Blog Archives

The iGraine

For several months, I found myself suffering from an almighty headache almost every morning.  It was generally accompanied by dizziness and a feeling of exhaustion.  I genuinely thought I was coming down with something pretty serious.  My diet hadn’t changed.  My sleeping habits remained the same.  I didn’t think I was experiencing any additional stresses at the office.

And yet – every morning – there it was.  Within fifteen minutes of arising, I had this awful feeling, sometimes coupled with nausea.  I changed to decaf.  I ate right away.  Nothing.  It was still there.  I woke up feeling great, but within fifteen minutes I felt like a small mallet was just striking at the back of my head.  It lasted for about three hours, which presented a challenge to the rest of my day.

And then my eureka moment; I changed my morning routine by accident.

On one morning, upon waking, I made my coffee, then reached for my smartphone to check the 3,000 emails that I would go through.  For the first time in a long time, I left it in my car.  Not a problem.  I opened up my laptop and flew through my messages, drank my coffee, read the news, ironed, showered, dressed, packed a lunch, hopped in the car and then started my trek to the…  whoa.  I felt great.

But why?

It became reasonably evident that I had no long-term disease for which I would need extended, intense treatment.  I was just giving myself an iGraine every morning.

Yes.  An iGraine.

My standard routine consisted of waking up, putting coffee on, then roaming through my abode with my head dangling completely off my neck, staring at my phone.  It was to the point where my chest was getting a chinprint on it.

Was I spending the first fifteen minutes of every morning giving myself a staggeringly effective stress headache through neck strain while cutting blood-flow to by brain?  It seemed like a possibility, especially in light of the fact that the one morning I didn’t have any symptoms was the one morning I didn’t have my phone.

So on day two; skip the smartphone check again.  Day two; symptom free again.  Same thing on day three.  And day four.  And so on.

There have been thousands of studies on neck strain as a cause of headaches and exhaustion.  There have been even more studies on the lack of circulation to the brain causing both.  What I don’t know is if there has ever been a study on intense smart phone use (and head position) as it relates to these things.

If you find yourself suffering almost daily from a morning of exhaustion and a headache, I beg you to try this one small lifestyle change.  Lift your head up, or – better yet – keep your phone in the car.  The difference in my life has been astounding without a morning iGraine.

Do you find yourself suffering from exhaustion and headaches in the morning?

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

Augmented Retaility

In the next few years, augmented reality (AR) is poised to take over retail.  For the uninitiated, AR uses computer-generated sensory input to alter your perception of the world in real-time.  Already we are seeing its potential being harnessed in all areas of retail, including in-store, online, and through advertising.

In-store Customer Experience

Retailers have introduced AR in-store in an attempt to improve the customer experience.
 

Starbucks Holiday Cups

In 2011, Starbucks introduced their entertainment-focused “Holiday Cups” campaign.  After downloading an app, customers could use their smart phone to make their coffee cups come alive.

 

Digital display

AR’s in-store usefulness goes beyond entertainment.  Intel has developed an AR digital display, which has interesting implications for retailers.  Installed at the store entrance, the 7ft transparent display shows customers a digital floorplan and recommends products after assessing their gender.  Product location is superimposed on the screen, and products can be placed on hold and brought to the cash register for payment.  The aim of the technology is to help customers shop more quickly and easily.
http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/the-future-of-retail-intels-augmented-reality-digital-display/7047

Online Shopping

Traditionally, the problem with online shopping has been that you can’t truly get a sense of a product from a 2 dimensional image.  With AR, customers are now able to hold products in their hand, and try them on virtually.

Tesco online shopping

Tesco has already made AR a large part of their online-shopping experience.  Customers select a product online, and then print a copy of the AR marker.  Holding the marker to their webcam, it is transformed into a 3d model of the product.  As the customer turns the marker, the 3d image rotates on screen as well.  In the video below, a customer views a TV, and is able to see the ports on the back of the unit as she turns the AR marker.
http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/Tesco-Augmented-Reality-112211.aspx

Holition

Holition’s AR is as luxurious as the products it promotes.  Designed for high-end products, their AR experience allows customers to virtually “try on” jewelry and watches.  Holition is also working on expanding their AR so that customers can smell, hear, and feel products.
http://mashable.com/2012/06/20/augmented-reality-retail/

Bodymetrics Virtual dressing room

Unsurprisingly, 50% of garments bought online are returned.  But what if you knew how those jeans would fit before you place your order?  Bodymetrics’ Virtual dressing room uses your in-home motion capture device (such as the X-Box Kinect) to assess your body shape and virtually project clothes onto your digital frame.  If you like what you see, your purchase can be completed right through your console.
http://www.jacehallshow.com/blog/bodymetrics-shows-off-augmented-reality-shopping-experience-at-ces-2012/

Advertising

AR is also finding its place in advertising.
 

