BrainTrust Query: Killer Tech for Phones
Commentary by David
Dorf, Director of Technology Strategy, Oracle Retail
At the tail-end of
the Mobile Retailing panel at NRF, I was asked, “What will this panel be discussing
next year at NRF 2011?” I gave a quick answer that I think merits further explanation.
From a mobile technology perspective, especially with reference to the iPhone
and similar devices, I think we’re in our third generation of “killer tech” (similar
to killer apps).
For me, the mobile
phone wasn’t really interesting until I could combine the PDA functions of
email, calendar, and contacts with the convenience of a phone. So I was underwhelmed
until my first Blackberry, and then I was immediately addicted. When I switched
to an iPhone, it was a prettier version of the same basic functionality, albeit
with greater access to 3rd party applications. But I was soon impressed with
three waves of tech.
1. Location-based Services
The first killer tech
of the iPhone was anything that used GPS. I never got lost with Google Maps,
and there were a few apps that helped me find nearby restaurants, gas stations,
and even friends. I recently saw an interesting app for Android that counts
down the time to your scheduled departure for an appointment/meeting/event,
taking into account your current location, the distance and traffic to your
destination in real-time. Yowza! uses your location to find coupons from nearby
The next killer tech,
which made its way onto the scene last year, is computer vision. For years
we’ve been able to take photos and e-mail them around to friends, but now apps
can finally “see” what’s in the picture. Walmart’s app lets you take a picture
of your living room and determines the best size TV for the space. Tesco’s
app let’s you photograph a wine bottle’s label to get additional information
on the wine (and prices, of course). RedLaser let’s you scan a barcode using
the phone’s camera in order to get additional product information.
I think 2010 will be
year when augmented reality takes off. This technology is made possible for
phones that have GPS, a camera, and a compass. Yelp, an app that provides reviews
for stores and restaurants, was the first to release a mainstream AR app for
the iPhone. Now Brightkite is partnering with BestBuy to offer advertising
on its AR app. Imagine standing in front of a shopping center and using your
phone’s video camera to pan across the storefronts to see reviews, promotions,
and store hours. Wired Magazine recently
published their 7 Best Augmented Reality Apps.
Taken a step further,
imagine using an AR app within the store to immediately see additional product
information, promotional videos, and get access to coupons. OK, now fast-forward
a few years and replace the phone with a wearable computer. Now fast-forward
a few more to use AR contact lenses. This will someday significantly change
the way advertising reaches people.
What is the next step for mobile retailing? What
are your favorite mobile apps available today? What advances do
you see occurring over the next few years?