Tagged 'technology'

High-tech tools come to the rescue when keys go astray

As we have noted, with the move of 3D printing into the mainstream, companies have been thinking about ways to leverage the new technology to redefine consumer experiences. Belgian insurance company DVV has reimagined the problem of losing one’s keys with Keysave. The upcoming service lets customers make a 3D scan of their keys, which is virtually stored in a secure database. Then, if they find themselves digging through purses or kicking through sand with their keys nowhere in sight, they can download the 3D file and bring it to a 3D print shop (or anyone with a 3D printer) to get new copies.

Assuming that 3D printing becomes a widely available service, the program is an intuitive adaptation of the technology that eases an everyday anxiety—as long as customers can be assured their key scans are ultra-secure. Meanwhile, a somewhat simpler solution is now available via a free app from the startup KeyMe that enables people to scan keys using a smartphone. Once they’re locked out, users pay for access to the scan, and the company says any locksmith can re-create the key using instructions displayed on the phone. A handy benefit is that users can also digitally share keys with friends or family.

Perhaps most useful, Nokia will soon start selling proximity sensors that use Bluetooth and NFC to communicate with the company’s Lumia phones. Dubbed Treasure Tags, they can be attached to keys or anything else that people routinely lose track of, even cars.

keysave.be / Your keys are always here. from stuffcore on Vimeo.

With surgery or digital trickery, people prep for social media close-ups

Recently, there has been a lot of talk around a social media-driven “narcissism epidemic” and the global selfies trend. In fact, a study out of the University of Michigan suggests that social media tends to appeal to people seeking to boost their egos by eliciting responses to their curated image. The anxiety that results from the desire to put forward an enviable image is leading to a phenomenon termed the Facebook or FaceTime facelift.

Social-media driven cosmetic procedures were first noted in the U.S. last year, and in March a poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery confirmed that “social media is leading consumers to have a more self-critical eye,” pointing to a 31 percent increase in requests for surgery as a result of online photo sharing. Now the phenomenon has been noted in India, with one report observing that more 20- and 30-somethings are signing up for minor procedures.

For consumers who want to refine the way they appear without resorting to medical help, various tools are popping up to help them achieve photo perfection. The iLipo app alters photos to simulate the effects of going under the knife (it’s intended to help users decide whether to pursue surgery), while advanced image-editing apps, like PicMonkey, help users whiten their teeth, slim their waists and brighten their eyes. And Chinese mobile brand Huawei is even integrating such capabilities into smartphone cameras, adding “instant facial beauty support” to remove wrinkles and blend skin tone.

Skype illustrates how it helps people ‘Stay Together’

Today people are connected in so many ways, and yet in this globalized, fast-paced world, many people feel their interactions with friends and family have become more distant and impersonal. As we have reported, a range of brands (including Nestlé’s Abuelita in Mexico, Nescafé in Australia, the U.K.’s National Rail, and Tostitos in the U.S.) have responded to anxieties around losing connections to loved ones and missing out on family traditions by positioning their products as a means to get closer and reunite. Skype has joined in on this concept but from the digital perspective, emphasizing that online connections can help maintain strong ties when families are separated by long distances.

Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign illustrates that instead of breaking down family traditions, the Internet service enables people to maintain them. “Stay Together stories” show modern iterations of the family portrait, with Skype video from one end of the connection projected onto a wall at the other end, so the family can pose together; artist John Clang then creates a portrait. A 10-year-old in L.A., for instance, poses next to her cousin in Brazil to see how much taller the older girl has grown. The campaign also asks consumers to share their own stories about how they stay together with important people in their lives. There’s also a personal storytelling competition, and the most compelling entry will win an “Impossible Family Portrait” and a $10,000 travel certificate to bring relatives together in real life.

O2 finds a catchy message in ‘Be More Dog’ campaign

o2 dog copyU.K. mobile operator O2 has launched a fun new campaign that reminds us that although we’ve all become bored and jaded, “the modern world is astonishing” and “we can do the most incredible things.” (An echo of Louis C.K.’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”) The Telefónica brand urges consumers to “be open to amazing new technology and what it can do”—by being more like a dog than a cat.