GoldRun

GoldRun has already launched several successful AR advertising campaigns.  One of their most interesting campaigns was when they created a virtual shoe store for Airwalk.  AR markers were secretly hidden in public places in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles.  Customers used their smartphones to locate the markers, and were able to view limited edition versions of Airwalk classic shoes.  They could then place an order from their phone for the shoe that they found.
http://mashable.com/2012/06/20/augmented-reality-retail/

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

Top 5 emerging retail technologies

Every weekday, I compile the best retail and technology news from Twitter into our “we get retail” Daily paper.li newspaper.   Through my monitoring, I’ve noticed several technology trends that are poised to shape the retail industry like never before.  I have compiled a list of my top five emerging retail technologies:

Tablet PCs

Tablet PCs are increasingly being used in retail environments to speed up sales.  Couple this with mobile payments, and several interesting possibilities arise.  Sales staff can help you find a product and ring it in, right on the sales floor, with no need to line up at the cash register.  Product you need not in stock?  Staff can check inventory levels right then and there, and tell you when the next shipment will arrive.  I can see this technology becoming an invaluable customer service tool.

http://www.ruggedtabletpc.com/blog/bid/78959/Part-2-Using-Tablet-PC-Technology-to-Improve-In-Store-Efficiency

QR Codes

Most of us are already familiar with QR codes: “scan here to go to our website” or “scan here for our coupon of the day”.  While QR codes are excellent promotional tools, businesses are also recognizing their benefits after the sale.  For example, whirlpool includes QR codes on their dryers that link to animated instructions on the proper installation of vent material.  QR codes can be used to provide usage instructions, replacement part numbers, contact information, etc.   This customer friendly solution provides yet another way of promoting product entanglement, as well as maintaining brand integrity.

http://blog.medialab3dsolutions.com/2012/05/qr-codes-sale/

Apple Passbook

Apple’s passbook is an intriguing offering; it allows customers to electronically collect, store and organize store cards, gift cards, and coupons.  Passbook uses the iPhone’s geo-location capability to identify when you’re in a particular store, and load the appropriate card.  For example, it will load your Movie gift card when you enter the theatre, presenting it on-screen to be scanned.  Aside from its obvious convenience, this technology makes it easy to carry your store loyalty cards (how many times have you signed up for something, but left the card at home?)  It’s an interesting product for consumers and retailers alike.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/13/apples-passbook-could-be-a-platform-not-just-another-mobile-payments-rival/

RFID

Radio Frequency Identification is another new trend hitting the retail world, and widespread adoption is expected in the next 3-5 years.  Inventory is tagged, and can be tracked at any point from warehouse to the storefront.  Because locations are tracked in real time, RFID offers retailers unparalleled supply chain accuracy. The completeness of incoming shipments can be quickly assessed, rather than relying on random inspections.  Other benefits include prevention of vendor fraud, administrative errors, and employee theft.

http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/retail-store-ops/1664-rfid-market-to-grow-20-annually-first-russian-footwear-retail-pilots-rfid

Nokia City Lens

Nokia’s City Lens (currently in beta) uses your smartphone camera and augmented reality technology to recognize your location and superimpose relevant information right on your screen.  Wave your phone, and City Lens will identify nearby landmarks, restaurants, and shops near you.  Imagine – customers wave their phone at your store front, and you are able to see your hours of operation, special sales, reviews, etc.  It will provide unparalleled visibility to potential customers.  When this takes hold, this could be a boon to retailers, or a bane for those unprepared.

http://conversations.nokia.com/2012/05/08/nokia-city-lens-brings-augmented-reality-to-nokia-lumia/

Will these technologies impact the retail industry?  What other technologies will be of use to consumers and retailers alike?

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

The Next Step

When I was ten years old, I opened my first savings account. Well, my mother opened it for me, but I got to go to the bank with her and the teller told me what to do if I wanted to put money in my account on my own. She gave me a little book that was filled with blank pages, and she explained that every time I put money in my account someone would write the information down so I would have a running tally of deposits, and I would be able to use that information to find out how much money I had in my bank account. I’m pretty sure I still have that passbook somewhere. I might keep it to show my grandchildren how I used to do my banking back in the old days. Can you believe that we actually wrote it all down? On paper!

