Category Archives: Companies

QR Code Professionalism @ BMW

“QR what?” I hear you say – and you are right. 🙁

It’s just been a couple of weeks ago, that someone tried to convince me, that now (as both have become commonplace) marketeers finally have fully understood the benefits and proper usage of QR codes in attracting new prospects for their campaigns and products.

And I had been quite close to agreeing with him.

Though, that was before the BMW incident.

Considering myself an addict to the latest electric vehicle technology, I could not help but taking a closer look after spotting a BMW ACTIVE E model at a charging station in downtown Leipzig.

charging station with BMW ACTIVE E and smart electric drive connected

Of course I also grabbed the promotional QR code from the window tag.

QR window tag on the BMW ACTIVE E

Which immediately brought down my longtime confidence in BMWs ever-present compentence in perfect engineering:

page stating the invoked page could not be displayed properly on a mobile device

“This content has not been optimized for mobile devices – please use a desktop system for viewing.”

 

So, yes, it still happens – and obviously even to the big guys.

Despite I have no idea how advertising for a huge corporation can get through all their internal approvals, without ever being verfied to work, it also shows that even in competitive and over-advertised markets like automobiles there appears to always exist some room for a competitor to do better.
 
Heard that, over at Daimler and Audi? 😉

 

Where Current Mobile/Location-Commerce Paradigms fall Short And Why

The future of Mobile Business is in Location – now, really!??

Listening to the mobile technology, device and communication industries’ big players currently puts into place two core assumptions about how mobile device usage is going to develop within the years to come:

  1. Location is everything
  2. Location doesn’t matter anymore

As though these seem quite contradictive at first glance, there is some truth to be found inside these paroles, as soon as one takes a closer look:

While mobile devices give you (and the rest of us…) the power to make more informed decisions depending on where you are and where you intend to be in near future (think of navigation, public transit guidance or ), they also disconnect us from the necessity of presence e.g. at airport counters for check-in or .

Despite these advantages, there is an obvious difference between if you go to let’s say an airport on a daily basis for work, occasionally to catch a flight, to pick-up somebody who is arriving or simply for plane spotting and having fun with your kids.

As J. P. Barton already figured out more than a decade ago, real world situational context is not simply about location, but much more about people, places and the things at hand, along with time and the conditions/limitations you encounter.

Barely none but location, however, has been targeted by technological approaches on an end-user scale this far.

This comes out even more interesting, as the technical and organizational hurdles involved have already appeared to be taken an entire decade ago.

Some of the more relevant reasons, why the industry is nonetheless quite slow in anticipating the market potential coming with services like intelligent tickets, context-aware travel-itineraries or automated product-matching for webshops, appear to lie in the integration of already existing, but widely distributed and differing data sources.

This is, where I believe Linked Data can go a long way in easing the adoption process by providing common means for exchanging information online and in near- or even realtime.

Solutions to practically showcase the application of Semantic Web technology to provide such services are to be developed by our appliance team within the coming moths. Stay tuned. 🙂

The Empire strikes Back:
NOKIA’s Return To Your Pocket And The Magic Of Context

Sometimes you just don’t see it coming…. We all remember the times, not too long ago, when Nokia were selling basically the same Series 60 models of their phones for years by essentially just changing their outer design – along with the pricetag.
 
And despite a couple of surprising successes like with their N770 PDA tablet (which, at the time, we also used to showcase the early SemaWorx prototypes) there obviously has not been a lot of initiative inside the company to more dedicatedly pushing the technological borders in direction of widening the market for cellphone usage.
 
After all, one could still make a good living from the existing models’ diversification and even afford to send away Apple back in the days when the late Steve Jobs approached them in order to speed up the initial iPhone product development.
 

Though the times, they’re changin’: With Apple’s stock price ranging as high as it may ever get, but their once-superior phone engineering at the same time showing inceasingly more weeknesses in both concept and execution, this is the dawn for their competitors again. And since it can be quite hard to impossible sometimes, to beat huge corporations such as Apple in the business they themselves created, the guys at Nokia did wisely, to leave to others what others can do better.
 
