NFC

The Harman Kardon Esquire is a Travel Speaker Done Right.

Harman Kardon has been on a tear lately with a slew of killer products featuring clean functional design. From headphones to speaker systems, they have been setting the high bar in terms of visual design aesthetic and materials used.

The new Esquire speaker is a great example of the new Harman Kardon product line up. This little, portable speaker not only features Bluetooth, it has NFC for all those Android devices that are packing that technology. At $250.00 it isn’t cheap, but if it’s anything like the Aura speaker system I own, it’s worth the money.

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Esquire is a wireless audio system with designed with travel in mind. The speaker has dual drivers, a built-in bass port, and can be used for music listening around the house, office, or on-the-go. In addition, Esquire can be used with Bluetooth-enabled smartphones to make clear, no-fuss conference calls. Esquire uses custom-tuned microphones and noise cancellation technology to improve call quality even in noisy environments.

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Prepare totravel in a completely different way. The Harman Kardon Esquire is your new, on-the-road, wireless audio system. Esquire is a Bluetooth®-enabled speaker with a built- in conference phone system that redefines how you take your music with you. This durable, portable speaker is crafted out of fine materials with a leather panel and metal finish on the outside. On this inside, it’s pure Harman Kardon engineering, with dual drivers and a built-in bass port for clear sound, as well as custom-tuned microphones and noise cancellation technology for clear conference calls from your Bluetooth®-enabled smart phone. Top performance and outstanding design, this exquisite, portable speaker from Harman Kardon is substance and style. It looks as good as it sounds.

Legic IDConnect, Solid Sound Design and Animation.

I love this little animated short for Legic by Goldener Westen. Great sound design coupled with flat design imagery and solid motion graphics help sell the NFC features in an easy to understand way. The animation premiered at the European data security trade show »Sicherheit earlier this year. The 1:45 piece really shows off a tight collaboration between the animator and sound designers on this project.

Animation: Nico Roicke. Sound design: Uwe Bossenz and Philipp Koller.

Technology Monday. “LikeBelt”, Real World “Likes” from your Smartphone.

For some time now I have been saying NFC will overtake things like QR codes as more Android handsets ship with built in NFC readers. Hopefully the next gen iPhone will have a built in NFC reader as well. When that happens, we will have reached the tipping point. Here is a great example of why I think NFC has a huge future with smart phone users.

“LikeBelt”, developed by Deeplocal, have created a prototype android app,that allows you to like physical, real objects. “Likes” are triggered by reading RFID chips embedded in real-world items which are read by NFC enabled Android phones. Those “Likes” show up on your favorite social network (who might I be talking about?). The LikeBelt terminology is a bit odd but if you can get past it, and the weird sexual thrusting, you can see the potential here.

To QR or not to QR? That is the Question.

QR Codes are nothing new. The things have been around since 1994, but in the last year they seem to have exploded with the proliferation of smartphones with cameras. These days you can’t go a day without seeing one it seems like, but the cold hard fact is six out of ten Americans don’t know what they are, and the number is about the same for people who will actually scan them. None the less marketers and advertisers continue to develop and roll out QR codes right and left. In the graphic below there were three things that reinforced my opinion about QR codes, their use, and their possible future.

  • 6 out of 10 don’t know what they are.
  • Almost 60% are found in retail locations and or magazines
  • 87% of the people who do scan them expect a coupon when the associated site launches.

if you put this together it’s not what I would call a winning formula. It basically means that you are expecting 29% of your target audience to take a phone out while shopping, pick up an item, launch the QR reader on their phone, point it at the code, then save a digital coupon. You are also expecting the cashier to know what to do with the coupon when it is presented. The same thing is true with people seeing these in a magazine. You are expecting the reader to stop reading, get their phone, fire up the software, scan the code, and execute on what ever your QR code serves up. That is provided your audience isn’t one of the six out of ten that have no clue about what your QR code is.

Right now there are to many steps, and too much confusion about what QR codes are and how to effectively use them. This is why I keep thinking that they are short lived and will be eclipsed by better technology in the near future. Smartphone adoption has helped generate buzz about them,  and I know QR codes are here to stay. I’m just not all that convinced they are going to give you any ROI that is worth your time.

The infographic below is from SystemID. if you scan the QR code at the bottom of the image you will be taken to their mobile site where there is even more info on QR codes and what you can do with them.

Quearr’s take on QR Codes.

when ever a company that provides a service, develops an infographic about the service they provide, you might want to be a little skeptical about the information provided. This infographic comes from the company Queaar, and they are in the business of helping you develop and implement QR codes for your products. While the numbers shown might be accurate they are incomplete, and the jury is still out on the effectiveness of QR codes, the adaptation of them, and actual user click through rates. None the less the information is interesting, and does give you some new insight on QR Code stats for the 12 months.

Frankly I still believe that QR will be eclipsed by NFC in the next 12 to 18 months, but based on the information in the image below expect to see more of these in the near future.

Scanapalooza QR Code Facts.

I’m not a huge fan of QR codes. I feel that they are overrated and not used as frequently as their promoters might think. The fact that a large number of people don’t have smartphones, it requires you to install and launch a third party application, etc. tends to make people shy away from them. For some time now I have been saying that NFC chips (Near Field Communication) and phones with NFC readers built in will probably eclipse QR codes in the next few years.