The “Be More Dog” campaign likens people to cats (aloof, unimpressed) and advises us to be “be a bit more dog” because “to them, life is amazing.” The message is that we’ve become so cynical that we’ve lost all sense of wonder at the joys of modern technology. The commercial, which keeps the focus off O2 itself, extols the canine’s approach to life while showing the type of delightful pet shots that will get distracted viewers to stop and watch. It also refers viewers to bemoredog.com, where they can play a “grab the Frisbee” game and link to more information about O2’s offerings.

Brands are more likely to connect with today’s anxious consumers by emphasizing the core value of hope, inspiring optimism rather than stoking fears, as we’ve long noted. O2 has found a way to tie its brand to a life-affirming message that most viewers can connect with, illustrated with the most viral of digital themes.

Photo Credit: O2

Mozilla fights for consumer privacy with ‘Stop Watching Us’ message

SpysAmerica’s tech giants have been struggling to explain their privacy policies after reports that companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft gave the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM program access to customer records. Mozilla, the free software community best known for such products as Firefox and Thunderbird, is setting itself apart from the pack. The organization, which was not implicated in the scandal, has helped to launch a coalition of advocacy organizations and some tech businesses that has a simple request for the U.S. Congress: “Stop Watching Us.” The website is designed as a petition that consumers can sign—and to date almost 500,000 have done so.

The petition calls for “immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs.” As we have noted on this blog, anxieties around data and privacy are real, and consumers are increasingly looking for ways to maintain privacy in the social age. A longtime proponent of the Open Web movement, Mozilla is standing up for consumers by being proactive in its commitment to consumer privacy. Watch for more brands to emphasize privacy and security guarantees—Microsoft, for example, is running a privacy-themed campaign—and perhaps even tout a non-U.S. home base as a selling point, as Norwegian company Jottacloud is doing.

Photo Credit: Tony Fischer

With anxious parents-to-be, Google shows how its tools make life easier

Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest causes of anxiety, especially when dealing with it alone. An online ad for Google demonstrates how the company’s tools, such as Google Chat or Google+, can help people deal with their uncertainties and worries together. In showing a young couple expecting a baby imminently—the most tense of times—Google illustrates its claim to “make the web work for you.”

The sweet two-minute film illustrates how the couple stay in touch throughout the day, using Google, and seek answers to their pressing questions. The wife seeks natural ways to cope with labor, the husband nervously calculates tuition fees, and each of them searches for baby names (the wife lands on Beatrice for a girl, the husband on Elvis for a boy). The wife seeks advice from friends on Google+, wondering how to tell her husband there will no longer be room for his record collection. Finally, the location-sharing feature comes in handy when the contractions begin, allowing the husband to find his wife and get to the hospital in time.

Google successfully conveys that it is more than a search engine and that its various products can make daily life easier, more efficient and even less anxious.

Apply App.ly matches applicants and vacancies on both experience and personality

In today’s economy, the job search is usually a stressful endeavor. While unemployment rates in the U.S. are slowly dropping, applicants still need any advantage they can get. Apply App.ly, a new job search platform, aims to improve the process for employers and employees alike. The idea is to match candidates with vacancies based not only on qualifications and experience but also on personality type. Apply’s application combines a user’s LinkedIn profile with a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment (applicants who have never taken a Myers-Briggs test can do so at a discount through the Apply site). This system can also be incorporated into an employer’s database for internal job switches, enabling employees to search for vacancies within their company that may better suit their skills and temperament.

Apply is following a trend toward greater personalization, making experiences, products and services even more tailored to individual preferences, behaviors and attitudes. Increasingly, consumers expect businesses not to treat every customer the same but to understand exactly how each is unique. In this instance, personalization not only helps match applicants and employers but can remove some of the anxiety around starting a new job, since theoretically you should fit in perfectly.

