Scanning cameras lock onto John Anderton’s face as he walks through a shopping mall. Using facial recognition technology advertisers clock his presence and begin an invasive barrage of “personalised” advertisements designed to entice, cajole and convince him to purchase the must have products on promotion. In this a scene from the 2002 movie Minority Report where Tom Cruise plays John Anderson, we are offered a vision of marketing in the future that is coming true today. Last week, Tesco, the UK largest supermarket, announced  that it is installing hundreds of hi-tech screens to scan the faces of shoppers as they queue to pay. Facial recognition technology will then determine age, identify if the person is male or female and how engaged they are with the advert on display. Sounds spookily big brother-ish!

The advertising system,  called the ‘OptimEyes’, can tailor content based on time and location, and will be rolled out into 450 Tesco petrol forecourts, reaching more than five million adult customers every week.  Simon Sugar (Son of Sir Alan Sugar) the CEO of Amscreen, the company behind OptimEyes is optimistic about the systems ability to provide data to enhance the understanding of consumer behaviours. Using face detection technology to “revolutionise” the advertising industry Simon Sugar promises a step-change in advertising stating that “brands deserve to know not just an estimation of how many eyeballs are viewing their adverts, but who they are too. Through our Face Detection technology, we want to optimise our advertisers campaigns, reduce wastage and in-turn deliver the type of insight that only online has previously been able to achieve.”

Simon Sugar and the Tesco marketers that support and promote this big brother push-marketing approach are missing the point of today’s connected technology and the Connection Economy. They are failing to recognise the shift where  old marketing methods are irrelevant. There is no doubt that the technology being used here is impressive and represents an important milestone but it’s application is woefully inadequate and being wrongly implemented. What is required is a mindset shift – the technology of the future has arrived but it is being implemented using old paradigms.

The world of connected things, the Internet of Things, combined with smart devices, wi-fi, broadband and massive storage in the cloud is enabling the step change. But this step change is not technology driven. The step change is a mindset shift around how technology is enabling consumers to interact, engage and form partnerships with companies. In the Connection Economy the consumer  calls the shots and it is the consumer who invites the best brands and most trusted companies into their lives. Astute companies are using technology to build relatiosnhips not to push products and determine who is looking at their adverts. Which is like so old school!

One of the big trends for 2014 will be the explosion of smart wearable computer devices. This is an important exciting trend offering perhaps the most powerful engagement platform companies have ever had for building trusted relationships with customers. Companies that are not thinking how they can leverage and benefit from the ecosystems and Apps being created in this space are fast falling behind the competitive curve. As an example of how it should be done let me introduce Nymi Wristband, a smart wearable computer devices that recognises, encrypts and shares biometric data of the wearer. Like a fingerprint every person has a unique heartbeat rhythm, Nymi reads and recognises this rhythm. By using biometric  information to validate a user’s identity the Nymi Wristband enables immediate and seamless recognition of who you are with other smart devices and connected objects. As Wired Magazine puts it:

Companies have been dangling the promise of hyper-connected smart environments in front of us for years. We’ve been told that soon we’ll be able to walk into a room, and our devices will instantly cater to our preferences. In this world, Spotify has learned that you enjoy listening to hip hop while making dinner, and your Jambox knows how loud you like the volume. Upon entering your kitchen, the lights dim to a warm glow, just the way you like it, and based on what you’ve indicated you’re making for dinner via a cooking app, the oven presets to 400 degrees with just a wave of your hand.

Sounds pretty great, right? But the problem is, how do these devices even know who’s there? Tailoring environments to our desires is reliant on devices knowing and understanding the people who use them. But short of manually programming your preferences, there’s no easy way for our gadgets and apps to know who we are or what we like. “We see ourselves as sort of the central point in enabling that in a really simple way,” says Karl Martin, CEO of Bionym, a biometrics company based in Toronto. Tailoring environments to our desires relies upon devices that know the people using them. Martin an his team have created the Nymi, a plastic wristband that is aiming to be the common thread that connects your identity to the smart devices of the future.

This immediately solves one problem, the user does not have to think or act to engage with the connected world around them, it happens seamlessly. And because the devise is based on the unique biorhythm of your heart you have control and privacy issues can be managed by you. The customer gets to decide who they interact with and who they build relationships with.

In a connected world, the ability to seamlessly be identified will have a huge impact on how we experience the world around us. This technology could dramatically enhance the shopping experience. Most importantly the person wearing the device has the control and retains the right to “invite” retailers and service providers into their life by deciding who is allowed to recognise them and who is not. For example, I enjoy and trust shopping at John Lewis. I trust that they have my best interests at heart and will give me a great customer experience. Using an App that operates off of the Nymi platform I give John Lewis permission to identify me as soon as I enter one of their stores. This now happens automatically as soon as I enter a John Lewis store. Now I’m benefiting from also giving John Lewis access to my social networks, allowing them to get to know me better and personalise my shopping experience. A win-win and  personalised one on one relationship is now possible making OptimEyes and Tesco’s approach already out of date.

Connected technology like Nymi enable consumers and retailers to enter into a social contract where the wearer has control to opt-in and opt-out of relationships depending on the degree of trust and benefit of the relationship on offer. Switched on companies will use connected technology to build platforms that their customers connect to and benefit from. For example one of TomorrowToday’s clients Nestlé could create a health and wellness social platform  as part of their Good Food, Good Life strategy and form partnerships to help customers using Nymi type bands to  live better lives. The opportunities are endless and limited only by our own imaginations.

The Connection Economy offers companies exciting opportunities to maximise personal and connected relationships with customers. But to do so leaders require a mindset shift in how customer relationships are perceived and built. OptimEyes and Tesco are using today’s technology in an invasive way that tries to further old style push marketing. Have these companies learnt nothing yet about the Connected Economy? Time is running out fast, soon these companies will find themselves living outside of the world of connected and trusted relationships. Shape up or find yourself being shipped out.




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