In the last twenty  years, we’ve gone from manual entry on a passbook to computer updates on the passbook to the ATM card that gives you twenty-four/seven access to any bank from any store. I can’t even remember the last time I used an ATM to get money, now that I can go to the grocery store and get a litre of milk and take cash from my account at the same time. But did you really think that technology would stop there?

Say hello to the EnStream Mobile Wallet Project.

EnStream is a joint mobile commerce venture between some of the biggest cellular carriers in Canada. For the last couple of years, EnStream has been looking at different ways to make banking more convenient for cellphone users, primarily through apps and online banking. Now EnStream is in talks with Canada’s big banks to take the next step and make your ATM card completely obsolete. The Mobile Wallet would allow the telecom companies to embed credit and debit card information on your SIM Card – that ridiculously small piece of plastic that locks into your phone and works as the key to your personal life. Currently, where your SIM card goes, your phone information follows. Soon, your banking info will tie in as well. There are signs that the project could even be taken a step further. Think of how thin your wallet will become when your driver’s license, ATM card, and credit cards have all been replaced by your Smartphone.

Of course, as with everything in life, there is a catch. And this catch could prove to be quite inconvenient. If I go to a restaurant tonight and misplace my Blackberry, it’s a major pain in the you-know-where and I have to go looking for the phone and then call the cellular carrier and get a new phone number and buy a new phone.  If I go to a restaurant five years from now and misplace my Blackberry, my entire life is now up for grabs to whoever picks up the phone. And we’re not talking about them being able to read my emails to my mum. We’re talking about identity theft made quick and convenient.

Security and technology have been advancing side-by-side with each other for years. All those years ago, when I got that first bank account, anti-virus meant taking vitamins to avoid getting the flu and firewalls were found only in cars and buildings. It will be interesting to see what comes first – the creation of a SIM Card that will allow for banking and personal information to be stored on a phone, or the construction of security systems that will need to be put into place within a Smartphones’ operating system to safeguard that information. Should we allow for the former without the latter, or can we trust that security will catch up with technology before things go wrong?

 

Would you use the mobile wallet service if it was available? Would you be worried about the security of that information?

Edit/Undone – Part 2

This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s post Edit/Undone Part 1.  

“I don’t remember how to do long division”.  The other day, while in the lunchroom, a co-worker’s innocent comment incited a challenge.  Casting our minds back to our elementary school days, those of us who had gathered for lunch set out to re-discover a lost skill.  Slowly, almost painfully, we worked through it together, writing out the solution on paper.  A minute later, we arrived at our answer.  “We did it!” was quickly followed by “Why did we ever learn this?  It’s so pointless”.  A smartphone was quickly produced. “My teacher always said we’d never walk around with calculators in our pockets.  Hah.”

Does this story give you pause?  When I look at youth just 10-15 years younger than me, I see even more differences.  Teenagers seem to have abandoned the English language entirely, preferring “textese” to coherent sentences (can nybody srsly read dis stuff?).  The generational change that has occurred from my generation to the next, when compared to my parent’s generation to mine, is staggering.  In a few short years, these kids will be entering the workforce.  Does that scare you?  As an employer, how do you feel about hiring someone whose idea of a conversation exists in 144 character increments?  I’ll admit, at first, the idea makes me cringe.  But after thinking more deeply about the topic, I realized that this is a typical generation gap, just different; and while scary, I take comfort in the fact that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Why is this change happening so suddenly?  Technology.  Throughout my lifetime, I’ve watched technology steadily replace the skills of yesterday.  No need to read a map, plug in your GPS and it will tell you when to turn.  Have trouble spelling?  Spell checker to the rescue!  Barely passed your road test?  Not to worry; cars now park themselves, avoid collisions, and apply proper braking pressure (what could go wrong?).

Technology has enabled us to do things easier, and faster.  It’s like steroids for generational change.  As we accomplish more in less time, we have more time to do more things, so we add more to our plates.  But then we feel a time crunch, and once again try to make everything more efficient.  We are always looking for a way to do more.   But it means we also have to know how to do more as well.

It’s simply not possible to know everything these days.  It’s been said that a single edition of the Sunday times has more information than the average villager would get in a lifetime during the Middle Ages.  How do we cope?  We abandon knowledge in exchange for knowing how to find it.  We don’t need to know how to do long division; all we need to know is to use a calculator (or a smartphone) to find the answer.   The emergence of the “open book test” in the last 10 years is a perfect example of this trend.  We prioritize “searching” over “knowing”, and traditional skills are thrown to the wayside.