Flipkart looks to change Indian perceptions of online shopping

The traditional Indian consumer is a touch it, smell it, feel it, wear it, think about it, discuss it and then finally buy it kind of person. Hence, online purchase calls for a huge behavioral change. In addition, these hesitations aren’t without merit, as the purchase experience can be a real nightmare. Online portals have tried to reassure consumers by offering everything from cash-on-delivery payments to liberal return policies (which end up more valuable in theory than practice as refunds are slow to arrive), but most are pretty unprofessional, damaging overall perception of the category.

An exception is Flipkart.com, which manages to do a decent job. The e-commerce portal is trying to speed up acceptance of online shopping with a series of commercials that aim to educate hesitant consumers about the ease of shopping on the site. The spots feature children acting like adults—the idea is that no one trusts you like children—and discussing how various things can be easily bought from Flipkart. The ads put a little twist on the classic format of consumer conversations.

In this spot, a grandfather and grandson are opening up a package. A curious father inquires about it, learning that it’s a new mobile for grandfather from Flipkart. When the father skeptically bursts out “Online shopping!” the son explains just how simple the process is. “But without seeing? … Just seeing one photo?” interjects the dad. His wife, who’s been silently toying around on her computer, notes, “Before marriage, all I saw was your photo only.” Everyone giggles at the father’s close-minded attitude. The ads end with the tagline, “Shopping ka naya address” (“New address for shopping”).

Who’s the most private of them all? Microsoft takes on Google

Google Privacy On the heels of its “Good to Know” campaign—an effort to tutor consumers about good online safety practices—Google announced a shift in its privacy policy. The changes will see Google using one privacy policy to cover user activity and data across a number of its services (including Gmail, YouTube and gCal). The changes are touted as a means for streamlining the Web experience and making the privacy policy easier to understand but have drawn harsh criticism from some, who see them as counter to Google’s longstanding promise to “Do no evil.”

Microsoft has taken Google’s announcement—and the resulting consumer paranoia—as an opportunity to position itself as more privacy-friendly. Last week the company unveiled a series of full-page print ads in publications including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, pitching its own offerings—Hotmail, Office365, Internet Explorer and Bing—as alternatives to Google’s various services. The ads and accompanying blog post directly knock Google with headlines such as “Gone Google? Got Concerns? We Have Alternatives.” Google has retorted with its own post, as well as banner ads reading, “We’re changing our Privacy Policy. Not our privacy controls.”

As the PR battle over privacy ramps up, so too is consumer anxiety over what exactly to be concerned about and whether to change longstanding Web habits.

Photo Credit: mediafury; blogs.technet.com

Google teaches Web safety 101

Our attitudes toward online privacy tend to be rather cavalier. We’ll routinely broadcast our latest transactions and travel plans as well as our geo-tagged thoughts and actions via tweets and Foursquare check-ins. Ironically, however, we’ll immediately call foul each time Facebook, Google and the like unveil an update that makes broadcasting life a bit easier. As Fast Company writer Farhad Manjoo pointed out in 2010, “We want some semblance of control over our personal data, even if we likely can’t be bothered to manage it.”

With these Web giants coming under fire for violating consumer’s online privacy—which has yet to be fully hammered out in the legal sense—Google recently launched the U.S. portion of its “Good to Know” campaign. The effort, which kicked off in the U.K. last fall, focuses on tips for online safety. The ads comically draw parallels between real-world and online behavior. One print ad features an excited cartoon bandit strolling through a home’s unlocked front door; copy asks, “Ever go out for the day and leave your front door wide open? Exactly. And the same rule applies to the computers you use.” Other messaging breaks down the basics and (benefits) of cookies and IP addresses, an attempt to ease anxieties about sites such as Google collecting personal information.

Though “Good to Know” has drawn criticism from Internet privacy advocates (“This campaign should be nominated for some kind of award for fiction,” said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy), the effort will likely help to assure consumers that Google does have their interests at heart and that it can be trusted with handling personal data and protecting privacy.

Photo Credit: google.com/goodtoknow