integrated and smart consumer products is producing large amounts of real-time data that can be leveraged for future consumer product development and within ad-level targeting. This new digitally interwoven IoT ecosystem can better inform the marketer’s perspective of consumer habits, preferences and media consumption.

As the media landscape is becoming more saturated, SXSW Interactive’s panel conversations reiterated that while content is still king … it does not comprise a brand strategy on its own. Distribution of the content is key. Taking advantage of the efficient scale and frequency of interactive channels, combined with niche targeting capabilities, indicates that brands and agencies should be thinking digital first. Writers should not just write for broadcast − they should think of how a viewer consumes broadcast content simultaneously with social media and how both impact their subsequent Web-browsing behavior across all connected devices.

Data Empathy

This mass influx in consumer and device profiles also inevitably leads to data privacy issues and consumer distrust, making this one of the hottest topics at SXSW Interactive. Consumers fear how their information is collected, shared and used; they are becoming more aware of the profitably behind their information, while companies are struggling to maintain control over transactional data with third parties. Restoring consumer trust, coined as “data empathy,” and identifying ways to balance the respect for privacy and commercial use of data, is going to be one of the most important topics in the interactive industry for years to come. This topic within SXSW challenges us, as leaders in the industry, to consistently ask ourselves if what we are designing uses data to be consumer centric, granting ease of use and being adaptive to personal preferences, or if it is merely interruptive for the sake of cutting through the clutter.

To view the presentation shared at SXSW Interactive, visit its SlideShare.