[Originally posted on ClickZ January 13th 2011]
Everything is starting to get “connected” these days, from TVs to home appliances to car electronics to tables! The true benefit for marketers is solving problems for consumers through these new smart devices while promoting their brand. Last year, I covered “Five Application Marketing Trends,” and this year, my column will cover the latest developments in connected devices.
Samsung created a software developer kit to allow third-party software programmers to create new apps for connected TVs – Internet-based apps that work seamlessly with Samsung’s TV or Blu-ray players. Early app partners include Blockbuster, Vudu, Travel Channel, and Netflix. Having launched the world’s first HDTV-based app store last year, it now has more than 200 TV apps and has installed more than 1 million apps.
Kenmore recently announced that its appliances can modify energy use during peak-demand periods by communicating with local utilities. Other uses were remote diagnostics and touch screen controls. But it is more exciting to think about the opportunities for marketers. What if the touch screen now being embedded on a consumer’s refrigerator could showcase a grocery list app? The consumer could key in the products she needs to purchase, and the items could be synced to her mobile phone along with branded promotions for those items. The consumer could take the “app list” to her local grocer and purchase all the recommended items, connecting the marketer at point of “intent to buy.” Or take it one step further – what if the app could transmit to the grocer and everything on the “list” would be automatically replenished?
The food management ability of LG’s Thinq will track expiration dates so you know what to toss, and will allow you to check out what is inside the fridge from the store. What a safety feature for moms who don’t have the time to monitor food expiration dates or convenience to know what to buy when they are in the supermarket! What if the smart refrigerator could say what food should be eaten for a balanced diet? Or what a mom could cook for dinner with the ingredients at hand?
Connected Laundry Rooms
LG demonstrated its washing machine with Thinq technology allowing the user to select whether to do the laundry right now or let the machine decide what the most energy-efficient time was. What if an app could sense how dirty the clothes were, and only run the machine for the appropriate time to get them clean? Or could sense just how much laundry detergent or fabric softener was needed, and dispense the exact amount? What a cost savings that would be for the family. What a great branded app that would be for Tide.
Dryers can sense when clothes are dry, but what if there was an app that determined if there were items in the dryer that could get damaged – possibly sensing a code on the “care tag.”
Ford has been showing off its new MyTouch technology, featuring apps in your dashboard. The new interface allows users to access smartphone apps through the voice command features of Sync, in-car software. Three apps are now available – Pandora for streaming music, Twitter to hear your tweets, and Stitcher, a news and audio service. The apps can be controlled through buttons on the dashboard.
Ford is also solving a problem with electric cars – determining whether you can reach your destination with the charge available in your car. An Android app, “My Ford Mobile,” can do this. Ford also showcased an app that it produced with Microsoft called “Value Charging,” which lets people in the U.S. know where to charge up their cars where electricity is the cheapest. Now the drivers can leave their car and stay connected through an app.
Now for the what-ifs. What if your car relayed its vital signs on an app so you knew just what maintenance needed to be done or when the air pump might be about to go out? And then Napa could promote its parts just in time. Now you’re getting it.
Viper has an iPhone Car Starter App where you can start your car, turn on the heat, unlock the doors and the trunk, and manage the alarm – all with your smartphone. The app is free but the device needed for your car installs is approximately $400. Living in Minnesota, this app would deliver major benefits in my life.
Samsung and Microsoft unveiled PixelSense technology in their Surface 2.0, which gives LCD panels the power to see without the use of cameras, making it possible for people to share, collaborate, and explore using a large, thin display that recognizes fingers, hands, and other objects placed on the screen. The Royal Bank of Canada is using Microsoft’s Surface technology in its banks. It sends out fliers to thousands of customers. When the user brings the flyer back into the bank, Surface recognizes the flier using vision-based interaction and can determine if that consumer wins, then demonstrating other applications available for its services. For example, the bank has an application that calculates saving rates for the customer. This application was showcased in Steve Ballmer’s keynote address at CES.
Summed up by Boo-Keun Yoon, president of Samsung’s visual display business and chief design officer, “…the long-lasting successes will be technology that makes us smarter and happier by using it, not the technology that requires us to be smarter to use it.” Do you have any problems that need to be solved using smart devices? If so, leave a comment.