In the past, Nokia’s own developments haven’t ever really been up equally with their counterpart’s products in terms of UI and OS engineering, which in recent years more often than not resulted in quite limited software capabilities even on the newer Nokia handsets. In following this inevitably lead to a shrinking community of application developers willing to take the hassle to write software for e.g. the Symbian or maemo.org platforms.
 

With the introduction of their new LUMIA smartphone series however, the NOKIA management left building the smartphone OS to Microsoft and their Windows 8 product. This did not only bring a new, sophisticated though proven, system base to their latest generation of completely re-engineered phones without causing too much hassle on the run, but brought in a huge crowd of new application developers as well, who already had long-yeared experience in programming for the Microsoft platform.
 

The other strength which NOKIA has just turned into a USP again, is their experience in engineering high-standard cellphones. And even though the current models’ hardware may not always be able to keep up with the installed Windows operating system’s hunger for computational power yet, they focus on the customers’ outcomes by providing them a high level of tools to ease a phone user’s life. And no, I don’t think so much of the literal ˮbells & whistles“ here, but more of features like
 

  • Mutiband Phone Networks (including LTE broadband) Where competitors stick to supporting only certain partner-vendors’ networks, Nokia Lumia customers always get the full spectrum.
     
  • High Quality Multi-Brand Location Services With the strategic purchases of NAVTEQ and earthmine, Nokia product designers get their hands on powerful features like sight-based navigation, making up for a nicely designed AR display of your environment, accompanied by corresponing quality guides: Besides the omnipresent crowd-sourced content, Nokia services provide a wide range of professionally authored information from providers like Michelin, HRS or Expedia.
     
  • Realtime Public Transport Information The one-of-a-kind just-on-time routing for those of us travelling by foot and public transport.
     
  • Phone Calls Almost forgot about it: No, they haven’t forgotten about building reliable voice calling into the latest generation phones. No antenna-issues involved here…
     
  • Above Standards Camera With photo shooting among the most popular phone features in recent years, Lumia devices come with ZEISS lenses, optical image stabilization, sequence-shots and HDR-like processing tools.
     

In my oppinion, these new approaches will, in the longer run, put NOKIA at the heart of an eco-system fucussing much less on what is possible, than on services users actually need to navigate through life on a daily basis.
 

The Grassroots Dilemma, The Return Of Browser Wars And
The Death Of The Plug-In

With sullenness I look back to the early 2000s when webpages always required ”specific engineering“ simply in order to display properly in certain vendors’ webbrowsers. And it was only a couple of years ago, that the market had consolidated and standardized enough to start fading out that practice. All strictly for the birds.

It indeed has been beneficient to online production, that web standards (much different from their associated markets…) have only used to change slowly over time and that chances are good, web content will display properly for the time being, from the date it has been sent live.

Though, unfortunately, over the years the arising argony caused by interest conflicts, political games and bureaucracy at W3C, the standards giving institution for the web, created more and more resentments among the more practically engaged part of the online creative community. It just hat become too obvious, that the old standards (more often than not from an entire decade ago) were not to keep up with the functional requirements of today’s advanced web applications.

That said, the absence of a credible authority sparked the uprise of open opposition by ambitious revolutionaries, putting themselves and their daily needs at the heart of their very own web standards revolt.­­

As enlightning as the ideas of these freshly founded ”working groups“ are, just by their nature, these concepts lack any kind of official recognition. With a groups core members (often just 1 to 5 people…) by chance even refusing to name a final publishing date or even a version-system for their so-called ”standards“, from a creator’s perspective, it is more and more becoming impossible to publish online content which can be reliably assumed to work for most of its prospective users. ­― So, who cares at all?

