2012.14 | Technology and Timing

It’s fascinating to me that ideas that are becoming reality now are those that would never even have been considered even a few years ago.  The increasing comfort of the general public with mobile computing and touchscreens as well as increasing reliability, and decreasing costs are removing barriers at an increasing rate of speed.   Consider a few examples.

Scan and Ship – Looks like the HomePlus experiment of scanning virtual shelves to populate a shopping cart on the mobile has started a bit of a trend.  Well.ca did the same thing in Canada, Giant in the US and others have been giving it a try as well.  It’s a simple extension of current technology and has a low barrier to entry, so why not?  Smart phones are increasingly common, there is some novelty to it, and most everyone is now comfortable with online purchases.  Sounds obvious, but this wasn’t always the case.

Phone Booth 2.0 – It seems NYC is experimenting with touchscreen kiosks in former phone booths.  Once again, why not?  It’s a good use of current space.  The phone booths provide some infrastructure needed for a kiosk or digital signage implementation – a metal frame with some weatherproofing, connectivity and proximity to a large base of potential users and viewers.  The offering is at no cost to the city, and presumably would be paid for by advertisements and chargeable services.


Biometric ATMsNCR offered iris scan solutions some years ago but it never caught on; ahead of its time perhaps.  A Japanese bank is experimenting with ATMs that use palm readers to identify users.   In the past, I would have a lot of questions on the potential value and concerns around privacy.

Customers today are increasingly interested lightening their wallet and not having to remember to carry a card.  Millennials are more confident with technology and are willing to try something for the fun factor.  Corporations are always interested in providing the appearance of being forward thinking and tech savvy.  The Japanese are used to using a mobile to interface with an ATM, so perhaps this is a natural progression.

Wayfinding – It’s easy to forget a time we didn’t have google maps and cheap and easy to use GPS units, as they have become so embedded in our lives.  Taking that ease of direction into buildings – like malls or stores has ever been the elusive last mile.  Wayfinding projects in store are challenging because of the constantly shifting nature of retail.  As displays and stores are constantly rearranged, even if someone sets up a kiosk to find items in the store, it is either wrong, or requires constant updating – a challenging effort that rarely seems to reward the work required.  Perhaps the first step towards crossing this mile comes is a tool from Google.  Google is offering Google Maps Floor Plans to start to map out the indoors.  While it doesn’t get products in place, it does begin to provide some help in larger venues.

I’d like to think that at some point Electronic Shelf Label could have a unique id on them that could be shared with a mobile device that would allow the user to find an item based on the location of the ESL.

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