Business | 12.07.2015

Context is the Future of Smart Devices

The smartphone is no longer the second screen, it has become the first. There is no question about it. What is debatable though, is how innovators will leverage the platform to create further developments.  Between IoT evolutions and wearable tech, the smartphone is now being integrated with our daily lives more rapidly than ever.  On the other hand, beacons, in their commercial form, have been around for a little over a year but brands are still hesitant to jump on the bandwagon since the technology has yet to be adopted by the masses. Nevertheless, I believe the relationship between wearable tech and beacons is going to lead to incredible brand opportunities that will cause further proliferation of the two technologies and take developments in communications to new heights.

Emmett Connolly, Director of Product Design at Intercom, probably summed up the current situation best in a recent interview: “It’s not worth creating a network of beacons without widespread adoption of wearables, and one of the main reasons to adopt wearables might be to interact with beacons.” There lies the dilemma. However, this “network of beacons” is already being deployed in various markets around the world, including the UAE and soon Saudi Arabia.  While this network would initially talk to smartphone devices, wearable tech will allow brands to immerse themselves in the shopping experience far more effectively.  Not having to reach into one’s pocket as much and effortlessly taking a peak at one’s smart watch will provide a more fluid engagement.

So how do we solve the adoption predicament? Context. Isn’t that what it’s always about anyway? Today, the Apple Watch simply pushes the same notifications you are already used to receiving on your smartphone.  Some might like it, others might find it unnecessary; nevertheless, information still reigns as king. But when beacon networks permeate our cities, messaging will not only be more contextual but also far more engaging.  Learning from one’s habits is a key attribute of beacon technology, which means we can leave intrusive messaging in the past. It will be up to the brands and shopping outlets to ensure message frequency is accurate and beneficial to the potential buyer. However, in order to solve the duplication problem, what if customized messages from beacons were sent to wearables, such as the Apple Watch, via specific apps? That would certainly remove the repetition in messages sent to smartphones and those that are delivered on wearables. Once these aspects are all hammered out, customized messaging via beacons will enhance customers’ experiences and the widespread adoption of wearables will definitely follow.

We’re still in the early days of this new technology’s eruption. As the beacon networks develop, brands will get over their initial hesitations and start exploiting the rich opportunities they present. Context will undoubtedly enhance a customer’s shopping experience and brands will be able to leverage geo-location targeting far more intricately. It’s a win-win for everyone. Consumers’ attention spans are shrinking exponentially and the best way to connect with them today is by combining new technologies and context. I, for one, can’t wait to see what brands have up their sleeves when they start utilizing the rapidly evolving technology at their fingertips.

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Nadim Khouri
Head of Content and Experiences at OMD