Mobile devices make it possible for us to access services and retrieve information associated with the world around us. We can use our location to read and write digital content annotating the places we visit, or can scan visual codes to engage with the digital expression of the physical objects we encounter. In these and other ways, the divide between the virtual and real is narrowing.
Google’s recent unveiling of a wearable heads-up display is important principally for the conversation it has provoked rather than for the technological advance it represents. To a great number of people it has made manifest the potential for augmented reality to radically transform the way that people perceive and engage with the world around them.
Faced with declining margins, mobile network operators are exploring a variety of new ways to generate revenue. Among these is a proposal from wireless-carrier AT&T to shift a portion of the cost of data traffic from consumers to content providers. The network plans to offer companies the option of paying the data fees that would otherwise be incurred by their users. It is unclear whether content providers will choose to participate in this arrangement. If consumers prove sensitive to the price differentials that the data subsidies create, however, a supply-side fee structure could quickly emerge and make the planning of digital communications across a number of media even more complex. In out-of-home environments, for instance, such a regime might force advertisers to consider the data costs associated with each NFC tag, QR code and URL deployed as part of a campaign.
Personal data, it is often said, is the currency of the digital age – the standard medium of exchange for online services and content. When people use an ostensibly-free, ad-supported service like Facebook, they are engaging in an implicit transaction, offering the provider use of their personal information in return for otherwise unpaid access to its service. This simple exchange has become the primary driver of the digital economy.
Despite its significance, the use of personal data by online service providers is poorly understood by consumers. This lack of transparency has produced a profound instability in the system: Heretofore unaddressed privacy concerns threaten to prompt strict new regulations or trigger a consumer backlash that could undermine its very basis.
Though traditional retailers have long acknowledged the threat that digital retail channels present for their businesses, most have been resistant to change. The news, reported last week, that the discount-retailer Target has requested the help of its suppliers in making online price comparison more difficult offers further evidence of the broadly defensive posture of the industry. Whether the product of conservatism, risk aversion, or a reliance upon outdated metrics like same-store sales, retailers have been slow to invest in new channels and reluctant to integrate digital technologies into their physical stores.
Automakers are developing a new generation of network-connected, application-based media platforms that could greatly expand the quality, relevance and volume of content consumed in cars. The advent of network-delivered content is particularly significant, as it could allow for the targeting of communications based upon the location, destination, interests, behavior, and social graph of drivers or passengers. Read our past commentary on the topic below and look for new posts sharing our thinking on this evolving medium.
In recent months congressional leaders have been calling for the auction of unlicensed wireless spectrum as a means to generate revenue and address a perceived shortage of mobile bandwidth. While the plan has widespread support, the media scholar Yochai Benkler suggests that the licensing of new spectrum threatens to impede an incipient shift toward open wireless technologies such as WiFi and NFC and undermine an array of promising innovations in wireless connectivity. His assertions imply that the continued development of new media and marketing practices based upon the utilization of open spectrum – including mobile payment, indoor location-based services, and digitally-augmented media – could also be imperiled.
Read more in Technology Review.
Microsoft announced last week that it will release a commercial version of the Kinect software-developer kit and allow businesses to start developing new applications for the popular motion-sensing device. User interfaces define the nature of our engagement with content, but they may also profoundly shape the development of a medium. The commercialization of capacitive touchscreens, for instance, was crucial in enabling the dramatic growth of mobile computing; what had been a medium encumbered by tradeoffs between display and interface became a powerful platform capable of supporting an array of interactions and services. While it’s impossible to know whether gesture recognition will have a similar impact, it’s plausible that for some media and in some contexts the effects will be transformative. Kinect’s ludic origins should not obscure its potential to impact a variety of consumer experiences and business verticals; play often serves as an important driver of innovation in personal computing and user-interface design.
Retailers today confront a profound shift in the way that products are bought and sold. Since the advent of ecommerce nearly two decades ago, merchants have sought ways to bring their stores to the web. Now, as smartphone penetration increases, retailers are increasingly able to bring elements of the online experience to their stores. The future of retail, many believe, lies in the convergence of these two channels – in combining the richness of the in-store browsing experience with the convenience, efficiency and utility of ecommerce. (more…)
Earlier this year, Tesco’s Homeplus ran a highly regarded campaign for its online storefront that recreated the aisles of a grocery store on the walls of a train station. Waiting passengers could buy the items displayed on the virtual shelves by scanning optical codes with their mobile phones. Combining traditional and mobile retail experiences, the campaign seemed an effort to reconcile the two – less a form of advertising than an entirely new way of buying and selling things. Tesco quickly announced plans to extend the concept to transit systems throughout South Korea. (more…)