Advertising and communications are now crossing over from the virtual to real world and vice versa, through connected objects and devices that allow physical objects to interact with digital platforms.
The term used to describe this trend is "Phygital" - a convergence of the consumers' physical and digital world.
This is made possible by the Internet of Things - which refers to connected objects that trigger a physical reaction from a digital action or a physical sensor that when triggered, results in a digital output. It is now possible to embed sensors on most physical objects to allow these objects to "talk" to us via digital interfaces, making the physical world a type of information system itself.
This symbiotic relationship allows brands to make themselves more tangible to their consumers by connecting their digital presence to an immersive, real-world experience.
So how can brands and agencies leverage on phygital experiences? Here are some examples:
1. Amplifying an event
2. Allowing digital participation with a real-world event
3. Unlocking brand experiences
4. Product synergies
2013 has been hailed as the breakout year for the Internet of Things at CES. There are many product ideas that can be leveraged by brands to create synergistic brand experiences that truly add value to their consumers in a way that only the brand can. Take Pintofeed, a mobile app connected to a food dispensing machine that allows you to feed your pets remotely without always having to rush home. Sensors on the machine confirm that your pet is fed and the device also helps you monitor and control your pet's food intake and even compare it to the national average. This is a digital/physical utility that truly solves a consumer's need for pet owners. Now just imagine if a pet food brand had created this.
How do brands and agencies go about creating phygital experiences?
The most important thing to know is that all of what we are referring to now goes beyond traditional advertising and communications. To be able to create these phygital experiences, agencies need to move away from an advertising output to creating actual physical objects and installations that can be deployed at the right locations to facilitate these interactions. This helps extend the real value of a truly great idea because it supports the notion that if something does not yet exist, we can just build it, both digitally (e.g., mobile interface) or physically (an installation).
This requires agencies to adopt a technology and innovation model and a maker's culture that moves beyond art and copy to include software and hardware engineering and the knowledge of how to use open source hardware and popular microcontrollers such as Arduino and the Raspberry Pi processor.
With the advent of more devices such as Google Glass, it's just a matter of time before we see, feel, and act with our physical and digital world as one.
More and more objects are being embedded with sensors allowing us to communicate with them. In addition, more people are also allowing themselves to be embedded with sensors - some in our phone and some on objects that we wear like the Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up Wristband that allow our physical lives to be transmitted as packets of data in which can be used to communicate with physical objects. The opportunities are boundless for brands to leverage on such technology, data, and behavior and it will be exciting to see what comes out next.
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Vincent is the co-founder and partner at C//IQUE, a product development studio and incubator that focuses on developing digital products and services that disrupt traditional business models and empower consumers. He has over a decade of experience both on the client and agency side, most recently as a digital planning director at BBDO/Proximity and lead digital strategist at Publicis. Prior to that, he started-up and managed the Hong Kong office of Splash Interactive Group and built the online business at Citibank and HSBC. Connect with him on Twitter @intersphere.
March 19, 2014