Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Customer Engagement Technology World – the official show of the Digital Screenmedia Association (Razorfish is a proud member). Two absolutely gorgeous days in San Francisco set a fantastic backdrop for the show. I’d like to share some immediate observations on trends, technologies, and news featured at the event. Below is a quick punch list.
Near Field Communications
In our recently published Razorfish 5 report, we highlighted near field communications (NFC) as one of five technologies that will transform businesses. The tremendous possibilities were highlighted throughout the event – both on the tradeshow floor and in seminar sessions, including and especially both keynote presentations.
On day 1, Sean Andersen, director of interactive services at Six Flags, described his company’s vision – ranging from mobile ticketing to helping reduce wait times at popular rides to enabling parents to send their kids off on their own in the park with the mobile equivalent of a stored value card to pay for meals and other purchases. The focus seems to be on making the guests’ experiences better overall: easier, more convenient, and seamless.
On day 2, Garry McGuire, CEO of RMG Networks, talked about the evolving nature of the digital out of home (DOOH) ecosystem, and highlighted NFC as well. He shared data from Jupiter Research projecting that there will be 300 million NFC-enabled devices on the market by 2014.
Garry announced that RMG will launch an NFC program this year in partnership with BlueBite, rolling out across nearly 75,000 screens in the network. This implementation is interesting in that it also highlights the debate around QR codes and other 2D barcode formats, which are finally after years of unmet potential, beginning to gain some traction in the United States. Many speculate, and I tend to agree, that NFC will – over time – render 2D barcodes practically obsolete. The near-term problem, of course, is that while a projected 50 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers will have smartphones capable of installing a 2D barcode reader applications by Q3 of this year, the first NFC-enabled phones are just now hitting the market in the U.S. NFC may well be the wave of the future, but it’s going to take a while (18 to 24 months if you believe the numbers above) to build mass scale.
So the implementation from RMG/Blue Bite combines both: screens will be equipped with a nearby M-tag that features both an embedded NFC chip and a QR code, enabling users to interact with content and advertising by whichever standard their device can handle. It’s a bold bet on a technology that’s receiving a lot of hype these days, but there is little doubt that consumers are beginning to expect the phone to be a portal to more information on physical objects.
Or as a colleague facetiously suggested, “locamocial.” Neither term is what you’d call eloquent, but the trend is undeniable. Social, location, and mobile are all coming together in a big way. And the DOOH/screenmedia industry is hot on the trail of figuring out how to leverage.
Again, both keynotes made reference to the trend and both speakers talked about their respective companies’ approach thus far. Six Flags, which is already heavily active in the social space, is looking to leverage learnings thus far into more robust programs that embrace a truly multi-channel, integrated experience.
Meanwhile, RMG made several SoLoMo/locamocial announcements. It is:
- Rolling out various pieces of LocaModa’s social place-based media system nationwide.
- Partnering with Groupon to deliver locally-relevant daily deal content across its network.
- Partnering with Screach, an interactive two-screen social/gaming experience driven by a mobile application but broadcast on enabled screens.
Several other players on the show floor were demonstrating their interpretations of social integration, and one that caught my eye was Insteo. It stood out due to smart functionality wrapped in a simple, elegant, and visually attractive design.
Several booths were exhibiting screens with Kinect-driven gesture interaction. Videos of various Kinect hacks have been circulating the web, of course (including our own; it was also interesting to see some more live and in person. Most of them seemed rather gimmicky, unfortunately, and lacked the polish and intuitiveness of a well-designed gesture control system. I expect to see more and better implementations at the fall CETW show. Assuming Microsoft sticks to its originally announced schedule, the Kinect software development kit should be out later this spring.