Dreaming of electric sheep: a look ahead to EiG 2017

The organisers of EiG have been working closely with the iGaming Industry Council (iGIC), to ensure they focus on the hottest and most relevant topics this year. Their agenda will focus on how to bring the industry to the next level of intelligence, taking advantage of the new technology, products and concepts whilst considering what this means for legacy systems going forward.

While continuing to attract the world’s leading iGaming brands and newly launched start-ups, EiG will also make a significant effort to bring operators from regional and emerging markets to reflect the expanding universe. EiG will also be bringing expertise from outside the industry, enabling visitors to learn and gain insights rarely shared in the market.

EiG plays host to 2,000+ of iGaming’s leading professionals and senior-level decision-makers from iGaming operators, Land-Based Casinos, Betting Shops, Lottery Operators, Social Operators, Gaming Start-ups, Regulators, Consultants and many more, on a global scale.

 

Curtis Roach, Senior Conference Producer, tells us more about what to expect from EiG next month:

Dreaming of electric sheep

We live in exciting times.

‘Two thirds of Europe’s largest corporates by market cap have made a direct investment in a tech company while one third has acquired a tech company since the beginning of 2015… 2016 was a bumper year with $88B in deep tech M&A ‘
www.atomico.com

As organisations across industries pursue technology to accommodate their own transformations, the opportunities for technology companies have never been as expansive and free flowing as they are today.

The progression of technology in industry has always been orientated around the consumer and this is still the case today. The continual hunt for competitive advantage has pushed businesses across a wide range of regions and sectors all to embrace the new and cutting-edge.  Many technologies are becoming increasingly adopted as their power and speed increase and the cost of delivering them decreases. These technologies, also known as “exponentials” include robotics, Block Chain, Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR) (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), are opening up a whole new realm of possibilities.

‘Research has shown that companies that exhibit superior performance over the long term have two distinctive attributes: They tend to differentiate themselves based on value rather than price, and they seek to grow revenue before cutting costs.’
Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think

Offering products or services that incorporate these new concepts will enable you as a company to increase value through offering a more up-to-date service and growing revenue through attracting a wider range of customer.

The freedom of Blockchain

This transparent platform has been around for some years already but only now has it actually begun to show real promise as a sustainable form of peer to peer transaction.

‘Last year, almost half a billion dollars was invested in VC-backed blockchain companies – up from 3 million dollars in 2011.’ (www.thersa.org). As stock prices begin to bounce back, confidence is growing and with the rise of Ethereum casino operators such as Funfair, Oshi Casino (Bitcoin) and Satoshi Dice (Bitcoin) more revenue is being generated than ever before. Transacting on the blockchain allows operators to benefit from lower operating costs and faster payments, giving customers an experience that can’t be found in the mainstream market. Plus, the transparency of blockchain alleviates any trust issues that sometimes can be synonymous with the gambling industry.

AI dreams

No longer confined to the realms of a Ridley Scott Sci-Fi film, AI is now a reality that offers infinite promise. The news is littered with some noteworthy examples, such as in July when Facebook was forced to call an emergency shutdown on their AI bots that unexpectedly decided to create their OWN language! Or when earlier this month, Elon Musk’s OpenAI bot defeated eSports champion Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, at the Annual DOTA2 championships in the US.

It’s clear that the applications of this technology reach further than some of us could currently imagine. From my research of the gaming industry it seems, with the exception of a few operators, the majority of AI’s immediate applications are limited to just marketing/CRM activities, when there is so much more.

Gambling operators are utilising AI to conduct business operations more efficiently and produce more accurate results; providing the platform for a better product/service and ultimately, increased profits. AI also offers benefits for responsible gambling, customer gaming experience, game volatility.  Companies such as BtoBet have recently launched a new innovative AI platform for online casinos. This software can track player’s actions and react to them, identifying potential needs of the user. It can independently respond to the player’s behaviour in various environments and systems: social networks, mobile applications, etc. By doing so, it gets easier to meet the needs of the most unpredictable online customers quickly and efficiently, invariably increasing your popularity and offering a helpful solution to probably one of the biggest issues in online gaming: customer retention. Any competitive iGaming operator cannot afford to ignore AI.

Finding Paradice in VR

We are now seeing a major trend of VR investment in the mainstream industries, namely Facebook and Samsung who both have their own respective Oculus Rift offerings. According to research firm KZero over 171 million people worldwide will be using VR hardware and software by the year 2018. Clearly a fantastic opportunity for a new market to target.

I feel it’s fair to say that the goal for any casino, whether land-based or online, is to keep people playing for as long as possible – as opposed to encouraging players to increase their stakes. This makes it critical to keep players for the advertised pay-out percentage to work out. Embracing this technology and adapting to changing consumer expectations or preferences would perhaps encourage players to spend longer in the game with VR or AR integrations that increase adrenaline levels.

