Fiat Smartphone App Turns Street Signs Into Interactive Brochure

When the creative folks at Leo Burnett Madrid were tasked with promoting the Fiat Street Evo they headed out into the streets. They created a smartphone app for iPhone and Android that turned everyday traffic signs into launching pads for an interactive mobile brochure. For example when a Stop sign was recognized by the app it showed the car’s breaking features.

Users around the world can download the app and start scanning traffic signs in their city (it certainly helps if you know Spanish). Download the app and start scanning right away, secret prizes are hidden behind selected traffic signs.

And if you want to take out a Fiat Street Evo for a spin the app will use your location to find the nearest local Fiat dealer… in Spain.

US Grocery Chain Offers Scan-as-You-Go Shopping

Scan It! Shopping AppOn Monday shoppers at US grocery store chain Stop & Shop can scan their purchases using their Android or iPhone app called ‘Scan It!‘ developed by Modiv Media. The shopper begins by scanning their Shop & Stop loyalty card with their iPhone’s camera. The app uses the camera to scan the bar codes of items the shopper adds to their shopping bags. The purchases are totaled through the app and the shopper checkouts using their debit or credit card without unloading or interacting with a cashier. It’s an honor system, but the store will do random checks to make sure shoppers are scanning and paying for everything in their bags.

The smartphone apps build upon the existing ‘Scan-It!’ technology that previously required proprietary hand-held scanners, and more importantly lowers the cost of the system per store from $80,000 to only $7,000. Relevant offers can be sent to the phone based on the shopper’s previous purchasing habits. The system can use the store’s wi-fi network to locate to determine where in the use is in the store and send additional relevant offers around the immediate area.

The first question that always pops into my mind with these technologies is, “Do shoppers really want this?”. It seems like it would take twice as long to do and shopping if I have to stop, turn on my phone and app, scan the code and then move on to the next thing on my list. Not to mention deal with all the tips and special offers (I assume I can turn those off or set a limit). After watching the Scan It! demo video, I’m thinking that all this activity would slow down the shopping experience even more than it is now.

I know from talking to people that design store flow that slowing down the shopping experience is not a good thing. They design a store specifically for flow, with the idea of getting an ideal number of shoppers through within a defined time period, and even if a few of those shoppers are stopping to scan items as they shop, or to consider offers, crisscrossing the store to take advantage of related product offers, the whole shopping flow will bog down.

I do believe that large grocery stores will eventually have a self-shopping experience but its not going to include busy shoppers visually scanning each item with their smartphone. A method of scanning items using a contactless system is a much better solution. Items that are added or removed from a shopper’s cart are automatically totaled with a final transaction occurring as the shopper exits the store – and the amount of the purchase is removed from a user’s account according to pre-defined methods.

The intelligent shopping experience has always been the dream of futurists, allowing shoppers to move freely from store to store without having to reach into the wallets and purses for cash or a credit card. I for one would love to see store employees freed up to assist customers rather than spend time tapping buttons and making change.


Pepsi uses IntoNow App to Reward Ad Viewers

Pepsi MAX promoIntoNow, the iPhone app featuring cutting edge audio fingerprinting technology, is being used by Pepsi to distribute 50,000 free bottles of Pepsi MAX to viewers of the ‘Clubhouse in the Corn’ ad creative (featured below). In this example the IntoNow app recognizes the audio in the ad and instantly provides the user with a barcode on their mobile device which can then be redeemed at a checkout at any CVS or Target location.

IntoNow works very much like Shazam or SoundHound, apps used to identify music tracks – except IntoNow identifies TV programs and movies using its patented Soundprint technology. In fact, Shazam itself was used recently in an Old Navy campaign that recognized a song used in their commercial to give away 1000 free pairs of jeans.

Soundprint analyzes the audio coming from your televsion (or any device that is broadcasting audio) in 3-second increments creating an audio fingerprint. The fingerprint is then compared to their reference database made up of 130 channels of live broadcasting going back 5 years. I wrote about IntoNow and their MTV/Jersey Shore promotion back in February.

Adam Cahan CEO and Founder of IntoNow stated:

“At IntoNow we’re focused on using the companion devices we have in our lives as a way to connect with your friends, content and now brands. This is the first time where consumers can close the funnel between a brand experience on a TV commercial right down to a real world drink you can consume. That’s a really exciting first that opens the doors for advertising partners. We’re thrilled to be creating a new consumer experience with a brand like Pepsi MAX.”

The great thing about this technology is that advertisers do not have to make any changes to their broadcast creative. The IntoNow app simply requires 15 seconds of audio to compare against its database, then a user can experience any number of triggered events.

One limitation against these types of audio triggers in TV ads is of course their length – in this case the ad was a minute long, enough time to turn on your mobile device, activate the app and record the audio. A brand could simply sponsor the entire show allowing users to ‘check-in’ via the app to obtain the deal or interact with additional content. ABC is doing this with their Grey’s Anatomy iPad experience.

One thing I am looking into is how viewers of the ad are prompted to use the app. I discovered this via a story in AdAge this morning. Certainly this campaign is not driven only by word of mouth and mentions on the Pepsi MAX Facebook wall.

Zapd: Simple Website Publishing From Your iPhone

Zapd iPhone AppZapd is my super-awesome, favorite iPhone app of the moment. Launched this week by Seattle startup Inkd, the app allows you to create a simple website in the matter of seconds.

First you select your theme, then add text, photos and links. Next you publish it and share it using Facebook, Twitter or Email. The best thing is you can do this all on your iPhone or iPad. Granted the sites are very simple, but they would be great for creating a collection of photos while out for the afternoon and then immediately share it with your friends. You can always come back, add more content or switch between the selection of 2o themes.

