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atom thought

Merging the Online World with the Real World

01 Jan 2011
By atom42

The things we can do nowadays… We can scan a barcode whilst out and about and the item will be added to our online shopping basket. Instantly compare the price of a book in Waterstones to see if we can get it cheaper online. Access an array of military satellites to triangulate our exact position and plot a route from our current location to our desired destination on a map. View a complete report of our exercise routine online, after our workout.

More and more, the line between the online world and the real world are blurring. How long will it be before we can no longer tell the difference between the two?

The Tesco Effect

That woman from Cold Feet and that bloke out of the Full Monty have been banging the Tesco drum on our TV screens for a while now. Recently though, it’s all become quite hi-tech.

You’ve probably seen the TV ad – They go about their daily business, scanning barcodes of the things they’re running out of with their Smartphones to automatically add them to their Tesco shopping basket. I never thought I’d say this about Tesco, but that is way cool! I’ll probably become a Tesco online customer just so I can use the app and feel all futuristic… (although I hope Ocado follow suit – I like my groceries to have an expiry date longer than 2 days in the future).

As a relatively simple piece of open-source technology, surely it won’t be long before other online stores bring out their own app to bring this functionality to the masses – I’d be very surprised if Amazon don’t weigh in with their own app pretty soon. From giving an online goliath such as Amazon access to high-street impulse buying to high street stores improving the chances of converting a shopper at a later date, the impact of this could be significant.

Price Comparison

Of course, Tesco have attracted me to a closed shop at the moment. But, this same technology lends itself nicely to an open market. I quite often wander into my local Waterstones, flick through a book and then scan the barcode to see if I can get it cheaper online (not that I usually end up being patient enough to visit a site, make an online transaction and wait for the book to be delivered, but it’s nice to be able to compare the price).

I have another app on my iPhone that is able to read text using my camera screen and instantly translate it into another language, which made me think.. “perhaps we won’t need barcodes to compare prices in the future…”. If I’m buying a car, maybe I can just photograph the registration number, or even just take a photo of the vehicle to see if I can get the same car cheaper elsewhere. The possibilities are endless.

Map my Ride

When I make the 4-mile journey to or from work on foot, I love logging into a website that will tell me my route, how many calories I’ve burned, what my pace was and all the other data that doesn’t mean much to me to but looks cool on the screen.

Effectively, I’m using a web analytics package to track the effectiveness of my exercise, just as I use one to track the online marketing activity I run on a daily basis. I wonder what other aspects of my life I could use analytics on?

Could it help me stick to my financial budget? Could it help me ensure I call my parents often enough to stop them worrying that I might have died during the last week, but not so often that it becomes irritating? Could it remind me that I bought that exact bouquet of flowers for my girlfriend last year and suggest a suitable alternative based upon her previous feedback?

Where is it all leading…

Whilst I’m eventually hoping for an Iron Man-style visor with HUD hooked up to my own ultra-secure database, and cybernetic microchips that can give me instant knowledge of Kung Fu as soon as I plug them in, but I’m guessing we won’t see anything like that soon.

Still, the Smartphone, and the technology it is built upon, appears to be steadily integrating the online world with the real world. As online marketers, this is a trend we cannot ignore.

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