The challenge of integration

The types of tech mentioned above represent just a snapshot of what is now available to market. They all have their individual features and gaming associated benefits but one thing they all have in common is they all require complex integration which in some cases could require a complete overhaul of your legacy systems. As we all know, the transformation of an enterprise is a complex undertaking, the digital solutions needed often don’t come neatly bundled out of the box ready to plug in. Rather, they are combinations of hardware, software, networking, data storage, analytics, and more. Once we can accept this fact we then must consider whether it is worth it. Will the combined costs of a system overhaul or even just a retro-fit be equal to or surpass the amount of extra revenue it can actually generate?

For some the solution could be in a system retro-fit, which may provide some short-term results at a fraction of the cost. But eventually, as consumer expectations change, the pressure of meeting them and remaining competitive may force you into a complete overhaul later down the line, causing even more expense!

My argument is that it will be costlier to not seriously consider a tech upgrade or some sort of integration and risk being left behind the first movers who take advantage of the market trends and have adapted to meet modern consumer expectations.

Further evidence of the need to not be left behind in the ‘Tech race’ can be found in a recent publication by Linkedin where it listed the 20 most promising jobs of 2017, of which 60% were tech related.

Virgin Active Group CIO Andy Caddy commented that the CIOs or those with a tech background in today’s market are ‘one of the few influencers of change across the entire company’. A sentiment echoed across the markets. It seems major companies are also realising the need for a tech related growth strategy. Earlier this year in July one of the world’s largest investment management firms, Vanguard Group (assets over 4 Trillion) named its former CIO their new CEO starting in 2018. Other examples include Andrew Rashbass who was originally an IT Chief but then went on to become CEO of The Economist Group, Thompson Reuters and now CEO at Euromoney PLC, a FTSE 250 company. It’s clear that there is a big demand for IT related talent in the highest of industry ranks, a trend that is only expected to increase. We as leaders of the iGaming industry should not be left behind.

What we can do as an industry

There’s a lot to be said for the complete absence of gaming companies in the Forbes Top 100 most innovative list. Considering the size and revenue generated by industry leaders such as Microgaming or Pokerstars, it’s surprising that we aren’t as recognised for our forward thinking as we might like to be.

For many companies, adopting new tech and successfully integrating it into legacy systems whilst maintaining uptime and quality of customer experience is always going to be a tricky balancing act, there’s no easy way to completely avoid this.

This is exactly why at EiG this year our main theme is set around ‘Generation Hybrid’. We are looking at the new generation of consumers and the new generation of technology and offering solutions to help you efficiently integrate with your legacy systems, creating the perfect hybrid. The in-depth agenda will be looking at your technology choices and evaluating which of the puzzling range of tech, old and new, can be best deployed to help you achieve customer-centric goals.

We understand that the of course that the main objective for implementing any new technology is to attract new players. We, as an industry, are always searching for the latest products that our players might find interesting, whether that’s a new bonus scheme or general theme to contend with. Not every player will want to take advantage of these additional features but the ones that do will appreciate the option to be able to.

Making the move towards new technology could simply just be a great way to improve player lifecycle but I argue that it’s even more important to keep up with the competition. Falling behind in this ‘Tech race’ could cause you to become irrelevant, so even if a site is just offering what its competitor does, it will be better placed to draw in more customers. Even using other platforms like Facebook can make a site seem a lot more up to date with minimal investment needed.

These are interesting times for the industry, with upcoming technology bound to make a massive impact in the long term. 2017 is going to change what players expect and what operators offer, one thing is for sure though – the market will get more competitive and standing out will be harder than ever.

This year the EiG agenda is designed to help you reach this point in the most painless way possible. We have speakers from outside industry such as Aric Dromi, Chief Futuroligist at Volvo who will be in attendance to share insights on how to avoid barriers to innovation and bringing new ideas to market, a challenge that is experienced by many in our industry.

Chris Conroy, Head of Customer Data Science for Rank Group, Graham Weir, Head of Player Protection at Ladbrokes Coral and Simo Dragicevic, CEO of Bet Buddy are just some of the panellists that will be in on a session discussing how some of this new tech can help us in encouraging responsible gambling. We also have Marcus Wareham, Digital Transformation Expert for Gamcrowd who will be giving a presentation on digital transformation best practice and avoiding the common pitfalls.

Now is a really exciting time to be an iGaming operator, there are so many possibilities. Attend EiG to help make those possibilities a reality, networking with your likeminded peers while doing so.

This year EiG 2017 is taking place at the Arena Berlin from 30th October – 1st November. Go to www.eigexpo.com for more info on agenda speakers and top exhibitors.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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