The future is waiting on your phone

In the past few years something unbelievable happened under our very noses. The physical world and the invisible world of the mobile internet have morphed into a new reality – the ubiquitous internet.

However, even more fantastic developments are on the way.

The future is a new business and shopping environment where at the tap of a touch-screen consumers will be able to try on clothes without using a change room, post the image to Facebook and get the opinion of friends.

Trawling town for the best deal will be replaced by augmented reality where consumers can access prices using a smart phone camera that gives an aerial view of the city and store-by-store price and product information. Wish lists in shopping malls will be accessed with smart phones. Everywhere on the planet we are but a click away from an abundance of information. We just do not have the capacity to harness this wonder in our natural form. As humans, we only experience a small part of known reality.

Our senses limit us to a few frequencies, with the rest of the frequency spectrum lying outside the reach of human senses. This will change in years to come. But we need a
translation device to convert this invisible world of information into sights and sounds we can experience – herald the birth of the personal communication device, or touch-screen smart phone.

New smart phones harness all our senses, making it easy for us to access any information at the touch of a button. As the primary input to the internet in the PC domain has
been the keyboard, this was initially seen as the way to go for mobile devices. The advent of the smartphone has changed that paradigm forever, and in its place a range of new interfaces is appearing. These interfaces will not only affect the way we obtain information, but will impact on how we communicate and how we interact with the
physical world. A number of unmistakable trends are appearing around the world,
and its impact will be felt very soon in the South African marketplace.

Your phone is the new oracle. Anything from the exchange rate, the weather forecast one week hence, or the cheapest breakfast in my area can be obtained by simply clicking on an application. Augmented reality – new glasses for a new world. Simply launch an augmented reality application like Layar, and the boring world you have been staring at for the past few years becomes overlaid with local information. You will be able to find anything from the best accommodation rates to the nearest golf course by staring through your phone’s camera with the information you seek hovering above the real image.

Quick Reference (QR) codes, which The Mercury is pioneering at Independent Newspapers KZN, will start to appear in all printed and visual advertisements, allowing smartphone users to obtain additional information by simply snapping or scanning a QR code and making use of a generic QR code reader.

More advanced services such as the soon-to-be-launched Go110 application, and associated GoCodes, will feature services such as the location of the nearest suitable stores, navigation assistance, social sharing, electronic vouchers, wish lists and in-mall navigation. Expect to see a number of Santa’s Wish List walls appearing in your local mall. These will contain images, and GoCodes, of the most desirable Christmas presents available.

After downloading the application on your phone, you simply scan the codes next to the products your heart desires. These products are then added to your Christmas wish list on your phone, enabling Santa to become aware of your wishes, and to navigate them directly to a suitable store. E-vouchers will be the next big thing. Searching for a product on your phone is one thing; receiving vouchers that offer a discount is something else altogether. Expect a voucher wallet to appear on your phone that will allow you to access a limited number of vouchers, and which will provide you with an immediate financial benefit at stores in your vicinity.

The days of printed vouchers are over. In the near future, they will be electronic and on your phone. Turning brand awareness into sales in the not-too-distant future, you will be able to open any magazine and scan a GoCode linked to a product, for example, a new perfume. The moment the GoCode is scanned, the user can access any of the following with the simple touch of a button:

l Find more information, pictures and videos linked to the product.

l Find the nearest stores where the perfume can be purchased.

l Request a discount voucher.

l See what others say about the product.

l Share this information with all your Facebook friends at a touch of a button.

l Add it to your wedding registry, birthday or Christmas wish list.

For this to become a reality, retailers, mall owners, distributors and manufacturers in South Africa will have to join the revolution
to enrich the shopping environment of the South African consumer.

If they do not, they might be sidestepped by the price
comparison applications that will soon become commonplace.

The mobile internet’s impact on buying behaviour will
soon become apparent as printed advertisements in magazines and in physical
locations start embracing this new reality. The question is not whether it will
occur or not. The only question left is: are we ready to form part of this new

l Pieter Geldenhuys is an academic, futurist, public
speaker and technology strategy consultant. He is the director at the Institute
for Technology Strategy and Innovation, aligned with the Potchefstroom Business
School, NWU. Follow him on twitter ( – The
Independent on Saturday

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