Tucked away in a mews in central London is Cornflake's smart apartment, a luxury pad rigged up with smart speakers, a home cinema and a connected kitchen.
The apartment was built to showcase the latest in smart audio, lighting and other home technology to Cornflake's super wealthy clientele - think the 1%.
But now the tech company has partnered with agency SharpEnd to bring the Internet of Things to life for brands.
The idea is to remove some of the mysticism around the Internet of Things and demonstrate how luxury brands, in particular, could benefit from the emerging technology.
SharpEnd's CEO, Cameron Worth, describes this as building "invisible service layers". The trouble with brands playing in this space, he says, is that they tend to wall off their experiments from the public. Alternatively, they show off their innovations in tiny demo areas, which don't capture the potential magic of the Internet of Things.
He told Marketing: "Brands struggle with this. The Internet of Things is about activating the real world, it isn't like building a Facebook app. This needs a live installation.
"Where most stuff has to be controlled by tablets or a smartphone, we’re looking at things that just happen around the person."
A mirror concierge
One example might be linking fragrance and cosmetics brands with a smart mirror, says Worth.
He said: "If I'm in front of a smart mirror, what information can that give me to prepare for the day better? It's like a concierge service."
Another example is Pernod Ricard's own prototype, Project Gutenberg. This comprises a "library" of book-shaped containers holding a bottle of spirits and set on a platform that hooks up to a PC. It supplies services like home delivery, cocktail recipes and tailored offers.
Other brands in discussions with SharpEnd include a smart watch company, a high-end drinks firm covering whisky, champagne and vodka and a coffee company. Most are luxury brands since, Worth notes, an Internet of Things-enabled stock cube "lessens the experience" somewhat.
SharpEnd is examining technologies such as interactive surfaces - a little like baking an iPad into the kitchen surface, weight-sensitive shelves and RFID technology.
For brands, the point is to make the experience totally seamless and nothing at all like advertising.
Worth said: "Brands can't be looking at this as - 'this is an experience brought to you by brand x'. It should be happening around the consumer, so it's more value and less ads."
This shouldn't be too much of a shock to brands, who have had to adjust to a new reality of ad blocking and a growing dislike of marketing without value.
Worth added: "The miniatursation of devices and interfaces doesn't lend itself to ads. As [technology] becomes more invisible, brands need to match that in the way they talk to people.
"So if we were creating something for a champagne brand, we would do something that heightens that experience. We think moments and experiences will be the things people value."
Small-scale projectors have been on the market for some time, but Beam is unique in that it is designed to screw into light sockets while pulling double duty as an ultrabright LED lightbulb. This is a simple change to the hardware, but fundamentally changes the way the product gets used. It’s not a matter or buying and installing a new gadget, but rather, upgrading an existing one.
In this way, Beam could help user interfaces permeate our environments.
Beam is more than just a lamp or projector. It connects to iPhone or Android phones via Bluetooth and an on-board computer allows it to deliver content over Wi-Fi. Obvious applications, like streaming Netflix or looking at pictures were a given, but a companion app that allows for the programming of “if this then that” scenarios allows it to be used in new ways.
The eSkin Thermometer pairs an NFC chip with a temperature sensor that'll tell you how warm your munchkin is in under three seconds. Oh, and it's shaped like a bear, so that's something.
According to the company's representatives each sticker will last for around 15 days and is washable, so if your kid has a fever, they can keep it on for as long as they're ill. There's not much hardware tucked inside, so the plan is to sell packs of three for between $15 and $20 when they launch at some point in the spring.
So far the evidence is promising that a consumer-led approach might be more successful at making human behavior change, more so than previous approaches. Smart monitoring devices address people's failures head on, reviewing their issues not with the tut-tutting of white-coated medical authorities or bronzed sycophants, but with the grassroots power of social media.
It seems to be the first which is focussed (overtly at least) on happiness & wellbeing rather than solely on physical health. Rather fascinatingly, it works by tracking (and visualising) your breathing through a small pebble-like clip-on monitor. The impetus for its development appears to be the insight that whilst the average person is only mobile for 15% of their day (thereby rendering that average activity monitor redundant for large tracts of time), breathing is not only a continuous activity, but also a great indicator of mental and physical health. Spire tracks the frequency and magnitude of your breaths, as well as the ratio of in to out. This data is displayed on-screen through the app, with about a 0.5second delay. Just this simple graphic representation of something typically invisible can make you more mindful to breathe deeply – and is strangely mesmerising. Stay focused, and the screen’s background goes from blue to purple, but will turn red if you’re stressed. Spire also sends breathing notifications. If you’ve been breathing too shallowly because you’re tense, or haven’t taken a deep breath in too long, it sends a push asking if you want to do a little breathing exercise. Accept, and you’re taken to a game-like screen where you fill bubbles with a series of deep breaths and see a graph of your respiration at the end. Eventually, Spire plans to build a range of fun breathing activities, and partner with other companies to pipe in inspirational wellness content and rewards for serenity. While most wearables are just trackers, Spire has been called a breath taker too, because it encourages specific actions. As an aside, the inventor of the Spire has a PhD in “augmented self-regulation” from Stanford’s Calming Technology Lab – form an orderly queue….
