NFC may not be a public buzzword as of yet, but major brands including Nokia, Barclay and McDonald’s have all jumped on the near field communication bandwagon, or what I like to call, the contactless technology express.
The list of things that you can do with radio frequency identifiers and near field communication is endless; boarding passes, mobile wallets, loyalty cards and public transport to name a few, explaining why companies like Oulu Smart Touch Project seem to be having endless fun, coming up with route tracking and weather prediction technology through NFC checkpoint.
Timo Arnall’s ‘Address Book Desk’ in 2005 blended RFID tags, post-it notes and phone technology to create a streamlined approach to calling friends. Although some may say that this was actually a bit pointless, including myself, this technology can be practical, even dare I say it, radical.
Newcastle University’s research facility created the ‘Ambient Kitchen’ where RFID tags were installed in product packaging, placing sensors on cupboards, kettles, sugar bowls, almost everywhere and anywhere, so that they could analyse what users were doing and project information into the room when necessary, including recipe advice and medication reminder. This was proven to be a massive success, although if one listened very careful, then you could actually hear the eco-system moaning under the weight of silicone, plastic and copper, to name a few.
NFC and RFID seems an ideal partner in customer service. I mean, check out ‘Health Buddy’ in 2008, an electronic personal trainer that monitored physical performance based upon calories burnt, time and effort or even Adidas recent in-store virtual shoe wall for further inspiration.
One thing is for sure, or at least to me, is that the rise of NFC and RFID will in evidently lead to the demise of USBs, credit cards, keys, cash, power sockets and most importantly, wires. Just imagine a world without wires; I shall leave it there for now.
Facebook’s power and influence is far stretching and the business links it has made through banner advertisements, fan pages, Facebook Places Deals and Facebook Connect is impressive. Yet, the tool that has truly infiltrated the user’s psyche is the ‘Like’ button, but how long will it remain within the digital world? Will it creep into the physical?
Let’s start with the stamp made by UK based design studio Nation, a prototype that allows you to brand your papers with the Like Button. It’s definitely a novel idea, but what’s the point? It only works within the digital world because it enables users the chance to give direct feedback with minimal effort – the lazy boys answer to a conversation. Hence, when Brian Ciaccio released customised post-it ‘Like’ notes under ‘Like in Real Life’ it was without a question a real failure, raising only $80, so why are companies still trying? What makes the ‘Like’ button so special?
Well, not all companies have faced Brian Ciaccio’s fate; Diesel and Renault are the perfect example of this. Diesel’s latest campaign involves customers Facebook ‘Liking’ there products through QR codes, whilst Renault and Hyundai brought it to life with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips installed in pillars next to their cars at the annual Auto RAI event in Amsterdam 2011. Both worked wonders at drawing the crowd, but the crown has to go to Coca Cola Israel, whose digital village resulted in 54,000 Likes within a three day period.
So has ‘Like’ suddenly become one of the most overrated worlds in the English dictionary? Will it become the next nice? Are we suddenly going to be expected to ‘Like’ everything on the high street to receive offers and actually, what if we don’t like things? I mean check out Marmite, I don’t dislike it, but I don’t like it, it’s ok, acceptable in my opinion, so will a third icon have to be invented for those who just don’t care?
Hence, if the ‘Like’ button is all about communication, then will people use it in future for brainstorming sessions, will it replace the dreaded ‘X’ in Britain’s Got Talent and could it be used for breaking up with partners? Harsh, but just in case, keep the ‘Like’ button in the digital world, for now at least.
Forget the man wearing the oversized Dominoes pizza box at the busy intersection, artificial intelligence technology will be the humanized advert of the future. After pondering the potential for interactive billboards, the route that advertising technology is on is looking mightily familiar, almost human.
What makes up a human, well a number of things, including opposable thumbs, feeling emotion, self-awareness and the ability to learn? ‘Strong A.I.’ can learn to simulate human thinking, recognise emotion, are self aware and thumbs are just unnecessary. Blade Runner hasn’t come to life just yet but the rise of the machines is on the horizon and they can show you the way to your nearest Dominoes.
Google have trained their search bots to understand and categorise humour, digital signs can recognise facial features, race, age, gender and recommend a bag to match your outfit. In the future they could discern emotion, and in turn react to the consumer’s mood. Let’s go one step further. Hooking up social media and your online purchase history to adverts would give the real insight into our minds that these virtual sales assistants need to make their pitch more personal.
NEC are confident in their A.I. signs released in Japan but Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt called facial recognition ‘creepy’. Privacy has been a core issue of controversy for advertising and social networking sites alike, but Amazon’s recommendations and Facebook’s adverts are both dipping into your personal information for marketing purposes and we’ve all grown accustom to it. I thought it would be amazing to have an advert refer to me by name and know what I’ve ‘Liked’ on Facebook but what if I joined the Twilight fan page ironically. Can strong A.I. understand sarcasm, would everyone be as overjoyed by a usually inanimate object talking to them? What if that billboard looked like a human, would that make the encounter anymore comfortable? Perhaps in time it will become the norm, we will grow accustomed to our digitised human advertisements.
Walking past a bus stop may never be the same, signs are increasingly becoming digital. GranataPet Snack Check interactive billboards in Germany dispensed dog food using foursquare check-ins and McDonalds recent Pick N Play digital signs in Sweden saw consumers playing ping pong on the boards using their mobiles. Players that last for 30 seconds are rewarded with a digital coupon for their favourite McDonald’s treat.
Whilst Immersive Labs who specialise in digital signs have already developed a viewer centric A.I. sign that can learn when it is best to play a certain advert, NEC has tested billboards in Germany and Japan with built-in cameras that can discern age and gender.
In my opinion, Immersive Labs technology is impressive, but it has yet to recognise the person as a whole. This includes the consideration of not just physical attributes, but mental, including what they like, dislike, prejudice, social awareness and environmental influence – this is key when creating truly bespoke campaigns for consumers.
The Centre for Future Studies believes that by next year Emotion Recognition Software (ERS) will be widely used within out-of-home media, yet will this also be adopted within the home as well? The software developed by Theo Gevers and Nicu Sebe in 2007 used 3D face mapping to work out which facial muscles were in use and determine the emotion. As a result, digital adverts will become more human, reacting to consumer reaction, consciously and subconsciously. Scary, aye?
Imagine if adverts started to target you by your nickname? What if they knew your deepest darkest desires? Could they evolve to know you better than you do? Just Imagine.
Ever wondered if Twitter could become the next resource of electricity? Well, maybe it’s just me, but after speaking to Gemma about the Mercedes-Benz campaign, it got me thinking. What if social media could bring families together, rather than breaking them apart?
Whether its texting, twittering, emailing or calling, actually talking to your siblings, parents, even grandparents will never be the same again. So, is this a source of untapped potential? Parents are finding it more and more difficult to engage with their children and a continuous escape goat seems to be technology. Yet, I ask you to consider it within a positive light, what if communication could in fact power your home?
I apologise in advance for the word that I am about to bring up, buts it’s important, honest. I mean the recession and money has to now go hand in hand with progress, whether this is technological, vocational, well-being, you can no longer escape it. Therefore, maybe your next meter reading will be of your Tweet count, rather than the amount of kJ you have consumed. Hence, can your family’s social networking presence contribute towards your overall gas and electricity bills? If so, is this morally right, wrong or maybe I am actually going into it a bit too deep and need to take a step back?
However, imagine the possibility, that’s what we do at ClustaLabs. So watch out NPower, Twitter looks set to become the next electricity supply company, but will it be free and will Twitter pay for it? Probably, just as long as you keep on tweeting.