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How Brands Can Use Biometric Data in Ways That Go Far Beyond Fitness


Exercise has been the most natural area for branded applications of biometric data. But now, Mindshare and Lightwave are joining forces to show marketers a world of possibility beyond that—in a partnership that kicks off this month with a group experiment at the Cannes Lions festival.

The two companies will give out 35 Apple Watches at a Cannes session on Monday, June 22. The watches will constantly measure the biometric data of the users, such as heart rate and temperature, along with other data, such as location. Mindshare and Lightwave will gather that data for three days—and then analyze it, including live visualizations, at a second session on Thursday, June 25, during the Innovation Lions mini-festival.

The goal of "The Pulse of Cannes" is to get the industry buzzing about the potential of the technology to do more than count steps or calories burned. Indeed, the partnership between Mindshare and Lightwave is about using sensor data through biometric applications to give consumers better experiences across all sorts of situations. For Mindshare clients, this will bolster what the agency calls adaptive marketing—allowing them to tailor their activities to meet customers' interests and needs based on data.

"We imagine a future where where, based on who's in the room at the time, we know what music people danced the hardest to, and so the playlist is dynamically updated to reflect those songs. Or the lighting in the room is affected by your mood," says Lightwave CEO Rana June. "We've never seen this at scale, so it's a little hard to imagine. But we really think, now that the Apple Watch is out, that this is really going to change the way we think about sensors in our daily life."

Lightwave pioneered a technology platform that uses sensor-equipped wristbands to draw real-time data from people in specific situations. At South by Southwest in 2014, it organized a "bioreactive concert" for Pepsi, deejayed by A-Trak, that visualized the audience's reaction to the music in real time—even unlocking prizes when the crowd got particularly wild. It did another DJ project with Google in December, and has also worked with Gatorade.

Jeff Malmad, the head of mobile and Life+ (the wearables unit) at Mindshare North America, said Lightwave was ahead of any other potential partner in the space.

"What we talk about all the time here is that the ultimate wearable is your smartphone. And the ultimate companion is the smartwatch and wearable. We equate that to Batman and Robin. Batman's the smartphone, Robin's the smartwatch," Malmad said. "Being able to get the data from the watch and the phone simultaneously and create better and more adaptive experiences is something that's just going to grow in importance for brands. And that's why we partnered with Lightwave, because they're the ones that can help us make that a reality faster than anybody else."

Mindshare and Lightwave have two client programs in the works. They wouldn't disclose the companies or even the categories yet, though June promised they are "by far the coolest programs that we've ever done."

For now, they want to galvanize Cannes delegates and show them that the power to target marketing messages in real time using biometrics has never been greater.

"We've all seen a lot of stuff in this space that is very basic," said June. "And that's great. The foundation of it is going to be the simplest use case of it. But we are now entering a time when things that were the stuff of dreams for marketers are starting to happen."

She pointed to the accelerometer inside mobile phones as a simple example. "It's a very inexpensive sensor. I have my phone, and I turn it from portrait to landscape mode. That is a use of an accelerometer that is very simple," she said. "But the idea of using accelerometers at scale—then you know how hard people are dancing at a concert, or how much they're cheering for their team, all these kinds of more human insights. It's not about quantifying our experiences. It's about what makes us human."

Location is another big one, she said. And even more interesting is when you start to combine location with accelerometer data, plus heart rate, temperature and so on.

"The accelerometer is measuring motion, but as it turns out, when people are very engaged in something, they actually tend to be very still, because they're focused," June said. "So when we're looking at these insights, it's actually more interesting for us when there's no accelerometer data than when there's lots of it. We've never been able, as as an industry, to look at these kinds of things across daily life."

Or say you're at a sporting event. "We're noticing that the temperature outside has risen two degrees, and we know there's a lot of physical activity and that this is actually creating an uncomfortable environment," said June. "That is not the same as targeting someone who's on a workout. It's about a broader experience. Let's say a beverage brand is able to distribute a drink. There's just a lot of opportunities that are created by having an extra layer of intelligence that's very actionable."

Malmad gave another example.

"I did a ton of working out this morning and I didn't drink enough fluids. And later in the day I happen to be in a location that's very hot," he said. "The messages that could be delivered to me, based on opting in, could be very, very informative, as it relates to optimizing my energy level. What should I be eating? What should I be eating less of to get me a better overall workout, or just a better overall experience through the day? Stuff like that we couldn't do before. But now, with opting in and being able to target the messages to people in real time, it's never been more powerful."

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