SGMA Sports+Technology Convergence 2006: Technology is not the enemy

A host of speakers, keynotes and panelists converged, so to speak, at the first Sports+Technology Convergence by the SGMA in late October with the message -- underlying or blatant -- being technology savvy can work with and for the sporting goods community in many ways.
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A host of speakers, keynotes and panelists converged, so to speak, at the first Sports+Technology Convergence by the SGMA in late October with the message -- underlying or blatant -- being technology savvy can work with and for the sporting goods community in many ways.

"We are focusing on convergence," said Tom Cove, SGMA executive director. "That's the idea of this conference. We want our customers to embrace technology, make it their own."

SNEWS® continues its STC coverage with a summary of select presentations and keynotes.

Convergence with Technology to Enhance Sports Products
Scott Martin, Motorola, global director of marketing, Mobile ME products

Martin marched on stage wearing the RazrWire Oakley Sunglasses with built-in Blue Tooth headset, then proceeded to have a conversation with someone at Motorola.

"This is all about thinking differently," he said. "This is all about thinking differently for our industry. This is all about thinking differently for the sporting goods industry."

He described what he called the "Creative Class" of people, a group of media and artistic types mostly 18 to 29 years old who are what he called "life-stylists," who are those who grab the newest and coolest things. He stressed that if your devices and gear are just measuring something -- heart rate, speed, calories, etc. -- all you are letting the consumer do is practice. The convergence is about improving individual sports, performance and allowing multi-tasking.

Connectivity is also what's important, he said. He told attendees to expect the unexpected and to be prepared, since technology is hard to predict.

The Next 10 Years: Redefining the Retail-Manufacturer Experience
Jim Crawford, retail industry analyst

Crawford prompted attendees to think again as the keynote speaker at lunch the first day. The industry is under pressure, he said, and energy costs are a big part of that, as regulations are getting tougher. "Green is hot and green is sexy right now," he said, "but green is going to be mandatory in the future."

It's not just about organic cotton and fair-trade coffee, but reducing, reusing and recycling.

He also stressed that the customer is gaining more power and the industry needs to pay extra attention.

"The customer will always be in charge," Crawford said. He quoted Sam Walton of Wal-Mart as saying, "There is one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money elsewhere."

This means that companies need to focus on services and less on products since the retailers' job, as he put it, is to sell life-enhancing solutions. Customers don't need huge selection as much as they need customization and what they need to solve their desires.

And also growing in power is the web, allowing consumers to act globally, for example buying and shopping in Russia or anyplace else their hearts' desire.

The Velocity of Change
Jim Carroll, author, futurist, trends expert

When the first evening rolled around, Carroll managed to entertain and educate. The olden days, as he put it, aren't that long ago. Interesting too is how the olden days are getting closer. When baby boomers were young, olden days were a decade or two earlier; but for today's 20-somethings, the olden days are really only a few years ago since technology is moving so rapidly.

"It's happening faster than you think," he said. Extreme sports are a great example, he said. These days, someone can come up with something sporting, put it on the web and in a couple of years, it's being done around the world. "People are inventing the future all around you," he added.

Voicing something that other speakers said in one way or another, Carroll noted that it's the consumers who will invent the future before the industry does. What that means is the industry has to operate at "video game intensity." What does that mean? Some 40 percent to 60 percent of revenues from new Xbox games are earned in the first few days they come out.

The Acceleration of Technology and Its Impact on the Economy, Culture and Society
Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist

Once again we heard another presenter talk about how change is picking up.

"The pace of progress is not a constant," Kurzweil said. "It's accelerating, so the past is only a guide to the future if you take that into consideration."

He showed an invention that could change the world: A translator that listens to somebody's speech in one language and translates it conversationally into any other. The demo was of him speaking English and listening to it translated into German. SNEWS® can vouch for the accuracy since a team member speaks it. Then they switched into French, and not only was it accurate, but the accent was also astounding.

He forecast that by 2010 computers as we know them will disappear, at least in the large screen format we know. Instead, they will be in small screens and even shown on the inside of glasses or in front of our eyes. He also said there will be pills and nano-bots that will help somebody live longer, improve performance or lose weight without any effort. Of course, that prompted a question from a fitness equipment supplier about that killing the industry. No, he said, you still have to be healthier and move your body. But it will provide interesting debate about what is normal and what is allowed in sporting events.

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