5Qs: Razorfish’s Raymond Velez

Raymond Velez has spent 12 of his 15 years in the tech industry as the CTO of digital agency Razorfish. With its latest report just released and having worked on executions with Citibank, Ford, and the NFL, Ray spoke to DIGIDAY about the state of mobile and where the new technologies could bring us this year.


What’s your view on apps? Are we getting trapped in a situation of a parallel internet where Apple has too much power?

That was an interesting topic at our tech summit. There’s really two ways to look at this concept of apps everywhere and apps across platforms. The keynote at our summit was the Google Chrome webstore manager. The vision that the Google Chrome webstore has is to build an ecosystem for web apps. The ability for people to access web apps anytime, anywhere, within any browser. I don’t see it as a parallel internet as much as asking people to really tailor their experiences for a particular platform. Those experiences can exist anywhere else, they don’t have to just exist on Apple. A great example is something like Evernote or Dropbox, where the cloud service that supports them is accessible to you as a user on any platform or gadget. I don’t think it’s forcing us into a parallel world, it’s just asking us to make sure we optimize for that platform. Our Open Digital Services help organizations determine what the most important services are that they want to make available then enabling that to show up on any different platform.


Is NFC going to be the next “Year of Mobile,” the hype we’ll chase from now on?

NFC is here. It was here last December with the Google Nexus and was built in to the operating system. More people have to start making the chip available in their devices. So as that becomes more pervasive, it’s going to become an easy view for marketers and business owners to see that there’s a much better way to interact with customers anywhere any time. It doesn’t just have to be mobile payments, it can be embedding the chip into posters or shirts, using it to transfer information between device and digital camera, even transferring images from a camera to a jumbotron in Times Square. This year, we’re excited about it, but we really can’t do anything with it until it shows up in more devices. If you look down the line there’s probably half a dozen phones looking to add the chip, which will make using NFC no different than using an accelerometer or other new functionalities that come out on devices. Now you can connect physical and digital in a way than you ever could before.


What are your thoughts on QR codes?

They’re going to have its place. It works quite well. There’s some interesting technology coming out that allows you to take a picture of an article and get more information. QR codes will be enablers of that. They will continue to play a role and bridge that gap. I do feel like NFC is going to be a seamless and better way to do that. You’re going to have that technology to create that two-way dialogue that’s much stronger than the one way dialogue that a QR code has. For many of the use cases, it will be a better avenue to integrate NFC.


While a lack of standards invites innovation, doesn’t it reinforce to advertisers that mobile is still just a place to experiment?

There are standards, but there are lots of multiple standards. You don’t have to have a standard to make something beyond an experiment. Having multiple standards helps us find our way in these emerging technologies. If you have one standard, like Apple iOS, it would stifle innovation. What Android has done has created an alternative. Each platform provides different standards that enable greater innovation. One single standard is going to stifle innovation.


Everyone is so focused on real time decision making and cloud technology. Carrier infrastructure is shoddy at best in most places. Will the networks catch up with the hype or is the disconnected audience lost in mobile?

It’s very exciting what’s happening in 4G. It’s not as pervasive as it needs to be, but it’s incredibly exciting. That being said, cell and 4G technology isn’t reliable and isn’t everywhere. Looking at Evernote and Dropbox, you need to leverage a technology approach that enables you to work both offline and online. HTML5 has the provision built into it to store local data. You need to be able to both take advantage of that real-time connection when it’s available but you also need to make sure that experience is consistent even if that connection dies. Google has been leading the way there with the HTML5 specification. You need a fallback rule if your connection is not working. It increases online performance and creates resiliency when connection is down, but technology is pushing us to the point where the connection won’t be down.


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