Category Archives: Emerging Technology

QR Codes Strike Again…Diapers This Time

I just don’t know what to make of QR codes popping up everywhere, particularly in new, odd places. Like (smart) diapers.

I guess the one thing QR codes have going for them is they could be more novel to parents than the digirati, who no doubt scoff at them.

The idea here is good, but I can’t picture a world where we are scanning pee & poop-filled diapers. Can you?

We’re not in 2010 anymore

How expectations change in such a short amount of time. That’s what technology will do for you.

I remember a few short years ago (not even 3?) that it was great to see digital signage in a restaurant or interactive signage in a hotel. Those types of installations and establishments were at the forefront of what technology could do, how they could turn the settings around us into digital & interactive experiences.

But not now. Those same once-potential-fulfilling installations are now ho-hum. I see them all the time. In fact, I expect to see them all the time in these types of establishments. When I don’t, I don’t necessarily think it a bad thing or even a missed opportunity. Not to the level of when I do see them and see them in their 2010 form – then all I can see is a missed opportunity.

We are now in the time where connections are expected. All around.

Not digital. Or technology.

This might have been great 2-3 years ago. But now, it’s just not enough.

When Technology is Too Much

An Austrian company is putting QR codes on gravestones so friends/family of the departed can view a digital catalogue of their lives.

Now, cemeteries will be another place to whip out your phone and start pointing & shooting & watching to gain an “experience.” Maybe I’m too cynical on this one, but the cemetery is no place for an emerging experience.

Neat(ish) idea. Just seems too insensitive for me.

“Let’s look at the memories” vs. “Let’s remember the memories.” This is how I interpret this move and I suppose, this is the crux of my uneasiness of this – technology makes things too easy, to the point of enabling laziness. We don’t put half of our brain to use because we can rely on technology to do it for us. This fundamental notion of storing things away in our brain to call back on in times of despair or joy – these memories – is being dulled by technology that enables us to store it and ignore it.

Who knows? This might be the way of the future, even in cemeteries. I wouldn’t be surprised. But it sure doesn’t make me feel good.

Maybe the Only Good Thing About QR Codes

Last night at the dinner table, my daughter pulls a sticker with a QR code on it off of a banana. She starts making jokes, doing what she can to make her little brothers laugh, and then says, “this is for your smartphone. And an app or something like that.”

Both me and my wife looked at each other like, “did you tell her that?”

And I said, “what do you mean?”

Daughter said, “you need your smartphone for this sticker.”

And I said, “what makes you think that?”

She said, “this little box is for your smartphone.”

“You’re exactly right,” I said.

Hmmm. Again, me and my wife look at each other, kind of amazed. Then, my wife says, to me, “I didn’t even know that until a few months ago.”

This teaches me a couple of things:

1. Children inherently get technology.

2. Children understand what technology, specifically mobile technology (in this case), is needed for. My daughter didn’t know it was a QR code or what necessarily happened with it, but she knew that you need your smartphone to do something with it.

3. There could easily be an expectation with younger generations that real-world stuff just won’t work without technology.

And that’s the point that I don’t think we can lose sight of. Are QR codes a useful enabling technology for marketers and consumers? Likely not. But this is a great case of the reverberation effect of technologies like this whereby the association of what they are and what they are used with has a great impact.

My daughter might not ever use a QR code, but she knows more and more that technology is needed to turn something physical (sticker) into something that makes it “work.”

Dead Technology

I love technology. And what I find incredibly fascinating is that children love it, too. Probably even way more than I do.

They don’t know life without it. It is one of those things that once they learn how to do it – how to operate this or that – they will only build on top of their ability to do it. Become more proficient.

For all sorts of enabling technologies. For in and out of home, this is exciting.

But technology is still technology. That is to say, it is still a machine. And it can be buggy. Or just not work altogether.

Children have no patience for either scenario. They are a great indicator of human behavior to come, in my opinion.

If technology doesn’t work, they simply won’t use it. But they will go on to the next piece of technology that works. Until it doesn’t work. Then, they’ll go to another.

Technology that doesn’t work is dead. It simply will not get used. And when it doesn’t get used, it’s no good.

