Objects with brains

From shopping carts to sofas, the objects that furnish our daily lives are hooking up to apps and getting smart. Naturally, brands and agencies are helping to drive this evolution.

by Mark Tungate , Epica Awards

It may have sounded like science fiction only a few years ago, but “the internet of things” is truly with us. And as strange as it might seem – or maybe not so much, given it’s the food choice of many geeks – pizza is spearheading the revolution.

A couple of years ago Domino’s came up with a “pizza order button”. It was actually a Bluetooth device that connected to the brand’s website. All you had to do was save your address and payment details on the site, add your favourite pizza order and hey presto! Every time you had a pizza emergency, you just had to press the button to send a pie winging your way.

Now Pizza Hut has upped the ante by creating sneakers that order pizza. That’s right. They’re called “pie tops”, naturally. Presumably they’re also handy for burning off a few calories after you’ve gorged on fast food.

Talking of exercise, we’re fans of this experiment in Dubai, which turned the humble shopping cart into a connected fitness device. Shoppers can track the calories they burn as they stalk the aisles on their regular grocery shop. This “Fitbit on wheels” is part of an integrated “Live Good” campaign for Lipton Green Tea. 

Over the past few years, Samsung has been hard at work making everything from surfboards to swimming hats smarter. Now it has finally given us what we really want – a connected fridge. The Family Hub refrigerator monitors our grocery supplies and enables us to re-order daily essentials with a swipe. Imagine, by the way, the data that can be gathered about consumer shopping habits thanks to devices like this.

 

The connected refrigerator also poses an interesting question for advertisers. If consumers can re-order their favourite products at the touch of a button (or programme the fridge to do it for them), where does that leave rival brands who want to encourage them to switch? Is it going to be as hard to persuade people to try a new brand of juice as it is to convince them to change banks?

 

Actually, don’t worry too much about that. You’ve got bigger things to worry about – like whether you left the iron on when you departed for work this morning. Well, did you? And did you shut that thief-friendly window on the ground floor? Of course, when homes and objects are connected to our smartphones, all those worries will go, well, out of the window.

So you can relax. Perhaps on a comfy sofa. Or maybe on an ultra-connected sofa like the one devised by Havas Media in France, which incorporates no fewer than 15 connected devices, as well as a projector, a mini-fridge and 3D printer. So you can control your home media, lighting and several household devices without getting up.

 

 

(Read more in clicking on the above pix)

One of the secrets of the sofa is the Mother “universal monitoring solution” from Sen.se, a central device linked to an array of sensors – called motion cookies – which can “smartify” almost any object, from a coffee machine to a toothbrush.

A day in the life of Sensemother from Sen.se on Vimeo.

Of course, there is a danger of going too far. Do we really need a connected hair brush, like the one recently unveiled by Kerastase?

Maybe not. In fact, the brush is mentioned in passing by technology magazine Wired, which recently published a list of five connected devices “that really shouldn’t exist”. Although, frankly, we quite like the idea of a chatty toaster.

(Read the article here)

 

By Mark Tungate, editorial director, Epica