E-commerce now accounts for just seven percent of all retailing in the United States,* yet it’s so powerful a force that it’s radically reshaping the book and consumer electronics industries, and others are bracing for similar shocks. What are retailers to do?
They can use the forces that threaten them to their own advantage. That’s the message from Sima Nadler, IBM Research Lead for Retail.
These days, many consumers browse in stores to see what interests them–then use the Internet and portable communications devices to learn more about their options and find the best prices. At the same time, when people are shopping online, e-commerce retailers are able to track their interests and connect with them in ways that, up to now, have been impossible for brick-and-mortar retailers to match. As a result, increasingly, brick and mortar retailers serve as a showcase for consumers, but online retailers close the sales.
IBM Research is developing a portfolio of new technologies that make it possible for retailers to understand the needs of consumers better and cater to them when they’re in stores–making it more likely that they will make the sales. “What we’re seeing is the blurring of the physical and the virtual,” says Nadler, who coordinates retail research globally and is based in IBM’s Haifa Research Lab.
The Smarter Planet iPhone and The Social Business iPhone apps have been updated with a new feature, called Pic Stories, based on IBMer Chris Luongo’s wonderful How It Works series of videos and posters, such as his most recent effort for Smarter Commerce. This browsable album is just one of several features, including this blog, the Smarter Planet Tumblr site and the People for a Smarter Planet site on Facebook.
The Social Business app also include a new feature: The IBM Expert Network on Slideshare, which brings together some of the best presentations from dozens of IBMers – Tiffany Winman, Adam Christensen, Sacha Chua, Luis Benitez, Delphine Remy-Boutang to name just a few, sharing their knowledge and experience across a wide range of topics.
Meanwhile, the Android apps for Smarter Planet and The Social Business are now available on the new Amazon App Store, and through the Amazon App Store app. And new versions of the Smarter Planet and Social Business “mobile site shortcuts” for Blackberries are in the Blackberry App Store now.
Following is a guest post from Rick Singer, IBM vice president of client experience, which includes our work with major sports properties:
Here’s a frustrating scenario for a sports fan at any kind of tournament: you’re outside the stadium and hear a cheer break out, but don’t know what action just happened on the court. At this year’s U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, all you have to do is take out your iPhone and use the IBM “Around Me” application to point your phone at the stadium and “see through the walls” to get up to speed on the score and match statistics.
Around Me is an augmented reality application, developed by IBM, for iPhone users at this year’s US Open that allows fans to get a glimpse of what’s happening on the court and also to find the closest restroom, first-aid stand and pizza vendor in the food-court. Now when you take a quick break to get one of those giant tennis balls at the Chase booth, or need a hot dog, not all is lost (in fact, Around Me could’ve found you that hot dog). It works by blending the iPhone’s camera functionality with the global positioning system (GPS) that is embedded in the tennis fan’s iPhone. All of this is supported by a smart infrastructure of IBM technology at the Open and backed up by our data centers. See here for a video that shows how IBM mobile technology is making the U.S. Open smarter:
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Of course, augmented reality and geo-location are great for enhancing the tennis experience for fans at the Open, but what’s also interesting is the implication for future innovation in mobile technology that goes beyond sports. IBM researchers are developing applications for mobile computing that span industries and solutions like Smarter Healthcare, Smarter Retail and Smarter Finance.
In healthcare, IBM is developing methods to transmit a patient’s vital signs from a mobile device back to a central location running analytics to evaluate and predict things like heart attacks. This kind of mobile web technology could actually save lives. Routine healthcare visits might also be done remotely in the future through sensor technology transmitted by mobile devices – these types of systems could even allow for more current and accurate patient records than what we have today.
In retail, IBM is looking at ways that vendors might leverage data from telecom providers to capture customer information and better reach potential clients. With data about what a consumer has recently purchased, who their social networks are and their current location, a retailer might be able to know, for instance, that a consumer likes golf clubs, has friends who like them too, leaves work in midtown at 6:30pm and passes by the sports store on his way home. In this way, retailers can target the right consumers in the right places at the right times through mobile tracking and mobile advertising.
In finance, IBM is evaluating the types of payment systems that will exist in the future. For example, with digital wallet technology for mobile devices, the role of banks will shift within a new ecosystem. By combining the data analytics that banking institutions will be able to utilize, along with mobile advertising for retail and GPS tracking capabilities, IBM sees the dynamics radically shifting in the future.
Today, we’re making a Smarter U.S. Open with mobile web technology… tomorrow, we could be making people’s lives better and helping to spur new business opportunities.
If you stroll outside IBM’s offices at 11 Madison Ave in New York City with an iPhone or Android-powered smartphone, you’ll discover something strange and new in Madison Square Park, and it’s not the Gormley sculpture exhibit imported from London.
Using Tagwhat — the augmented reality (AR) content creation service just launched — we’ve scattered bits of content about Smarter Cities, analytics and the Internet of Things throughout the park. On one corner there is an item about Cabsense, a new app that predicts the best nearby corner to find a taxi, based on crunching a year’s worth of GPS data and traffic patterns from NYC cabs.
Right smack in the middle of the park you can find a post pointing to the wonderful Internet of Things video with IBMers Mike Wing, Andy Standford-Clark and John Tolva.
Towards the southeast corner, near the popular Shake Shack eatery, is another tag hovering in virtual/physical space. It touches on how RFID tags are being used to track sensitive shipments such as strawberries, like those used in the Shack’s delectable hand-spun shakes.
The aim was to create, literally out of thin air, a kind of location-specific walking tour or exhibit of how cities and urban centers can become suffused with new kinds of intelligence. AR is one of the promising new dimensions of that kind of ambient intelligence converging at the cross roads of digital and physical realms. In fact, we’re calling this little pilot MadSqAIR, as in Augmented Intelligent Reality, to undescore the connection. You can follow developments at http://www.tagwhat.com/smartercities and via Twitter at @madsqAIR.
We’re also using the Foursquare location-based social media network to let people in the Madison Square Park neighborhood discover this open AIR experience.
To see this array of posts in the park, download the Tagwhat app from the Android market (an iPhone version is pending). You can post comments on tags, or even create some of your own. In fact, you don’t even need a phone to create AR content. Just use the Google Maps tool on Tagwhat’s site. We hope this experiment can grow across New York City, as well as in other metropolitan centers. We also hope to put this new platform and approach to work for the upcoming 2010 Global CEO Study launch.
What uses of Augmented Intelligent Reality can you imagine that would help make our cities, systems and entire planet smarter? Please share your thoughts and comments.