Because of this, business owners may be wary of the young employee, regarding them as undisciplined, clueless, or distracted.  In reality, they are just differently adapted, just as you are differently adapted than your grandparents were.  Try to challenge assumptions when evaluating the newest generation.  Is it true that youth have worse customer service skills due to less face-to-face interaction?  Or are they more socially attuned thanks to social media?  Is it true that they not able to focus on details in an information-overloaded world?   Or are they free thinkers, able to make new connections in a sea of data?  Younger people bring new skills and priorities to the workplace; employers need to recognize what they bring to the table, and then support them in areas where they may lack – just like everyone else.  They may just be your best chance of success in this quickly evolving world.

Like it or not, there is no CTRL-Z for change.  Srsly.

What are your thoughts on how technology has changed society?  Are you apprehensive about the younger generation?  Or do you see their unique skills as an opportunity?

Edit/Undone – Part 1

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Disclaimer:  This week’s topic proved to be more complicated (and perhaps, contentious), than it first seemed, so we are trying something different; we are adopting a multi-post format, soliciting different perspectives on this issue.  Read, comment, and check back next week for Edit/Undone, part two. 

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Where most of my entries have revolved around the retail or marketing side of technology, I wanted to offer some insight into how I believe the younger generation has been affected by what is now a simplified, easily corrected world.  The Edit/Undo phenomenon applies (I believe) to life, work, and the retail environment.

I’ll go back a few years first, explaining the way things were when baby boomers were growing up.

If you had an essay due for school, you had multiple pieces of fools cap at the ready.  You first wrote out a plan of the opening, body and closing, and the arguments or points that you would be covering.  Then you drafted your piece on piles of paper, getting a pretty good sense of the wording.  Then you would take a red pen, and make notes all over it.  Then you rewrite it, hoping not to make an error.  Then you write it again; recognizing that you made errors.  Then you write it again, because your mother recognized that you used an arrow to insert a missing word.

And so – more often than not – you ended up with a stunning four page, hand-written essay that took only four days to create.  And there were a couple of errors.

And you wrote it again.

That same piece today would take half an hour to construct.  And therein lies the cultural shift as it relates to communications, life, retail, and all things everything.

The fact that every refined piece of work had attached to it an attention to detail and a show of caution ultimately translated into more caution and concentration in daily life.  If you make a mistake, you pay for it with a consequence that required reapplying the same effort to get back to where you needed to be.  Because of the entrenched notion in the back of our heads that reminded us that we can’t just erase something, everyone worked more diligently.  On everything.  For school.  At work.  In our social lives.

There was no such thing as erasing.  No option to simply delete the parts we didn’t like.

Today’s younger generation grew up with the mighty “Edit/Undo”.  You start smashing words on paper, highlighting, erasing, cutting and pasting, inserting things into a downloaded template that auto-corrects your format.  It fixes your spelling errors and grammar.  And if – out of a lapse in concentration – you accidentally erase entire sections on which you have worked incredibly hard… you have an endless supply of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

Edit… Undo.

And it’s fixed.

There is no such thing as a true mistake for this generation.  There are only temporary problems to which there are very quick fixes.

This has carried over, it seems, to every aspect of their lives, including their careers.

Next week, Meagan will continue the discussion in Edit/Undone part two.

The Death of Downtime

Are you planning on fitting in a few extra hours of work tonight?  Chances are the answer is yes.  According to a recent study by Forbes Insights, only 2% of employees, from managers to CEOs, said they never work weekends or nights.  Of the 98% that do after-hours work, nearly half of them do so on a regular basis.

Newer technologies, such as smart phones, are frequently implicated.  These “remote-office” tools allow work to be conducted at any time, anywhere (including, while on “vacation”).  Of course, these are just tools – it’s the individual that decides how they’re used.

There is no question that our workplaces have changed, but the reasons are not straightforward.  It goes beyond “unrealistic employer expectations”.  Employees themselves are increasingly seeking flexible jobs with the ability to telecommute.  And in turn, employers are responding by making it easier to work at a moment’s notice.

