About Darren Johnson

Regional Business Manager and Vice President Personalized Imaging Business, European and Middle Eastern Region

CES – Drones, Phones and Wearabletech!

For those of you unfamiliar with CES it’s the annual Consumer Electronics show and the Hollywood of Tech. A glitzy VIP club for the latest shiny new things. It sends the press into hyperbole and brings out the techno-geek in all of us. Of course Las Vegas is the perfect backdrop – an incongruous fantasy world in the middle of the desert (a description that could apply equally to both show and city). The combination is quite overpowering, yet seductive enough to attract 150,000 visitors annually. After four shows I’m still not sure whether I love it or hate it – either way there’s no doubting its credentials to fuel the imagination in ways few other shows can match.

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The Strip at night.

2014 was the largest in history with 2 million square feet of exhibit space and over 3200 exhibitors. It is simply stellar in dimension. This year the pretty young things were hailed as wearable tech, drones, 3D printing, next gen smart phones and the Internet of Things to name a few. All exciting opportunities no doubt, but time will tell which live up to the promise. That 3D printing and wearable tech have been around for decades didn’t seem to matter; this year both technologies had evolved to a futuristic sexiness that demanded attention.

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South Hall Entrance

Wearables had been catapulted to stardom by the booming smartphone and app market and just needed the sensors to catch up. Perhaps I should be more interested in how long I’ve sat down and how many calories I’ve burnt, but what would I do with the information bar feel a little guilty about my second piece of toast? The real potential of wearable tech is still waiting in the wings. Imagine a comprehensive health monitor that diagnoses all manner of health problems before they arise – now that sounds useful, but still only scratching the surface as just about everything we use evolves into a connected network.

So we enter the surreal Internet of Things. A rather expansive term attributed to the British technologist Kevin Ashton, encapsulating the concept that everyday objects are now connecting to the internet. Each one uniquely identifiable, accessible, controllable and working silently in the background to make life better. (At least I hope that’s the outcome). And the machines manage themselves. M2M or Machine to Machine technology is growing with google-like determination, with IDC forecasting 212 billion connected things by 2020 and over 30billion autonomous things. Whether the thought of things controlling things without human intervention fills you with wonder or something less savory, it is going to happen and will be one of the biggest revolutions over the horizon. All part of the BIG DATA phenomenon.

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The LV Monorail – every 4 minutes to the show at peak times

3D printing in the home is an impossibly exciting prospect, but what would I print? It’s too slow and expensive for things that can be mass produced – if you wanted a new plastic fork, you’d just buy one. No, the value of 3D printing, at least in the short term, is to create something unique. The prototype and hobbyist market is booming whilst personalization of objects has yet to find mainstream appeal, but watch this space…!

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3D printed models (hand painted) at the 3D systems booth

And so to Kodak Alaris. This was our first CES as the new company. As I entered the foyer to the South Hall and climbed the escalator, a Kodak Moments sign hove into view. We had secured prime position at the hall entrance – it could not have been better sited.

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The Kodak Moments Print Place

The team was busy setting up an array of kiosks and mobile printing sales collateral. I continued on to our conference room suite and demo facilities in Hall 4 of the South Hall next to Google. (Incidentally – it is always a source of amazement to me how the show floor moves from utter mess to pristine overnight.)

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South Hall the day before opening.

Our show message was mobile. A third of the world’s population will have a smartphone with a hi-res camera by 2017 – already the preferred way of capturing planned as well as spontaneous photos. Gartner estimates total app downloads tripped past 100 billion in 2013. The number of digital images in existence is now estimated at over 2 trillion and growing fast. And each time we make it easier for consumers to print and do more with their images from smartphones we see a step change upwards in printing. Already we have accounts with over 20% of orders from Mobile devices. Our My Kodak Moments app passed 3 million downloads in December, and in October last year we took the bold step of allowing any developer to add Kodak printing capability to existing and new photo based apps with the launch of the Kodak Photo Service.  We now have seven partner apps live giving a total of 14million app downloads available to print.

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Image from CNN article 8th Jan 2014

Our message at the show was simple. You can now print easily from your mobile devices wherever you are – and the Kodak connected infrastructure and range of apps able to do this is growing all the time.

On the first day of the show the severe east coast weather was still making headlines. I was delayed a day travelling over and with 17,000 flights cancelled the prior week;there was no doubt early attendance was affected. It quickly picked up on Day two though as airlines worked their way through Atlantic quantities of de-icer and got the US moving again.

The lobby booth was a storming success and bustling with activity from dawn till dusk every day. Feedback was unanimously positive and we have a great opportunity to further expand our touchpoints, connected retail distribution and awareness. Our open platform mobile strategy in this space has been well received by press and customers alike and there is much to play for over the coming months.

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Karen Hoff -  in control at the lobby booth!

Finally I would like to thank our tireless team who really did a wonderful job in the planning and execution of our CES presence – it was a great success! The next show is the big one for our industry – Photokina, which takes place in September at Cologne. Look forward to sharing the experience as it happens, it’s sure to be a something special

Best wishes to all for 2014!

Darren

KODAK Photo Service

Greetings from San Francisco. Yesterday was a pretty exciting day here. First (and most importantly), I was lucky enough to celebrate 25 years of marriage to a fantastic woman. That, in and of itself, made yesterday great.

