Dutch Volkswagen customers from now on can get route, traffic and weather information through their mobile phone. The service is free for customers (via em, Dutch). Thus Volkswagen adds more (virtual) value to the (physical) car. Now for free, but in the future there will be so much added service that customers are willing to pay for it. Then the service will always be available in the car, through the mobile phone but also through every other screen. Then we will be able to look into error reports from the car, and make a service appointment with the garage in one click. Then we will always have the most up-to-date maps in the car, worldwide, we will be recognized in any Volkswagen we enter, and our favorite temperature will automatically be entered. This is only a small step away…
Wireless networks are very hard to connect for the average consumer. Configuring routers, passwords, codes: this is way too complicated. For the average consumer, connecting the TV is hard enough already. As a result, by far the most appliances in households are still stand-alone.
This is now going to change. A standard has been established: the so-called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) standard, which will make it extremely easy to connect new appliances. For example a new TV which is also directly connected to the network, and through which you can directly watch a movie, or download it on demand. Or a display on the kitchen cabinet, on the edge of the bath or in the bathroom, which you only have to plug in to be able to do anything you want. This road is now open. And not just to watch: the displays will especially also react to us. So that the TV automatically tunes in to the soccer game you were just watching in the kitchen. This standard makes it all possible for everybody.
Ciao Shopping, one of the biggest and fastest growing comparison sites in Europe, has members earn money through reviews (50 cents per review), and by getting other new members. They can earn a 50% bonus on all review earnings of the new member for the first half year of his or her membership. Participating in market research also brings in money: up to 5 euros per research (em, Dutch). Thus new brands show what a thin border there is between employees and consumers. People who are more involved, make more money. Even in times in which they are less active themselves, when others who they recruited are more active. Regular brands more and more start using multi-level marketing mechanisms. Or the mission work with which churches were successful in the past. It depends on how you want to see it. This anyway is an example of how it can be successful.
At the US Lenovo headquarters they have a screen that seems to be filled with water, and that reacts to passers-by (fc, Dutch). Screens thus more and more provide us access to the virtual world. Now we can make small waves in the water. Later we will be able to swim through them as well. Swimming and flying through a 3D world: in the end human beings dream of being as free as a bird, and technology helps fulfill this wish.
Mier3000 (Ant 3000) is a new little brand that nestles in your Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger) contact list, and that searches the (Dutch) national telephone guide and yellow pages for you. When you add firstname.lastname@example.org to your contact list, you can directly start asking questions. The dialogue is still simple, although it already can answer questions like ‘I’m looking for’, ‘I want the phone number of’, and even ‘gimme a pizza place’ results in a list of hits. In Messenger’s right screen (the activity screen) the results then appear on a map. Anybody who registers gets a personal ant. People can even nominate their ant to be the work-ant of the month.
Thus the dialogue further develops. Any human being, any brand and any other organization: we will only (literally) have to call their names and we are directly connected to them. Through speech (and image) with a real person, through a website or through an artificial brand agent. Ant then can become our personal secretary, a virtual coaching brand instance of our social coaching brand. This is a small step in that direction.