I once had the pleasure of meeting a Google employee.  Google is one of the most sought after companies to work for, and is often touted as the “ultimate” workplace.  The employee proudly regaled me with stories about Google headquarters, commonly known as Googleplex.  It did sound like a great place to work, but I also saw something more ingenious.  Google has blurred the lines between work and home.  Employees can work while commuting to Googleplex on the wifi-enabled Google train.  Services, such as laundry, are provided, reducing the need to go home and do “chores”.  Recreational activities are provided on-site.  And catered gourmet meals are provided – but are carefully timed.  An early breakfast and a late supper entice workers to arrive early and stay late if they wish to partake.  Google had truly made it possible to work whenever, wherever.  And while I saw this as an open door to overwork, this employee only saw perks.

Is there a problem with working more than the standard 40 hour week?  Surely working more hours means you get more done?

Aye, there’s the rub.

Several studies have consistently shown that workers who clock in over 40 hours per week are not more productive.  Studies of industrial workplaces, for example, have shown that workers produce the same number of widgets in an 8 hour day as a 10 hour day.  With the exception of occasional overtime (and I do mean occasional), working longer does not equate to increased productivity.

But there are more important implications than just productivity.  We sacrifice our leisure time for work time, and as a result have more stress and less time for family and friends.  So if we’re not accomplishing more, why do people do it?  In a Wall Street Journal article, Laura Vanderkam succinctly points out that there is a strong correlation between how busy we are and how important we feel; ironically, overwork is way of showing we are dedicated to our jobs and families.

Seems counter-productive, no?

With information from:

http://www.mobiledia.com/news/138387.html

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-working-more-than-40-hours-a-week-is-useless.html

Do you do extra work on evenings and weekends?  How do you evaluate your productivity?  What impact does extra work have on your personal life?

APPrehension

Being a cell phone user for more than 25 years, you can imagine the confusion with which I’ve dealt as it relates to the ever-changing offerings that have been presented to me.  It’s not so much about the phones, but rather the things that can be done with them.

My first reaction?  I want my life to be simple.  Don’t complicate my lifeline.  I just want to make a damned phone call.

In the last fifteen years, however, I have witnessed a remarkable redefining of what phones “do”.  And I’ve been challenged to figure out why they’re still called “phones”.  They’re not phones.  They’re not just “smart”.  They are laptops.  They are fully functioning laptops that happen to have the capacity to make and receive calls.  Since every laptop and pad is now capable of making calls, effectively offering precisely the same functions as their much smaller cousins – I would assert that for the sake of continuity – they be placed in the same family, renamed “really, really, really big phones”.

So now the question I have is “What the hell I do with it?”.  What apps do I download?  What apps will improve my quality of life?

And so the hunt starts.  First, I look to see what’s out there.  I have 416,000 apps available for download.

Of those 416,000 choices, 1,200 are apps that are designed to “manage my apps”.  Really?   And of those 416,000 apps, there isn’t a single “App app” that tells me what apps I should get?

And so, hesitant as I was (and remain) about downloading more “stuff” to my phone, I took the leap.  I would dip my toe into the pool.  I would now learn how to Apply myself.  But I would NOT be at the mercy of Angry Birds.  I would grab one sensible app, and be done with it.

A calendar device.  That’s what I downloaded.  And I liked it.  It synced with the rest of my life, gave me a heads up on impending meetings, let me organize my time by providing plenty of notice for project due dates.  Awesome.

But that’s as far as I’ll go as it relates to downlo…  okay, there’s a pretty cool music player that I could use, but that’s it.  Other than those two, I have no need for distracting programs that will do nothing but make my life more diffi…  Okay.  There’s a pretty sweet swiping keyboard that makes things a little simpler.  And there’s a map device that could come in pretty handy.  But that’s it.

And Score Mobile – a great utility for checking my football scores at a glance.  And a guitar tuner.  And a couple of news site apps.  And an app that makes my phone sound like a light saber when I move it around.  Oh!  And a wicked little thing that – when I put my phone over my mouth – it makes it look like I’m talking.  And the “emptying beer app”… that’s a must.

The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need.

Having been a user of cell phones when they were “phones”, I was entirely reluctant to delve into the world where my primary tool for communication becomes a Playstation.  But the truth is they’re pretty amazing devices now; holding more memory than did the primary computer aboard any Apollo mission.

There are some idiotic applications out there.  No question.  Having a Wiggles Songs alarm app isn’t going to make you a more productive individual.  There are, however, some awfully useful tools that were developed specifically with the intention of simplifying your life.  Or maybe even enriching it.  Maybe.

I took too long to recognize the value of these utilities, and didn’t understand that they could, in fact, make my professional life a little simpler.  And to those I mocked for downloading this stuff before I did?

There’s an appology for that.

What apps do you use?  Have they simplified your life, or provided yet another distraction?

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