Novartis’s interest in tracking as the primary vehicle for making the most of mobile health opportunities is displayed by the deals the company has been involved with over the last few years. It sponsored some major trials with Proteus Digital Health, a company that aims to track patients with ingestible sensors embedded in pills. This year, Novartis has also partnered with Tictrac to help multiple sclerosis patients engage in self-tracking and, in a high profile deal, signed on to license Google’s smart contact lens to help people with diabetes track their blood glucose levels.
Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics: Technology will enable an increasing number of cancers to be defeated by biochemically adjusting the body's immune system to quash cancerous cells. Other technologies will increase the number of transplantable vital organs, either by restoring more from cadaveric donors to acceptable condition, or as a result of organ-manufacturing processes based on regenerative medicine. Also, ultra-cheap personalised gene-sequencing technology and bioinformatics will enable many diseases to be recognised and muted while symptoms are still sub-clinical, resulting in greater human longevity.
Hans Jørgen Wiberg, founder, Be My Eyes: Our non-exponential body is about to be surprised. Thanks to cochlear implants, we are now seeing the last generation of deaf people. Bionic eye implants and stem-cell treatment will reduce blindness. Also, why shouldn't hearing aids monitor temperature and pulse and play music? Why shouldn't a paralysed person with an exoskeleton be the strongest guy in town, or bionic eyes have night vision?
Jennifer French, executive director, Neurotech Network: Technology will provide more accurate and thorough diagnosis of medical conditions of both body and mind. New brain-activity recording techniques could be leveraged to create an integrated human experience wherein the tech element would become less visible, with improved performances. The challenge is whether our societal infrastructures can keep pace with the advancements and demand.
A chip in your brain can control a robotic arm. Welcome to BrainGate
Farida Bedwei, software engineer; author, Definition of a Miracle: Using advanced algorithms and AI theories, we'll be able to make headway in curing neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease. We should also be able to build a model of how the brain's neurons react to certain scenarios and feed that information back to the patients. I also envisage 'smart' sensor-aided walking aids and wheelchairs.
Larry Jasinski, CEO, ReWalk Robotics: The combination of the human body and robotics will expand, with more software applications, sensing capabilities and improved battery technologies. By 2025, exoskeletons will enable stroke victims and multiple sclerosis sufferers to walk again. They will also help to remove the limitations that occur with age. The capacity to expand exoskeletons to run faster and jump higher may become part of daily life.
Leonard Guarente, co-founder, Elysium Health: A convergence of science-based interventions will ensure people remain healthier longer. Prescription medicines will be developed to target proteins, such as sirtuins and mTOR, that regulate ageing. Stem cells will allow the rejuvenation of degenerating tissues. Imaging advances will lead to earlier detection of cancers and Alzheimer's. And device-driven self-monitoring will spur healthy living.
The Numbers: Columnist Jo Craven McGinty explores activity trackers, such as Fitbit, Jawbone and FuelBand, finding that their usefulness in motivating users to healthier lifestyles largely trumps the inaccurate data on activity they produce.
iBeacons promise to change the way brick-and-mortar establishments get us to shop, and we’ve seen a number of interesting implementations emerging already. But innovative developers could help push the technology into new territories.
One indie developer is looking to help people lose weight using Apple’s technology, with the launch of the Carrot Hunger app for iPhone.
Carrot Hunger is a talking calorie counter that rewards you for eating healthy foods and prods you with a verbal stick for eating too much. You can manually enter the food item into the app or use the built-in barcode scanner to log the meal you devoured. Carrot Hunger then translates calories into actionable items, such as how far you need to run to counteract that pizza.
However, it’s the use of iBeacons that are particularly interesting.
With Carrot Hunger, you can place an iBeacon in, say, your fridge, and the app will issue a gentle reminder to record your food intake through the app when you approach the fridge.
If you’re nearing your pre-set calorie intake for the day, Carrot will issue a shrieking alarm. And if you’re already over the limit, a voice will scream at you.
The tone of voice of the app is particularly interesting. It is less than polite, but perhaps this is what is needed to push one into truly (and consistently) eating more healthily.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) today launchedEWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate. The website rates more than 80,000 packaged foods from 1,500 brands, with criteria like nutrition, ingredient concerns, food additives, and how processed the product is. And a free app offers on-demand info at the smartphone scan of a barcode.
Today we’re announcing a new platform called Microsoft Health. Within health and fitness, there is rapid innovation occurring around wearable devices with smart sensors that are telling us more about our lives. A vibrant marketplace of devices and services is giving us access to a wealth of data about our nutrition, health and fitness. We see an opportunity to bring these devices and services together to allow you to combine … Read more »
We're one step closer to the quantified household. University of Virginia associate professor of computer science, Kamin Whitehouse, is leading a team that's designing the software to make it possible. "We need to not just be users of the internet of things, we need to also be objects in the internet of things," Whitehouse told a Massachusetts...
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