16 February 2014


Noting a rather gushy article in the Financial Times on marketing and the internet of things.

Under the headline 'This is your coffee calling - buy me' the FT comments
Cakes that send smartphone messages to passing hungry shoppers will soon be on the shelves of coffee shops as the British high street prepares to adopt one of the latest US technologies. A shopper walking down a supermarket cereal aisle could be pinged with details of a special offer on cornflakes. Someone standing at the counter in a cafĂ© might be sent a message tempting them to buy a cake. 
Heaven forbid that you should tell the coffee to get lost or tell the cornflakes that you aren't at home.

Catching the vision of the past decade - surprisingly there's no reference to enthusiasts such as Nicholas Negroponte and Kevin Kelly - the FT enthuses about "the iBeacon  technology" that allows retailers to push tailored messages to a consumer's smartphone.  Just what we need - the cake version of Grindr!
It uses precise location tracking to target would-be purchasers when they are in exactly the right place to buy the product. 
Eat, the chain of London-based sandwich shops, has agreed the first trial of iBeacon, using a system devised by Weve, which is backed by the UK’s largest mobile telecoms groups. Several other fashion and food retailers are close to signing up to the trial in the next few weeks. 
It is the first time this technology has been used commercially outside the US, where Apple and retailers such as Macy’s are already “nudging” customers through their phones. 
The technology came to prominence during last month’s Super Bowl. … On Friday, Major League Baseball's Advanced Media division announced that iBeacons will be installed in 20 stadiums before the beginning of the season next month. Users of MLB’s At the Ballpark app who opt into the scheme will be greeted with information about the day’s game as they enter the ground and shown special offers as they approach stores and restaurants. “We can say definitively that you are in the ballpark,” said an MLB spokesperson. 
Special sensors detect when a smartphone is within inches using the latest Bluetooth technology, meaning retailers can track customers as they walk through a store. …  The iBeacon can tell you about the soup of the day or a special offer on your favourite cake, said Sean O’Connell, a director at Weve, the group set up by Vodafone, EE and O2 to market schemes.
I can hardly wait … the digital version of fending off a cascade of touts as you walk along the restaurant strip or carpet street.

Any problems wit the talking cakes and chatty coffee machines?
The technology is sure to raise privacy concerns, although customers will need to download the app and choose to share information.
The FT goes on to indicate that Weve
has access to the anonymised personal data of 22m smartphone users. “We have been thinking about how to digitalise all those bits of plastic and paper in your wallet or purse – and then make them come to life using time, location and proximity offering emotion and reward for the customer,” Mr O’Connell said.
Can't go wrong with making your credit card come to life, dance a little jig and offer you some emotion (rather than just a debit item in the monthly balance).
“The retailer will know that you are standing in a cake aisle, triggering a message to be pushed your way. But we also know where customers come from and why those customers turn left rather than right – we can profile users in a lunchtime context.” 
Weve will use this technology to provide retailers with the ability to market offers to customers they know are interested in a specific service – the technology can interact with the vast database held on customers that includes information such as gender, age and area of address. Mobile operators also operate schemes where customers can provide more information such as interests and preferences to allow more precisely targeted advertising and offers. 
The technology that allows the shelf in a retailer to talk to the smartphone will link with a loyalty service called Pouch, a smartphone app, which will track purchases and offer discounts – for example, progressively cheaper food for returning customers, or specific offers on favourite things at certain time of day.