I love technology because it can make experiences better. I have perspective on life without technology, simply because it didn’t exist. Children have no perspective other than when it simply does not work. Either way, it’s no good dead.

OOH needs more than just “Digital”

“Out of Home” is quickly becoming a tired advertising channel.

“Digital” is quickly transforming into something more powerful than “always on.”

People are active. Not tied to any single “channel” and certainly have the expectation that communications they want from a brand/organization is “always there.”

Digital + OOH does not necessarily fill that need. Not at all.

Relevance & timely + “right there” (at that moment in time) fills the need. This is what the new OOH can be.

Unfortunately, though, as a channel, OOH is only a check-the-box thing. We must change this.

“Digital” can help. But it’s much, much more.

New Production Value Expectation

Watch this – BBC’s intro/commercial for the Olympics.

We see this level of production value in movies all the time. But more and more, we’re seeing this level of production value for short content spots like commercials.

This is becoming/will quickly become the new norm.

This is the type of content that people will expect to see on any screen, in and out of the home.

Nike’s “Enabling Technology” Camp Victory

Nike shows us, if used the right way, all technology can be interactive. They’re at it again with some over-the-top OOH installations, what they call Camp Victory.

Sounds like some of the components of this installation will be put in their retail stores, which is only taking them one step closer to a completely technology-based interactive retail environment. It might take some time, but they are leading the way. And this is the future.

More than that, though, they’re just great at using (enabling) technology as a way to demonstrate to the public their own technology. And the thing about it is, they use whatever technology is best to show it off, regardless of how 1.0 or 2.0 it is.

This makes me believe that consumers might not be as intimidated by technology as I think, particularly as more and more people adopt smartphones. In a lot of ways, these types of installations are just bigger, badder smartphone applications. If people know how to work those, they’ll know how to work something(s) as enormous as this. And besides, that’s what I would call “2.0” enabling technology. You can see just as many examples of simpler technology, but just as interactive. And that’s what I think is brilliant.


Amazing Technology + “On Brand” + Outdoor = Awesome Experience

When you pair super creative minds with super technology, you get something like this:

This was this year’s Cannes Outdoor Grand Prix winner, just announced yesterday.

This is not just cool for cool’s sake. This Mercedes car runs of F-cell technology, which produces 0 emissions. Basically, producing an “invisible” impact to the environment. This is a creative expression of that benefit.

Completely on brand.

Very cool.

Self Serve vs. Human Connection

self-serve food kiosk

I spend a lot of time in the Detroit airport nowadays and last week, I encountered something interesting and little bit frustrating – a self-serve only kiosk to order your food.

In theory, this is more interesting than frustrating, but when you have 3 people – employees of the establishment – standing right behind the kiosks and no one else in line to order the food, it tipped the scale to frustrating.

There I was, in a hurry, trying to catch my flight, and within the span of 30 seconds, I could have given my order to one of the employees. And within a couple of minutes, could have gotten my meal and jet-setted to my jet. Rather, I had to spend a good 1.5-2 minutes going through the kiosk to place my order. Wait another couple of minutes to get it and viola, an experience that should have taken less than 5 minutes, suddenly took at least 5 minutes.

I’m all one for self-serve, interactive ordering and ticketing and the like. But the balance with this sort of technology, out in the real world like this, is how much is takes away from or supplements customer service. That’s right, good, old fashioned customer service.

See, I want to take care of my business quickly and efficiently. Technology like this can help. But I also have a need for some sort of human interaction, particularly if it helps me take care of my business more quickly and efficiently. When we replace one with the other, we are shifting the balance of what technology can really do for us. We are deeming it just as good, just as quick, just as efficient – if not more – than what we as humans can provide. This is scary. It’s not a complete replacement. It should be a comprehensive supplement.

The voice, the smile, the service. That’s something that a Siri-like device can give us now and in the future. It will likely be even more real. But it’s not. And it never will be. And that’s the point. Human interaction, at our core, is a consistent point of connection and that will never go away. Even when we have more and more technology and kiosks and computers and Siris.

Right now, a complete substitute is just frustrating. In the future, well….I just hope that we can hold on to that human connection.