Tech Profile: CrowdOptic

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



crowdopticWhat is CrowdOptic, and how did you and your team get started in this field?

CrowdOptic has developed and launched a mobile technology that joins fans into live discussions based on where they point their smart phone cameras.

CrowdOptic was established in 2010 by Jon Fisher and other CrowdOptic founders based on the recognition that the mathematical principle of triangulation (if two points are known, a third can be calculated) could be used in smart phones to display, tag and analyze the location of where people are looking. We extend location-based services to include focus. Our platform identifies "clusters,” which is what we call the groups of fans watching the same action at the same time during live events. Our first tracking use cases were blimps, but they now include sports venues with 80,000 or more fans, where we track fighter jets, race cars and other fast-moving objects. So we have come a long way.

How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize CrowdOptic to create better end-results for its clients? How are brands currently using the service?

CrowdOptic is currently helping some of the biggest consumer and social media brands become a bigger part of the event through analytics — the cumulative and dynamic ‘attention’ of fans at an event. We provide brands with a ‘heat map’ on a dashboard that tracks the cumulative use of phones dynamically. To enhance the value for companies, we also provide content curation tools to allow sponsors to understand more about the groups of fans who are forming clusters.

Our technology allows promoters and media publishers to instantly whittle down the fire hose of social media posts, photos and videos generated by fans in an 80,000-person stadium to the few who are truly relevant to their broadcast and coverage. A location feature alone can't do this.

Another use case is analytics: crowds can "signal” in real time where the interest and momentum are shifting and how they are following the action. Through an expansive ecosystem, which includes a growing base of partners who have developed applications and interconnections on top of our platform, CrowdOptic authenticates and curates the social media, photo and video created by the fans in the cluster as stand-alone data objects upon which partner applications can draw to leverage an entirely unique stream of crowd-sourced content.

Brands are using the service to hyper-target ads and useful information to fans based on the fans’ attention and interest, which is displayed dynamically by the technology.

What trends and changes in the market led you to realize that CrowdOptic would fill a void?

In-venue crowds are decreasing as the home viewing environment improves and the costs of events continues to increase. Fans attending the game also want to have a more engaging and customized experience.

Mobile use is increasing rapidly. The Olympics proved categorically that fans are happy to watch and engage in sports through mobile, and fans at an event want to tell people what it’s like to be there. This is driving more viewing from home, so there is a real dynamic developing around tying the authenticated in-venue audience with the fans at home.

This is all leading to more social interaction around events. We will play a central role in helping sponsors develop campaigns for mobile advertising by allowing sponsors to target fans who are ready, willing and able to listen to brand messaging because of our ability to track what the fan is actually looking at during an event.

What is CrowdOptic’s cluster recognition technology? How does it work and why do you think this is an essential part of CrowdOptic’s location-based augmented reality service?

CrowdOptic defines a cluster as two or more overlapping lines of sight detected through a smart phone. CrowdOptic was the first to recognize that one could develop a technology platform around the principle of triangulation, the mathematical principle that allows one to calculate the exact location of a third point if two points are known.

crowdoptic-clusterThus, if the locations of two or more users are known (through GPS), CrowdOptic can calculate, tag, analyze and curate the point of intersection of fans looking through their smart phones at an event or in the community.

CrowdOptic leverages technologies resident in smart phones such as GPS, compass and tilt (accelerometers), and it combines these technologies with its own proprietary algorithms to create a new way to track interest of fans anywhere.

Eyewitnesses form a cluster of crowd focus and can share their comments, photos and videos with each other and the rest of the world.

Location is good. Focus is better. Focus allows the fan to engage with ads that are personalized based on what the fan finds interesting.

You recently worked with the Yahoo! Connected TV communication platform to create a live stream of content alongside video. How did this work and what made Yahoo interested in enhancing its technology with CrowdOptic?

CrowdOptic’s product for the NASCAR Toyota Save Mart 350 event was called "Sonoma Raceway Chatter.” Chatter powered a split-screen experience in which Chatter content — pictures and comments by fans at the race — was displayed alongside the television broadcast. Crowd-sourced photos, videos and social media content were available for fans at home through the CrowdOptic apps created for Connected TV, smart phone and tablet platforms. Within the apps, NASCAR fans at home could browse the Chatter content and interact directly with other fans at the race through the ConnectedTV user interface.

Yahoo and other technology companies realize that sport viewing — both in-venue and at home — is changing rapidly and that new technologies can connect the audience at the event with those viewing from home, bars and restaurants.

How do you think that mobile augmented reality is changing the way brands and agencies can interact with and engage consumers?

Augmented reality provides more information about what a consumer is interested in, and therefore it increases the ability to customize experiences that engage and interest a consumer. CrowdOptic believes its focus-based services provide the most meaningful information about what a mobile user is interested in because clusters are able to detect what a fan is looking at in real time.

Augmented reality provides information to consumers, and it allows sponsors to engage in content via gamification and other strategies. CrowdOptic starts with AR and extends it with focus by allowing sponsors to build programs around what fans are interested in; we provide analytics to allow sponsors to see the fruits of these efforts.

How do you think augmented reality will evolve in the next three years?

Technologies that continue to push the envelope in ‘sensing’ and anticipating what a consumer would want to know at particular venues, based on the consumer’s particular phenotype at a particular time of day. Think Google Goggles and other dynamic approaches to the AR experience.

CrowdOptic sees these efforts as all good, as ‘focus’ is the logical extension of location and we are building our value around the analytics of this natural progression.

What does the future of CrowdOptic look like?

We will partner with enterprise players to provide our analytics comprehensively. Between increasing sales of smart phones and increased usage of mobile phone consumers, mobile phone traffic is expected to have a fifty-fold increase by 2016. CrowdOptic’s role will be to detect, tag, curate and filter the meaningful insights of crowds both in stadiums and, in the future, in the general community. We expect to do this by deploying broadly with enterprise players.

james-kovachDr. James Kovach is the COO of CrowdOptic. He holds a medical degree from the University of Kentucky and law degree from Stanford University. He attained his medical degree during a seven-year career as an NFL linebacker (1979-1985) with the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.

Prior to CrowdOptic, Dr. Kovach was president and COO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, an independent research institute conducting basic research on the biological process of aging and its connection to chronic disease.

Dr. Kovach also is the co-founder of Athleticode, a company providing athletes and their physicians with technologies to improve return to play after traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Kovach also has served as COO of Athersys, a publicly traded biotechnology company, and director of the Office of Technology Management at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

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