Noel Hamill is Prevayl’s Chief Commercial Officer. We sat down with him to understand his experience in the technology sector, to gain insight into his vision for Prevayl®, and to find out what 2020 holds for the future of the tech industry.
What did you do before Prevayl?
Before Prevayl, I worked as the Chief Marketing Officer at Ladbrokes and Coral. This was an extremely interesting industry, which was very digital orientated and faced continual digital disruption.
Before that I consulted with Google and I was the Managing Director of Marketing for EE, the largest mobile company in the UK. All three were very different experiences.
EE was very much based around retention, providing leading edge technology to mobile users but the consumer customer experience was critical as well.
With Google I was involved with the launch of the Pixel product, reviewing their distribution and go-to market strategy. You’re looking at their consumer insights to help inform that. The Google Pixel was very successful and I am a loyal customer as well.
This came at a time when Apple was dominant, so Google had to get very sharp about why you would choose them and their product and what the benefits were. These included unlimited storage of photos and subsequently, photo recognition, specifically the ability to categorise photos through identification of the individual person. It was very innovative.
What first appealed to you about Prevayl?
When I first heard about the project it just sounded really exciting. I’ve been in the mobile, IOT, connected worlds space for a while. One of the first IOT projects I heard about was putting systems and sensors into your fridge to order immediately when you started running out of milk for example. It showed what was possible.
Now it’s migrated to people. The technology in its own right excites me, but it’s more about what you can do with the application of it.
I’m super interested in what wearable technology can do for business problems. To improve efficiency, enhance learnings, and make it better to work in certain industries. For example monitoring engineering field staff – the ability to monitor people to make sure that they’re okay and to advise them on what they can do to improve their wellness and their health. In a B2B construct that brings productivity gains to businesses and makes them more efficient, but also has numerous benefits for consumers.
What Prevayl is doing is super clever and it has definitely got that cool factor.
What excites you about innovation in the tech industry?
I’ve worked in technology for twenty years now. What I’ve learned is that innovation is actually the lifeblood of the industry.
Technology is a super incredible thing when it innovates constantly because it adds value to people’s lives.
For example technology such as fingerprint recognition and retina recognition with smartphones. This protects both the individuals and industries.
How will your previous experience impact your work at Prevayl?
The experience of mobile is particularly applicable in many areas as you’re building relationships. You’re collecting a lot of customer data and you have to create trust in those relationships and add value. You have to be extremely data-centric and insights-focused.
Gaming was a bit different. It was about instantaneous benefit. You must structure customer offers to stand out in an extremely competitive environment.
For our wearable tech to be applicable we have to do both of these things. Any new tech has to bring a new benefit with it. It’s crucial to be very precise on that.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges when launching new tech products?
The critical thing with launching technology is to not just look at the technology but to look at the consumers and the markets that you’re targeting. Understand your target market, define who your customers are and what attributes they have.
Focus on the need or problems that your technology is resolving. What problem are you fixing?
That means you’re coming at it from a customer perspective and not necessarily a technology push perspective. You then need to be super clear on the communications, so that potential customers understand the benefits and why they would want this technology.
It sounds like common sense but very few people and companies actually take the time to do it.
Technology also moves incredibly quickly, so you have to be flexible. Once the first version is out there, you have to move fast. If you don’t get it right on the second version, your competitors will. The mobile industry is a really good example of that because the companies that didn’t respond to the technology changes aren’t there today.
Now if you think of Nokia it has a kind-of romantic and historic feel, but it was bleeding edge technology at the time. They were really good on call data, but then people started using data applications and they weren’t as good. Apple came in and were much worse on call quality, but it didn’t matter.
Because of touchscreens, integrated advanced camera capability, and music, as well as the software, iPhones were iconic within 18 months.
They released versions so quickly that all the smaller issues were improved on.
A Nokia phone would last two or three days before it had to be recharged, whereas an Apple iPhone version one probably would last half a day max at the beginning.
At the time, market research would have said it would be dead in the water, but because of the tech capabilities people were prepared to sacrifice the traditional functions of a phone. Nokia felt that Apple would fail because of that, but they were so in touch with the consumer need that it didn’t matter.
How important is consumer desire in driving new products and innovation in tech?
There has to be balance. If you have a vision, it will be something that you know no consumer has ever said that they need. Visionary technology and products didn’t come from consumer desire.
Vision on its own isn’t enough. You need to balance the two. Technology for technology’s sake doesn’t work. You have to form it into a need. That can either be a brand or a cold fact. Say for example, you know that consumers are moving towards data usage, you therefore make that a higher priority in your design.
When technology is in that space where it is capable of doing a lot more things than consumers can imagine, it’s then our job to educate them on that.
What role does company culture play within tech companies?
Company culture is the single largest competitive advantage.
I’ve worked in many companies now in multiple continents and different sectors, and the ones that are successful have invested in their culture.
In the world we live in where interactions with brands are less transactional, people are looking for the soul of a company. That doesn’t come from a PowerPoint presentation, a poster in a shop window or a social media ad.
It comes from the feeling that people give to their work and how they go about it, as well as how they care about their products and customers. Company culture and the ethos that runs through the business drives that. For me it’s the number one competitive advantage you can have.
Finally, what do you think will be the biggest technology trends in 2020?
The first one for me would be robotics. We’re already seeing day to day usage in Amazon warehouses for example. I can imagine more robotics coming into the home and performing menial tasks. Of course driverless cars too. Everyone is waiting for that one.
The second one would be augmented reality. I went to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery on Friday and it was just a totally immersive experience. I never thought I would like something like that, but I loved it.
The third one would be blockchain. We’re seeing a huge evolution of that technology which is very interesting. Being able to identify single transactions and allocate them to an individual without being corrupt is going to change the whole voting environment.
Then there is artificial intelligence and machine to machine working. Imagine having AI scanning our medical records to predict potential future ailments. That’s very exciting.
Last but not least wearable technology. Especially in the B2B environment. Wearing technology that can provide data to allow better care for our ageing populations, improve the safety for infield on the job technicians. This is where Prevayl comes in.