The part, which makes the topic worth discussing, is that (after years of rather slow, incremental improvements and despite the missing assurance about the outcome) browser vendors just seem to have waited for a chance to add tons of brand new funky bells ad whistles to their widely adopted software – in order to show off their superiority over any anticipated competitor. But, just as with the standards revolutionaries themselves, every company also tries to add their own approach for deploymemt. Along with unique features to each webbrowser-product, the most advanced developers shall eventually be lured away from the competitors’ software – in pretty much the same way Microsoft wasted billions pushing its free Internet Explorer webbrowser in the late nineties.

The current result now appears only too well-known to year-long web developers: we go back in time and again start to engineer every webpage template separately for any software-client in question, including the upcoming new mobile ones. And to really get the results right, the required adjustments add to development costs by at least a third – which, of course, may be fun for web agencies, but much less for their customers – companies simply needing these websites to run their business.

After all: Is there anything in it for the avage web user with this game? Sure. Since most revolutions, despite considerable collateral damage, use not to go all-bad, there are clear end-user advantages involved:

  1. The death of the plug-in: It already today is very unlikely you will need to install additional software only to properly display an average webpage’s content, such as sound, video, animation, immersive imagery or even 3D objects.
     
  2. Easier-to-handle forms: Web forms will start verifying your input already as you type and assist you to easily enter appropriate values, especially on mobile devices.
     
  3. High performance content: Previously unseen display quality for web content will become common to an amount as it has only been available to high-end computer games just a couple of years ago.

So please prepare for the most innovative technical changes to online experience since the late nineties, and watch out for those just wanting to cash-in on you for plain eye candy that will likely available to a selected few only anyway.

Missing the customer — how your brand’s
street cred suffers from poor execution

 

How would you come to describe the emotional reationship towards your insurance provider? Pure business? Not viable? Suspended? Well, then you are probably not alone….
 

Ad: Help when it matters most.

 
Being quite aware of the difficult standing with clients in their industry, the Zurich insurance company lately came up with a quite innovative and ambitious concept for their Normadz® offering to hit the road and probably every other location frequent travellers would find themselves in a hassle. With a target market of "anyone using a Blackberry on a regular basis" they set up "help points" at Europes most frequented airports i.e London Heathrow and Frankfurt, where a lot of their targeted customers were likely to pass by on a regular basis.
 

At these service outlets travellers can get free internet access, basic concierge services and, of course, an introduction to the Nomadz service, which provides from a mixture of emergency alert and rescue services to concierge style amenities.
 

To make sure the effort gets noticed, e.g. at Frankfurt airport the entire way from the main check-in hall to the help point has been plastered with fullsize ads making often heard (bold goes without saying) claims like "Need a question answered?" or "Help when it matters most.".
 

Ad: Need to get online before you fly?  Ad: Need a question answered?

 
However, as the accompanying – and after two years still not quite complete – website suggests, some not entirely thought through points come with the promotional demo:
 

You won’t get any assistance (or even the free internet service) at these spots outside regular working hours, not on weekends and, of course, not on holidays. And the loudly advertised power outlets are available for free to passengers all over the airport anyway.
 

empty Zurich Help Point

Left-alone and all monitors dark (except for reflections and the advertising):
The Zurich „Help when it matters most”-stand.

 
Though, isn’t exactly this the core benefit of any insurance offering (and even more with the one being promoted)? A service providing "help when it matters most" and not "when it comes along the cheapest"!? Just as emergencies don’t use to restrict themselves to opening hours.
 

You may now argue, if there is a lot of sense in keeping such promotional stand occupied at times, when salaries for the operating staff are higher, with the number of prospective contacts decreasing at the same time. But if, as with insurance, your entire industry’s main USP is to be reliable come what might (and with the advertised offer even focussing on this fact…), then saving on the pennies for an approach to publicly demonstrate it may backfire quite rapidly. Because if already your very own promotions fall short of delivering the advertised values, how will then your services do for a customer?
 

So think again when planning the next pitch to prospective customers: How can you have the way you deliver your presentation support, rather than contradict, the message you want to send out? Get this answered right and you’ll be surprised by your audience’s honest and welcoming reactions.