Recently, I've started to see an increase in the amount of eclectic applications out there. This makes me think the marketers are working overtime to find something to move products and technology.
Maybe it's because they have nothing to lose (business is so down now, why not?), or maybe it's because they want to get everyone primed for the upturn (from my word processor to the telecommunication god's hard drive). But whatever the reason for this increased activity, it shows that technology waits for no man, woman, or economic condition.
In my opinion, such activity can present a couple of different perspectives. Perhaps it is truly valuable in laying the groundwork for the technology when the economy turns around. Or maybe these companies just have to keep their engineers employed.
Either way, it would probably go over better in good times, but I like to think that, because someone is working hard on this, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Also, don't forget that not all industries are as stalled. As I had mentioned in my last column, embedded technology is going like gangbusters, especially in consumer devices.
This has my name written all over it…The idea for this column came to me when I discovered that Texas Instruments has teamed with Commerce Systems, the operator of something called “2Scoot Network,” to offer what they call “the ultimate in dining convenience.”
The idea is to improve revenue for restaurants and provide the customer with a better dining experience — conveniently and wirelessly.
The idea isn't novel — to reward regular dining customers for loyalty — but its implementation certainly is. Integrity For You's Personal Recognition program uses RFID tags and readers that individually identify customers and facilitate a number of features. The program will enable restaurant owners to gather valuable information regarding members' dining experiences, and make improvements based on customer feedback. Sign me up.
How it works…Participants are given an “Integrity For You” sticker embedded with an RFID tag smart label inlay that can be attached to any card or object, such as a driver's license or wallet. At the restaurant (theoretically, this can work at any point-of-sale establishment), the sticker is read by an RFID reader enabling the customer's account.
RFID technology automatically links customers with their transactions using a unique identification code. Once the customer is online, time-sensitive promotional or recognition offers are extended to consumers on the restaurant's behalf.
When the dining experience is over, the establishment securely processes the customer's cashless payment, and stores the customer data. The idea is to identify individual customers and to collect data such as customer dining habits. Restaurants can opt to customize additional participant contact, such as follow-up personal phone surveys, restaurant events and targeted correspondence, which in turn can be used to obtain more extensive customer feedback and to offer even more personalized rewards and services.
Hmmm…on second thought…It sounded great until I had a chance to think about it.
First of all, “to provide you with a better dining experience” is pure marketing hype to sell the product. Restaurants aren't going to go for it unless it either increases their bottom line or reduces their costs. And, it will cost them to implement it so they had better get some ROI. Maybe it will be a better dining experience, maybe not. But it had better translate into black on the bottom line.
Second, in my opinion, technology isn't the issue, privacy is. I'm not sure how intimate people want to get with restaurants, for example. Sure, we all have our favorites. But personally, unless I know the owner, I prefer to keep it very loose. I don't want a restaurant bugging me if I decide I no longer like its uncooked marine bivalve mollusks.
Hmmm…on third thought…I'm no longer concerned about my financial data being spread all over cyberspace. That issue is pretty much resolved. Now-a-days, confidential data such as bank and credit card accounts are pretty secure — wireless or otherwise.
What I have reservations about is my personal profile. Tell me that all of these “don't worry, we don't share your personal preferences with anyone” lines aren't pure nonsense. How else can I explain the offers that come to me on a daily basis offering me custom catnip for my cats (by each cat's name, no less)? Or offers for the latest Vance & Hines exhausts for my specific bike? This after I go through great pains to check the “if you don't want us to share your personal preferences with our preferred partners,” box. Sheesh, just what I need — my dining habits in a database spread all over cyberspace.
While I like the concept, I personally think a more timely application would be to have an RFID tag attached to my license that could tell a medic my blood type, allergies and medical history.