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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Welcome to the new 'push web' (WWW is dead!)

Dries Buytaert is the founder and lead programmer of Drupal, the open source CMS (Content Management System) that powers millions of websites around the world. When he speaks, it certainly makes a lot of sense to listen. Here's what he has to say about the future of the web, on his blog:

The current web is "pull-based", meaning we visit websites or download mobile applications. In the next 10 years, we will witness a transformation from a pull-based web to a push-based web. In the future, content, products and services will find you, rather than you having to find them. Puma will let us know to replace our shoes and Marriott will automatically present you room options if you missed your connecting flight....The dominant function of the web is to let us know what is happening or what is relevant, rather than us having to find out.

Sceptical? Disagree? No one can predict anything with 100% accuracy in the dynamic mobile age, yet some of the things Buytaert speaks about, are already unfolding around us. 

Google Now in its latest avtaar, embodies this principle. It (scarily) always knows too much about you. From where you have parked your car, to surprising you by pulling your flight details out of your Inbox, to turning emails into Calendar Appointments. You might be put off by it, but if you are like me, you may keep it enabled, simply because it is fascinatingly convenient.

Well, the future looks like more of the same.

1. Proximity based marketing 
Gone are the days when we need to ask people to log in, check in, or even open an app, to interact with our product, service or brand. It's a few years since Apple introduced the iBeacon technology to the world, and just now, Google has introduced their own version of it. Beacons are simply, Bluetooth transmitters that push information to smartphone apps that are tuned to listen to them. Let's say that I am at Croma, drooling over the latest display of top-end smartphones. And I happen to have the Croma App (or any Tata app) on my phone. A beacon transmitter located nearby judges where I am standing, and pushes me an offer - 10% discount on the HTC M9! Walking past a KFC, at lunch time? A beacon can push a meal offer to passersby, increasing the chance of footfalls.

Few organisations have learnt yet, how to deploy beacons efficiently, yet this is set to change. Now that Google has anounced their own open source Bluetooth beacons, we should definitely see larger scale deployment.

2. App Engagement through personalisation
If you have used Amazon for some time, you would have appreciated how accurately they assess your purchase preferences to target you thoughtfully, with products you want. I have never received general promotions from Amazon, only specific to products that I have spent active time considering - coffee machines, cookware, books, audio equipment....the list continues. That was in the desktop era, now in the mobile era, apps are taking a cue from these tactics with the added advantage that mobile data is highly personalised, and experiences can be customised for each viewer. Apps quickly understand what you are interested in from your first one or two uses, and then try to shape what they offer to your personal taste, supplemented by information from Facebook Logins. Analytics plays a big role here - I wanted to buy a Nexus 6 and I was googling for reviews, so Google Now presents me with Nexus 6 user op-eds every day. Not only that, it presents reviews of competition phones in a similar spec and price bracket, making me curious. Many e-commerce apps claim to practice re-engagement but the two examples I have chosen, are from the companies who do it best for me. I am sure we will see more and better examples soon. For instance, e-commerce companies can present top reviews, rather than just low prices and promotions. Myntra is already taking this route, by giving style and fashion tips through its app, rather than pure sales. So is Urban Ladder. 

3. The Internet of Things through your smartphone
People have been speaking of the Internet of Things for a long time, and now, smartphones will make it practically possible. Manufacturers will take a long time to change processes ie. a talking toaster may be a novelty prototype but it will take a lot of time and cost a lot of money to bring it into production. But your phone already comes with lots of capabilities inbuilt. It has multiple sensors for light, movement, temperature etc. And it has multiple connectivity options like Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-fi, IR etc.

It's easy to put a module in any equipment, to connect with your phone through bluetooth or even the legacy Infrared port. For example, some mobiles already allow you to control your TV through the IR Blaster option. A home surveillance manufacturer I interacted with, discontinued working on designing an expensive monitoring device, in favor of using a mounted smartphone. It reduced the cost of his device by more than half, potentially opening up a much wider market. Car navigation systems are struggling to survive, as Navigation on Google Maps can do the same job. Eventually, you will also see the iOT in your car work through apps that connect to your phone to log mileage, control the music and more (and this already happens with manufacturers like Ford connecting their in-car multimedia systems to your smartphone through an app. Expect to see the smartphone, as the nerve center of smart homes, in the not-so-distant future!