A couple of things that support my feelings about QR codes are listed in the info graphic from Lab42 below. Things like 60% of people say they are not familiar with QR codes at all, and only 13% have successfully scanned a QR code.   It’ll be interesting to watch what happens with NFC over the next year or so as more Android phones and the iPhone both implement NFC readers. I’m curious if it will be more widely adopted do to ease of use, or if it will run into the same issues as QR codes have.

NFC and Your Mobile Phone, Doesn’t Simply Mean “Payments”.

If you are involved with technology, content creation, marketing or advertising, you have probably heard of “Near Field Communication”. Actually, if you watch the news or listen to NPR, you have probably seen, or heard about it because of Google’s “Google Wallet” which is now being tested in select U.S. cities.  NFC has been around for sometime, and handset manufacturers like Nokia have actually been embedding the technology in their handsets since mid 2006, although you wouldn’t have found any of those phones on sale in the U.S. outside of an importer. So why is NFC so hot right now? Because there are tens of billions of dollars in mobile payment revenues riding on it. And now with handset manufacturers, teleco’s, payment companies, marketers, advertisers, and other key players on the same page, the doors have opened and NFC-enabled phones are starting to show up in the U.S.A.

The first big announcement started at the end of last year when Google and Samsung dropped the news about the Nexus-S. Now other manufacturers like Nokia, HTC, Motorola, and Blackberry have all chimed in with commitments to release NFC enabled phones in the next year. Even Apple is hinting that NFC might be included in the next generation iPhone. If you look at the numbers and the surrounding research it suggests that 30% of all mobile phones shipped worldwide will be NFC-enabled by 2015, which seems like a fairly conservative prediction since by the end of 2011 more than half of all phones sold will be smartphones. So what does this mean to all of us, both consumer, and content creator/advertiser? Quite a bit.

Right now when you hear “NFC” it is usually associated with mobile payments, and this is really where people are pushing the technology.The ability to pay for things with your mobile phone and potentially replace credit cards is arguably the most powerful and transformational aspect of the technology,but it is not NFC’s only use. Right now mobile marketing is the fasts growing segment of the advertising industry.NFC has the potential to create newer, richer ways of connecting target audiences with a brand, and this is very appealing to agencies, marketing firms, their clients and you the consumer. Imagine being at your favorite store, and seeing an NFC enabled sign for a new product. By simply tapping your phone in a designated area of the sign, you are taken to a micro-site for the product, or you are given specific details, or you can see the product in a 360 degree view.This is where things get interesting and revolutionary. Mobile users don’t have to install an application, and hope it works since NFC is embedded in the phone itself. Is this the death of things like QR codes? Not immediately, but eventually.

In a recent article for Mobile Market Watch by Mikhail Damiani, he talks about how RMG Networks, a place-based media network with hundreds of thousands of digital screens across cafes, health clubs, airports, airplanes, pharmacies, and casinos announced the launch of mTAG, an NFC-enabled platform allowing users to tap their phone to discover relevant mobile content associated with the on-screen creative at their current location. This is huge. It’s like Yelp, or Foursquare on steroids. Google is also jumping on the trend by rolling out NFC enabled Recommended on Google Places window stickers in a test they are conducting in Portland Oregon. Those Google stickers, communicate localized information about the venue you are at. Rich detailed information designed to extend the overall user experience.

As for you the consumer, NFC marketing has some advantages over current mobile application based marketing. Like I said before you don’t have to download and install anything on your phone, you don’t have to enable GPS, and NFC doesn’t collect personally identifiable information about you. In addition, after you leave the NFC enabled area, you won’t have any form of advertising pushed to you on your phone. Because NFC has such a low power draw, it can remain on all the time in the background, with no noticeable impact on battery life. And all interactions are fully opt-in and secure – the only way you will receive anything, is if you proactively tap your mobile phone on the designated area. Because of all of this, marketers and advertisers will have the ability to micro-target specific locations and the audience in those locations who are most interested in the offer – thus, any such engagements are more relevant and valuable. Over the next couple of years as NFC handsets become more common, NFC based campaigns will evolve in both their creativeness, and usefulness. Instead of simple messaging, the advertisements will provide you with immediate offers, relevant information, special deals, and a rich deep user experience.

Right now there is a short window of opportunity for advertisers. The ramp up and acceptance for mobile payments is going to take some time, which gives us about 12 to 18 months to play. Hopefully your first introduction to NFC will not be a mobile payment, but instead will be a rich media experience delivered to the palm of your hand.

This type of introduction to NFC is going to be essential to the success and sustainability of NFC’s use as a marketing/advertising tool.  Americans really are creatures of habit, and if their only connotation of NFC is paying for things, it’s going to be difficult to convince them that tapping their phone for entertainment content will be as valuable if not more so won’t result in a payment transaction. In addition the content is going to have to be easy to engage, and provide value to the person opting in, especially if they want continued or return engagement in the future.

I think the next 18 months is going to be extremely interesting for the NFC world, and I expect to see a lot more engagement with it as we move forward.