Nokia

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.

Where Should We Go? Wieden + Kennedy’s Pop Up Book for Nokia.

Leave it to the folks at Wieden + Kennedy to come up with this promotional piece for a new Nokia smartphone release. Working with illustrator Nate Coonrod, W+K created this absolutely charming pop up book titled “Where Should We Go?”. At the end of the book the smartphone is revealed with a pull out section that shows the phone screen. The phone is hidden in a drawer that creates the binding foe the book itself.

The story is about a family who is looking for the perfect place to enjoy their vacation; so Tim and Jenny pack up their car, two kids and cat, and drive from forest to coast, to country and mountains searching for the ideal holiday destination with the help of their new Nokia smartphone.

I’m not sure how many of these were produced, but they are getting a ton of press due to the blending of the physical book, and the digital nature of the phone. I wish there had been a way to activate the phone when the pull out tab was used. It would have been a really wonderful way to tie the to objects together in a more complete way.

It’s Not Technology. It’s What You Do With It.

This entire film by Aardman Studios was shot using a Nokia N8, and a microscope adapter. The main character is 9 millimeters tall. yes 9 Millimeters.

In the opening title frame for the short film “The Making of Dot”, the director sets up a very important statement. “It’s not technology. It’s what you do with it.” This statement is so true, and it is often a concept that gets forgotten by designers as they get seduced by the tools or technologies they work with. I spend 8 to 10 hours a day working at a computer using most if not all of the Adobe CS5 creative suite. I know just how easy it is to let the technology take over. I think that is one of the reasons that I am so impressed with “Dot”. The crew that produced this stop motion film, used some very advanced technology to create a really wonderful little short film. They used the technology as a challenge to develop the look of the film, but didn’t allow it to take over the film, and that can be a very hard thing to do.

Watch both clips. The short is great, and the making of video is really pretty amazing, especially when you see just how small this actually is.

Let the Convergence Begin. CES 2010 and the Future.

CES is in full swing at the Las Vegas convention center this week, and there are all sorts of crazy announcements that have been coming out cool new gadgets and technologies. The one thing I have been noticing is, there seems to be a lot of buzz this year around 2 specific product formats. Tablet PC’s, and Internet streaming devices like Boxee, and Vudu.

Today Microsoft’s Steve Balmer  introduced “Slate” it’s touch screen tablet running windows 7. The device will be built by HP, and available later this month. The price has yet to be announced. One thing for sure though, it’ll be cheaper than Apple’s iSlate, or iTablet which set to be announced on January 27th.

HP Slate Running Windows 7 Touch

In the keynote Steve Balmer said,

“They’re more powerful than a phone and almost as powerful as a PC. Perfect for reading, surfing the web and taking entertainment on the go.”

This is an important statement  because it give credence to an emerging trend. People want all their communications and entertainment devices to play together. They also want access to their media of choice any time, any place, anywhere.

In addition to Microsoft, other touch screen tablets have been announced by Lenovo, Nokia, and IDC which introduced the Tegra, which will have connectivity through T-mobile as well as Wifi making it a true mobile device.  The Tegra is running on the emerging tablet OS of choice Android, which is going to become the 800 pound gorilla of Operating Systems in the near future. T-Mobile is  positioning the Tegra as a tablet for the whole family, and says that the device is designed primarily to sit in the kitchen to let families keep watch on the household calendar and manage their schedules — although it’s also of course still capable of things like 1080p video playback, music streaming, running Google applications and widgets, surfing the internet etc.

The Android OS Tegra

Nokia Booklet 3G

Sounds like a bit of convergence doesn’t it? Which brings me to the net connected devices like Boxee’s latest.

Not only is the Boxee just a beautiful piece of industrial design, it is a game changing piece of hardware. Here is why.

The Sub 200 dollar Boxee

First off Flash 10.1 support. This means that the device can not only place shift your favorite TV shows and movies, it can run any application that you can develop in Flash. This is huge. It means that if you are a designer of interactive content, or applications, you can get them on to that big flat panel TV in everyone’s living room. For under $200, Boxee will support a wide range of formats, including DivX, VC-1, WMV, H.264 MKV, and Flash 10.1.The  service support is equally broad, with channels from Pandora, Last.fm, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, and Flickr all integrated, and today it was announced that they are in talks with Netflix.  In addition there is the Boxee app platform so anyone can design additional apps, plugins, and games.

Like Boxee Vudu made similar announcements at CES saying that are partnering with 3 of the largest manufacturers of LCD televisions, and bringing over 100 new channels streamed directly to your TV set.

The Vudu UI as seen in all its 1080p Glory

For the last year, Vudu has been steadily strengthening its service offering by rolling out applications like Wikipedia, Pandora, and Flickr to connected LG TVs (all this in addition to streaming 1080p movies to you from the Vudu service). With Vudu Apps they expand their reach in terms of services offered as well as hardware supported, by offering hundreds of apps to connected TVs and Blu-ray players from a variety of new partners: and the service will show up in HDTVs from Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio, as well as Blu-ray players from those last two companies.

So why is this a big deal?

Because with these kinds of services you don’t need the cable company or AT&T to provide you with entertainment services. Both of these devices only require you to have an internet connection, which is great for us. Time and place shifting of content has changed the way people interact with content so much in the last 5 years that it’s no surprise that devices like Boxee and Vudu are making such huge gains in the content delivery game.

What all these devices bring to the table though are the first real steps of how we are going to be interacting with media by the end of this decade. The fact that Boxee has Flash support is huge. This means it has Browser support. That means it will be able to let you do so much more than be a passive observer. It will be interesting to see what these companies start to do with multiple application and media feeds. Verizon is already making headway with its FiOs system allowing you to Tweet, and check Fantasy Football stats while watching a real-time broadcast of your favorite show or movie. Combine that with the power of any of these net connected devices and imagine the future. Think Slingbox on steroids.

It’s gonna get fun people and I can’t wait.