After trying all weekend to figure out how to use Color, Zapd is a breath of fresh air. Here’s a basic site I created in less than 5 minutes with some photos I took on Friday night.

This continues the trend of simple, effective publishing platforms like Tumblr, Posterous and

The News360 iPad App is Like Crack for this News Addict

News360 iPad AppAs long as I can remember I have always been a news addict. A habit that has been passed down from my father back in Nova Scotia. An early picture even shows me struggling to open a copy of Sports Illustrated. I would read the local newspapers front to back, gobble up every news magazine I could get my hands on.

These days of course, we have instant access to hundreds of thousands of news sources including web sites, blogs and news feeds. Having access to the web through mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad has now taken my news addiction to a new level.

Introducing News360

On Monday, development company News360 released News360 for the Pad. News360 is a Moscow-based company dedicated to helping readers experience personalized news. They’ve used linguistic metadata analysis and algorithms to identify trends within the feeds of news sources from around the world.

Interface design was provided by Motka Design Studio.

Over a 1000 News Sources

News360 aggregates feeds from over 1000 different news sources, including CNN, Fortune, New York Times, BBC, Guardian, Wall Street Journal and many more.

The news feeds can be sorted by Stories or Sources, as well as using GPS to locate stories near you. You can see recent tweets on the story or view the story and photos from any of the news sources that it had appeared in.

Deep Dive into background material

One of the more interesting features allows you to turn on highlighted hyperlinks. These links lead you to further background information on all the key people, companies, and subjects within the story. Once you’ve absorbed the background material you’re presented with more even more focused news stories on that keyword.

Customized Feeds

Create your own customized feed by using the My Sources/My Stories feature. Simply drag and drop icons for hundreds of sources and story subjects to the top of the screen and you’re ready to go.

I Like to Look at Pictures

If you like to look at pictures you’re in luck. Simply turn your iPad on its side and you’ll be looking at a series of scrolling news photos. Tap a photo and you see a headline, tap again and you can read the story with access to the hyperlinks as mentioned above.

Sharing is Good

Stories can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, ReadItLater (my favorite), Instaper and Email. Stories can also be saved to your iPad to be accessed later.

The site takes interface design and functionality cues from such popular news apps like Pulse News Reader, Huffington Post’s News Glide and of course Flipboard. However, the GPS feature for local news and keyword hyperlinking are features that I can really appreciate and use.

OK, enough writing I need to go get my news fix.

Instagram’s Success Lures Brands into the Picture

Instagram: NPR, Starbucks, Levi's BraziliPhone app Instagram is one of the hottest tech properties out there right now despite its lack of a traditional web presence. It does display a page images shared by its users on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. Virtually all the interaction takes place in the iOS-only app, where users stylize their own photos and follow the stream of others.

The application was launched in the early fall of 2010 by Kevin Systrom of Burbn, Inc. and became an instant hit gaining over 100,000 users in just it’s first week. In late December that user number grew to 1 million, and by last week (Feb 14) that figure has doubled to 2 million users.

Instagram is a simple application, you take a picture using the camera phone or select an existing one from your library. Next, you select one of its 12 retro-look  filters, then share it to your Instagram followers as well as to Twitter or Facebook if you choose. You can follow the shared images of other Instragram users, adding likes and comments as you go.

Here are examples of how brands and news services have started to explore ways to use Instagram to enhance their own photo sharing, or to solicit photos from users for contests.

  • Levi’s Brasil are sharing imagery of their new products line.
  • NH Hotels are hosting a contest asking consumers to share Instragram images on Twitter with the hashtag #WakeUpPics.
  • CNN iReport and NPR are supplementing their existing news with Instagram and are getting comments and dozens and ‘likes’ on each photo they share.
  • Starbucks is sharing images of products and asking followers opinions of new store signage ideas.
  • Brisk is crowdsourcing an Instagram photo shared with the hashtag #briskpics to appear on a new can to be introduced at SXSW.

So,what are these brands and organizations hoping to achieve by using Instagram? In most cases they are simply dipping their toes and testing the waters by sharing a few photos here and there. However, NPR and CNN have built up large followings of 13,000 and 8000 respectively, and images frequently receive dozens of comments and likes. UPDATE: On February 24, Instagram announced a new real-time API that would allow developers to create new web applications and services from its user’s uploaded content.

It will interesting where Instagram goes from here. Similar apps like PicPlz and Hipstamatic are providing some competition plus a rumour is making the rounds that Facebook may add their own ‘retro-look’  filters to user’s photo albums. With big brands experimenting and a user base of 2 million and growing, the only way is forward. One hopes that Instragram will be able to maintain its simplicity as it grows.

As our digital cameras get more sophisticated, the more popular it becomes to make them look like they were taken in another era.

Is Your iPhone Listening to What You’re Watching?

IntoNow iPhone AppIf you’re a fan of Snooki and The Situation you’ll want to check out MTV’s new campaign for Jersey Shore. You can earn a chance to win a trip to the Season 4 Premiere party by checking into the 6 remaining episodes in Season 3 using the iPhone app IntoNow.

IntoNow, which works much like the song identifying app Shazam, can identify 2.6 million broadcast airings using its patented platform Soundprint. Soundprint analyzes the audio coming from your televsion in 3-second increments creating an audio fingerprint.

The fingerprint is then compared to their reference set made up of 130 channels of live broadcasting going back 5 years. The system then returns the metadata that goes with the show, including title, cast and links to IMDB. With a tap the show can be added to your Netflix queue or shared on your Twitter or Facebook profile.

Other sites such as Miso and GetGlue are built on check-ins, rewards and sharing, but the convenient part of IntoNow is the Soundprint feature identifying the exact episode of a series.

Unfortunately for us here in Canada, the IntoNow app is only available in the US iTunes store.