Time Warp

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

That must be so since it was Albert Einstein who said it. What the venerable gentleman does not explain is how come it actually vanishes?

It was only recently that I was writing my last December article and here I am doing it all over again. I have heard it said that time does not stand still for anybody but why, oh why, is it sprinting past me faster than that certain Mr Usain Bolt? Or is it all due to the confounding experimental results from the Large Hadron Collider installed some 200m underground below the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva which suggest that it is possible to exceed the speed of light?

What has brought on this minor rant is that they are now teaching 15 year olds to use resources such as WordPress. That software system, like the nerdier Joomla or Drupal, is a clever invention that allows the creation of web sites and smartphone apps.

Now I ask you: is it fair that I, who have spent decades getting the hang of web design, can now be outsmarted by young whippersnappers?

These open source software packages that have to be installed on your server, do provide the basics of Content Management Systems. Each system has its own band of followers. I did mention these systems in an earlier article about editing your own site content. Although they are not at all suitable for simple tasks like updating your rates or specials they are very good if you use them from day one. I actually encourage some of my clients to install WordPress (the easiest to learn) on their servers if they want to run blogs or are keen to update a lot of information for their clients. There are a ton of templates and plug-ins available to really create some impressive results. All this is of course part of the DIY virtual world we are entering at great speed.

Since it is the season for shopping let me illustrate by borrowing heavily from an article by Vipin Jain published by The Atlantic. 

Imagine you are going to a furniture store to shop for a couch. Before you leave the house, you use your mobile phone to take a picture of the space in your living room where the couch will go. That picture is then saved to an app that knows the inventory of the store where you’ll be shopping. Once you reach the store and have found a couch with just the right shape, fabrics and feel, simply swipe your phone over a sensor and an image of the couch will automatically be uploaded to the picture you took of your living room – this time with your chosen couch superimposed in its designated space.

The same technology could help you previsualise other things as well, including a new suit, the exterior of your house in a different shade of paint, the way a shrub might look in your front garden, how your living room would look with a new carpet, and more. Actually this idea is not all that new. It started in Hollywood in the 1980s when they made Star Trek.

Today you are equipped with your smartphone and you go shopping.

Imagine you are now walking into the store armed with the retailer’s app loaded on your phone by “checking in” as you walk through the door, you automatically earn reward points that are stored on your phone and can be used later to buy merchandise. Meanwhile, the app is crunching through the latest web-wide trends, reviews, buzz, stories and specs available – and guiding you to products that are the best fit for you.

Your app also takes your social preferences into account. Thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter it knows what your friends like and what they have purchased, which could come in handy if you are looking for a pair of shoes just like the ones your friend has. The app keeps track of the music you like, the activities you enjoy, the brands you “follow” and the type of person you are. It’ll know not to guide you to that navy cashmere sweater if ripped denim is more your style. And no need to keep track of coupons. When you check out, reward points and coupons will automatically be applied to your purchase.

Now I have trouble reading the minute shelf tags in stores. But imagine this; a few retailers have already begun embedding near field communication chips, quick response codes that I wrote about a few months ago or other interactive enabling technologies.

With technologies such as smart lamps developed by MIT’s Media Lab and Intel, users will be able to access a trove of relevant information about a product, without even needing a mobile device. Smart-lamp technology senses when a user has picked up a product from a shelf and can project images and interactive video onto the shelf (where a normal, paper tag once was).

There are lots of ways retailers could use this technology. If a shopper has used a retailer’s app to search for, say, the top Nikon point-and-shoot cameras under $400, the app could, in theory, talk to the store’s smart lamp and project a green circle around each Nikon camera that meets the shopper’s needs. This projection technology could also be used to guide shoppers through the store to specific items or departments

We are already using credit card limited amount purchasing without validation but with technologies such as Google Wallet, customers can pay for products without having to scrounge for a credit card or cash. Just swipe your phone over a payment sensor and voilà, you’ve paid for the items you want to purchase.

Standing in line may also be a thing of the past. Eventually, retailers could enable technologies that allow customers to gather the products they want and pay for everything with a single swipe of a mobile device from anywhere in the store and exit without ever queuing up.

Currently, Google Maps is loading floor plans of major shops and airports so that you can actually find the socks department via your smartphone without having to ask the almost nonexistent sales assistant for help.

Today’s customers are ready for innovations that will make shopping easier, perhaps even fun. It’s just a question of which retailers get out in front of the technology first and start serving up a new, better experience.

Time will not have to travel any faster than now to have all this available in months rather than years. I might even go shopping then.

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