Second, on the professional front, we introduced the KODAK Photo Service at the first ever Mobile Photo Connect conference. When Kodak Alaris first formed, we committed ourselves to thinking of new ways to drive business opportunities and revenue for our partners in the imaging business.  KODAK Photo Service is just that. It takes the core competencies of Kodak Alaris, our retail partners and the roster of creative content developers and brings them together to create a solution that bridges the digital and physical worlds.

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But how? And more importantly, why?

Let’s start with the why. Hans Hartman, the host of yesterday’s conference, shared some compelling data. Today, there are more than 28,000 photo and video apps. Of the top photo and video apps, 90% are photo apps. Yet only 1% of those apps offer printing capabilities, mostly because setting up the infrastructure for printing and payment can be pretty complicated. So you have these insanely talented developers creating incredibly popular applications that remain trapped in a digital world, with limited opportunities to extract revenue from their brilliant ideas and execution.

That’s on the app side of the equation. On the other side, we have our retailer partners. We have more than 100,000 kiosks globally. In these locations, we have retail partners with the equipment, expertise and infrastructure to create high-quality output from this treasured digital content.

At the same time, consumers have said “we’ll print, but you have to make it easy.” Last year, we entered the market with our own apps to test that theory – if we created an easy-to-use connection between consumers’ mobile devices and the retail environment, would consumers print more? The answer is a resounding yes. We’ve seen more than 1 million downloads of our apps and our retailer partners who have implemented our wireless connectivity have seen a significant increase in sales of premium products.

Creating the apps gave us fantastic insight into consumer behavior. Yet our core strength lies in our high-quality KODAK Picture Kiosks, KODAK Printers and a proven, global net-to-retail infrastructure. Therefore, we realized that we could create the bridge – between the digital and physical world. Between content providers and retail partners. Which brings us to how.

With the KODAK Photo Service, we’ve opened our KODAK Network Services APIs, which allows content providers to write to our API and create a simple print-to-store option for their consumers. At the same time, they gain access to our global, trusted network and relationships with multiple retail partners. Think about it – by writing to a single API and choosing from one of two business models, content providers gain access to thousands of consumer touch points and a new revenue stream. No worries about payment. No need to create multiple agreements with multiple stores and locations. No need for marketing plans. We’re excited to have the developers listed here as part of the program launch and look forward to adding more names in the coming weeks and months.

Now, consumers who create content using any of these apps can transmit this content to their local retailer, where they will pick up and pay. For retailers, it builds volume, revenue and relevance as the imaging space evolves. Retailers participating in this program include Target and Bartell Drugs in the US. Also, dm-drogerie markt in Germany intends to join the program in time for the holidays, with more retailers expected to join globally in the coming months.

For more information on joining the KODAK Photo Service program, please visit https://www.kodakdeveloper.com

The New Retail Era

Hans Hartman, Principle Analyst at Suite 48 Analytics, recently conducted research on photo purchasing behavior among smart phone users.  Among the key findings of Hartman’s research is the following:

The biggest bottleneck for this new generation of photo app users is not the quality of smartphone photos, as is often assumed. Only 13% of the photo app users stated that the quality of photos from their smartphone has held them back from ordering photo products. It turns out the bigger problem is a lack of innovative photo product creation and ordering apps, coupled with cumbersome creation and ordering workflows.

Hartman assets that it not a lack of interest in printing that dissuades younger and older generations from printing, but rather the lack of a workflow that mirrors their lifestyle and way of interacting with their content, including images.  Even those smartphone users older than 25 years old seek ways of tapping into their content on their smartphones that untethers them from the desktop, USBs sticks and clunky workflows.

The need to untether consumers from the desktop takes on even greater urgency as smart phones and tablet sales overtook PC sales in 2012. At the same time, mobile media growth is outpacing other forms of media, including TV, radio and even online by almost 2:1, according to Tomi Ahonen Consulting. Therefore, to reach the consumer with compelling offerings, retailers need offerings that fit in the connected environment in which the consumer lives.

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Coinciding with this technology shift, we’re also seeing a cultural shift and the birth of a new social collective.  The exponential growth of social networks has redefined the process by which consumers choose how to consume and what to consume.  

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Source: Rachel Botsman, http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com Feb 2013

The combination of technology enablers and this cultural shift requires a retail revolution in this networked age.  Earlier on this blog, Ed Monahan, in relation to the professional photography market, said “As an industry, we need to meet today’s consumers on their terms.” In the retail space, we need to do the same. This decade will continue to reset the retail experience. How consumers shop, when they shop – consumers want to be able buy anything, from anywhere, at any time.

Against this backdrop, we’re investing in solutions that  “free” valuable content from our consumers’ smart phones and tablets, via our retail solutions, and meet consumers at their primary engagements points.  

Last year at Photokina, we introduced a series of applications that help our retail partners meet the consumers at this key intersection point.  The apps include our Kiosk Connect App, which lets users create and print customizable gifts, including KODAK Photo Books, KODAK Personal Greeting Cards, calendars, photo cards, collages and prints, within minutes after wirelessly transferring their images to the KODAK Picture Kiosk.  We also tapped into the growth of social networks and introduced the My KODAK Moments Facebook App, that lets consumers tap the wealth of photos, including square Instagram prints, create photo books and prints.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IOHgv_XSos

This is just the start. In coming months, we’ll bring new solutions and programs to the industry that work to harness the power of both this technology shift and consumer behavior. By harnessing this power, we hope to help our retail partners not only adapt to this new retail reality, but also thrive and grow.