September 24, 2017

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Zebra in a Blender, Augmented Reality Bathrooms and Other Final Thoughts from SXSW

Zebra in a Blender, Augmented Reality Bathrooms and Other Final Thoughts from SXSW

After meeting so many great lessons and experiences from the SXSW conference (pronounced South by SouthWest), there are a few off-beat things that still stick in my mind. Mobile ecommerce or m-commerce is ready to explode. Customer relationship management in social media is gaining traction—and geolocation applications, including location-based advertising keep getting closer –but I expected these. Then there were the others.

Each conference participant had a QR (or Quick Response) bar code on their badge. It looks like a square bar code. It really looks like a zebra got caught in a blender and was poured into a square.

Stores, magazines and even The Weather Channel are using QR codes to link you quickly with specific information.

Smart phones have free software available that enable the camera on your phone to scan a barcode. At SXSW these barcodes add the scanned user to your list of “followers” in the SXSW online community. The information they share is of their choosing. It worked, but with one problem: It was event centric and not individual centric. Attendees wanted to use our communities of our choice: Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla or maybe just add the person to our address book, be it in Outlook or Gmail.

For a first year and possibly rush try, it was executed well and I’m looking forward to next year when we have more control over where and how our data can be stored and shared.

Chevrolet, to my surprise, gets my prize for the best use of the QR code during the show. At the Austin airport, they had cars with QR codes, that if scanned, could result in a text or tweet from Chevy offering a ride to your hotel in a new Chevy Volt. On the show floor, there was a Chevy Cruze with dozens of QR codes on the car, each linking to a different web URL. There was a QR sticker on the headlight. One on the windshield. One on the hood. Anywhere there was a feature to be called out, there was a QR code that took your smart phone to a web site with more information about that specific feature.

You can create your own QR codes to drive web traffic to maps or specific web pages. Just remember to format your web site for mobile sites. You can even join the Google local business center to get your business listed on Google Maps and other offerings.

Then there were the Augmented Reality bathrooms.

Augmented Reality, or AR, add features to what your camera already sees, layering additional information on the screen. [Read more on AR]. The notoriously creative Frog Design party gave you a lot to think about. They took AR and promoted it off the phone.

When you entered, you were given an RFID chip on a card. They could track you – although they didn’t know you by name. You needed to be scanned for a beverage and you could monitor big screens showing which drinks were going and what was being ordered. All the statistics were posted including how many drinks, how many gallons, proximity of individuals (although you were never sure who you may be unless you were checking in at a station). And then there were the row of portable bathrooms. You know the type.

Projected on the outside of each loo was the time in use. When the door opens, the clock reset (except for one stall, which made for some levity). Also shown on the outside of the stall was if the logic believed you to be standing or sitting. Or maybe there was an internal senor.

All of the data was collected, quantified, and projected on the outside wall of the beautiful Mexican-American Center in Austin.

Both are examples of quickly evolving elements of technology. Both put the user in charge of the data in most cases. Part of the sea-change in technology is social and user centric. It’s about opting out and opting in, and respecting the user or customer the way you would want to be respected. And measuring the results.

See, technology isn’t that difficult to understand.

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